Sunday, June 22, 2008
Joseph's Coat of Certain Marks
This comes from Hugh Nibley:
The idea of a garment of many colors is an invention. If you look in your Bible every time it mentions many colors the word colors (even in the commentary) is in italics [the word in italics is actually many] because it is put in there by modern editors. It’s found in no ancient source. It’s not a garment of many colors at all. A garment of certain marks is the term that’s used here. We’ll see what it is in a second. “This garment had belonged to Abraham, and it already had a long history.” It’s history was lengthy because it went back to the Garden of Eden, you see. That’s the garment; it’s the only one. Just as we treat the story of Cain and Abel, we trivialize this. We say, “Joseph was the youngest kid, so his father favored him and gave him a pretty garment of many colors.” There is no mention in any ancient source of a garment of many colors. That’s an invention of modern editors trying to explain it. But here it was the garment he gave him. It was the garment of the priesthood. No wonder they were jealous of him, they being the elder brothers and he the younger in the patriarchal line coming down from Abraham. This garment had belonged to Abraham and had come down to Joseph instead of to the other brethren...
When Joseph’s brethren returned to give the coat back to Jacob, other ancient documents and literature as well as understanding the meaning of the source languages help us understand what happened next:
Here we have “I detect, I perceive, I note.” (He’s blind, you see.) “the odor, the spirit, the smell of Joseph, if you do not think me out of my head from old age and a bit barmy.” It talks about the spirit that is in it, the east wind that has brought it, etc. And this is a very important thing: “When they placed it upon the face of Jacob, he smelled also the smell of the Garden of Eden. For behold there is not in all the earth another garment that has that smell in it.” This is a unique thing; this is the garment. “For there is not in any other garment on earth of the winds of the garden of Eden, unless it is in this one garment.” So you can see why the brethren were so jealous; it was the garment of the priesthood. The commentator says he recognized that it was Joseph’s garment by feeling it first because it had three marks in it.
-Nibley Teachings of the Book of Mormon 3:51-52 from templestudy.com