Decoding the Many Colored Coat

Richard Stanley

Well-Known Member
The famous legend of Joseph's Many Colored Coat is the straw that breaks the metaphorical camel's back of Joseph's jealous brothers, provoking them to waylay and sell Joseph into slavery. In this regard we are clearly led by the Genesis text to believe that gaining such a present from their father, Israel (aka Jacob), was a very special, and thus unique gift. But is this really the case, and if not, can we gain a different insight - perhaps compatible with our previous interpretations in this series?


Row 3 of north wall mural in Tomb III (Khnum-Hotep II) at Beni Hasan

The tomb site of Beni Hasan is 160 miles south of Cairo, just north of Amarna (aka Akhet-Aten). The tomb is that of an Egyptian governor, or 'nomarch', who is depicted having some Semitic visitors, the Aamu, to the district (the 'Antelope' nome) presented to him. Some consider that these Aamu visitors were from what is now Jordan.

This tomb and mural is dated to the 20th century BCE, placing this slightly too early for the earliest dating considered possible for the Abraham account, much less his grandson, Jacob.

The issue which should be quickly apparent is that all these 'Asiatics', or Semitics, are wearing multi-colored garments. Not just one of them, but all of them. These people are most likely of the merchant class and are traditionally bearing gifts for the governor, so as to curry his favor (not everyone likes curry - but I do favor it).

At this particular time in history, the dying of fabrics was a commonplace. The techniques were very well developed and it was possible to obtain every possible shade of dye under the Sun, by the various admixtures of three different base dyes that could be obtained from 3 common plants. Generally, it is considered that having such a dyed garment indicated a position of elevated wealth status, at least, that of being above a common laborer, who likely wore undyed garments. Colors were generally significant in terms of status, with such as purple and blue limited to royalty. Laborers wore undyed garments, simply because they were less expensive in terms of either purchasing price or in the labor of making in the case of any do it yourselfers. And why have fancy dyed garment just to get all dirty and sweaty in?

As was discussed in the Abraham and Isaac pieces, it is clear that these patriarchs are really royalty and not mere merchants and/or rude shepherds, as the typical superficial reading or telling renders. As such, can we really be led to believe that such a wealthy person as Jacob could only provide one of his sons with such a commonplace garment? At least if any of them were to be considered as being near to Joseph's exalted status in Jacob's eyes.

We've already discussed that, besides Benjamin, that all the ten other brothers were born either of the "unloved wife", Leah, or to the two maidservants of Rachel and Leah. And that this differing lineage thus has a bearing upon the social status to be assigned to the groups headed by their respective eponymous founding fathers and 'uncles'. And that brother Judah's constant negative behavioral depiction especially binds him subserviently to Joseph, via Joseph's son Ephraim.

With all this, I submit that the story of the coat is simply a further signal flag that Joseph is more than special in the mundane fatherly favorite sense, but that this use of such a gift was meant to convey to the alert, once again, that the superficial meaning is not what is to be conveyed. But rather that this narrative element was also pointing to the new geo-political arrangements being put in place in Canaan.

As the Sabbah brothers have clearly shown in their Secrets of the Exodus, the Abraham through Joshua narratives are all encrypted parts of the 18th and 19th Dynasty narratives centered around the Amarna 'project'. A project that synthetically kicked off what Jerry and I term the False Dialectic that forms the internal tensions still within Western Civilization today. By this late time, the notion of such a dyed coat being uniquely provided to one such brother would have to be considered as more typical insider humor veiling the deeper message of hierarchy.

Also, it should be noted, from the wall mural graphic, as was commonplace for such works, that the Egyptians depicted themselves with a reddish skin tone, as in contrast Semites were depicted with a more typical olive skin tone. Here, I am alluding to the business between ruddy Esau and his brother Jacob, and the whole red-headed business I've been looking into. Typically, the Egyptians depicted in such art would have shaved heads and worn dark haired wigs, if not depicted as being shaved bald (I think in the case of a priest).
Do you have an idea why Benjamin didn't get a coat? Am I missing something (as I so often do), or does it seem odd that Benjamin, as the youngest son of Jacob and Rachel, was not as blessed as other youngest sons?
The whole idea is that the coat is a convenient literary vehicle to convey that it is Joseph's lineage that will move forward with the Abraham's Blessing. Perhaps the coat was utilized because it is this generation of the 12 brothers that is skipped over with the actual blessing. Jacob grants the blessing to Ephraim while Joseph looks on, perplexed that Manasseh didn't get it instead.

BTW, Jacobovici has an episode that discusses Sennacherib's retreat from the siege of Jerusalem. He asserts that a bunch of verses were interpolated into the texts to distract that it was really the approach of the 'Nubian' 25th Dynasty of Egypt that was responsible for scaring off the Assyrians rather than from divine intervention. Which begs the question of where did all the Egyptians go - long time standing?