The author’s intended meaning of Genesis 37 is to show that Joseph is of great importance, as the reader finds out in the rest of the narrative, but the foreshadowing of his dreams shows that God had big plans for Joseph, and his brothers would in fact bow before him one day. The reader can see in Genesis 37 that Joseph was the favored son, hated by his brothers, and although it does not say it directly in Genesis 37, we find out in Genesis 37-50 that Joseph’s faithfulness to the Lord is what got him through, and out of, all the situations that he faced throughout the narrative. The author shows Joseph’s faithfulness to the Lord in Gen. 39:2-3 when he was in Potiphar’s home as a slave, and when he was in jail and before Pharaoh in Gen. 40 and 41. Through every situation that comes upon Joseph, the Lord continues to raise him up, and the author intends for the reader to see that Joseph is raised up every time due to his faithfulness to the Lord.
Genesis 37 is included in the narrative to set up the importance and significance of Joseph, not only to his family, but to the entire world. Right from the beginning of Genesis 37, the author shows that Joseph was loved more than his brothers by his father, which shows significance to the rest of the narrative when Joseph also is held in high regard above the rest of the slaves in the homes of Potiphar and Pharaoh. The reader also was able to see through Joseph’s dreams that his brothers would one day bow before him, which shows great foreshadowing for the rest of the narrative when his brothers in fact do bow before him when he is governor of Egypt, but also it foreshadows that one day all of Egypt would bow before him during the famine years as Joseph was overseer of food distribution to Egypt during the famine. Even more than that, “all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain because the famine was severe over all the earth” (Gen 41:56-57 ESV).
Without Genesis 37, Genesis 38 would not make as much sense to the reader, as the reader would not be aware that Joseph’s brother, Judah, was the one who sold him to the Ishmaelities. Thus, the reader is left wondering in Gen. 38 why the Lord kills Judah’s sons, why Judah’s sons were wicked, and what had Judah done against the Lord to deserve this treatment. Also, without Gen. 37, the reader would not fully understand the events that led to Joseph being in the possession of Potiphar in Gen. 39. Genesis 37 sets up the rest of the narrative that shows Joseph’s faithfulness to the Lord through all the situations he is put into and how God raised him up in everything due to Joseph’s faithfulness in Him. The example of Joseph’s faith in God throughout the entire narrative is a greater representation of the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people. Israel is God’s chosen people, and God raises His people up when they are faithful to Him in all the situations that come upon them. Due to Israel’s faithfulness to God, the people are brought out of many situations, but when Israel’s people are not faithful to God, they are oppressed until they return to God as we see throughout the entire Old Testament.