Genesis 37:3

Joseph, being seventeen years old, &c. Picturesque scene is the encampment of Jacob. How well the dark camel-hair tents harmonize with the general character of the spots in which they are pitched. Peace and purity should dwell there. Ten men of the tribe of Jacob are most depraved, but their characters only threw into brighter prominence that of Joseph. It is probable that Jacob gave greater attention to the training of Joseph than to that of his brethren. He showed favoritism also. His act of giving him a garb of varied color may not altogether have been so foolish and weak as sometimes it has been supposed to be. It was simply an ordinary Eastern way of indicating that Joseph was to be the future leader and sheik of the encampment. Think of Joseph's home life, and learn -

I. THAT AT HOME WE SHOULD, LIKE JOSEPH, LEARN TO PREPARE FOR FUTURE LIFE. Doubtless Jacob would tell Joseph of the promises of God to Abraham, of the tradition of the Deluge and the Fall; probably also of his own fleeing from home, and his dream in the desert, when he saw "the great altar-stair sloping through darkness up to God," and the angels ascending and descending. Joseph always afterwards has great faith in dreams. No book had he. The Bible was not written. Traditions and oral teaching formed his mental training.

II. AT HOME WE SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE SOME EMPLOYMENT. His father loved him too dearly to allow him to grow up in habits of idleness. He learned to handle the crook and to become a faithful messenger. No work is to be despised, for all may be a preparation for future usefulness.

III. AT HOME WE SHOULD NOT WILLINGLY BE WITNESSES OF WRONGDOING. The lives of Joseph's brethren were sinful, and their doings deceitful. Some things he is obliged to know about of which it is dangerous to keep silence. The welfare of the whole tribe was being risked by the elder brothers, and Joseph, fearing that, tells his father, or seeks counsel that he may be strengthened to resist evil influence.

IV. AT HOME WE MAY HAVE GLOWING VISIONS OF THE FUTURE. The two dreams concerning the sheaves, and the sun and moon and stars, brought hate from his brethren, but they had an influence on Joseph's after life. They were remarkably fulfilled. We all have some such visions. We build "castles in the air." The stern realities of life tone down our dreams. It is well to have some such dreams. Without them few make any advance in life. We are not to be like mere senseless stones, but growing plants. Better is it to bear fruit than to wait to become only the sport of circumstances. - H.

Israel loved Joseph more than all his children.

1. On account of a kindred spirit.

2. On account of pleasant associations.


1. It was revealed for the comfort of Joseph.

2. It was manifested in such a manner that the other children could take offence.


1. Their hatred took a wrong direction.

2. Their hatred overcame their humanity.







(J. Henry Burn, B. D.)

Enabled to study characters, alike by long experience and natural shrewdness, he was eminently fit to discover the spirit of Joseph's accounts; and had he detected a vile motive, his heart would have turned from the slanderer; for he had himself thoroughly completed his moral purification. Further, the general conduct of the brothers were such as to let unfavourable statements appear at least as no deceitful fabrications. And, lastly, depravity and meanness are totally at variance with those noble qualities of Joseph's mind, which we shall soon have opportunities to unfold, and which alone could make him the worthy medium of the great plans of Providence. Too young to listen to prudence, and too generous to regard expediency, his pure and susceptible mind repeated in harmless innocence what passed among his brothers; and open and communicative, he knew no artificial reserve. He, therefore, is not even liable to the reproach of carelessness; for he would have seen no wrong in his conduct, even had his attention been directed to it; following the unrestricted impulses of his nature, he had not yet commenced to reflect upon his feelings, or to control and direct his emotions. But was it not blamable on the part of Jacob, so decidedly to prefer one son to all the others? Ought not a father to bestow an equal share of affection upon all his children? This question is but partially to be answered in the affirmative. Certainly, the natural love of a father, which is the result of the close relationship, is very generally equally ardent towards all his children; he will, with the greatest sacrifices, support, educate, and protect all his offspring. But another affection, based upon esteem or internal affinity of characters, may be superadded to the natural love, as will frequently be the case with parents of strongly-marked mental or moral organization; and thus that love is produced which is the emancipation from the blind rule of instinct, and consists in the prevalence of reason and moral liberty. And if it is not reprehensible in a father to feel more strongly for the children in whom he finds his own existence more distinctly renewed, or who are more susceptible of culture and refinement, it can, at the utmost, only be deemed an imprudence if the predeliction is manifested before the less beloved children. But though it is no moral offence, it may become a source of envy, strife and domestic discord. This truth was neglected by Jacob when he made for his favoured son Joseph a long and costly robe. The ample and folding garments of persons of wealth and distinction were not seldom composed of, or covered with, pieces of various costly stuffs, tastefully arranged — ambitious vestments, well calculated to account for the feelings of animosity on the part of Joseph's brothers.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

