Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28


1 Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. 2 This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

12 Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. 13 And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” 14 So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, 15 and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” 16 “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” 17 The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’“ So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan.18 They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” — that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; 24 and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

25 Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. 28 When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.


The word “Genesis” means “origin” and the Book of Genesis starts with the two Creation Stories and concludes with the death of Joseph (Jacob’s son) in Egypt. If the stories about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are historical, these events took place in the period from 1900 to 1700 BCE.

The Book of Genesis (like the Torah as a whole) is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Since the late 19th Century, Biblical scholars have recognized four major “strands” or sources in the Torah, called “J” (Yahwistic), “E” (Elohistic), “D” (Deuteronomic) and “P” (Priestly). These sources are identified (among other ways) by their different theological emphases, names for God, names for the holy mountain, and portrayals of God’s characteristics.

Today’s reading jumps from the marriage of Jacob and Rachel (Chapter 29) to the long and remarkably cohesive story of Joseph and his brothers in Chapters 37 to 50. In the intervening chapters (29 to 37) Jacob had 12 sons, six by Leah, two by Leah’s maid (Zilpah), two by Rachel’s maid (Bilhah), and two by Rachel (Joseph and Benjamin). He also had a daughter, Dinah, by Leah. As the stories continued, Jacob left Haran and traveled to Canaan, wrestled with an angel/God who changed his name to “Israel” (Ch. 32) and encountered (and reconciled with) Esau along the way (Ch. 33).

Joseph was Jacob’s 11th son; his mother was Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. Joseph’s older brothers had antipathy and resentment toward him because of a “bad report” Joseph gave to Jacob (v. 2) and because of Jacob’s giving Joseph a robe with sleeves (not many colors notwithstanding the LXX) (v.3), a sign of royalty (See 2 Sam. 13:18). This animosity was enhanced when Joseph recounted to his brothers (in verses 5 to 11) two dreams which he interpreted as showing that he would lord over his older brothers. The New Oxford Annotated Bible notes that Jacob saw the dream as predicting that he and Joseph’s mother, Rachel, would join the brothers in submitting to Joseph (v.10). The NAOB suggests that “this episode was probably part of an independent Joseph story that originally did not follow an account of Rachel’s death [Gen.35:19].”

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary observes that the enmity caused by Joseph’s reports comes from “P”; the enmity from favoritism is from “J”; and the hostility from the “ruling” dreams is from “E.”

According to the story, Joseph traveled a long distance to find his brothers. It is about 50 miles from the valley of Hebron (v.14) to Shechem and another 20 miles north from Shechem to Dothan (v.17), a town along a trade route from Syria to Egypt, where Joseph was thrown into a pit. The NOAB observes that the pits were cisterns for storing rain water and sometimes used to imprison people. It continues: “The advice of Reuben and Judah reflects the ancient idea that blood cannot be “concealed” (v.26) but cries out for requital (See 4:10-11 [Cain and Abel].” It shows the brothers’ callousness that after throwing Joseph in a pit, they sat down to eat (v.25).

Joseph was sold into slavery (depending on the source) to Ishmaelites (v.27) (the descendants of Abraham’s son by Sarah’s maid, Hagar) or to Midianites (v.28). Joseph was and saved from death by the oldest brother, Reuben (v.22) (who planned to rescue him), and the fourth oldest brother, Judah (v.27).The Jewish Study Bible observes that Reuben and the Midianites are derived from the “E” version of the story and Judah and the Ishmaelites fare rom the “J” version.

Continuing this inconsistency from multiple sources, the story later says that Joseph was sold to Potiphar in Egypt by the Midianites (v.36) and by the Ishmaelites (39:1). Judah later took the leadership role in dealing with Joseph in Egypt. Judah’s tribe eventually inhabited Jerusalem and the area around it.

The multiplicity of sources is also shown by Jacob’s name being recounted as “Israel” (v.3) and elsewhere as Jacob (42:4).

The Jewish Study Bible points out that the patriarchal narrative is replete with appearances of God or his messengers and oracles from them, but Joseph never sees or hears God or his messengers. The only direct revelation in these chapters comes to Jacob in chapter 46. In the Joseph story, God is understood as working in hidden ways – secretly guiding the course of human events and even bringing good out of human evil (50:20).

1 Kings 19:9-18


9 At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. 16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. 17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”


The authors of the Book of Kings also wrote the books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and Samuel, usually called the “Deuteronomic History,” a didactic history of Ancient Israel from the time in the Wilderness (c. 1250 BCE) to the Babylonian Captivity in 587 BCE.

