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  • Writer's pictureVicar Matt Doebler

Matins Devotion: March 15, 2023

What is the special coat that Jacob makes Joseph? The one that we so famously call the “coat of many colors?” And why does it cause his brothers to hate him so much that they are willing to commit this treachery?

Well, the moniker “coat of many colors” appears in most of our English translations, but to be completely transparent, we’re not exactly sure what the Hebrew is indicating here. The translation “coat of many colors” was the choice that came from the Septuagint, which is a collection of Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible. Apart from the Joseph story, the only other time this phrase appears is in 2 Samuel where it describes the royal robe that King David’s daughter Tamar wore. This robe is described as long and flowing, and having sleeves.

At any rate, what seems to be clear about this coat or robe that Jacob gives to Joseph is that it marks out Joseph as having a special authority within the family. Whether this coat was many-colored, or whether it was long and flowing with sleeves, one thing was certain—this wasn’t the garment of an ordinary laborer. While all of Joseph’s older brothers were sent out to do the dirty job of herding sheep—Joseph was sent to Harvard Business School. He was on the fast track to becoming upper management and his father’s right hand man. This tailored three-piece-suit was the sign of his special status and authority. And so it became the object of his brother’s hatred—Joseph was the favored son that they wanted to destroy.

We still have a long way to go in the Joseph narrative, but all along the way we’re going to see that Joseph functions in many ways as a type—as a shadow in the Old Testament that points us to Christ. So allow me to point out one very interesting way that we see this in our reading for today. Joseph’s coat, as we have just said is a sign of his father’s favor—his special status within the family even though he was one of the youngest—and it was the reason his brothers hated him so much. How does this point us to Christ? Well, Christ was favored by his father. Remember what God says about him both at his baptism and at his Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to him.” Likewise, Jesus is sent to find his brothers—he is sent to find the lost sheep of Israel. But what about the coat? What was the sign of Jesus’ authority that caused his brothers to hate him so much that they handed him over to the Gentiles? The sign of Jesus’ authority was his Word. Jesus came preaching and teaching as one with authority—not like the scribes and Pharisees. We hear this in our text from Mark—where Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their hardness of heart and corrects their interpretation of what the Scriptures teach about divorce. Jesus claims the authority to speak for God—and this, above all else, is the reason why his brothers hate him. They hate the Son, because—secretly—they also hate the Father. Though they serve him outwardly—inwardly they despise him. And so they persecute the Son who comes with the Father’s favor—speaking with the Father’s authority.

Let us repent of our own failure to hold the Word of God sacred and to gladly hear and learn it. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit might grant us to know the comfort of his Holy Word, so that we might embrace and ever hold fast to the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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