It is interesting to read the testimony of men at once great and good, to parental fidelity and affection. Said Lamartine, the celebrated French author: "The future state of the child depends in a great measure upon the home in which he is born. His soul is nourished and grows, above all, by the impressions which are there left upon his memory. My father gave me the example of a sincerity carried even to scrupulousness; my mother, of a goodness rising to devotion the most heroic .... I drank deep from my mother's mind; I read through her eyes; I felt through her impressions; I lived through her life." Further on, he says: "I know that my mother wished to make me a happy child, with a healthy mind and a loving soul, a creature of God, not a puppet of men." Again, he adds: "Our mother's knee was always our familiar altar in infancy and in boyhood. She elevated our thoughts to God as naturally as the plant stretches upward to the air and light. When she prayed along with us and over us, her lovely countenance became even sweeter and gentler than before, and when we left her side to battle with the world, we never forgot her precepts." The child of the wisest and best may go wrong, for there are seeds of evil in every heart. But the rule is that God's blessing on affectionate fidelity secures a happy and useful life here, with the assurance of heavenly awards in the hereafter.

(Henry M. Grout, D. D.)

Another manifest principle observed by Mrs. Wesley in the education and training of her family, was that of thorough impartiality. There was no pet lamb in her deeply interesting flock; no Joseph among her children to be decked out in a coat of many colours, to the envy of his less loved brethren. It was supposed by some of her sisters that Martha was a greater favourite with Mrs. Wesley than the rest of her children, and Charles expressed his "wonder that so wise a woman as his mother could give way to such a partiality or did not better conceal it." This, however, was an evident mistake. Many years afterwards, when the saying of her brother was mentioned to Martha, she replied, "What my sisters call partiality was what they might all have enjoyed if they had wished it, which was permission to sit in my mother's chamber when disengaged, to listen to her conversation with others, and to hear her remarks on things and books out of school-hours." There is certainly no evidence of partiality here. All her children stood before her on a common level, with equal claims, and all were treated in the same way.

(J. Kirk.)

A coat of many colours.

It may remind us —


1. They toil to procure it, working hard and long.

2. They exercise thought in selecting. Have to consider size, season, material, appearance.

3. They have to inspect it often. How it has been used; how it wears; does it need repair.

4. They have to renew it often. The best will wear out or be out-grown (see 1 Samuel 2:19).


1. We need clothing for the soul, as well as for the body (1 Peter 3:3, 4; 1 Peter 5:5). God knows what things we have need of, even if we are unconscious of our need (Revelation 3:17).

2. We cannot make, or purchase, soul-clothing. We must receive it as a free gift. Only God can give it (Revelation 3:18).

3. For earnest, persevering, asking — accompanied by watching — we may obtain the robe of righteousness, the garment of salvation. This robe Jesus wrought for us.

4. This robe will fit well, look well, wear for ever. It is a white robe. White includes all the colours (explain). Hence it is a coat of many colours.

5. It is a court dress (explain) in which to enter the great King's presence. Learn:(1) Be careful of clothes. Those who cannot earn them may lesson their parent's expenses and labour and anxiety by taking care of them.(2) Keep your soulclothes unspotted from the world. Beware of sin-stains, and of self-righteous cleansing and patching.

(J. C. Gray.)

I. THE MANY-COLOURED COAT, The margin says many "pieces." May have been "many colours" as well. Such coats are not uncommon for young people in the East at this day ("Ranwolf's Travels," pt. I., p. 89), in Syria, Persia, and India. Made probably of strips of variously-coloured cloth. This Jacob gave to Joseph because he was a " son of his old age; " a phrase understood by most to mean that Jacob was an old man when Joseph was born; but which Dr. Jamieson says means that Joseph had — to use a familiar phrase — an old head on young shoulders. This coat maybe regarded —

1. As a gift of affection. It may be questioned how far it was wise to show special love in so marked a manner. Jacob, knowing his other sons, must have been sure that their envy would be excited.

2. As a reward of merit. Some reward less noticeable would have been better. Joseph was made overseer, or chief shepherd, for such is the meaning of verse 2, and hence it might be also —

3. A badge of office.

II. THE EVIL EFFORT. If Joseph were a mere tale-bearer he would be blamable. But as chief shepherd he was bound to state what was the conduct of his brothers, if they were under-shepherds.

III. THE WONDERFUL DREAMS. Dreams in that age more influential than with us. No sure word of prophecy. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had had wonderful dreams, or rather visions. Such had, doubtless, been often related. Hence these sons of Jacob were prepared to consider dreams with much reverence and awe. But believing them to be Divine messages, they should not have been angry. It is clear that their hearts were not right with God, or they would not have opposed His will. Learn:

1. To guard against the appearance of partiality in our families.

2. God is no respector of persons.

3. To abstain from the appearance of evil, that there be no evil report concerning us.

(J. C. Gray.)