These books were given their final form around 500 BCE – long after the events they described. The authors used the stories to demonstrate that it was the failures of the Kings of Israel and the Kings of Judea to worship YHWH properly and obey God’s commands that led to the conquest of Northern Israel in 722 BCE by the Assyrians and the conquest of Judea by the Babylonians in 597 BCE. (The conquests were not seen as the result of the Assyrians’ and Babylonians’ greater wealth and more powerful armies.)

After Solomon’s death in 928 BCE, the nation divided in two. The Northern Kingdom consisted of 10 tribes and was called “Israel.” The Southern Kingdom had two tribes, Judah and Benjamin and was called “Judea.” For the most part, the Deuteronomists portrayed the Kings of the North as unfaithful to YHWH, and Ahab (873-852 BCE) was one of the worst offenders. His wife was the Baal-worshiping foreigner, Jezebel.

The prophet Elijah is the subject of today’s reading. Just prior to these verses, Elijah invoked the power of YHWH to overcome the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel in the Northern part of Israel. He successfully urged YHWH to bring fire upon a huge sacrifice and then to bring rain to end a drought. Elijah then killed all the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).

King Ahab told his Baal-worshiping wife, Jezebel, what Elijah had done (19:1). Jezebel swore to kill Elijah (v.2), so he ran away as far south in Israel as he could – first to Beer-sheba and then to the Wilderness where he hoped to die (v.4). (The theme of a prophet wishing to die out of a sense of isolation and failure was repeated in Jonah 4:3.)

YHWH’s angels provided food to Elijah so he could journey to Horeb (meaning “dry place”) and continue his ministry (v.5,7). For the Deuteronomists, the holy mountain was called “Horeb” rather than Sinai. “Sinai” was the name used by most of the authors of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Elijah’s receiving food in the wilderness was parallel to Hagar’s story in Genesis 21:19 and gave him strength for the journey to Horeb which took “forty days and forty nights” (v.8). Horeb was also the place where Moses had the Burning Bush experience (Ex. 3:1).

The Jewish Study Bible points out that, depending on the terrain, a person could cover 15-25 miles a day walking. If Elijah walked for 40 days and 40 nights, he could have covered between 600 and 1,000 miles. The JSB suggests that 40 is merely a “formulaic number” for “a long time” and is not to be taken literally.

When Elijah was at Horeb, the voice of YHWH came to him in the silence (vv.12-13) and told him to anoint Hazael as king of Aram (modern Syria). YHWH also told Elijah to commit treason by anointing Jehu as King of Israel even while Ahab was still alive (v.16). The NAOB says: “The new order is to succeed the old, and it is that order which will bring about the final victory over Baal worship, not through obviously spectacular demonstrations of divine power as in chapter 18, but through the (quieter) political processes as God removes certain kings and sets up others.”

This is not the first instance of treasonous activity in the Deuteronomists’ accounts. YHWH told Samuel to anoint David as King even though the anointed king, Saul, was still alive. (1 Sam.16:13).

The NAOB observes that “the emphasis at Carmel had been on God’s spectacular ways and particularly on his use of fire. The emphasis here is upon God’s quiet ways. He is not to be found on this occasion in the spectacular elements of the storm outside the cave.”

Romans 10:5-15


5 Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”


Paul’s letter to the Romans was his longest, last, and most complex letter. It was written in the late 50s or early 60s (CE) (about 10 years before the earliest Gospel (Mark) was written) to a Jesus Follower community that Paul did not establish. Among many messages in the letter, Paul sought to encourage respectful and supportive relationships between the Gentile Jesus Followers and the Jewish Jesus Followers in Rome.

The “backstory” is that in 49 CE, Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome, including Jewish Jesus Followers. The next Emperor was Nero who reigned from 54 to 68 CE. Nero reversed his predecessor’s decree and allowed Jews to return to Rome. This return caused tensions within the Jesus Follower Community in which Gentiles had become prominent.

Paul died in 63 or 64 CE. Accordingly, the Temple in Jerusalem (which was destroyed in 70) was in full operation all during Paul’s life. As a Jew who was also a Jesus Follower, Paul saw the Jesus Follower Movement as part of a broader Judaism and continued to have expectations about the fullness of the Coming of the Messiah/the Christ. The term “Christian” had not been invented in his lifetime.

The NJBC interprets the verses preceding today’s reading as follows: “They explain how Paul could not only regard Christ as the goal of the law but also look upon uprightness through faith in him as a way to fulfill the law itself and uphold all that it stood for. The prized status of uprightness before God is now available to everyone through faith.”

