Joseph’s Fabulous Coat

These are the generations of Jacob.  Joseph, being seventeen years old…”   Thus begins verse two of chapter 37 of Genesis, and Joseph is pictured feeding the flock with his half-brothers.  “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 colors” (verse 3).  Wait!  Benjamin was an even younger son of Israel’s old age, so where is the rationale?  But Joseph, the first-born son of Rachel, is portrayed by the priest-authors as a patriarch through whom the promises to Abraham are supposedly to be transmitted later to Israel the country.   That son of his old age inconsistency is brushed aside and the great transitional point in the Joseph part of Genesis is touched upon early with the introduction of the most famous bit of men’s wearing apparel in all literature. 

The priestly account of Joseph as a youth make him sound like a self-centered twit: he dreams of his father and brothers serving in obedience to him, he obviously did not tend the flocks much, for he was baffled as to where his brothers could be tending the sheep (Genesis 37:15-16), and he was prone  to wearing makeup.  (The setting is in Canaan, not West Hollywood.)  When Joseph finally figures out where his brothers have camped, and they see him in his gaudy coat coming near, exasperation flares and they yearn to kill him.  The wiser brothers Reuben and Judah  point out the sin in doing this, so they just strip him naked and toss him into a snake and scorpion infested hole in the ground.  Of course he is spared deadly bites of scorpions and snakes by divine intervention, but he was not lifted out of the hole he was in, otherwise he wouldn’t have had the trip to Egypt.

Ultimately Joseph falls into the hands of passing traders who haul him out of the hole and sell him to the Egyptian Potiphar, captain of the guard. (Uh-oh.)  Meanwhile his brothers tell Jacob that Joseph is dead and show Jacob the multicolored coat which they had smeared with animal blood.  Here story elements are inserted about Judah,  the alleged ancestor-to-be of the southern kingdom, to give the impression of a passage of time and raise reader suspense of Joseph’s fate.  Apparently Potiphar was  pleased with his purchase because he had made Joseph the overseer of his house by the opening  of chapter 39.  But then Joseph’s dreamy ways and seductive charm led to a run-in with his benefactor: he had spurned the lust of Potiphar’s wife who wanted to lay with him—but Joseph was not interested. 

Joseph, apparently, had no occasion to learn that a woman scorned can be potential trouble.  Anyway, Potiphar’s wife instigated a setting to make it look as though the intimacy that she had hoped for had actually taken place, and made sure Potiphar saw the carefully placed props that she had arranged.  Potiphar felt betrayed!  Joseph got tossed into the slammer and Joseph found himself sharing cell space with Pharaoh’s butler and baker.  It seems that finding reliable household help was not any easier in ancient Egypt than it is today.   Finding themselves deprived of their accustomed routines, they entered into a three-way conversation, and exchanged their dreams.  Joseph interpreted the butler’s dream and the butler was relieved.  But Pharaoh’s poor baker was distressed to learn that he would have to give up his head to Pharaoh.  News of Joseph’s uncanny interpretation technique quickly came to Pharaoh’s attention, and the rest, as they say, is history.  The Pharaoh had had a recurring dream that troubled him, and Joseph interpreted it as meaning there were to be seven years of famine, for which Pharaoh should make preparations for his people’s sake.  And after seven years of bounty, from which Pharaoh had caused all surplus to be saved, the famine struck.  And in gratitude the Pharaoh made sure that Joseph was kept well supplied with eyeshadow. 

The famine was worldwide and it came to pass that father Jacob sent all his sons but the youngest, Benjamin, to Egypt to buy grain.  By now the Pharaoh had said to Joseph, “Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.  And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.  And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.” (Genesis 41:40-42).  Joseph felt more honored than a queen.  “And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneh; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah, priest of On.”  Joseph was thirty years old by now, and decided it was politically wise to marry. 

As the famine raged over the world, people from all lands went to Egypt, and Joseph’s ten brothers came into Joseph’s presence seeking to purchase grain.  They did not recognize Joseph in all his finery, but a bit of the old peevishness flares up in him at the sight of them bowing down before him.  To observe his brothers longer he accused them as coming  to Egypt as spies.  After playing sport with them for a number of days he sent them back to Canaan with supplies of grain and told them they would not see his face again until they brought back the younger brother, Benjamin, as proof that they were not spies.  Eventually everything gets ironed out, and when Joseph reveals himself to his half-brothers he says, “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your (prototype) lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:6).  Father Jacob/Israel then comes to Egypt, and after a time in that land he approached death, and he gave a blessing to his twelve sons that sound peculiarly like a summary of the twelve signs of the zodiac. 

Chapter 50 ends with Joseph’s death, but before he dies he tells his brothers “…God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”  With this touching denouement only those privileged to ancient teachings are told that primal elements are to be activated toward stable configurations that enables them to pass over into visible matter entities.  The continuing Creation saga then dramatizes the advance of energy into matter with parallel stories in Exodus and Numbers. (The book of Leviticus, jammed in between Exodus and Numbers, is entirely priest centered, interrupting the flow of the storyline to promote the illusion of priestly authority over the people.  The only narrative in this self-promotional text is on the destruction of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, with God’s approval, for alleged violations of laws after they were consecrated as priests. Leviticus 10 in regard to Exodus 6:23.)

 That the Joseph story is set within the pre-physical energy planes (as are all stories of Genesis) was affirmed early on with the fabled coat of  many colors.  Consider: Joseph personifies developing planetary systems at the stage just before energy transforms into matter, which is why he is portrayed as the son of Jacob’s old age.  So the coat that is furnished to Joseph by the previous developmental stage (personified with the character of Jacob) represents the energy aura that radiates around a manifesting form.  And that field of identifying energy is scientifically measurable around all material things.  And figuratively, energy is the sleeve that surrounds all matter forms, so an even older version of the Joseph story in which Jacob gave Joseph a long-sleeved tunic carried the same meaning.  In addition, there is occult meaning carried within the character’s name: the name Joseph means “builder,” so Joseph represents the molecular involvement that culminates as matter.  Christians should remember the meaning in the name Joseph when it is given as the surrogate father of Jesus—who just happened to be characterized as a carpenter.

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