1 Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.
2 This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.
3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors.
4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.
5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more.
6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed:
7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”
8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words.
9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.”
10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?”
11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
The story of Joseph’s life must have been originally written down by the sons of Jacob, especially by Joseph himself. This is probably indicated by the reference in Exodus 1:1, terminating this account, to the “names of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt.” This is essentially equivalent to the standard formula which would have said: “now these are the generations of the children of Israel, which came into Egypt.” This section, however, probably more than those preceding, had been subject to Moses’ editorial emendations, in view of his more immediate connection to it. — Morris, page 533.
This [vs.2a] constitutes the concluding statement and the signature of Jacob’s long record, beginning with Genesis 25:19b. Although he had trusted for years in God’s promise that he would inherit the land, the same as God had promised Abraham and Isaac, he, like they, continued to live as a “foreigner” in the land of Canaan. They did not yet own the land, only certain very small portions that they had purchased. Nevertheless, God had indeed blessed them materially with great possessions [see Hebrews 11:9, 13]. — Morris, page 534.
God never actually appeared to [Joseph], as He had to [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], nor were the covenant promises given to him in any special way. In fact, of the sons of Jacob it was Judah, not he, through whom God would fulfill the coming of the Savior. — Morris, page 534.
Most of my commentaries present Joseph as a type of Christ—loved by his father, rejected by his brothers, truthful in the face of opposition, put to “death,” remaining faithful, ruling. Morris, however, says this:
Though a number of interesting parallels can be noted, it should not be forgotten that the New Testament nowhere speaks of Joseph as a type of Christ. In view of the dangers inherent in allegorical interpretation, it is generally safest to avoid spiritualizing, allegorizing, and typological interpretations in general except where there is explicit Biblical warrant. — Morris, page 535.
The sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, would have been about Joseph’s age. Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah were older, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin were younger.
Morris believes that the phrase “feeding the flock” (v.2) indicates that Joseph was in charge of his four older brothers as the chief shepherd.
son of his old age (v.3) — some commentaries believe this means that Joseph was wise, with intelligence beyond his years. My guess is just that it refers to the fact that Jacob was old before his favorite wife had a son.
many colors (v.3) — some translations believe this may mean “long-sleeved” and doesn’t refer to color. Whatever the case, it demonstrated Jacob’s favoritism for Joseph over his other sons. It may have been an indication that Jacob intended to give Joseph the birthright as the son of his favorite wife.
The true hatred of Joseph’s brothers is fanned into life (i.e., mentioned for the first time) only after their father’s natural inclination toward Joseph as the son of his old age is outwardly displayed by the giving to him of a varicolored tunic—by its nature also a continual reminder to the brothers of Joseph’s favored status. — Wechsler, page 248.
The Bible doesn’t say whether Joseph was right or wrong to display his father’s favoritism to his brothers, to give their father bad reports about them, or tell them his dreams. When I read the passage, it seemed to me that Joseph may have been hard to get along with at this stage of his life. Wechsler disagrees:
Joseph cannot be justly criticized for [telling his family his dreams], since we are not told he related these dreams boastfully or in an otherwise improper fashion—especially seeing that these dreams were in fact prophetically truthful; and who else, after all, should he seek to discuss their significance than the men in his family? Joseph can no more be censured for inciting enmity by relating these prophecies than can Jeremiah, Zechariah, or Jesus for the internecine enmity that their prophecies engendered. — Wechsler, pages 248-249.
Jacob, though having come to a place of true and growing dependence on God, is not perfect, and hence he falls (not surprisingly) into the same pattern of sin expressed by his parents—to wit, showing clear favoritism for one among several siblings. Just as Isaac’s preference for Esau and Rebekah’s preference for Jacob fueled the fraternal enmity that eventually prompted Esau to plot his brother’s murder (see Genesis 27:42), so too does Jacob’s preference for Joseph—whom his father loved … more than all his brothers—fuel an outright hatred of him on the part of his brothers that culminates their collective plotting to put him to death (v.18). — Wechsler, page 248.
your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf (v.7) — Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth (Genesis 42:6). So Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, and he was still there; and they fell before him on the ground (Genesis 44:14).
The Bible doesn’t say whether Joseph’s dreams were from the Lord, although the fact that they were fulfilled makes it likely. Jacob, who knew the Lord, rebuked Joseph for telling it, although he also wondered if it was true.
Joseph is the most prominent of Jacob’s/Israel’s 12 sons in [the remainder of the book of Genesis]; yet this should not be allowed to obscure the importance of Judah, who, in terms of space, is the second most prominent brother of all. In this we have something of a parallel to the focus on Enoch and Noah in Genesis 5:21-24, 29, in which the former, like Joseph, serves as a reminder of the hope of present redemption and the latter, like Judah, as a reminder of the hope of final (i.e., messianic) redemption. — Wechsler, pages 246-247.