37:2 This is the account of Jacob.
Joseph, his seventeen-year-old son, 1 was taking care of 2 the flocks with his brothers. Now he was a youngster 3 working with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. 4 Joseph brought back a bad report about them 5 to their father.
1 tn Heb “a son of seventeen years.” The word “son” is in apposition to the name “Joseph.”
2 tn Or “tending”; Heb “shepherding” or “feeding.”
3 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.
4 tn Heb “and he [was] a young man with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, the wives of his father.”
5 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.
6 tn The disjunctive clause provides supplemental information vital to the story. It explains in part the brothers’ animosity toward Joseph.
sn The statement Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons brings forward a motif that played an important role in the family of Isaac – parental favoritism. Jacob surely knew what that had done to him and his brother Esau, and to his own family. But now he showers affection on Rachel’s son Joseph.
7 tn Heb “a son of old age was he to him.” This expression means “a son born to him when he [i.e., Jacob] was old.”
8 tn It is not clear what this tunic was like, because the meaning of the Hebrew word that describes it is uncertain. The idea that it was a coat of many colors comes from the Greek translation of the OT. An examination of cognate terms in Semitic suggests it was either a coat or tunic with long sleeves (cf. NEB, NRSV), or a tunic that was richly embroidered (cf. NIV). It set Joseph apart as the favored one.