Genesis 37:2
These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
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(2) The generations of Jacob.—This Tôldôth, according to the undeviating rule, is the history of Jacob’s descendants, and specially of Joseph. So the Tôldôth of the heaven and earth (Genesis 2:4) gives the history of the creation and fall of man. So the Tôldôth Adam was the history of the flood; and, not to multiply instances, that of Terah was the history of Abraham. (See Note on Genesis 28:10.) This Tôldôth, therefore, extends to the end of Genesis, and is the history of the removal, through Joseph’s instrumentality, of the family of Jacob from Canaan into Egypt, as a step preparatory to its growth into a nation.

Joseph being seventeen years old.—He was born about seven years before Jacob left Haran, and as the journey home probably occupied two full years, he would have dwelt in Isaac’s neighbourhood for seven or eight years. Isaac’s life, as we have seen, was prolonged for about twelve years after the sale of Joseph by his brethren.

And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah.—Heb., And he was lad with the sons of Bilhah, &c. The probable meaning of this is, that as the youngest son it was his duty to wait upon his brothers, just as David had to look after the sheep, while his brothers went to the festival; and was also sent to the camp to attend to them (1Samuel 16:11; 1Samuel 17:17-18). The sons of Jacob were dispersed in detachments over the large extent of country occupied by Jacob’s cattle, and Joseph probably after his mother’s death, when he was about nine years’ old, would be brought up in the tent of Bilhah, his mother’s handmaid. He would naturally, therefore, go with her sons, with whom were also the sons of the other handmaid. They do not seem to have taken any special part in Joseph’s sale.

Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.—Heb., Joseph brought an evil report of them unto their father.

Genesis 37:2. These are the generations of Jacob — The events or occurrences which happened to Jacob in his family and issue; as the word is used, chap. Genesis 6:9, and Numbers 3:1. The genealogy of Esau, which was brought in by way of parenthesis, being finished, Moses returns to the family of Jacob, and proceeds in his narration of their concerns. And it is not a barren genealogy like that of Esau, but a memorable, useful history. Joseph brought to his father their evil report — Jacob’s sons did that when they were from under his eye, which they durst not have done if they had been at home with him; but Joseph gave his father an account of their ill carriage, that he might reprove and restrain them.

37:1-4 In Joseph's history we see something of Christ, who was first humbled and then exalted. It also shows the lot of Christians, who must through many tribulations enter into the kingdom. It is a history that has none like it, for displaying the various workings of the human mind, both good and bad, and the singular providence of God in making use of them for fulfilling his purposes. Though Joseph was his father's darling, yet he was not bred up in idleness. Those do not truly love their children, who do not use them to business, and labour, and hardships. The fondling of children is with good reason called the spoiling of them. Those who are trained up to do nothing, are likely to be good for nothing. But Jacob made known his love, by dressing Joseph finer than the rest of his children. It is wrong for parents to make a difference between one child and another, unless there is great cause for it, by the children's dutifulness, or undutifulness. When parents make a difference, children soon notice it, and it leads to quarrels in families. Jacob's sons did that, when they were from under his eye, which they durst not have done at home with him; but Joseph gave his father an account of their ill conduct, that he might restrain them. Not as a tale-bearer, to sow discord, but as a faithful brother.Joseph is the favorite of his father, but not of his brethren. "In the land of his father's sojournings." This contrasts Jacob with Esau, who removed to Mount Seir. This notice precedes the phrase, "These are the generations." The corresponding sentence in the case of Isaac is placed at the end of the preceding section of the narrative Genesis 25:11. "The son of seventeen years;" in his seventeenth year Genesis 37:32. "The sons of Bilhah." The sons of the handmaids were nearer his own age, and perhaps more tolerant of the favorite than the sons of Leah the free wife. Benjamin at this time was about four years of age. "An evil report of them." The unsophisticated child of home is prompt in the disapproval of evil, and frank in the avowal of his feelings. What the evil was we are not informed; but Jacob's full-grown sons were now far from the paternal eye, and prone, as it seems, to give way to temptation. Many scandals come out to view in the chosen family. "Loved Joseph." He was the son of his best-loved wife, and of his old age; as Benjamin had not yet come into much notice. "A Coat of many colors." This was a coat reaching to the hands and feet, worn by persons not much occupied with manual labor, according to the general opinion. It was, we conceive, variegated either by the loom or the needle, and is therefore, well rendered χιτὼν ποικίλος chitōn poikilos, a motley coat. "Could not bid peace to him." The partiality of his father, exhibited in so weak a manner, provokes the anger of his brothers, who cannot bid him good-day, or greet him in the ordinary terms of good-will.2. generations—leading occurrences, in the domestic history of Jacob, as shown in the narrative about to be commenced.

