Moving through the ancestral generations of the nation of Israel, we begin to pass now from Jacob to Joseph. The second youngest of 12 half-brothers, and a favorite of his father, Joseph becomes a victim of sibling rivalry and uncontrolled jealousy like few in history have experienced. Of course, his dreams really didn’t do much to help his position with the older brothers. But was he supposed to ignore them, pretend he hadn’t had the dreams? Maybe keeping them to himself would have been better, but I see a teenage boy who was excited to share odd dreams and looked for help understanding them. Jacob’s favoritism didn’t help Joseph much either. But what is this special coat he made and gave to his favorite son?
Traditionally, we understand this to be a colorful coat made of fine and expensive threads. This is one possible description. The Hebrew wording is very unusual and difficult to really interpret. The word describing the tunic is only found in one other place in all of the Hebrew scriptures and its meaning is not really known. In that other instance (2 Samuel 13) it is understood to mean long. So what does this say about Joseph’s coat? Was it colorful? Was it made of fine and expensive fabrics? Was it unusually long? And why would any of these be reason to make others jealous? Remember the story of Noah and Ham? One understanding of the situation with Joseph’s coat is that it was unusually long, indicating Jacob’s intent to give a very large share of his inheritance to the younger of his sons. I can’t say this is the definitive answer, but it would make a lot of sense.