At 17 years of age, Joseph tended sheep with his brothers. The young man [was working] with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought a bad report about them to their father.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than his other sons because Joseph was a son [born to him] in his old age, and he made a robe of many colors for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not bring themselves to speak peaceably to him. (Gen 37:2-4)
Apparently Joseph started out tending the sheep with his brothers. One day, when he returned home from the fields, he gave his father a report concerning the way his brothers were taking care of the sheep. In response to Joseph’s report, Jacob gave Joseph a special garment that eventually brought a deep division between Joseph and his brothers. What was it about this garment that made them so mad? We do not know for sure if Joseph’s robe was actually multi-colored, but we do know that it was quite different from the garments his brothers wore. The garments worn by those in the field would often be sleeveless and up to the knees in order to provide mobility. How different that is from the garment Joseph was given. The Hebrew word used to describe the robe refers to a tunic which extended to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Apparently after Joseph’s report, Jacob promoted him to a position of supervision over his brothers. We know from scripture that Jacob himself was not an outdoors-man. Because he loved Joseph, he most likely did everything he could to keep Joseph at home and protect him. During the early years of Joseph’s life, Jacob provided him with three very important elements that helped prepare him for life: Time – Personal Contact – Confidence.
There is no way to measure the power of a parent’s love and encouragement. Many years ago, I was a draftsman. The reason I became a draftsman was because at a very young age, my parents gave me a set of drafting drawing instruments for Christmas. One day while I was working as a draftsman, I asked a fellow employee why he chose drafting as a career. “My mom told me that I had nice handwriting and would probably become an architect or draftsman.” Here were two men who chose their career primarily because of something their parents said and did to encourage them.