Yosef [Joseph] was the first son of Rakhel, the wife whom Yisra’el loved. As such, Yisra’el loved Yosef abundantly. He expressed this love lavishly, and gave to Yosef an ‘elaborate tunic’. This garment has been a part of even our pop culture, commonly referred to as a ‘coat of many colors’, but I suppose my favorite cultural reference to it would be Dolly Parton’s song. But the word for ‘tunic’, which is rendered ‘coat’ in most renderings, is a special word, and is not in any way a coat like we in the west call our outer winter garment. The word here, in Hebrew, is כְּתֹנֶת , “k’tonet”. It is a special type of tunic. It slips over the body, has long sleeves, and comes down to just below the knees. Yosef’s was ‘elaborate,’ which does not necessarily speak of color, but more of quality. The material was likely very expensive, something only royalty would wear. Yisra’el, his father, took the time himself to make this tunic. He must have bought the most expensive materials, and he must have devoted hours to fashioning this garment.
Why is this garment mentioned? Other than that it seems to be the implement of provoking the jealousy and hatred of his brothers, his own flesh and blood, why do we need to know about this garment?
There are some hints to us about future things. But, lets understand some context first. In the house of Yisra’el, and I speak of the man at this point, and not the nation, it was understood that the head of the house is the “Kohen”, the intermediary between G-d and the family. Yisra’el’s family was predicted by Elohim, and chosen by Elohim, to be the family of the coming Messiah and Savior. The twelve sons we read about here are the heads of the tribes of the nation of Yisra’el, and their thrones are seen in the Hitgalut, beside the throne of G-d. This whole chapter is linked very tightly with the Hitgalut [Revelation]. A kohen is one who speaks between G-d and man, who ministers, who carries the ‘mantle’ of anointing. The garment that Yisra’el gave to Yosef was not a ‘me’il’, the more common word for the outer garment, nor an ‘abayah’ [if memory serves], nor any of other several words that speak of clothing in ancient Yisra’el. The word is ‘k’tonet’, and is a word of very limited and specific use in scripture.
This is actually the word used in B’reshit 3, where Elohim makes ‘coats of skin’ for Adam and Khava. Those skins were made from the first creatures ever to physically die in the history of the world, and their death was for the purpose of making ‘atonement’, ‘covering’, covering over the shame of nakedness after Adam had lost the Presence of the Creator due to his sin. It is also, however, used of the priestly garment, a tunic worn close to the body under the robe of t’khelet. It is the long-sleeved, white garment seen below.
This word is used in only a few other places, other than concerning Adam and Yosef and the Kohen. Namely, it is the garment of Tamar, the daughter of Melekh David:
“Now she had an elegant, flowing garment upon her; for with such robes were the daughters of HaMelekh that were virgins apparelled.”
So, a k’tonet is associated with the priesthood and with royalty. And both priests and kings are anointed. And the garment is associated with the anointing:
“It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard; even the beard of Aharon, that comes down upon the collar of his garments…”
Is it any wonder, then, that as soon as we learn that Yosef received this ‘k’tonet,’ this elaborate tunic, that we then learn of his brothers’ jealousy, and immediately of his dreams from G-d. His dreams were not just childish fantasies, but prophecy. He was anointed! His whole life is the picture of the Kohen, interceding for all the world, making provision for the whole world. He is most definitely an archetype of Yeshua, our Kohen Gadol.
Yosef’s brothers already despised him because of their father’s love for him, but now, they ‘hated him yet the more’ because of his dreams and his words. His dream is echoed in the Hitgalut, chapter 12, where we see the young child snatched up to heaven, under a sign, a woman clothed in the sun. Yosef’s dream was not only about his eleven brothers, who did bow down eventually to him, but also of Yeshua, before whom all twelve tribes will bow.
What makes this more interesting is that when the brothers betray him, they are in “Dotan”; this was a rebellion against the anointing, in a sense. And we learn that this rebellion, this overthrow, happened in “BaMidbar”.
“Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him.”
There was another ‘pit’ in the wilderness later in scripture. The rebellion of Korakh occurred, and a man named Dotan was part of that rebellion. This happens in BaMidbar, chapter 16 [Numbers]. After Korakh and Dotan and all his bands rebelled, the earth opened up and swallowed them. And why did they rebel? They sought the kehunah; they had their own anointing, but wanted someone else’s role. They envied the garment, perhaps, on a spiritual level.
Yosef’s elaborate tunic is so much more than a mere ‘coat’. It is a symbol of the anointing. It is a foreshadowing of Messiah. And Yeshua had a robe very similar to this one, and to that of the Kohen:
“Now when the soldiers had executed Yeshua, they took His clothes and divided them into four parts, a part to each of the soldiers; but His robe was without seam, woven from the top throughout. So they said one to another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” And the scripture was fulfilled, which said, “They divided my clothes among them, and for my robe they cast lots.”
The most amazing part of the whole Yosef story, is that his brothers were able to carry a lie to their father, give him his elaborate tunic soaked in blood, and deceive him for twenty years. The most glaring thing that ‘hit’ me when I read it this time was:
“And his father wept for him.”