In the book of Genesis, Joseph had two dreams when he was still a child. These two dreams were essentially the same dream. However, the second dream is more specific than the first.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”

Genesis 37:8 (NIV)

Although the text only tells us Joseph told his brothers about the first dream, he tells his brothers and his father about the second dream.

When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” (emphasis added)

Genesis 37:10 (NIV)

Jacob’s question to Joseph makes sense except for one detail. Joseph’s mother, Rachel, was dead. 

Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).

Genesis 35:16-19 (NIV)

Since Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, she couldn’t have been alive when Joseph had the dream. Furthermore, Joseph dreams of “eleven stars” representing his eleven brothers, which no one questions. Therefore, Rachel was, indeed, dead when Joseph had his dream.

Who was Jacob talking about then when he referred to Joseph’s mother? Is this an error? Are we reading it wrong? Did Rachel not die? What’s going on in Genesis 37:10?

The answer to this question lies in what we see happening in verses like these from Genesis.

So she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.

Genesis 16:2 (NIV)

Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”

Genesis 30:3 (NIV)

We also know that Leah, Jacob’s first wife, also gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob (cf. Genesis 30:9). These women, known as “second wives” or “concubines,” served to provide additional children for the family. Concubines had little or no say over their children. However, they did spend time raising the children from the family. Both their own and those of other women. 

Therefore, in Genesis 37:10, Jacob is probably referring to Bilhah, the woman who most likely raised him. Some say that Jacob was referring to Rachel as some means to further express the incredulity of Jacob’s dream being true. Others say Jacob only included “mother” to complete the metaphorical picture of the dream. However, neither of those two explanations makes as much sense as the simple explanation that Bilhah would have been a mother to Joseph. Especially after Rachel died. 

Thus, no Bible contradiction or funny business exists in Genesis 37:10.