Joseph and his coat of many colors.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Gen. 37:3-4
Dolly Parton has had a certain cultural resurgence in the 21st century. The 2018 Netflix film Dumplin, another Netflix show dramatizing her songs, and a 2020 podcast called Dolly Parton’s America that asks if she was the way to bring the country together. In 1971 Dolly Parton released a song called “Coat of Many Colors,” which reached #4 on the U.S. charts. The song tells the story of her mother lovingly sewing a coat for her out of different colored rags, and that while she sewed, she told Dolly the story of Joseph and his special coat. For Dolly, the coat her mother made was a symbol of her mother’s love for her, but the song goes on to say that she was picked on for the hand made garment.
When I read the story of Joseph, it is Dolly’s song about the coat of many colors that comes to mind. The robe that Jacob gave Joseph is never described in detail. It is certainly ornate and serves as a token of Joseph’s status as the favorite. The story of Joseph continues the long narrative of sibling rivalry and parental favorites. Though it is a story that is filled with people with complex motives and reactions, most of us likely remember the simplified version told in Sunday school.
Join us on Sunday night at 6 pm on Zoom (Download Bulletin), as we ask once again: What should we learn from this strange story? It seems to be a story about privilege and power, and what we choose to do with them. What can we learn about those choices? And where is God in all of this?