Joseph’s Coat Of Many Colors

Q. I am trying to find what colors were in the coat of Joseph and what did they mean. I have been unsuccessful trying to find this information. Could you help me?

A. The phrase translated coat of many colors that first appears in Genesis 37:3 is a controversial one, and may not mean that at all.

In the strictest sense it refers to an undergarment worn by both men and women that was long sleeved and full length. The Hebrew word translated colored really means that it went from the palms of the hands to the soles of the feet. It was usually made of linen and was sometimes embroidered. In the King James the fact that the word “many” is in italics means that it doesn’t appear in the original language. The NIV translates the phrase as “richly ornamented” but there’s a tradition that it actually means seamless. A seamless undergarment would be difficult to make but was much more comfortable, and therefore very expensive. Only the wealthy could justify such a garment, and perhaps this is a more likely reason for Joseph’s brothers to be jealous of him.

In any case, the fact that you can’t discover what the colors of Joseph’s robe were may be a good indication that the robe was not many colored at all.

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