What does Genesis 37:34 mean?
ESV: Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days.
NIV: Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days.
NASB: So Jacob tore his clothes, and put on a sackcloth undergarment over his waist, and mourned for his son many days.
CSB: Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth around his waist, and mourned for his son many days.
NLT: Then Jacob tore his clothes and dressed himself in burlap. He mourned deeply for his son for a long time.
KJV: And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
NKJV: Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days.
Verse Commentary:
Jacob's deceitful sons have convinced him that his beloved Joseph is dead, killed by a wild animal (Genesis 37:31–33). As they must have anticipated, Jacob takes the news very badly. Joseph was the firstborn of his dear wife, Rachel (Genesis 30:22–24), and Jacob's clear favorite (Genesis 37:3–4). His heart is fully broken. Mourning for the dead often included the tearing of clothing and wearing of sackcloth.

Formal mourning for a child may have lasted a week or even a month. As the following verses show, Jacob refused to stop his mourning long past the normal number of days. His family will react with concern (Genesis 37:35), though the brothers know there is nothing they can do to restore Joseph now (Genesis 37:28). Such is the impact of Jacob's grief that Judah, years later, will bargain to become a captive to stop Jacob from losing another of Rachel's sons (Genesis 44:18, 30–34).
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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