What Does Genesis 37:3 Mean?

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a varicolored tunic.

Genesis 37:3(NASB)
Picture courtesy of YoMinistry

Verse Thoughts

Joseph was one of Jacob's many sons, and being Rachel's firstborn son and "the son of his old age," he was his father's favourite. We read that his father loved Joseph more than all his sons because Joseph was a son born to Jacob when he was an older man. "The son of his old age," is sometimes interpreted to signify that Joseph was a wise young man or 'a son of wisdom'. Throughout his life, Joseph demonstrated maturity that was far beyond his years which helped to ignite a burning hatred from his half-brothers, but an animosity which the Lord used for good.

Scripture does not say that Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers... but that "Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons." Using the name God gave to Jacob in this context, identified Joseph as a man that would play an important role in God's unfolding plan of redemption for His people.

Israel was the name that Jacob received when he wrestled all night with God at Peniel - He fought the pre-incarnate Christ, and prevailed. For decades, Jacob had relied on his own strength and cunning to get on in life, but at Peniel, when face to face with God, Jacob reaches a spiritual crossroads in his life, and seems to realise the significance of what has happened when he says, "I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been spared." It is here that God also gives Jacob a new name - and so we read in our verse that "Israel loved Joseph more and all his sons because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a varicoloured tunic."

Soon after the birth of Joseph, we read that the Lord put it into Jacob's heart to return to the land of his birth, but it is not until he is 17 that we are given some detailed information about Joseph, the 11th son born to Jacob. We discover he was a hardworking youngster who, in many respects, is a powerful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, he was loved by his father yet hated by his brethren. He suffered greatly at the hands of his brothers, and yet God used his suffering to save many souls from destruction.

One of the reasons his brothers hated Joseph was the grace and favour he received from his father. Not only did Israel love Joseph more than all his sons, but he made him a special garment - a beautiful coat. The unusual, many-coloured mantle he received from his father, singled Joseph out from his brothers, bestowing on him unique privileges, which probably implied that Joseph was singled out to receive an important heritage from his father which angered his brothers, causing deep hostility to develop.

In bygone days, the special coat Jacob gave to Joseph was used to identify a prince, a nobleman's son, or someone who was designated as a future leader of the clan or overseer. As well as being long and richly embroidered with many bright colours and being beautifully embellished with exquisite designs, such garments were often made with particularly large sleeves which would signify the superior status of a supervisor or a foreman.

The preferential treatment Joseph received, caused his brothers to despise and hate him, and eventually incited them to conspire to kill him, but God used all these circumstances in Joseph's life to bring about His purpose and plan for the redemption of his brothers. Not only did Joseph serve his father well but throughout his life, he demonstrated an exemplary faith in God despite the many trials and difficulties he faced. 

The story of Joseph is one of the most lengthy and detailed accounts in Scripture of an individual. And as we examine the whole counsel of God's Word we understand how God turned evil to good and used Joseph in saving the 70 members of his immediate family. 

The favouritism that Jacob showed towards Joseph was very unwise as it contributed towards sibling rivalry and certainly is not supported in Scripture. God is no respecter of persons and does not have favourites, even though certain people, like Joseph, are used by Him to forward His redemptive plans and purposes for mankind in a unique and special way. However, the twists and turns in the story of Joseph give each of us, who are clothed in Christ's righteousness, great confidence that the God of our salvation is able to turn evil to good and honour those that honour Him.

As we read through the thrilling story of Joseph and his brethren, may we bring to mind the incredible privileges we have in Christ - as children of God. May we also be ready to learn the lessons that God would teach us through His Word and to trust Him in all things - for He knows the end from the beginning and has scheduled each day of our lives for our eternal benefit and for His greater glory.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for Joseph whose story is so familiar to us. As I reflect on the coat that Israel bestowed on Joseph and the privilege and status it inferred, I am reminded of the astonishing privilege and status You have bestowed on me. Thank You that I am Your child and that You loved me so much, You sent Your beloved Son to die so that I might live. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus' name, AMEN.

Picture courtesy of Sweet Publishing

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