Genesis 37:3-4 states, “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.”
The word used to describe Joseph’s robe as being one “of many colors” is used four additional times in the Old Testament. Here are the verses in which it appears, with the English word or words underlined in each instance.
- “When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped off his robe, the robe of many colors that he had on” (Gen. 37:23).
- “They sent the robe of many colors to their father and said, ‘We found this. Examine it. Is it your son’s robe or not?’” (Gen. 37:32). After selling Joseph into slavery, his brothers had taken his coat and stained it with the blood of a goat. Note that that the brothers didn’t lie to their father with words, but they used the coat to give him the wrong impression.
- “Amnon’s servant threw her out and bolted the door behind her. Now Tamar was wearing a long-sleeved garment, because this is what the king’s virgin daughters’ wore” (2 Sam. 13:18).
- “Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved garment she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away crying out” (2 Sam. 13:19).
We cannot be absolutely sure what Joseph’s robe was like, although “elaborately decorated” also is a good translation of the Hebrew word. It is clear that the robe, because it was a fine article of clothing and because it was a gift from Joseph’s father, shouted Jacob’s favoritism for Joseph in unmistakable terms. Everyone “got the message.” After Jacob gave Joseph the coat, Joseph’s “brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, [and] they hated him and could not bring themselves to speak peaceably to him” (Gen. 37:4).
It is worth remembering that Joseph was born to Rachel, the wife Jacob loved supremely (see Gen. 29:30). In addition to Rachel, he had three other wives (see Gen. 29:1–30:24)—a recipe for family tension if there ever were one. One of the wives, of course, was Leah, Rachel’s sister. Rivalry among the sisters was the norm in this family.
Joseph’s coat, therefore, exacerbated the tension. Yet God used all of it, along with other factors, to place Joseph in a strategic position of leadership at a critical time. God is a powerful God indeed!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in SundaySchoolZone.com materials are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.