“When Joseph was seventeen years old he used to pasture the flock with his brothers, even though he was still a boy. Once when he was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, he brought a bad report about them to their father.”-Genesis 37:2
Joseph was hated by his brothers but seemed completely oblivious to their feelings until disaster struck and they turned on him.
In Genesis 37, we are painted a picture of Joseph being a downright bratty tattle taler.
He seemed to be the kind of punk you just wanna slap upside the head for his irritable ways.
However, there is more to this situation than meets the eye.
The first thing you need to know is that those particular brothers who were tattled on were NOT the sons of Jacob’s legal wives Leah and Rachel.
They were the sons of Jacob’s two concubines, Bilah and Zilpah.
No doubt this dynamic caused serious stress and strain in the family.
Having said that, it appears that Bilah and Zilpah underwent a change in their family status that can only be recognized by looking at the original Hebrew.
In the original Hebrew, Bilah and Zilpah are referred to as ISH’ISHAH.
This is a term that is only applied to a legal wife.
Also notice how Jacob referred to Bilah in verse 10?
“What is this dream you have had? Do you really expect me, your mother and your brothers to come and prostrate ourselves before you on the ground?”
Remember that Rachel was long dead before this incident.
Bilah was Rachel’s handmaiden and now Jacob is referring to her as “Joseph’s mother“.
This is further evidence that Bilah’s status (along with Zilpah) had been elevated to that of a full wife.
Now what’s up with that coat of many colors that Jacob gave to Joseph?
Again, it goes without saying that because Jacob had always favored Rachel, he also favored the two children she gave him: Joseph and Benjamin.
So as an expression of the special affection Jacob felt for his first born son born from Rachel, he gave Joseph what many English translations render as a “coat”.
That is not exactly an accurate translation.
The Hebrew is K’TONET PASSIM.
And a much more accurate translation would be to call it a “ROYAL TUNIC” or a “MAJESTIC ROBE”.
It was as if Jacob had anointed Joseph to be a ruling prince over his brothers.
The Scriptures tell us that that the brothers were so angry “that they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him“.
From the Hebrew cultural perspective, this means that their rage was fuming to the extent that they couldn’t even offer up the typical “Shalom” greeting to him.