Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. Genesis 37.3.
Israel is, of course, Jacob — who was given his new name, Israel, after his struggle with God at Peniel (Genesis 32.28) — and Joseph is his eldest son by his beloved wife Rachel who had long been infertile. Jacob had eleven other sons by his other wives, but he loved Joseph more than any of them and showed his great love for Joseph in making a special robe for him … now known across the world (thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber) as “Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”!
But was that what made it special? Was it indeed of “many colours” (KJV) … or did it merely “reach the soles of Joseph’s feet” (MKJV)? Or was it “elaborately embroidered” (The Message), or did it simply have “full sleeves” (GNB)? No one can be certain because the Hebrew word is simply the plural of pas which means the palm of the hand or the soul of the foot. But what we do know is that the same term is used to describe the royal robe that Tamar wore as a king’s daughter (2 Samuel 13.18) — which is probably why the NIV opts for “richly ornamented”.
At the end of the day, the features of the robe don’t matter at all, of course; because what really made the robe special was that it was a token of Jacob’s great love. And that leads me to think of another robe that was a token of a father’s love — the one put on the stooped, emaciated shoulders of the son who has come back from a far country in that unforgettable parable of Jesus that we call “the Prodigal Son”. “Father,” says the son, “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the Father says “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him” (Luke 15.21-22).
This is the robe the Father puts on every returning son and daughter. It is a royal robe. It is the robe of righteousness (Philippians 3.9). And it is none other than Jesus himself, for when I put it on I clothe myself in Christ (Galatians 3.27).
King of kings, Majesty.
God of heaven living in me.
Beginning and End.
All within me falls at your throne.
Your Majesty, I can but bow,
I lay my all before you now.
In royal robes I don’t deserve
I live to serve your Majesty.