Joseph … was feeding the flock—literally, "Joseph being seventeen years old was a shepherd over the flock"—he a lad, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah. Oversight or superintendence is evidently implied. This post of chief shepherd in the party might be assigned him either from his being the son of a principal wife or from his own superior qualities of character; and if invested with this office, he acted not as a gossiping telltale, but as a "faithful steward" in reporting the scandalous conduct of his brethren.

The generations, i.e. the events or occurrences which happened to Jacob in his family and issue. So that word is used Genesis 6:9 Numbers 3:1. Or the word

these may relate to what is said Genesis 35:22, &c. The genealogy of Esau being brought in by way of parenthesis, and that being finished, Moses returns to the generations of Jacob, as his principal business, and proceeds in the history of their concerns.

Jacob placed Joseph with

the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, rather than with the sons of Leah, either to keep Joseph humble; or for Joseph’s security, because the other sons retained the old grudge of their mother, and were more like to envy, contemn, hate, and abuse him; or as an observer of their actions, whom he most suspected, as the following words may seem to imply.

Joseph brought unto his father their evil report, acquainted him with their lewd and wicked courses, to the dishonour of God and of their family, that so his father might apply such remedies as he thought meet.

These are the generations of Jacob,.... But no genealogy following, some interpret this of events or of things which befell Jacob, and his family, particularly with respect to his son Joseph, as Aben Ezra and Ben Melech take the sense of the word to be from Proverbs 27:1; but the words may refer to what goes before in the latter end of chapter 35, where an account is given of Jacob's sons, with regard to which it is here said, "these are the generations of Jacob"; the whole of chapter 36, which contains the genealogy of Esau, being a parenthesis, or at least an interruption of the above account, the history of Jacob and his posterity is here reassumed and carried on:

Joseph being seventeen years old, was feeding his flock with his brethren; or "in the flock" (b); he was with them in the pastures, where the flocks were fed, not so much to assist them in it, as to be taught by them how to feed, they being older than he:

and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: his secondary wives or concubines, called his wives, because their children shared in the inheritance. These sons of theirs were Dan and Naphtali, the sons of Bilhah; and Gad and Asher, the sons of Zilpah; with these Jacob rather chose Joseph should be, than with the sons of Leah; and especially that he should be with the sons of Bilhah, who was the handmaid of Rachel, Joseph's mother, and she being dead, it might be thought that Bilhah and her sons would have the most respect for Joseph:

and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report; for not being able to bear with their evil deeds, and yet not having authority enough, being a junior, to reprove, correct, and check them, he reported them to his father: what the things were reported is not said, perhaps their quarrels among themselves, their contempt of Joseph, their neglect of their flocks, &c. Some of the Jewish writers make them to be abominable acts of uncleanness (d), others eating of the member of a creature alive, particularly the flesh of the tails of lambs while living (e).

(b) "in pecudibus", Montanus; "in grege", Vatablus. (d) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 84. fol. 73. 1. Jarchi in loc. (e) Targum Jon. in loc. Pirke Eliezer, c. 38.

