Joseph and His Coat (Genesis 37)

Discover the incredible journey of Joseph, the beloved son of Israel and Rachel, in “Joseph and His Coat (Genesis 37).” This tale unravels the complexities of familial love, jealousy, and faith, beginning with Israel’s special affection for Joseph, symbolized by a beautiful coat. However, Joseph’s brothers’ envy leads to shocking decisions that shape his future in unimaginable ways.

In this adaptation by Saddleback Kids, you’ll follow Joseph from his dreams that ignite his brothers’ anger to his eventual sale into slavery. Despite the hardships, Joseph’s story is only starting, setting the stage for a tale of resilience and divine purpose. Get ready to witness how faith and destiny intertwine in this timeless narrative.

Joseph and His Coat (Genesis 37)

The Context of Genesis 37

Overview of Genesis 37

Genesis 37 is a significant chapter in the Bible that introduces the story of Joseph, a central figure in the Book of Genesis. Here, you’ll discover the familial tensions, dreams, and events that set the stage for Joseph’s journey from favored son to a slave in Egypt. This chapter lays the groundwork for one of the most compelling narratives in the Scripture, highlighting themes of favoritism, envy, betrayal, and providence.

Setting and Historical Background

The events in Genesis 37 occur in Canaan, where Jacob (also known as Israel) and his family reside. The historical backdrop is set in the patriarchal period, a time characterized by familial clans, pastoral lifestyles, and nomadic travels. This period is marked by God’s covenant with the patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and the unfolding of His promises to make their descendants a great nation. The customs and social dynamics of this era heavily influence the narrative, shaping the relationships and decisions of the characters involved.

Significance in Biblical Narrative

Genesis 37 is more than a mere family drama; it is a pivotal chapter in the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan. Joseph’s story bridges the gap between the life of the patriarchs and the Israelites’ eventual migration to Egypt. His experiences, from dreams to slavery, and later rise to power, exemplify God’s sovereignty and faithfulness. Joseph’s life foreshadows themes of suffering and redemption, which are central to the biblical narrative and are ultimately fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.

Character Introduction: Joseph and His Family

Joseph: Son of Israel and Rachel

Joseph is introduced as the eleventh son of Jacob and the firstborn of Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife. He is depicted as a bright and favored young man, endowed with qualities that would later distinguish him as a leader and dreamer. Joseph’s character evolves throughout his story, showcasing resilience, wisdom, and unwavering faith in God amidst adversity.

Israel (Jacob): The Patriarch

Jacob, also known as Israel, is the patriarch of the family. He is the father of twelve sons, who would become the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob’s favoritism towards Joseph stems from his deep love for Rachel, making his relationship with Joseph unique and significantly strained with the other brothers. Jacob’s actions and decisions influence much of the familial dynamics and conflicts.

Rachel: Joseph’s Mother

Rachel, Jacob’s dearly loved wife, is the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Her long period of barrenness before Joseph’s birth adds to Jacob’s deep affection for Joseph. Rachel’s role, though not prominent in Genesis 37, is crucial in understanding Jacob’s emotional connection to Joseph and the subsequent tensions within the family.

Joseph’s 11 Brothers

Joseph’s brothers—Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin—each play distinct roles in the narrative. Their collective envy and resentment towards Joseph set the stage for the dramatic events that unfold. Among them, Judah and Reuben are notably involved in the decision-making processes that impact Joseph’s fate.

Israel’s Special Love for Joseph

The Coat of Many Colors

One of the most memorable symbols in Joseph’s story is the “coat of many colors” given to him by his father, Jacob. This special garment signified Jacob’s deep affection and preferential love for Joseph over his other sons. In the context of the narrative, such a gift was not merely ornamental but a symbol of honor and favor.

Symbolism of the Coat

The coat of many colors represents more than just favoritism; it symbolizes Joseph’s unique status and the special destiny that awaits him. It sets him apart visibly from his brothers, highlighting the division and brewing tension within the family. The coat becomes a focal point in the brothers’ animosity towards Joseph, as it is a constant reminder of their father’s unequal love.

Joseph’s Favored Status

Joseph’s favored status is more than an emotional bond; it has practical implications in a familial and societal context. Jacob’s favoritism goes against the usual customs of the time, where the firstborn son typically held a place of prominence. This favoritism exacerbates the brothers’ jealousy and plants the seeds for the subsequent conflict and betrayal.

Joseph’s Dreams

First Dream: The Bundles of Grain

Joseph’s first dream involves him and his brothers binding sheaves of grain in the field. In the dream, Joseph’s bundle suddenly stands upright while his brothers’ bundles gather around and bow to it. This dream is significant because it prophetically hints at Joseph’s future rise to a position of authority.

Reactions of the Brothers

Upon hearing about the dream, Joseph’s brothers respond with hostility and incredulity. The idea of bowing to their younger brother is abhorrent to them, and it exacerbates their jealousy and animosity. The dream, rather than bringing divine insight, serves as a catalyst for their brewing anger.

Second Dream: The Sun, Moon, and Stars

In Joseph’s second dream, he sees the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowing down to him. This dream goes beyond the first, suggesting that not only his brothers but also his parents would come to bow before him. The celestial imagery elevates the significance of the dream, indicating a more encompassing authority and respect.

Joseph’s Father’s Reaction

While Joseph’s brothers react with anger, Jacob’s reaction is more mixed. He rebukes Joseph, questioning the plausibility of the dream, but he also keeps the matter in mind. This dual reaction indicates Jacob’s understanding of prophetic dreams and the possibility that there might be a deeper meaning behind Joseph’s visions.

