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Joseph's Coat Of Jealousy

The Hebrew word pronounced koot-toe-neth means to cover. The King James Version translates koot-toe-neth variously as coat, garment or robe (singular or plural), sometimes all in the same verse e.g.

"29:5 And thou shalt take the garments [i.e. koot-toe-neth], and put upon Aaron the coat [i.e. koot-toe-neth], and the robe [i.e. koot-toe-neth] of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastplate, and gird him with the curious girdle of the ephod" (Exodus 29:5 KJV)

One of the most famous koot-toe-neth found in Bible History was that made by Jacob / Israel for his favorite son Joseph. While "a coat of many colours" from the King James is one of the most familiar renderings of the Hebrew word into English, other translations differ in their interpretation of what it actually was e.g.

"a coat of many colours" (KJV)

"a long robe with sleeves" (RSV)

"a richly ornamented robe" (NIV)

"a tunic with long sleeves" (Moffat)

"Israel loved Joseph more than all his children ... and he made him a coat of many colours"

Joseph's "coat of many colours" became a highly visible manifestation of the jealousy that Joseph's brothers already had for him because of the blatant favoritism that Jacob / Israel had for Joseph.

The Favorite

"37:3 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.

37:4 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." (Genesis 37:3-4 KJV)

One day, Jacob sent Joseph on an errand to his brothers.

"37:12 And his brethren went to feed their father's flock in Shechem. 37:13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them.

And he said to him, Here am I.

37:14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again.

So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. 37:15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?

37:16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.

37:17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan." (Genesis 37:12-17 KJV)

Joseph's brothers may well have spotted him before he saw them; Joseph's "coat of many colours" was probably much more visible from a distance than his brothers' drab shepherd garb. As Joseph approached, some of his brothers decided to kill him.

"37:18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 37:19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer [note: it wasn't just Jacob who was favoring Joseph; the LORD was too - see Joseph's Dreams] cometh. 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams." (Genesis 37:18-20 KJV)

Joseph was not killed because of the actions of two of the brothers. Reuben, with the intention of rescuing Joseph later, convinced the other brothers to just throw Joseph into a dry well, unharmed i.e. something that Joseph would regard as just a rough prank.

"37:21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 37:22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.

37:23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; 37:24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it." (Genesis 37:21-24 KJV)

Before Reuben could carry out his plan to recover Joseph, another brother, Judah (from whom the abbreviation "Jew" originated), had Joseph sold, for twenty pieces of silver, to slave traders who were headed for Egypt.


"37:25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.

37:26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 37:27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

37:28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt." (Genesis 37:25-28 KJV)

Reuben was not involved in the sale of Joseph.

"37:29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. 37:30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?" (Genesis 37:29-30 KJV)

All of the brothers then devised a coverup (no pun intended) by means of Joseph's "coat of many colours" that had been left behind. They made it even more "colorful" with the blood of an animal as "proof" that Joseph had been violently killed by some wild animal. They returned to Jacob / Israel with the lie that caused horrendous grief to their father.

"37:31 And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 37:32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no.

37:33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.

37:34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 37:35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. "

Fact Finder: What happened when Joseph arrived in Egypt?
Genesis 37:36; see also Potiphar and The Israelite Patriarchs - Joseph

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