In Bereshis 37:17 Yosef has traveled to Shechem where his brothers had gone to tend their sheep and he is told they went to Dosan. Rashi explains this homeletically, that they found legal pretext נִכְלֵי דָתוֹת, to kill Yosef. But the pasuk continues to say that Yosef found the brothers in Dosan. Do any commentators explain why they would have physically left Shechem and gone to Dosan (they could have made their machinations in Shechem equally well)?

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    They went to tend their sheep? I don't understand the question.
    – Double AA
    Dec 9, 2014 at 18:20
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    @DoubleAA they went to Shechem to tend the sheep, why did they then go to Dosan? Was there no grass in Shechem? Was there any other reason to go to Dosan? Were they allowed to graze in Dosan? Who ruled there/owned the land?
    – user6641
    Dec 9, 2014 at 18:52
  • I always assumed the pasture wasn't good in Sh'chem. But that was just my assumption. cc @DoubleAA
    – msh210
    Dec 10, 2014 at 0:52

3 Answers 3


Rav Hirsch says that we can't be sure of the true reason, but he suggests that (along the lines of his general approach to the story of the Sale of Joseph) perhaps Shechem, evoking memories of protecting Dinah and family unity, awakened feelings of fraternity, which they did not wish to stir up, and Dotan evoked some (unknown) association with justice, as the name דתן, with its similarity to דת, might suggest.


Rashbam, Bechor Shor, and Ralbag all point out that Shechem was a dangerous place for them to be, as they had killed its inhabitants. Perhaps that is why they went elsewhere.

Rashbam Genesis 37:13

הלוא אחיך רעים בשכם. במקום סכנה שהרגו אנשי המקום זה שמעתי מרבי יוסף קרא חברנו והנאה לי

Bechor Shor Genesis 37:13

הלוא אחיך רעים בשכם. במקום סכנה שהם שונאים בארץ ההיא על שהרגו בני העיר

Ralbag Genesis 37:13

ויאמר ישראל אל יוסף הלא אחיך רועים בשכם לך נא ראה את שלום אחיך ואת שלום הצאן והשבני דבר ואמנם אמר זה לפי שהיה ירא שיזיקום שם אנשי הארץ בזכרם מה שעשו לאנשי שכם

See also Targum (Pseudo) Yonasan Genesis 37:13

והוא לזמן יומין ואמר ישראל ליוסף הלא אחך רען בשכם ודחיל דלמא ייתון חואי וימחונון על עסק די מחו ית חמור וית שכם וית יתבי קרתא איתא כדון ואשלחנך לותהון ואמר לה הא נא

  • Howevetr, it appears that it was still the normal place for them to be and that theyleft the sheep there under the watch of the servants in order to go to Dosan. Dec 22, 2017 at 2:19

Targum Yerushalmi (Gen. 37:17) explains that they had heard through prophetic revelation that the Hivites were preparing to stage war and attack them, therefore they decided to go to Dothan.

This is similar to Targum pseudo-Jonathan, posted by Alex.

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