Genesis 37:3-4, The Coat of Many Colors

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 colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

//Here’s a confusing story. Why did this coat of many colors irritate Joseph’s brothers so much? They were so incensed about this coat that they could not even speak a friendly word to him.

One day Joseph came to his brothers out in the wilderness, wearing this offensive coat, and the first thing they did was strip him of it. Then they threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave.

What’s the big deal about a coat?

Here’s the deal. When Elijah was ready to leave this earth, he threw his mantle over Elisha to designate Elisha as his successor. When Aaron and his descendants were ready to step down from the high priesthood, they passed on their special apparel as a sort of ordination of the next guy in line. When Jacob in his old age made a special coat to give to Joseph, he may have been doing more than demonstrating concern or affection; he may have been designating Joseph as the primary beneficiary. If this is so, then he was pulling the birthright from all the older brethren and choosing a youngster.

No wonder his brothers hated him.


  1. Lee – you are absolutely correct in your conclusions but for the wrong reason, and that is because of a poor translation. It should be “a coat with long sleeves.” A coat with sort sleeves meant a person had “to work for a living.” A coat with long sleeves represented “a person of leisure.” It is sort of like my rolling up the sleeves of my shirt to go to work.

    • Lee Harmon

      Yes, the Hebrew phrase “kethoneth passim” is open to argument. It may mean “long sleeves.” If I recall, some modern translations actually read “long sleeves.” Dolly would be disappointed.

      The Septuagint clearly says “many colors,” so that’s what has stuck I guess.

      Thanks, John!

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