Genesis 37

Joseph is Persecuted

A Special Tunic

He made him a coat of many colors (Genesis 37:3).

The phrase “coat of many colors” has been the object of much discussion. The term “coat” (Heb. kutoneth) refers to a shirt-like tunic that was worn by both men and women. However, the meaning of the second word (Heb. pas) is disputed. Some English versions render it as “special tunic” (NET), a “long-sleeved tunic” (CJB, NRSV, RSV), or describe it as ornamented (NIV, NJB). Whatever the case, Joseph’s tunic or robe was distinctive (vv. 32-33) and recognizable from a distance (v. 18). This faience plaque from Medinet Habu depicts an individual from the general region of Canaan.

A Prophetic Dream

Now Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers (Genesis 37:5).

Joseph’s dream was not an ordinary dream, but a revelation from God. God occasionally used dreams to communicate revelation during the biblical period (cf. Gen 28:11ff; 40:5ff). The cuneiform tablet shown here was used to assist in assigning meaning to dreams. This tablet was photographed at the British Museum.


So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem (Genesis 37:14).

Shechem is located at the end of the narrow pass between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. In this photo, which looks toward the west, Mount Gerizim is on the left and Mount Ebal is on the right. The modern city of Nablus can be seen spilling out from the pass between the two mountains.


So Joseph followed his brothers and found them at Dothan (Genesis 37:17).

Dothan is located on the southern edge of the fertile Dothan Valley. The distance from Shechem to Dothan as the crow flies is about 14 miles (23 km). However, much of the country between these two cities is quite rough, and the major roads skirted this area either to the east or to the west. If Joseph traveled by one of these routes, the distance from Shechem would have been about 19 miles (31 km).

Well Near Dothan

Reuben said, “Do not shed blood; throw him into this pit that is in the wilderness” (Genesis 37:22).

The word “pit” (Heb. bor) refers to an underground cavity; it could be used for a natural pit or a man-made well or cistern. A well, which is a vertical shaft dug down to the water table, would be the most likely referent here.

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