Brothers’ Envy and Hatred

Root Causes of Jealousy

The root causes of the brothers’ jealousy are multifaceted. Jacob’s overt favoritism of Joseph is a primary factor, but the dreams add another layer, suggesting divine favor and future authority for Joseph. The brothers, feeling overlooked and undervalued, let their jealousy grow into hatred.

Manifestations of Hatred

The brothers’ hatred manifests in various ways, from verbal expressions of disdain to plotting physical harm. Their animosity is palpable and steadily increases with each interaction, particularly as Joseph innocently shares his dreams, unaware of their growing resentment.

Plotting Against Joseph

The brothers’ hatred reaches a tipping point when they plot to kill Joseph. They see an opportunity when Joseph is sent to check on them in the fields. Their plotting reflects a culmination of years of pent-up envy and anger, illustrating how favoritism and perceived injustice can fracture familial relationships deeply.

The Plot to Kill Joseph

Initial Plan to Kill Him

The initial plan of the brothers is to kill Joseph and dispose of his body in a pit, and then fabricate a story that a wild animal had devoured him. This plan illustrates their deep-seated anger and willingness to go to extreme lengths to eliminate the source of their envy.

Reuben’s Intervention

Reuben, the eldest brother, intervenes in this murderous plot. He suggests instead throwing Joseph into an empty cistern, planning to rescue him later and return him to their father. Reuben’s intervention demonstrates a flicker of conscience and familial responsibility, contrasting with the brothers’ collective desire for revenge.

Joseph Thrown into the Pit

The brothers seize Joseph, strip him of his coat of many colors, and throw him into the pit. This act is both symbolic and literal—stripping Joseph of his father’s symbol of favor and casting him into an abyss. It reflects their desire to remove Joseph from his pedestal and reduce him to nothingness.

The Sale of Joseph

Encounter with Midianite Merchants

As the brothers sit to eat, they see a caravan of Midianite merchants passing by. This encounter provides an alternative to their initial plan, presenting them with a less deadly way to get rid of Joseph while also profiting from it.

Judah’s Proposal to Sell Joseph

Judah proposes selling Joseph to the Midianite merchants instead of killing him. He argues that they gain nothing from Joseph’s death and that selling him will at least make them some money. His proposal reflects a pragmatic approach to their problem and lessens their immediate guilt.

Joseph Sold for 20 Shekels

The brothers agree to Judah’s proposal and sell Joseph to the merchants for 20 shekels of silver. This transaction not only changes the course of Joseph’s life but also reflects the brothers’ perception of his worth. The sale price, though modest, signifies the brothers’ betrayal and loss of familial bond.

Symbolic Meaning of the Sale

The sale of Joseph is laden with symbolic meaning. It represents the ultimate betrayal by his own kin and begins Joseph’s journey into a foreign land where he will rise, fall, and ultimately fulfill the dreams he once shared. It also prefigures later biblical themes of betrayal and redemption seen throughout Scripture.

Deception of Israel (Jacob)

Faked Joseph’s Death

To cover up their deed, the brothers decide to fake Joseph’s death. They kill a goat and dip Joseph’s coat in its blood, fabricating evidence of a violent end to their brother. This deception underscores their willingness to deceive their father to hide their guilt.

Presentation of the Bloodied Coat

The brothers take the bloodied coat back to their father, presenting it as proof of Joseph’s demise. Jacob recognizes the coat and concludes that a wild animal has killed his beloved son. The coat, once a symbol of love and favor, is now a harbinger of grief.

Israel’s Grief and Mourning

Jacob (Israel) is devastated by the news of Joseph’s supposed death. He tears his clothes, dons sackcloth, and mourns deeply for his loss. His grief is profound, reflecting the depth of his love for Joseph. The brothers’ deception not only achieves their goal of removing Joseph but also inflicts enormous emotional pain on their father.

Joseph’s Journey to Egypt

Journey as a Slave

Joseph’s journey to Egypt as a slave marks the beginning of a new chapter in his life. Stripped of his dignity, he faces the harsh reality of servitude in a foreign land. This journey signifies a dramatic shift from favored son to oppressed slave, setting the stage for his eventual rise through adversity.

Introduction to Potiphar’s Household

In Egypt, Joseph is sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard. His introduction to Potiphar’s household transitions the narrative to a new environment where Joseph’s integrity, skills, and faith will be tested and recognized.

Joseph’s Future Outlook

Despite his dire circumstances, Joseph’s future outlook is shaped by his unwavering faith in God. His journey to Egypt, while beginning in suffering and betrayal, will eventually lead to his rise to a position of immense influence and authority, fulfilling the prophetic dreams of his youth.


Summary of Key Points

Genesis 37 introduces the compelling story of Joseph, marked by favoritism, jealousy, dreams, and betrayal. Joseph’s coat of many colors, his prophetic dreams, and the brothers’ ensuing plot provide a rich narrative that sets the foundation for his journey from Canaan to Egypt.

Joseph’s Story Continuation Hint

Joseph’s story, far from over, will continue to unfold with dramatic twists and divine interventions. His journey in Egypt will not only fulfill the dreams he once shared with his family but also play a crucial role in the history of the Israelites.

Relevance to Modern Readers

The story of Joseph in Genesis 37 holds timeless relevance. Themes of favoritism, envy, resilience, and divine providence resonate with modern readers. Joseph’s unwavering faith amidst betrayal and adversity serves as an inspiring example of how trust in God’s plan can lead to redemption and fulfillment, even in the most challenging circumstances.

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