37:2 This is the account of Jacob.
Joseph, his seventeen-year-old son, 3 was taking care of 4 the flocks with his brothers. Now he was a youngster 5 working with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. 6 Joseph brought back a bad report about them 7 to their father.
1 tn Heb “the land of the sojournings of his father.”
2 sn The next section begins with the heading This is the account of Jacob in Gen 37:2, so this verse actually forms part of the preceding section as a concluding contrast with Esau and his people. In contrast to all the settled and expanded population of Esau, Jacob was still moving about in the land without a permanent residence and without kings. Even if the Edomite king list was added later (as the reference to kings in Israel suggests), its placement here in contrast to Jacob and his descendants is important. Certainly the text deals with Esau before dealing with Jacob – that is the pattern. But the detail is so great in chap. 36 that the contrast cannot be missed.
3 tn Heb “a son of seventeen years.” The word “son” is in apposition to the name “Joseph.”
4 tn Or “tending”; Heb “shepherding” or “feeding.”
5 tn Or perhaps “a helper.” The significance of this statement is unclear. It may mean “now the lad was with,” or it may suggest Joseph was like a servant to them.
6 tn Heb “and he [was] a young man with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, the wives of his father.”
7 tn Heb “their bad report.” The pronoun is an objective genitive, specifying that the bad or damaging report was about the brothers.
sn Some interpreters portray Joseph as a tattletale for bringing back a bad report about them [i.e., his brothers], but the entire Joseph story has some of the characteristics of wisdom literature. Joseph is presented in a good light – not because he was perfect, but because the narrative is showing how wisdom rules. In light of that, this section portrays Joseph as faithful to his father in little things, even though unpopular – and so he will eventually be given authority over greater things.