[Jacob] Settled
Genesis 37:1−40:23
Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)


37:1] Jacob now settled in the land of his father’s sojourning, in the land of Canaan.

2] This is the family history of Jacob: when Joseph was 17 years old, he would tend the flock alongside his brothers; he was an attendant along with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, and Joseph would bring malicious reports about them to their father. 3] Yet Israel loved Joseph better than his other sons, for he was to him the son of his old age; he therefore made him a coat of many colors. 4] When his brothers saw that he was the one their father loved, more than any of his brothers, they hated him and could not bear to speak peaceably to him.

5] Joseph dreamt a dream [one time], and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6] He said to them, “Do hear this dream that I dreamt! 7] There we were, tying up sheaves of wheat in the field, when my sheaf rose up and stood up straight! Your sheaves then paraded in a circle around mine and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8] His brothers said to him, “Are you so certain you will reign over us? Do you really expect to rule us?” So they hated him all the more for his dreams and for his words.

9] He dreamt yet another dream and recounted it to his brothers, saying, “Look now—I have dreamt another dream, and look: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10] But when he recounted it to his father and his brothers, his father rebuked him, saying, “What is this dream that you dreamt? Your mother, your brothers, and I—must we really come to bow down to the ground before you?” 11] His brothers detested him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

12] And when his brothers went to tend their father’s flock at Shechem, 13] Israel said to Joseph, “Surely your brothers are tending the flock at Shechem [by now]. Come, let me send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am!” 14] Israel then said to him, “Pray go see how your brothers are, and how the flock is doing, and bring me back word.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron and he came to Shechem.

15] [There] a man happened on him as he was wandering in the countryside. The man asked him: What are you looking for? 16] He said, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me please where they are tending the flock?” 17] The man said, “They left this place; yes, I heard them say, Let’s go to Dothan.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

18] They saw him in the distance, and before he neared them, they wickedly plotted against him, to bring about his death. 19] They said to one another, “Here comes that master of dreams! 20] Now then, let us kill him and throw him into one of [these] pits and say, ‘A wild animal devoured him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”

21] But when Reuben heard [this], he saved him from their hands by saying, “Let us not strike him a mortal blow!” 22] Reuben said to them, “Do not shed blood; throw him into this pit, [here] in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand against him”—in order to deliver him from their hands, to restore him to his father. 23] So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colors that he had on; 24] then they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25] They had sat down to eat, when they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with laudanum, balm, and mastic; they were heading down to Egypt. 26] Judah then said to his brothers, “How will it profit [us] if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27] Let us [rather] sell him to the Ishmaelites; then our hand will not be on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers heeded [him].

28] When the Midianite traders came through they pulled Joseph up out of the pit; they sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who carried Joseph off to Egypt.

29] Reuben went back to the pit—but Joseph was not there in the pit! He tore his clothes. 30] Going back to his brothers, he said, “The boy is not there; where am I to go?”

31] So they slaughtered a goat, took Joseph’s coat, and dipped the coat in the blood. 32] They carried the coat of many colors and brought it to their father. They said, “We found this; do you recognize it? Is it your son’s coat?” 33] He recognized it, saying, “My son’s coat! A wild animal has devoured him! Joseph has been ripped to shreds!” 34] Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and mourned his son many days. 35] His sons and daughters endeavored to console him, but he refused to be consoled, saying, “No, in mourning shall I go down to my son to Sheol!” Thus did his father bewail him.

36] Meanwhile, the Medanites sold him to Egypt, to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officers, Captain of the Guard.

38:1] Around that time, Judah parted from his brothers, and fell in with an Adullamite named Hirah. 2] There Judah saw the daughter of a Canaanite named Shua; he took her [to wife] and coupled with her. 3] She became pregnant and bore a son, and he named him Er. 4] Again she became pregnant and bore a son, and she named him Onan. 5] Yet again she became pregnant and bore a son, and she named him Shelah; when she gave birth to him, he [Judah] was in Chezib.

6] Judah now took a wife for Er, his first-born; her name was Tamar; 7] but Er, Judah’s first-born, was wicked in the sight of the Eternal, and the Eternal brought about his death. 8] Judah then said to Onan, “Couple with your brother’s widow, unite with her, and raise up offspring for your brother!” 9] But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, so whenever he coupled with his brother’s wife, he would waste [his seed] on the ground, in order not to produce offspring for his brother. 10] What he did was wicked in the sight of the Eternal, who brought about his death, as well. 11] Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Stay as a widow in your father’s house until my son Shelah grows up.” He thought: “Lest he too die like his brothers.” So Tamar went and stayed in her father’s house.

12] Time passed; and Shua’s daughter, Judah’s wife, died, and [after] Judah was consoled, he went up to his sheepshearers—he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite—toward Timnah. 13] When Tamar was told, “Look—your father-in-law is going up toward Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14] she discarded her widow’s garb, covered herself up with a veil, wrapped herself up, and stationed herself at the entrance to Enaim on the way to Timnah—for she saw that Shelah had grown up, yet she had not been given to him as a wife. 15] When Judah saw her, he took her for a prostitute, for she had covered her face; 16] so he turned toward her on the road and said, “Pray let me couple with you”—he was not aware that she was his daughter-in-law—and she said, “What will you give me to couple with me?” 17] He replied, “I will send you a kid from the flock.” But she said, “Only if you give [me] a pledge until you send [it].” 18] He asked, “What [sort] of pledge should I give you?” She then said, “Your signet seal, your cord, and the staff in your hand.” So he gave [them] to her and coupled with her—and she became pregnant by him.

