What does Genesis 37:20 mean?
ESV: Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”
NIV: Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams.'
NASB: Now then, come and let’s kill him, and throw him into one of the pits; and we will say, ‘A vicious animal devoured him.’ Then we will see what will become of his dreams!'
CSB: So now, come on, let's kill him and throw him into one of the pits. We can say that a vicious animal ate him. Then we'll see what becomes of his dreams! "
NLT: Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!'
KJV: Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
NKJV: Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”
Verse Commentary:
As Joseph approaches their camp, his 10 older brothers are plotting to murder him in cold blood (Genesis 37:18). They mock him to each other, referring to Joseph's self-reported dreams about ruling over them all (Genesis 37:5, 9, 19). Their hate is mostly inspired by their father's blatant favoritism (Genesis 37:3–5). Joseph is far from the safety of home, and the opportunity is ripe for an act of revenge (Genesis 37:12–17).

As Joseph draws nearer, the brothers lay out a plan. They scheme to kill Joseph and throw his body into a hole in the ground. The Hebrew word bowr is used generically to describe a "pit," but it can also refer to a dungeon. In this case, the brothers are speaking about "cisterns:" temporary wells used to gather rainwater (Genesis 37:24).

After murdering Joseph, the brothers plan to return home and report to their father Jacob that a wild animal killed and ate Joseph. They conclude by mocking Joseph's dreams of ruling over them once more. Murdering him, they think, will prevent his predictions from coming to pass. Literature often includes villains who try to thwart prophecy, only to find their actions helped fulfill it. What these murderous siblings don't realize is that they are making Joseph's dreams come true (Genesis 37:28; 42:6), as part of God's masterful behind-the-scenes plan (Genesis 50:20).
Verse Context:
Genesis 37:12–36 describes how Joseph's wildly resentful brothers finally get rid of him. They hate Joseph for being Jacob's favorite (Genesis 37:3) and for his grandiose dreams (Genesis 37:5, 9). When Joseph arrives alone at the camp of his brothers, very far from home, they have an opportunity. Only Reuben's intervention keeps them from killing Joseph outright. Instead, while Reuben is absent, the brothers sell Joseph to passing slave traders and later convince their father he has been killed by a wild animal. Joseph becomes a slave in an Egyptian home. Genesis 39 will return to Joseph's story.
Chapter Summary:
Joseph, 17, is deeply loved by his father Jacob and deeply resented by his ten older brothers thanks to Jacob's favoritism. Jacob gives Joseph a princely robe, and Joseph reports dreams that predict his family will one day bow before him. When alone with Joseph in the wilderness, the brothers decide to kill him. Reuben stops them, suggesting they throw him alive into a pit, instead. While Reuben is gone, however, the brothers sell Joseph to slave-traders, later convincing their father Joseph has been killed by a wild animal. Joseph is placed in the home of an Egyptian nobleman.
Chapter Context:
Following the death of Isaac and the story of Esau's people, Genesis begins a section called the "generations of Jacob." The story will focus primarily on Jacob's son Joseph. Joseph is deeply hated by his brothers. While alone with him in the wilderness, they sell him to slave-traders, who take Joseph to Egypt. Chapter 38 details some of the scandals which happened while Joseph was gone. Genesis 39 will resume a focus on Joseph's experiences.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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