The Bible

Joseph and His Coat of Many Colors

Although Joseph is known for his coat of many colors, the true plurality of Joseph arises not from the appearance of his clothing, but from the multiplicity of roles that he assumes over the course of the biblical narrative. Joseph is both favored and hated, servant and master, Canaanite and Egyptian, naive and crafty, and, in the eyes of his father, both dead and alive. His story bears a strong resemblance to those of his forefathers, yet his relationship with God is profoundly different. Joseph, as the last of the patriarchs to be considered in Genesis, serves a unique function. Not only must he physically bring the Jews from Canaan to Egypt, but his story must symbolically bring the early, patriarchal relationship with God to a more contemporary level. Joseph's faith in God's plan ultimately leads him to success, despite the suffering he endures through much of the narrative. The tension between the traditional, patriarchal role and the role that Joseph eventually adopts is highlighted as his position as his father's favorite child pushes him away from his forefathers' roles as direct communicants with God, and toward becoming the father of only one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Joseph's position as his...

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