19] When he got up and left, she discarded her veil and put on her widow’s garb. 20] But when Judah sent the kid by way of his Adullamite friend to redeem the deposit from the woman, he did not find her. 21] And when he asked the people of her place, “Where is that courtesan, the one at the crossroads?” they replied, “There wasn’t any courtesan here.” 22] He then returned to Judah and said, “I did not find her; moreover, the people of the place said, ‘There never has been a courtesan here.’” 23] Judah then said, “Let her keep it, lest we become a laughingstock! I did send this kid, though you could not find her!”

24] Then, [after] about three months, Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the whore; and now she has even become pregnant by whoring.” And Judah said, “Bring her out and let her be burned!” 25] Brought out she was, but she sent to her father-in-law, saying, “The man to whom these belong made me pregnant. Acknowledge whose signet seal, cords, and staff these are!” 26] Judah recognized [them] and said, “She is more in the right than I, for certainly I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he never touched her again.

27] When she was giving birth, lo—she had twins in her belly! 28] And just as she was giving birth, one put a hand out and the midwife took [it] and tied a crimson thread on its hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29] But when it pulled the hand back, look—its brother came out! So she said, “What a breach you have breached!” And she named him Perez. 30] Afterward came his brother on whose hand was the crimson thread, and she named him Zerah.

39:1] Now Joseph was brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officers, Captain of the Guard, an Egyptian man, purchased him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2] But the Eternal was with Joseph: he was a man who prospered. Now that he was in the household of his Egyptian master, 3] his master saw that the Eternal was with him, and that the Eternal was prospering whatever he touched. 4] Joseph [therefore] found favor in his sight and ministered to him; he [Potiphar] gave him authority over his household, and placed all that he owned in his hand. 5] From the time he gave him authority over his household and over all that he owned, the Eternal blessed the house of the Egyptian on account of Joseph; the blessing of the Eternal was on all that he owned in the house and in the field. 6] He left all that was his in Joseph’s hands and gave no thought to what he had, other than the food he ate.

Now Joseph happened to be fair of form and fair of appearance, 7] and after all this, his master’s wife set her sights on Joseph and said, “Lie with me!” 8] But he refused, saying to his master’s wife, “Look, my master gives no thought to what is in this house; all that he owns he has put into my hands. 9] There is none greater than I in this house; he has withheld nothing from me, other than you, inasmuch as you are his wife; how then could I do this great evil, and thus sin against God?” 10] And so she would sweet-talk Joseph day after day, but he did not heed her plea to lie by her and be with her.

11] On one such day, when he came into the house to do his work—and not one of the people of the household was there in the house— 12] she took hold of him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” He left his garment in her hand, fled, and ran outside. 13] When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, 14] she summoned her household servants and spoke to them, saying, “See! He brought us a Hebrew man to toy with us. He came to me to lie with me, and I cried out in a loud voice; 15] when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment with me and fled and ran outside!” 16] And she kept his garment with her until his master came home.

17] She spoke to him in this manner, saying, “The Hebrew slave whom you brought to us came to me to toy with me; 18] but when I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment near me and fled and ran outside!” 19] When his master heard his wife’s words, namely, “Your slave did these things to me!” he was enraged. 20] So Joseph’s master took him and gave him over to the prison, the place where the Pharaoh’s prisoners are kept; and there he remained, in the prison.

21] Yet the Eternal was with Joseph, and extended kindness to him, and lent him grace in the prison warden’s sight. 22] The prison warden put all the prisoners of the jail in Joseph’s hands, and whatever was done there was his doing. 23] The prison warden never saw anything amiss with him, because the Eternal was with him, and because whatever he did the Eternal prospered.

40:1] After all this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and the baker offended against their master, the king of Egypt, 2] and Pharaoh was furious at his two officers, at the chief cupbearer and at the chief baker. 3] He placed them under guard in the house of the Captain of the Guard, in the prison, the [very] place where Joseph was confined. 4] The Captain of the Guard assigned Joseph to them; he waited on them, and they were [some] time under guard.

5] They dreamt a dream, the two of them—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt who were held in the prison—each one’s dream falling on the same night, each one’s dream with its own meaning. 6] When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they seemed out of sorts. 7] He asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him under guard, “Why are you so downcast today?”

8] So they said to him, “We each dreamt a dream, but there is no one to interpret it.” Joseph then said to them, “Surely interpretations are in God’s domain; but go ahead and tell them to me.” 9] The chief cupbearer then recounted his dream to Joseph, saying to him, “In my dream, there was a vine in front of me, 10] and on that vine were three branches. Barely had it budded when its blossoms flowered; its clusters ripened with grapes. 11] Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in Pharaoh’s palm.”

12] Joseph then said to him, “This is its meaning—the three branches are three days; 13] in three days’ time, Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your post; you shall [again] place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14] Only call me to mind when it goes well for you, and keep faith with me: commend me to Pharaoh and get me out of this place! 15] For I was stolen from the land of the Hebrews, and here, too, I did nothing, that they consigned me to [this] pit!”

16] When the chief baker saw how well he had interpreted, he said to Joseph, “In my dream, too, look, there were three—baskets of bread on my head, 17] and in the topmost basket was every kind of food for Pharaoh, baked goods, and birds eating them from the basket on my head.”

18] Joseph then responded, saying, “This is its meaning—the three baskets are three days. 19] In three days’ time, Pharaoh will lift your head from your body and hang you on a pole, and birds will eat your flesh from upon you.”

20] The third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He singled out the chief cupbearer and the chief baker among his officials: 21] He restored the chief cupbearer to his office; [again] he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s palm. 22] The chief baker he hanged, as Joseph had interpreted for them. 23] But the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; [instead] he forgot him.


Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. Translation of Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy from NJPS © 1962, 1985, 1999; CJPS © 2006. Used and adapted by CCAR Press with permission from The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.