Joseph and his many coats of color

Does it amaze you, as well, when you are re-reading something in the Word that you know you’ve read MANY times and suddenly, you notice something that you had not seen before?  I did that this morning with Joseph and his coats.

I have grown up with Joseph and his coat of many colors, so to read that the Hebrew word used here has NOTHING to do with colors was  a bit of a surprise.  I have no clue why the translators chose the word “colors.”  The word used there  means a tunic that reaches to the palms and soles. How that became “colors”, I’m sure your guess would be as good – or better – than mine.  But, since I have always had this picture in my head of a many-colored coat, I’m not going to fuss over the color of the coat – I’ll just have to picture it with long sleeves now.  😛

In Genesis 37, we see that Joseph has a coat – with long sleeves, might I add – that his father made for him.  Immediately after that, we read that when Joseph’s brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than all the other brothers, they hated him.  Does that not seem to imply that it was in seeing the coat that they knew that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them? Considering that the coat went to Joseph’s ankles, do you suppose part of why they hated him had to do with the fact that he was now wearing a coat that clearly said, “Shepherd, I ain’t!  You stick with the lamb doo, I’m a man of means”?  That would sure seem like it would encourage them to hate him, eh what?

Joseph’s next coat would be one he received from Potiphar.  I’m confident Potiphar didn’t have this favored man of God running all about town starkers, which is how he would have been, when he bought Joseph, so I believe that it is very appropriate to assume that he dressed Joseph, since Joseph would have had nothing with which to dress himself.

Before I just take off and do all the talking myself, won’t you read the chapters and come discuss this with me?  (Go ahead and skip chapter 38 – just read chapters 39, 40 and 41.)  I’ll pick up from here tomorrow….or later today, depending on how the Spirit moves and how long I can go without “talking about it.”   🙂

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2 Responses to “Joseph and his many coats of color”
  1. Pam in Colorado says:

    Okay, I started my search for meaning/translation and found this…

    According to the Authorized King James Version, Genesis 37:3 reads:
    Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors.[1]

    The Hebrew phrase Kethoneth passim is translated here as coat of many colors, but some have suggested that the phrase may merely mean a “coat with long sleeves”[2] or a “long coat with stripes.”[citation needed]

    The Septuagint translation of uses the word poikilos[3], which indicates “many coloured”;[4] the Jewish Publication Society of America Version also employs the phrase “coat of many colors”.[5]

    On the other hand, the Revised Standard Version translates Kethoneth passim as “a long robe with sleeves”[6]
    while the New International Version notes the translation difficulties in a footnote, and translates it as “a richly ornamented robe”.[7]

    Aryeh Kaplan, in The Living Torah gives a range of possible explanations:
    Kethoneth passim in Hebrew. It was a royal garment; 2 Samuel 13:18 (cf. Ralbag ad loc.). The word passim can be translated as ‘colorful’ (Radak; Septuagint), embroidered (Ibn Ezra; Bachya; Ramban on Exodus 28:2), striped (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim), or with pictures (Targum Yonathan). It can also denote a long garment, coming down to the palms of the hands (Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Baaley Tosafoth; Bereshith Rabbah 84), and the feet (Lekach Tov). Alternatively, the word denotes the material out of which the coat was made, which was fine wool (Rashi) or silk (Ibn Janach). Hence, kethoneth passim, may be translated as ‘a full-sleeved robe,’ ‘a coat of many colors,’ ‘a coat reaching to his feet,’ ‘an ornamented tunic,’ ‘a silk robe,’ or ‘a fine woolen cloak.'[8]

    James Swanson suggests that the phrase indicates a “tunic or robe unique in design for showing special favor or relationship” and that “either the robe was very long-sleeved and extending to the feet, or a richly-ornamented tunic either of special color design or gold threading, both ornamental and not suitable for working.”[9]

    The phrase is used one other time in the Hebrew scriptures, to describe the garment worn by David’s daughter Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:18-19.

    Now, this does give possibilities to a different “look” of the coat then what we have been taught, which leads me in taking caution in knowing we need to be in His Word ourselves, and not simply accepting that which we are taught from the pulpit/Sunday School classes… Read, question, research, study.

    That said, the fact that the coat may not have been “of many colors” doesn’t change the importance of the coat and the meaning it would have represented to his brothers regarding his position of favour with his father. This time, the significance remains the same. The deeper lessen to me is in doing my due diligence in my study time with the Lord, and in His Word.

  2. javadawn says:

    🙂 Acts 17:11. 🙂 May we ALL qualify.

    Pam, I found it interesting, as well, that the only other place that this word/s was used was in describing Tamar’s coat – and her coat is specifically described as being multi or varied – so one might expect to find “colored” with that description.

    There is SO much fullness in the Word that comes creeping out when we start digging into the Word, that it always takes me by such surprise! 🙂 Our LIVING Word!!!

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