It was customary in those times for princes to give to their subjects, and parents to their children, valuable garments as tokens of esteem. These garments were of different texture and material, and were more or less valuable according to their quality. The art of manufacturing cloths is of very great antiquity. Wool, cotton, and flax were all used in these fabrications both by the Hebrews and the Egyptians. The colours generally used were white, purple, scarlet, and black; but party coloured cloths, or plaids, were also much esteemed. Such garments are represented on some of the monuments of Egypt. At Beni-Hassan, for example, there is a magnificent excavation, forming the tomb of Pihrai, a military officer of Osartasen I., in which a train of foreign captives appears, who are supposed to be Jebusites, an inscription over one person in the group reading, "The Chief of the land of the Jebusites." The whole of the captives are clad in party-coloured garments, and the tunic of this individual in particular may be called "a coat of many colours." "A coat of many colours" Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Some, however, are of opinion that it was not a plaid, but a garment of patch-work, the word rendered "colours" being in the margin "pieces." In reference to the narrative, Mr. Roberts, in his " Oriental Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures," observes: "For beautiful or favoured children precisely the same thing is done at this day. Crimson, and purple, and other colours are often tastefully sewed together. Sometimes the children of Mahometans have their jackets embroidered with gold and silk of various colours."

(Thornley Smith.)

Parents ought to love most affectionately those children who best deserve their love; but they ought not to hurt, instead of benefiting, the children whom they love, by imprudent testimonies of their regard. Joseph might have lived happily in his father's house without a garment of divers colours; but he could not wear it without encountering the hatred of all his brethren.

(G. Lawson, D. D.)

Bilhah, Ishmaelites, Jacob, Joseph, Medanites, Midianites, Pharaoh, Potiphar, Reuben, Zilpah
Canaan, Chezib, Dothan, Egypt, Gilead, Shechem, Valley of Hebron
Age, Born, Coat, Colors, Colours, Got, Greater, Joseph, Love, Loved, Ornamented, Richly, Robe, Sleeves, Sons, Tunic, Varicolored, Vest
1. Joseph is loved by Jacob, but hated by his brothers.
5. His dreams and the interpretation.
12. Jacob sends him to his brothers, who counsel to slay him.
21. At Reuben's desire they cast him into a pit;
25. and afterwards sell him to the Ishmaelites;
29. while Ruben grieves at not finding him.
31. His coat, covered with blood, is sent to Jacob, who mourns him inordinately.
36. Joseph is brought to Egypt and sold to Potiphar.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 37:3

     5145   clothing
     5177   robes
     5666   children, needs
     5726   old age, attainment
     5765   attitudes, to people
     5865   gestures
     5895   intimacy
     5915   ornaments
     8800   prejudice

Genesis 37:1-11

     8730   enemies, of believers

Genesis 37:1-35

     5738   sons

Genesis 37:3-4

     5095   Jacob, life
     5661   brothers
     5686   fathers, examples
     5714   men
     5838   disrespect
     5882   impartiality
     8753   favouritism

Joseph, the Prime Minister
'And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Trials and visions of Devout Youth
'And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan. These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Man's Passions and God's Purpose
'And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Talmage -- a Bloody Monster
Thomas De Witt Talmage was born at Bound Brook, N.J., in 1832. For many years he preached to large and enthusiastic congregations at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. At one time six hundred newspapers regularly printed his sermons. He was a man of great vitality, optimistic by nature, and particularly popular with young people. His voice was rather high and unmusical, but his distinct enunciation and earnestness of manner gave a peculiar attraction to his pulpit oratory. His rhetoric has been criticized
Grenville Kleiser—The world's great sermons, Volume 8

The Crucifixion.
"He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth."--Isaiah liii. 7. St. Peter makes it almost a description of a Christian, that he loves Him whom he has not seen; speaking of Christ, he says, "whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." Again he speaks of "tasting that the
John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VII

The Sixth Commandment
Thou shalt not kill.' Exod 20: 13. In this commandment is a sin forbidden, which is murder, Thou shalt not kill,' and a duty implied, which is, to preserve our own life, and the life of others. The sin forbidden is murder: Thou shalt not kill.' Here two things are to be understood, the not injuring another, nor ourselves. I. The not injuring another. [1] We must not injure another in his name. A good name is a precious balsam.' It is a great cruelty to murder a man in his name. We injure others in
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

Appendix 2 Extracts from the Babylon Talmud
Massecheth Berachoth, or Tractate on Benedictions [76] Mishnah--From what time is the "Shema" said in the evening? From the hour that the priests entered to eat of their therumah [77] until the end of the first night watch. [78] These are the words of Rabbi Eliezer. But the sages say: Till midnight. Rabban Gamaliel says: Until the column of the morning (the dawn) rises. It happened, that his sons came back from a banquet. They said to him: "We have not said the Shema.'" He said to them, "If the column
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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