These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil {b} report.

(b) He complained of the evil words and injuries which they spoke and did to him.

2. These are the generations, &c.] The formula of a new section in P.

2b–36 (JE). Joseph sold into Egypt

2b (J). and he was a lad with, &c.] The English here gives an awkward rendering. The meaning is, “he was keeping sheep, being still a lad, with his brethren, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah,” i.e. Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. Joseph’s home at this time seems to have been at Hebron (cf. Genesis 35:27). The life of Joseph, the elder son of the favourite wife, spent in the field with the sons of the concubines, was not likely to be happy.

the evil report] What this was, does not appear; cf. 1 Samuel 2:23. But Joseph’s action brought upon him the odium of tale-bearing. On the words for “evil report” cf. Numbers 13:32; Numbers 14:36-37 (P).

Verse 2. - These are the generations of Jacob. The opening of a new section (cf. Genesis 2:4 &c.). Joseph, the son of Rachel, and born in Padan-aram (Genesis 30:24) - being seventeen years old, - literally, a son of seventeen years, thus making Jacob 108 - was feeding the flock with his brethren; - literally, was shepherding; not his brethren (Bush), but with his brethren, in, or among, the flock - and the lad was - literally, and he a lad, aetate, moribus et innocentia (Lyra), non tantum aetate sed et ministerio (Poole), but most probably designed simply as a note of his age. Pererius, following the Vulgate, connects the clause with what precedes; Calvin, Dathius, Lange, Murphy, Kalisch, and others conjoin it with the words that follow; the LXX., Willet, Rosenmüller, Keil, Ainsworth, Bush, &c. regard it as a parenthetical statement - with - not in the capacity of a servant (Vatablus) or of a ward (Kalisch), but of a companion - the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives. With these rather than the sons of Leah, as being less supercilious and haughty than the children of the first wife (Lawson), or as being less opposed to him than they (Lange), or more probably as being nearer to his own age than they (Keil), or perhaps as having been brought more into contact with the handmaids' children, and in particular with those of Bilhah, Rachel's maid, who may have been to him as a mother after Rachel's death (Rosenmüller). And Joseph brought unto his (rather, their) father their evil report. Not accusavit fratres suos apud patrem crimine pessimo (Vulgate), or κατὴνεγκαν ψόλον πονηρὸν προς Ισραὴλ τὸν πατέρα αὐτῶν (LXX.), as if Joseph drew down upon himself their calumnious reports, but carried to his father an evil report concerning them (Kalisch); not informed him of what he himself saw of their evil deeds (Lawson), though this need not be excluded, but repeated the דִּבָּה, or fama, always of a bad character (Rosenmüller), which was circulating in the district respecting them - tunics rumores qui subinde de iis spargebantur (Dathius); - the noun being derived from an onomatopoetic root, דָּבַב, signifying to go slowly, or to creep about. Genesis 37:2Genesis 37:1-2

The statement in Genesis 37:1, which introduces the tholedoth of Jacob, "And Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's pilgrimage, in the land of Canaan," implies that Jacob had now entered upon his father's inheritance, and carries on the patriarchal pilgrim-life in Canaan, the further development of which was determined by the wonderful career of Joseph. This strange and eventful career of Joseph commenced when he was 17 years old. The notice of his age at the commencement of the narrative which follows, is introduced with reference to the principal topic in it, viz., the sale of Joseph, which was to prepare the way, according to the wonderful counsel of God, for the fulfilment of the divine revelation to Abraham respecting the future history of his seed (Genesis 15:13.). While feeding the flock with his brethren, and, as he was young, with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, who were nearer his age than the sons of Leah, he brought an evil report of them to his father (רעה intentionally indefinite, connected with דּבּתם without an article). The words נער והוּא, "and he a lad," are subordinate to the main clause: they are not to be rendered, however, "he was a lad with the sons," but, "as he was young, he fed the flock with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah."

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