Understanding True Jewry – Joseph’s Coat of Authority

Joseph's Bloody Coat

Jacob Shown Joseph’s Coat
Dipped in Blood – Death (Ge 37)

Nothing is more misunderstood in the Bible than Joseph’s coat. The Greek translation of Genesis has several glaring mistranslations which survived in the various English translations made from the Septuagint. These have become “tradition” and converted into stories, movies, and plays all with the same erroneous theme:

Father’s love for his son over his other sons. Nice story but it is not God’s truth. This hides the true meaning of this passage trivializing it, robbing it of its rich truth pointing to Christ’s innocent murder.

The Hebrew, (פַּס כְּתֹנֶת {cotonet pasim) actually means a tunic with length either in the sleeves, length of the tunic or even in the hem of the garment. The interesting aspect of this word for tunic is that our English word, cotton, is derived from this word. It is unclear why the translators changed the meaning from long tunic to many-colored garment. Because the emphasis is on the colors, Joseph’s youth and the brother’s jealousy the meaning focuses on trial jealousy that does not explain the inane wish to murder a brother. Yet, the issue is not a total enigma if one seeks to exegete the meaning based on the “original” language and the historical/social context.

The Biblical context is clear. This important event succeeds the murder of an entire town, Shechem, by several of Jacob’s sons and the complicit plundering of the murdered victims goods by the other brothers (Ge 34). The brothers considered Jacob inept, due to his inaction over the “rape” of their sister; therefore, they usurped his authority. When his eldest slept with Jacob’s concubine this was a blatant act declaring that he was to be the heir apparent “now” and not when Jacob dies (Ge 35:22). All his sons, except the very youngest sons: Joseph and Benjamin were rebellious and disrespectful of the patriarchal authority of their father. He was the leader of their tribe and they willfully disregarded him, and God, endangering not only their safety but the lives of everyone in the clan. What was Jacob to do?

Jacob did not throw a fit, he did not disown anyone, he waited patiently until Joseph became old enough, probably about the age of 13 or so (coming of age). They he moved in a way that was unexpected and unprepared for by the brothers who probably showed daily contempt for this man who did not risk open rebellion and splitting of his clan with open conflict. He gave Joseph a “special” garment, a garment that denoted clan authority. In other words, Jacob (Israel) had just made Joseph the next heir apparent to the clan, elevating him over his much older brothers. Imagine how this must have infuriated them. The man whom they had little respect for made this inexperienced young boy ruler over them!

Historically, dying clothes was a costly and arduous process. Even making the dyes were an expensive process reserved mainly for the very wealthy which were members of the ruling governmental and priestly castes. This would have been beyond the means of most agrarian clans and quite out of character to be showy in a profession that required blending in with the environment. Later in the Old Testament we read that status was communicated by the width of the garments hem and the number of tassels, bells and pomegranates were attached to these hems and this at a time when Israel was fairly prosperous. The context of events that follow this pronouncement support the idea of conferred authority rather than just a “special” gift to a spoiled boy.

Immediately after this gift in the text, Joseph has his “dreams” showing his authority over his brothers, and father. This not only fanned the flames of rage of his brothers, whose rage had resulted in the murder of an entire town; but, it also alarmed his father! Jacob had conferred authority on Joseph and now this son appeared to be nearly as rebellious as his brothers. In one of his dreams he sees his father bowing down to him. This must have distressed Jacob thinking he had made an error in judgment. However, Jacob took no hasty actions and stayed with his decision to make Joseph the next patriarch.

Thus, when Joseph came to see about the activities of his brothers at the behest of Jacob, since they were shepherding the sheep back near Shechem, they conspired to kill the heir apparent. Well, except for Reuben, the eldest, who saw this as an opportunity to ingratiated himself with Jacob and hopefully would be restored as the heir apparent, due to him since he was the first-born. However, his plan was thwarted when his brothers decided to sell Joseph for a profit rather than kill him in Reuben’s absence. They killed a goat and dipped Joseph’s coat of authority in the blood and presented it to Jacob as “proof” of Joseph’s death. Eventually this availed them nothing for they served under Joseph when he was Vizier of Egypt and able to save them from a disastrous famine.

These were the forerunners of the Hebrew people, eventually to be the nation of Israel when they were led from Egypt by God via Moses, whose leadership they often rebelled against. In fact, the Old Testament is replete with their continuous rebellion against God, except for a few people from each generation. God even sent prophets to call them back to His Word and submit to His authority. When He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to call them back to faithfulness, they killed Him also. They turned Him over to the Romans and were the complicit agents in His murder. They played the part of Israel’s sons who brought the bloody coat to lie about the events. The false Jews, with their oral Talmudic traditions, rejected the Word of God to kill their Messiah Who had come to lead them to their New Covenant. Just as Joseph’s brothers rejected Joseph whom God had placed over them; the Jews of Christ generation and ever since have rejected the Son whom the Father has placed over them. Just as Joseph was sent to Egypt, as were his rebellious family, Christ was to send His disciples to the Gentiles, after His death, to bring the New Covenant to those who did not seek it in order to drive to jealousy those who did not want it until the time of His choosing when He will call his “brothers” back to their heritage (Ze 12:10Ro 9:30-33; 11).

The episode of Joseph and his coat of authority is actually a parable of Christ and His salvation for both the Gentiles and those true Jews who will see Him at His coming. It has nothing to do with showy colors or sinful pride but everything to do with God’s authority and our submission to His authority. Joseph’s brothers followed their sinful hearts and rebelled against the authority placed in him just as the Jews of Christ’s day did and continue to do today, and just as each of us did until called of Christ to salvation. It was Joseph’s coat of authority that covered them and saved them just as it will be Christ’s garment of righteousness that will cover them, and us, as we stand before the Father (Mal 4:1-2).

Author: LeeS

Retired naval nurse, Dad, Husband, Christian who seeks to share the Bible with those who want more than the superficial milk given out in the majority of today's churches. God has taught me through hard experiences as well as through book learning (Master's of Ministry, Doctor of Ministry).