Devotional Readings

Genesis 39 – Inflation in the Bible

Ok, this is a silly observation, but what is rate of inflation between the time of Joseph and Jesus?

This period is roughly, 2,000 years.
We read when Joseph was sold by his brothers they were paid 20 pieces of silver.

Gen 37:28  Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

While Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces.

Mat 26:14  Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests,

Mat 26:15  And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

Mat 26:16  And from that time he sought opportunity to betray him.

We can calculate that the price of disloyalty increased by 50% in 2,000 years….I will let you calculate the inflation rate yourself, but I can safely say it is very low.
Other points of trivia in this chapter, include…..just who was Joseph sold to. To groups are mentioned, more than once…

Gen 37:25  And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry itdown to Egypt.

Gen 37:27  Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

Gen 37:28  Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

Gen 37:36  And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.

Genesis 37:28 Gill

Then there passed by Midianites, merchantmen,…. The same with the Ishmaelites before mentioned, as appears from the latter part of this verse; for as these were near neighbours, so they might join together in merchandise, and travel in company for greater safety, and are sometimes called the one, and sometimes the other, as well as they might mix together in their habitations and marriages; and are hence called Arabians by the Targums, as before observed, and so by Josephus, which signifies a mixed people:

and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit: not the Midianites, but his brethren:

and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver; for twenty shekels, which amounted to twenty five shillings of our money. The Jews (z) say, they each took two shekels apiece, and bought with them a pair of shoes, according to Amo 8:6; but there were but nine of them, Reuben was absent:

and they brought Joseph into Egypt; some think these Midianites were different from the Ishmaelites, and that Joseph was sold many times, first to the Midianites, and then by them to the Ishmaelites, and by the latter to Potiphar. Justin (a), an Heathen writer, gives an account of this affair in some agreement with this history;”Joseph (he says) was the youngest of his brethren, whose excellent genius they feared, and took him secretly, and sold him to “foreign merchants”, by whom he was carried into Egypt.”

(z) Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. (a) E. Trogo, l. 36. c. 2.


It’s also possible that not all of Joseph’s brothers were involve initially, and we know his exact age. This opening scene, may have taken place some time before hand.

Genesis 37:12

And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem. Very probably some considerable time after the telling of the above dreams; it was usual to remove flocks from place to place for the sake of pasturage; and sometimes at a great distance, as Shechem was from Hebron, where Jacob now dwelt, said (i) to be about sixty miles; but this is not so much to be marvelled at as the place itself, whither they went, for though Jacob had bought a parcel of a field in this place, Gen 33:19; which might be a reason for their going thither to feed their father’s flocks in his own field; yet it was the place where they had committed a most outrageous action in destroying all, the males there, and therefore might fear the inhabitants of the neighbouring cities would rise upon them and cut them off.

(i) Bunting’s Travels, p. 79. Ainsworth in loc.


Gen 37:2  These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.


Joseph being seventeen years old, was feeding his flock with his brethren; or “in the flock” (b); he was with them in the pastures, where the flocks were fed, not so much to assist them in it, as to be taught by them how to feed, they being older than he:

and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: his secondary wives or concubines, called his wives, because their children shared in the inheritance. These sons of theirs were Dan and Naphtali, the sons of Bilhah; and Gad and Asher, the sons of Zilpah; with these Jacob rather chose Joseph should be, than with the sons of Leah; and especially that he should be with the sons of Bilhah, who was the handmaid of Rachel, Joseph’s mother, and she being dead, it might be thought that Bilhah and her sons would have the most respect for Joseph:

and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report; for not being able to bear with their evil deeds, and yet not having authority enough, being a junior, to reprove, correct, and check them, he reported them to his father: what the things were reported is not said, perhaps their quarrels among themselves, their contempt of Joseph, their neglect of their flocks, &c. Some of the Jewish writers make them to be abominable acts of uncleanness (d), others eating of the member of a creature alive, particularly the flesh of the tails of lambs while living (e).


But later we read that both Reuben and Judah were connected in some way….though both helped prevent him from being killed. Likely all his brothers were there:

Gen 37:12  And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.


Gen 37:26  And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?


Gen 37:21  And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.

Gen 37:22  And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

Gen 37:29  And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.

Gen 37:30  And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?

Genesis 37:30

And he returned unto his brethren,…. From the pit, and whom he suspected had took him and killed him, as was their first design, not being with them when they proposed to sell him, and did:

and said, the child is not; not in the pit, nor in the land of the living, but is dead, which is sometimes the meaning of the phrase, Jer 31:15; he calls him a child, though seventeen years of age, because the youngest brother but one, and he himself was the eldest, and also because of his tender concern for him:

and I, whither shall I go? to find the child or flee from his father’s face, which he could not think of seeing any more; whom he had highly offended already in the case of Bilhah, and now he would be yet more incensed against him for his neglect of Joseph, who, he might have expected, would have taken particular care of him, being the eldest son: he speaks like one in the utmost perplexity, not knowing what to do, what course to steer, being almost distracted and at his wits’ end.


One last though…I’ve been noticing that the KJV often use the phrase “a certain man”. We see that here in this text, 


Genesis 37:15

And a certain man found him,…. Many of the Jewish writers (l) say, this was an angel, the angel Gabriel, in the likeness of a man; but according to Aben Ezra, it was a traveller he met on the road; but it is more probable, as Schimidt observes, that it was some man at work in the field that came upon him and took notice of him:

and, behold, he was wandering in the field; in some field near Shechem, perhaps the same his father Jacob had purchased, and where he expected to have found his brethren, and was looking out for them, going to and fro in search of them; which the labouring man in the field observed:

and the man asked him, saying, what seekest thou? seeing him walking about, and first looking one way, and then another, concluded he was in search of something, either of some man or of some creature, a sheep or an ox that was lost; and therefore put this question to him, with a view to give him what direction and assistance he could.

(l) Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. Targum Jon. & Jarchi in loc.


Gen 37:15  And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

As you read above, there is probably no connection, but it is curious that Jesus begins his ministry with a very similar question.

Joh 1:38  Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?

Joh 1:39  He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.


Joh 6:37  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.



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