Why Did Jacob Make Joseph a Coat of Many Colors? (Genesis 37:3)

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One of my earliest Bible class memories is making a “coat of many colors” craft. I would assume a lot of people reading this have similar memories of their own childhood.

It’s a fun story to tell with children, but in reality, the moment Joseph put that coat on, he might as well have painted a bullseye on his back. That coat announced his father’s favoritism, and would ironically be a torrid symbol of Jacob’s pain when the brothers return it stained in blood.

As adults, we’re told not to pick favorites among our kids. I agree with that philosophy; we should love all of our kids the same. If that’s so, then why does Jacob announce his choice of his sons so boldly?

And why make him a coat of so many different colors?

Your translation may say something different. In the Christian Standard Bible, for instance, Genesis 37:3 says that Jacob made “a long-sleeved robe for [Joseph}.” The Septuagint translation is where we get the idea of a “multi-colored robe.”

The word itself is used only one other time in Scripture, and that’s in 2 Samuel 13:18 to describe the garment of a princess (King David’s daughter, Tamar). If that’s the same type of designation that Jacob gives to Joseph, then it’s little wonder why Joseph’s brothers took exception to it.

Still others take the multi-colored aspect of the robe literally, likening it to a patchwork garment of sorts that pieces together various types of clothing. In our day, it would be similar to wearing a quilt, and as anyone from the South will tell you, quilts are hard to make and are extremely personal and sentimental gifts.

All of this is to reiterate the point that Jacob (perhaps unwisely) broadcasted his favorite for everyone to see. Some even go so far as to say that Joseph’s coat signified him as the primary inheritor of Jacob’s wealth, but that’s not definitive.

What is definitive is that Joseph’s brothers hated that coat. They hated what it signified, what it meant for them, and what it told them about their own relationship with their father.

And they were almost willing to kill Joseph because of it.