This post brings a different understanding to the meaning of the coat of many colours, that famous symbol which Jacob gave to his son Joseph. The traditional teachings of this doctrine by religious institutions offer no significant insights. However, their views permeate throughout the world, diminishing the significance of this doctrine. This post intends to reveal the many hidden understandings of this seemingly simple gesture.
As a child growing up within the Christian church, and as have many children, the story of Joseph and his coat of many colours was taught. The story was told to me with enthusiasm and glee, which infected most children. In my case, this did not warm as I did not see why a coat with many colours was so delightful. My mindset was drawn more to the plain colours rather than to multi-coloured outfits; come to think of it, the constant societal programming may cause that. The energy of the storytellers was powerful, but what does it matter if he got a coat of many colours? No enthusiasm could detract from the fact that their story had no substance.
While I appreciate the need to create interest and excitement, delivering these messages with understanding would yield more benefits in the long term for these children. What we see today in the world, so many who have grown up within Christian institutions have so little understanding of the scriptures and cannot justify why they follow God. They have no concept of what it means to follow God. Such is the poverty of the teachings within these institutions diminishing the perception of God to mere mockery.
Why is the “coat of many colours” important?
Every precept within the scriptures fits within the larger puzzle. Without the knowledge of these precepts, the complete puzzle will never be assembled, and you will fall short of deciphering the Bible and furthering your understanding of God.
The benefits of understanding the precepts of the Bible are:
- Able to connect the dots of the scriptures (Isaiah 28:9-11)
- Understanding prophecies
- Able to discern deceptions (Matthew 24:24)
- Finding and staying on that narrow path (John 16:13)
Precept: Coat of many colours & diverse (many) colours
The Bible is constructed so that each precept or line plugs into another principle to decipher its understanding. The coat of many colours is highly significant in the overall knowledge of the glory of God and the transcendence of his glory from heaven to earth.
The tragedy of Tamar
Tamar’s tragedy, recounted in 2 Samuel 13 tells of Amnon, the son of King David, lusting after his half-sister Tamar and eventually forcefully taking her virginity.
Tamar wore garments of diverse colours to signify that she was the virgin daughter of a king. Here starts our understanding of the meaning of diverse (many) colours.
18. And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her
out,and bolted the door after her.
19. And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.2 Samuel 18-19
Amnon received his just rewards for what he did to Tamar (2 Samuel 13:23-33) at the hands of his brother Absalom, but our focus is understanding “many coloured” garments.
Tamar, in mourning, put ashes on her head and tore her clothes as was the custom; however, this also further signifies that she wasn’t a virgin anymore and her honour was taken without the joy of marriage, but under a dishonourable circumstance.
Instead of her glory being magnified in wedlock, it was taken from her forcefully in sin, and thus, she mourned that her glory was lost.
Sisera’s prey of diverse colours
Sisera’s mother waited for her son, expecting that he had defeated the Israelite army and returned with his trophies—the virgin daughters of the leaders of Israel.
Israel at this time had no king but the princes of each tribe and, at times, judges over the whole of Israel. These “diverse colours” would be those virgin daughters of the judge and the princes of each tribe. This model can also be extended to each house and family within Israel as they pattern their household from this example.
28. The mother of Sisera looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
29. Her wise ladies answered her, yea, she returned answer to herself,
30. Have they not sped? have they not divided the prey; to every man a damsel or two; toJudges 5:28-30
Siseraa prey of divers colours, a prey of divers colours of needlework, of divers colours of needlework on both sides, meet for the necks of them that take the spoil?
On this occasion, Sisera was the trophy, but this account provides another witness to the precept of diverse colours and the coat of many colours.
Joseph’s coat of many colours
3. 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.
4. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.Genesis 37:3-4
Joseph’s brothers saw that Jacob, their father, loved Joseph more than them, as indicated by Jacob giving Joseph a coat of many colours. Many churches have taught that this hatred of Joseph was because of jealousy that Joseph acquired an expensive material possession. This conclusion, of course, is wrong and is a superficial interpretation by these institutions, which base their doctrine on vanity. The coat signifies that Joseph was to receive the birthright, becoming the successor to Jacob and the head of the family.
This understanding is further substantiated by Genesis 37:5-8 where we see Joseph’s dream as a confirmation that he shall rule over his brothers as the head of the family. In verse 8, his brother exclaimed, “Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words”. They hated him because he was appointed the head of the family after Jacob.
The debate arises of whether this reign over his brothers is due to Joseph’s rule in Egypt, but there is more here to consider. Traditionally, the firstborn receives the birthright; however, after Reuben’s infidelity with Bilhah (Genesis 35:21-22), his Father Jacob’s wife, the birthright was taken away from him (1 Chronicles 5:1-2, Genesis 48:5-6).
Even Jesus, the firstborn, had a birthright. Expounding on this would be another post and take away from the focus of this one. So I will leave that for another day.
Joseph was the glory of his father and received the inheritance, signified by Jacob awarding him the coat of many colours.
The leadership connection
The rainbow is a powerful symbol (Ezekiel 1:28), showing that God’s glory comes in these colours. The aura that surrounds God is that of the coat of many colours. This understanding then highlights the pattern of the coat of many colours adopted on earth, which came from heaven. A custom modelled after the Most High.
As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.Ezekiel 1:28
See the post: what the voice of God sounds like for further insights into this passage.
How to use this knowledge to interpret the Bible
Looking at several passages within the Bible, we now get an understanding of the meaning. The focus is on the references where the phrase “divers colours” is used.
Earlier, we saw the phrase’s usage in reference to the virgin daughters of kings, and in the following example, it becomes evident that the phrase refers to women in this case.
3. For to know thee is perfect righteousness: yea, to know thy power is the root of immortality.
4. For neither did the mischievous invention of men deceive us, nor an image spotted with divers colours, the painter’s fruitless labour;
5. The sight whereof enticeth fools to lust after it, and so they desire the form of a dead image, that hath no breath.Wisdom 15:3-5
We now see that this refers to painters’ paintings of women in a manner that created lust within men. Whereas now, with the Internet and the ubiquity of pornography, it is easier to fall into the mischievous invention of men, we can see that those many thousands of years ago suffered the same problem but on a smaller scale.
14. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord GOD.Ezekiel 16:14-18
15. But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and
playedstthe harlot because of thy renown, and pouredstout thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was.
16. And of thy garments thou didst take, and
deckedstthy high places with divers colours, and playedstthe harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so.
17. Thou hast also
takenthy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them,
18. And tookest thy broidered garments, and
coveredstthem: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them.
The passage shows the men of Judah took women of the many nations that traded with them and indulged in acts of harlotry with these women. “And of thy garments thou didst take, and
We can further solidify this understanding by differentiating the word garment in verses 17 & 18 from the use in verse 16. This shows that “broidered garments” differ from “garments of
We see that the doctrines taught as trivial stories to children often carry deeper meanings which would otherwise provide great insight into the Bible and all the scriptures. These innocent interpretations instead act as a barrier to understanding God’s Word; with enough of these barriers, the words of God become musings of insanity and folly.
The coat of many colours has a massive significance to its usage on purity on the earth and the usage of leadership modelled from the example of God and his glory surrounding him. The attack we see today by using the rainbow as a symbol of sin is a direct attack on God and shows the spiritual wickedness in high places on the earth.