According to The NAOB, the righteousness from the law and righteousness from faith are not opposed since there is only God’s righteousness (v.3). It continues: “The promise of life to the person who does these things (Lev 18.5) requires not human effort to produce the messiah, but faith in the messiah whom God has sent. Such is Paul’s christological reading of Deut 30.11-14.”

Regarding today’s reading, The NAOB suggests that in verses 5-13, “using a common Jewish technique, Paul interprets one passage of scripture (Lev. 18.5) in light of others.” (Lev.18:5 reads: “You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live; I am the LORD.”) Paul then used Deut. 30:14 (“The word is very near you.”) which Paul paraphrased in v.8; Isaiah 28:16b (“One who trusts [in the LORD] will not panic”) which Paul loosely paraphrased in verse 11; and Joel 2:32a (“Then everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved”) which Paul quoted in verse 13.

Paul used terms in Romans that need to be unpacked. “Righteousness” (v.5) is understood as being in right relationships with God and others and is sometimes translated as “justified.” A “just” person is also a “righteous” person, and “justified” (v.10) is used the same way that a page of type is “justified” – all the margins are straight and in order. The Jewish Annotated New Testament notes: “Righteousness is an expression of one’s intent, of doing right for the right reasons.”

“Faith” (v.6) is not used as an intellectual assent to one or more propositions. The Greek word for “faith” (pistis) has an active aspect and should be more properly understood as “faithfulness” – active living into one’s beliefs through grace and trust in God. Paul emphasized that “belief” is a matter of the heart (v.10), not the intellect.

As a Jewish Jesus Follower, Paul continued to respect the “law” (the Torah) but emphasized that mere obedience to the Law was not sufficient for salvation, wholeness, or righteousness. Righteousness is a matter of the heart and living in active faithfulness just as Jesus the Christ was faithful to the God of Love. The NAOB observes: “For Paul, observing Torah involves being faithful to the revelation of Christ; he is not arguing for Torah’s abolition but for recognizing its goals.”

In verse 9, Paul once again asserted God’s agency in raising Jesus from the dead. The NJBC notes that in verse 10, Paul was implying that one should not “overstress the differences between justification and salvation.”

In verses 12 and 13, Paul continued his call for unity between the Jewish Jesus Followers and the Gentile Jesus Followers (“no distinction between Jew and Greek”). The NJBC also observes: “Paul’s use of Kyrios can only refer to Jesus who is the risen Lord of the Jew and Greek.”

“Kyrios” was the Greek word used in the Septuagint to translate “YHWH,” so Paul was making a clear equivalence between YHWH as LORD and Jesus the Christ as LORD.

In the concluding verses (14 and 15), Paul asserted that God was remaining faithful to Israel by having the “good news” preached to them. Verse 15 is a paraphrase of Isaiah 52:7 (“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation…”)

Matthew 14:22-33


22 Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


The Gospel of Matthew highlights Jesus’ origins and identity. Written around 85 CE by an anonymous author, the Gospel began Jesus’ genealogy with Abraham and depicted Jesus as a teacher of the Law like Moses. More than any other Gospel, Matthew quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures (using the Greek Septuagint translation) to illustrate that Jesus was the Messiah.

Because it was written after the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, the Gospel reflected the controversies between the Jesus Followers and the Pharisees for control of Judaism going forward. Accordingly, the Gospel contains many harsh sayings about the Pharisees. The Gospel is aimed primarily at the late First Century Jewish Jesus Follower community.

The Gospel relied heavily on the Gospel of Mark and included all but 60 verses from Mark. Like Luke, Matthew also used a “Sayings Source” (called “Q” by scholars) which are stories and sayings found in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark and John. There are also a substantial number of stories that are unique to Matthew: the Annunciation of Jesus’ conception was revealed to Joseph in a dream (rather than by an angel to Mary as in Luke); the Visit of the Magi; the Slaughter of the Innocents by Herod; the Flight to Egypt; the Laborers in the Vineyard; and the earthquake on Easter Morning, among others.

Today’s reading follows the story of the feeding of the 5,000 and is a story that shows Jesus’ dominion over nature. It appears in Mark and John, but not in Luke.

The NAOB points out that Jesus’ response “it is I” is literally “I am” – a reference to the divine name in Ex. 3:14 and a clear identification by the author of Jesus with God. It also notes that the story with Peter (vv. 28-31) is not found in Mark or John and is an echo of Psalm 69:1-3.

The JANT observes that the disciples’ calling Jesus “Son of God” (v.33) indicated the author’s assertion of Jesus’ divine nature. The JANT goes on to say that the phrase “may have been a messianic reference [citing sources]; no Jewish texts identify the Messiah as the son of God.”