Genesis 37:2
These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought to 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. (Parallel, 1 Chronicles 1:43-50). The Kings in the Land of Edom: before the children of Israel had a king. It is to be observed in connection with the eight kings mentioned here, that whilst they follow one another, that is to say, one never comes to the throne till his predecessor is dead, yet the son never succeeds the father, but they all belong to different families and places, and in the case of the last the statement that "he died" is wanting. From this it is unquestionably obvious, that the sovereignty was elective; that the kings were chosen by the phylarchs; and, as Isaiah 34:12 also shows, that they lived or reigned contemporaneously with these. The contemporaneous existence of the Alluphim and the kings may also be inferred from Exodus 15:15 as compared with Numbers 20:14. Whilst it was with the king of Edom that Moses treated respecting the passage through the land, in the song of Moses it is the princes who tremble with fear on account of the miraculous passage through the Red Sea (cf. Ezekiel 32:29). Lastly, this is also supported by the fact, that the account of the seats of the phylarchs (Genesis 36:40-43) follows the list of the kings. This arrangement would have been thoroughly unsuitable if the monarchy had been founded upon the ruins of the phylarchs (vid., Hengstenberg, ut sup. pp. 238ff.). Of all the kings of Edom, not one is named elsewhere. It is true, the attempt has been made to identify the fourth, Hadad (Genesis 36:35), with the Edomite Hadad who rose up against Solomon (1 Kings 11:14); but without foundation. The contemporary of Solomon was of royal blood, but neither a king nor a pretender; our Hadad, on the contrary, was a king, but he was the son of an unknown Hadad of the town of Avith, and no relation to his predecessor Husham of the country of the Temanites. It is related of him that he smote Midian in the fields of Moab (Genesis 36:35); from which Hengstenberg (pp. 235-6) justly infers that this event cannot have been very remote from the Mosaic age, since we find the Midianites allied to the Moabites in Numbers 22; whereas afterwards, viz., in the time of Gideon, the Midianites vanished from history, and in Solomon's days the fields of Moab, being Israelitish territory, cannot have served as a field of battle for the Midianites and Moabites. - Of the tribe-cities of these kings only a few can be identified now. Bozrah, a noted city of the Edomites (Isaiah 34:6; Isaiah 43:1, etc.), is still to be traced in el Buseireh, a village with ruins in Jebal (Rob. Pal. ii. 571). - The land of the Temanite (Genesis 36:34) is a province in northern Idumaea, with a city, Teman, which has not yet been discovered; according to Jerome, quinque millibus from Petra. - Rehoboth of the river (Genesis 36:37) can neither be the Idumaean Robotha, nor er Ruheibeh in the wady running towards el Arish, but must be sought for on the Euphrates, say in Errachabi or Rachabeh, near the mouth of the Chaboras. Consequently Saul, who sprang from Rehoboth, was a foreigner. - Of the last king, Hadar (Genesis 36:39; not Hadad, as it is written in 1 Chronicles 1:50), the wife, the mother-in-law, and the mother are mentioned: his death is not mentioned here, but is added by the later chronicler (1 Chronicles 1:51). This can be explained easily enough from the simple fact, that at the time when the table was first drawn up, Hadad was still alive and seated upon the throne. In all probability, therefore, Hadad was the king of Edom, to whom Moses applied for permission to pass through the land (Numbers 20:14.).

(Note: If this be admitted; then, on the supposition that this list of kings contains all the previous kings of Edom, the introduction of monarchy among the Edomites can hardly have taken place more than 200 years before the exodus; and, in that case, none of the phylarchs named in Genesis 36:15-18 can have lived to see its establishment. For the list only reaches to the grandsons of Esau, none of whom are likely to have lived more than 100 or 150 years after Esau's death. It is true we do not know when Esau died; but 413 years elapsed between the death of Jacob and the exodus, and Joseph, who was born in the 91st years of Jacob's life, died 54 years afterwards, i.e., 359 years before the exodus. But Esau was married in his 40th year, 37 years before Jacob (Genesis 26:34), and had sons and daughters before his removal to Seir (Genesis 36:6). Unless, therefore, his sons and grandsons attained a most unusual age, or were married remarkably late in life, his grandsons can hardly have outlived Joseph more than 100 years. Now, if we fix their death at about 250 years before the exodus of Israel from Egypt, there remains from that point to the arrival of the Israelites at the land of Edom (Numbers 20:14) a period of 290 years; amply sufficient for the reigns of eight kings, even if the monarchy was not introduced till after the death of the last of the phylarchs mentioned in Genesis 36:15-18.)

At any rate the list is evidently a record relating to the Edomitish kings of a pre-Mosaic age. But if this is the case, the heading, "These are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel," does not refer to the time when the monarchy was introduced into Israel under Saul, but was written with the promise in mind, that kings should come out of the loins of Jacob (Genesis 35:11, cf. Genesis 17:4.), and merely expresses the thought, that Edom became a kingdom at an earlier period than Israel. Such a thought was by no means inappropriate to the Mosaic age. For the idea, "that Israel was destined to grow into a kingdom with monarchs of his own family, was a hope handed down to the age of Moses, which the long residence in Egypt was well adapted to foster" (Del.).

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