● Gen 37:1-2a . . Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan. This, then, is the line of Jacob:
Genesis doesn't list a big genealogy right here like the one for Esau in chapter 36, but rather, it's going to "follow" the line of Jacob from here on in to the end of Genesis.
● Gen 37:2b . . At seventeen years of age, Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers, as a helper to the sons of his father's wives Bilhah and Zilpah.
Although "his . . .wives" is vernacularly correct; there's no record of Jacob actually marrying either of those two servant-ettes. They were his concubines in the same manner as Hagar when Sarah pushed her handmaid off on Abraham as a "wife" (Gen 16:4).
NOTE: Jacob was pretty much stuck with Bilhah and Zilpah because were he ever to emancipate them, he would forfeit any and all children the two servant women bore for him; which is exactly how Abraham disinherited his eldest son Ishmael. We talked about that back in chapter 21.
The words "as a helper to" aren't in the actual Hebrew of that passage. They're what is known as inserted words that translators sometimes employ to smooth out texts so they'll clearly say what the translators think the author meant to convey. Some translators insert the preposition "with" at that point, so the passage reads: "Joseph tended the flocks with his brothers"
Actually, Joseph was in charge of his brothers Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher; who were all older than him. And it was he who was responsible to manage the flocks because the phrase; "tended the flocks" actually connotes he was shepherding the flock; i.e. Joseph was the trail boss.
Joseph's authority was also indicated by the "coat of many colors" that his dad made for him. The Hebrew word for "colors" is of uncertain meaning and some translators prefer to render it "long sleeves" rather than colors.
It seems clear that the intent of this special garment was as a badge of Joseph's authority-- sort of like a military man's uniform --and of his favored position in the family. Joseph may well have been the only one of Jacob's twelve sons that he could fully trust since, for the most part, the older men had proved themselves beyond control in the past.
The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah weren't really Joseph's full brothers, but half. The only full brother was Benjamin, and at this time, he was too young to go out on trail drives.
Genesis displayed a pretty bad case of sibling rivalry back in chapter 4, which led to a younger brother's untimely death. This case of sibling rivalry would surely have resulted in Joseph's untimely demise if God hadn't intervened to prevent it. It's really sad that the majority of Jacob's sons were dishonorable men; the kind you definitely don't want your own daughter bringing home to meet the folks.
Although Joseph was an intelligent boy, and a responsible person, he certainly lacked tact. His social skills were immature, and needed some serious refinement because he really had a way of boasting, and chafing his older brothers.
● Gen 37:2b . . And Joseph brought bad reports of them to their father.
Whether or not the "reports" could be construed as tattling is debatable. After all, Joseph, as trail boss, was directly responsible to Jacob.
It's been my experience that upper management doesn't want to hear those kinds of reports. All they want to know is whether or not the company is meeting its deadlines and operating at a profit. It's lower management's responsibility to manage the work force so that upper management can remain undistracted to do other things that are far more worthy of their time, their talents, and their attention. A lower manager who can't rectify personnel problems in their own department usually gets fired and replaced by somebody who can.
● Gen 37:3a . . Now Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons
Uh-oh! Doesn't that sound familiar? Isaac had his favorite too: Mr. Esau. There's nothing like favoritism to divide a family and guarantee it becoming an ugly environment festering with sibling rivalry, yet that is so human a thing to do. Put grown-ups in a group of kids and in no time at all, the grown-ups will gravitate towards favorites, and become merely tolerant of the others.
● Gen 37:3b . . for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him an ornamented tunic.
The "ornamented tunic" is all the same as what's usually known as the coat of many colors.
One might be tempted to think Joseph was Jacob's favorite son because of his love for Rachel; but Genesis says it was because Joseph was "the child of his old age". Well, Benjamin was a child of Jacob's old age too but not nearly as favored. So the real meaning may be that Joseph was a child of wisdom, i.e. the intelligence of an older man; viz: Joseph was smart beyond his years and thus more a peer to Jacob rather than just another mouth to feed.
● Gen 37:4 . . And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of his brothers, they hated him so that they could not speak a friendly word to him.
Genesis doesn't say the brothers wouldn't speak a friendly word; it says they "couldn't".
Hatred does that to people. It just kills a person overcome with malice to be nice to the people they hate. They just can't do it. Their eyes narrow, their lips tighten, they look away, they become thin-skinned, their minds fill with epithets, they constantly take offense and can barely keep a civil tongue in their head, if at all, because deep in their hearts, they want the object of their hatred either dead or thoroughly disfigured and/or smitten with some sort of terrible misfortune.
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