Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Joseph's Coat of Many Colors
Some Bible scholar wrote some philosophy about what the Bible really means: He talked about the word translated as ‘colour’ (British spelling) in the Bible really means ‘long sleeves.’ He goes on to say that this really makes sense, if you stop and think about it—Joseph’s coat of many colors would only require more dye, but if it were long-sleeved, it would require more material which presumably would be more expensive. My first thought upon hearing this was, “Wouldn’t a coat have long sleeves anyway?” Really, though, I had to laugh, because I had just recently been shopping for shirts, and I had noticed that solid-color short-sleeved shirts were the least expensive, patterned long-sleeved shirts were the most expensive, but patterned short-sleeved shirts and solid-color long-sleeved shirts were the same price. Furthermore, if you stop and think about it, in this day and age, dyes are generally chemical compositions and aren’t overly expensive, but in Joseph’s day, in order to dye a garment, somebody had to go gather about a thousand little bugs and crush them. Dyes were very expensive. On the other hand, Joseph’s family raised sheep; if they needed more material, they could just shear an extra sheep. So, I did a little research, and he’s right: The word translated as ‘colour’ really does mean ‘long sleeves.’ So, I looked up the word translated as ‘coat.’ I could be mistaken, but the definition looks to me a like it’s describing a long-sleeved garment. This is beginning to seem redundant. I looked up the word for ‘many’ and determined that word was translated correctly. At that point, I had a new quandary: Joseph had a long-sleeved coat of many long sleeves? What are we saying here, Joseph was part octopus? So, I went back and looked at the definition of the word translated as ‘colour’ again, and I noticed something that slipped past me the first time: It doesn’t actually say long-sleeves, it says, ‘long-sleeved tunic.’ So, how do you make a coat out of many long-sleeved tunics? After a certain amount of prayer and seeking God, it occurred to me that Joseph was son number eleven. He had ten older brothers. That suggests that most of his clothes were hand-me-downs. With as many brothers as Joseph had, probably a lot of them wore a lot of hand-me-downs. Of course, as the eleventh son, probably a lot of the hand-me-downs that reached Joseph were in terrible shape. At the same time, though, Joseph was his father’s favorite. If you know the story, Jacob went through a lot to be allowed to marry Rachel, who was the love of his life. In the process, he wound up married to Leah, who was Rachel’s older sister, and he also had two concubines. Even though Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son, he was Rachel’s first, so there was always a special relationship between Jacob and the first son of his great love. Now, this is conjecture on my part, but I think that you will agree that it’s good conjecture: One year, for whatever reason, Jacob found himself short of cash, but Rueben needed new clothes (and Rueben, being the oldest, was the one that always got new clothes). The hand-me-downs reaching Joseph were in sad shape, and Jacob was not going to have that. At the same time, though, there just wasn’t money to buy new clothes for both Rueben and Joseph (perhaps there were other brothers that also needed new clothes). So, Jacob, after tending sheep all day, stayed up at night and scavenged the best parts of whatever garments were not currently being worn by any of his sons, and sewed them together to make the best garment he could for his favorite son. Now, does anybody think that all these scraps of cloth were the same color? I’m guessing not. Of course, this brings up another reason why Joseph’s brothers were jealous of his coat. Each of them knew that their father wouldn’t have made them a coat. The coat itself was a reminder that Joseph was the favorite son, and always would be, as long as he was alive, or, at least, as long as their father thought he was alive.