Based on Genesis chapter 37
A Coat for Joseph
My name is Joseph and in all Egypt there is no man with more power than me, except King Pharaoh himself. Wherever I travel men run before my chariot telling the people to kneel before me. On my hand I have the signet ring of King Pharaoh and the royal chain rests around my neck.
To see me now in my fine clothes and with such power and authority, maybe you would think that I was born for such a position – that I am the son of an Egyptian nobleman. But then you would look at the colour of my skin and listen to the accent in my voice and wonder – ‘Who is this man? For surely he is not Egyptian. How did he come to have so much power and authority in Egypt?’ (PAUSE)
I was born to my father Jacob in his old age, and my mother, Rachel, was the only one of his four wives that my father truly loved. As a young man, I would go with my older brothers as they went to look after the flocks and herds, and like a fool I loved to get them into trouble with my father. Whatever they did, no matter how small, I would tell my father all about it. And so my brothers learned to hate me.
But still I tormented them even further, telling them of my dreams. In one such dream I saw my brothers and I working in the fields tying up large bundles of grain. My bundle stood up in the middle of all the others, and their bundles bowed low before mine. If I had been a wiser youth I would have kept my dream to myself, but like the fool I was – I ran to tell them, only making their anger towards me worse. ‘What are you saying dreamer?’ they shouted. ‘That someday we’ll all bow down before you? Not in this life!’ And they hated me even more.
But my greatest folly was to show my brothers just how much more my father loved me than any of them. Perhaps my father was not wise when one day he gave me a coat so beautiful that it was fit for a prince! Never had our father given any of my older brothers such a gift, how it must have hurt them to know that he loved me so much more than he loved them! But again, if I had been wiser, I would have thanked my father and hidden the coat away to make sure that my brothers were not hurt even more deeply by the constant reminder of seeing me in that coat. But I was too proud, too proud and stupid to hide the coat away. Instead, I would wear it at every opportunity, constantly showing my brothers that our father loved me the most – and that he didn’t love them as he ought.
What a horrid boy I must have seemed to my brothers. Was it any wonder that they learned to hate me so much? That they couldn’t stand the sight of me and wanted nothing to do with me? But such hatred can never lead to good – except in the hands of God alone.
One day our father called me to see him. He told me that my brothers had been gone some time, looking after our flocks near a place called Shechem. ‘Go and see how your brothers are doing Joseph,’ he said. ‘And then come back and give me a report.’
‘Of course father,’ I replied. ‘I’m ready to go.’ So I put on my wonderful coat and set out to find my brothers. But when I got to Shechem, my brothers were nowhere to be seen. A man saw me wandering in a field looking for them and told me that he had heard them saying they would move on to Dothan – and so I followed them there.
With my coat on, my brothers could see me coming from a great distance, and their hearts fell! ‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they spat out. ‘I can’t stand him anymore!’ said one of them. ‘Come on let’s kill him and be rid of him once and for all. We can tell our father that a wild animal got him!’ But Reuben, one of my brothers, did not want to see me dead, so instead he said. ‘Let’s not kill him. Why should we have his blood on our hands? Look, there’s that empty water storage pit over there. Why don’t we throw him in the pit and leave the rest to nature! That way, he’ll die without us having to touch him.’ Reuben, however, planned to come back later and rescue me from the pit and take me to our father.
But as I approached them I knew nothing of their evil plans, and instead of greeting me, they grabbed hold of me, stripped me of my coat and threw me into the pit. Happy to leave me to die!
My brothers then sat down to eat a meal, and, while they ate, they saw a caravan of traders making their way to Egypt. Then Judah, another one of my brothers said, ‘Why don’t we make some money out of Joseph instead of killing him? If we kill him, all we’ll get is a guilty conscience! Why don’t we sell him as a slave to those traders going down to Egypt?’ So when the traders came by, my brothers dragged me up from the pit. At first I hoped it was the end of a terrible joke, but as they mercilessly sold me to the traders – for twenty pieces of silver, I knew my life would never be the same again.
Reuben hadn’t been there when the others sold me to the traders, and later, when he came back to pull me out and take me back to my father, he found I was gone and tore his clothes in frustration and sadness. Then my brothers took my coat, tore it and dipped it in animal blood. They took it back to my father and asked him, ‘Is this the coat you gave Joseph? We found it like this in a field.’
My father recognised it at once and assumed a wild animal had killed me. He mourned deeply for my death. But even in his deep – deep sadness, not one of my brothers told him the truth. (PAUSE) To him, I was dead. (PAUSE)
Some time later I arrived in Egypt and was sold as a slave in the slave market. But God was still with me, and I was sold to Potiphar, the captain of the palace guard, an important official in the palace of Pharaoh. (PAUSE)