Friday, September 24, 2010

The Coat of Many Colors

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him; Genesis 37:23

This translation is based on the Septuagint, Targum Jonathan and Kimchi. People have often wondered why a trifle like this gaudy garment should have provoke the murderous hatred of all the brethren. We now know from the painted Tombs of the Bene Hassein in Egypt that, in the Patriarchal age, Semitic chiefs wore coats of many colors as insignia of rulership.

Joseph had made himself disliked by his brothers for reporting on them; and Jacob, in giving him a coat of many colors, marked him for the chieftanship of the tribes at his father’s death. Add to this the lad’s vanity in telling his dreams, and the rage of the brethren becomes intelligible.

This sign of rulership was still in use in the household of King David, as is seen from Sam. 23:18, though the chronicler must explain these strange fashion in dress. The fact that in the Joseph story no such explanatory gloss is given is proof of the antiquity of the narrative. When it was first written its implications were perfectly intelligible.

(M. G. Kyle). (Hertz, Dr. J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1992, pg 142)


  1. Oh, I have waited a long time for an plausible explanation for the coat of many colors! I've read so many theories and had given up thinking I would ever really understand the story. This is a keeper for sure! My thanks to Donna, a true Golden Gleaner!

  2. I like the thing you had about the special markings on that garment that Jacob could feel and discern.

  3. I'm confused... Where does she say anything about any marks on the coat which Joseph could have felt and discerned. I'm lost here! LOL! What am I missing?

  4. April is talking about a class I gave at Education Week concerning clothing in the scriptures. Hugh Nibley said that many ancient sources referenced the fact that Jacob was practically blind and that he felt (rather than saw) the torn robe brought back by the brothers as witness to Joseph's demise by wild beasts and that it was special markings in the coat that convinced him that it truly was the same coat he had given to Joseph.

  5. Aaaah! I see. Thank you so much for taking time to clarify!