The Five Coats of Joseph

I want to express my appreciation to the Church and the pastorate for inviting me here to speak. It is always a privilege to take God’s message to the people of God and I have no doubt that God will minister to your needs this morning.

Today, I’m going to be talking about a gentleman we know so well. If you were an ancient Egyptian, you’ll probably call him Zaphenath-Paneah on account of his legendary intelligence. The name probably means “the man to whom mysteries are revealed” or “revealer of secrets”. Scholars are not certain. He is however, simply known in Christian folklore as Joseph.

His story is the stuff of Sunday School legend. Who has never heard of Joseph and the coat of many colours! Funny how we’ve reduced the young man’s life to a coat! That coat would prove prophetic in his life. Joseph’s life would go on to become as colourful as the coat his father gave him.

Joseph was a victim of vicious envy. His jacket produced envy. The lesson seems simple: As we buy coats of many colours for our children, we ought to teach them how to cope with envy. As we encourage our children to excel, we must pray against the viciousness of envy in their lives. Blessedness has consequences. The Bible says so. And in order to make that simple lesson unmistakable, God inserted it into the very first verse of the very first psalm. The Amplified translation of that verse reads: “BLESSED (Happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly.” You cannot have the blessing without the envy. It is a conceptual impossibility. The trauma in the life of Joseph was initiated by envy.

Now, if we dig further we will discover that the hatred of his half brothers came from a very deep place. We have always assumed it was solely because of his dreams that his brothers hated him, but the Bible says the dreams only made them hate him the more. Which means they already hated him. The people who led the assault on Joseph were the children of women unloved by their husbands. When a marriage is loveless it becomes utilitarian and generates its own bitterness. And many times the children of an unloved woman will pick up the gauntlet and take the battle into the family. This is because they suffer too. No wonder the Bible commands husbands to love their wives.

The love of a man for his wife often determines the love of the man for the children of the wife. Jacob was married to four women – Leah, Rachel and two concubines. Leah wasn’t loved, only Rachel was loved. The concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah, weren’t loved either. They were mere special purpose vehicles, slaves. So low did the self-esteem of Bilhah become that she slept with her stepson, Reuben. He was the presumptive heir. She never got over that slave mentality.

The children from the other three wives, save Rachel knew their mothers weren’t loved, and they took the fight to Rachel and her children. Loveless marriages produce consequences. If you’re single, I’ll advice you don’t go into a loveless marriage. And if you’re a parent and you sense that the young man asking for the hand of your daughter doesn’t love her, it’s your duty to intervene in that situation with prayers and counsel. Same goes for boys. People go into marriage for various reasons. Some are after silver and gold, and some just want to marry to remove social shame. Love matters in marriage.


Now, we’ve always thought that Joseph’s destiny was hinged on that one jacket – the coat of many colours. But that is not so. It’s actually hinged on five changes of apparel and I’ll soon show you.

The general narrative of Joseph’s life is very well known. The man who started the saga was actually Laban, a most unscrupulous man if e’er was one. He created the messiness of a mandated love triangle. Laban was Jacob’s maternal uncle. You couldn’t do business with him on a handshake, and even if he wrote you a contract 25 stories tall, it’s just a tall tale. It’s not worth the first paragraph. He will cheat you and cheat you legally.

Laban loved money. The Bible says that when he saw the ring and the bracelets Eliezer gave Rebekah he ran to meet the man. He would go on to defraud his young nephew several times in business. If you recall, Jacob had a business deal with him. He needed to raise capital to start his own business. They agreed Jacob should take the spotted livestock from the herd as venture capital. But before the agreement could go into effect, Laban removed all the spotted livestock! Very terrible fellow! Without God, Jacob would have been shirtless after 14 years of service. Indeed the man would have killed him. He was conscienceless.

In forcing Jacob to marry Leah Laban started the family drama. He forced Jacob to become a polygamist. His father was a monogamist and all available evidence suggests he was set on that course. Then came Laban. The love of his life was Rachel. It was that love for Rachel that made Jacob give Joseph the coat of many colours.

Note that Joseph was Jacob’s 11th son overall but Rachel’s first born. Leah’s six children would gang up with the 4 children of Bilhah and Zilpah to attack Joseph. When Jacob gave Joseph the coat of many colours he was in effect telling the other children, “This is my real first son, and I never loved your mothers.” The contest in effect was between Reuben the firstborn and Joseph the first son. Reuben couldn’t control his brothers. They didn’t respect his opinion much. It’s why they sold off Joseph behind his back. They didn’t consult him. He was a good man but he was weak. Judah would eventually seized leadership.

This first born / first son issue was a generational rehash of the historical contest between Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was first born, Isaac was first son. Ishmael persecuted Isaac and since then the children of the bondwoman have been persecuting the child of promise. And just like Ishmael persecuted Isaac, the confederacy led by Reuben persecuted Joseph.

Now here’s the simple moral from Joseph’s first coat: Your mark of distinction will always be the agency of your persecution. You didn’t hear me: I said your mark of distinction will always be the agency of your persecution.

Joseph is a typology of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Joseph was betrayed by his brethren so was Jesus betrayed by his brethren. Just as Joseph was buried in a waterless hole in the desert, so was Jesus buried in a tomb in the desert. And just as Joseph was sold for 20 shekels of silver, so was Jesus sold for 30 pieces of silver.

Now, something interesting happened when Joseph was sold. The brothers killed a goat and dipped his garment in the blood of the animal as forensic evidence of his death to their father. They didn’t know it, but in doing that, they were making a sacrificial atonement for his life. The life of that goat became a substitute for the life of Joseph, and because the goat had been killed Joseph could not be killed. He could have died in the long march through the desert to Egypt; Potiphar could have executed him, and he could have died in prison. But the blood of that goat kept availing for him just as the blood of Jesus avails for us. The angel of death kept passing him by because of the blood. Jesus our sacrificial Lamb has been slain for us. Stop living in fear of death. What is meant to be proof of your demise will serve to preserve your life. It will instigate God’s special protection over you. God will give lives for you.

And so did Joseph arrive in Egypt. He was sold to a military intelligence officer, the head of internal security services, Captain Potiphar. Captain Poty was married to a devious, lecherous, lascivious and salacious woman – a racist and anti-Semite. Remember when Joseph refused to have sex with her and she reported him to her husband? She told her servants, “See, he (that is her husband) has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us.” May you not marry a Mrs. Potiphar. And she used the same racist tone in reporting the issue to her husband, the same husband she disparaged in front of the servants. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The first time Joseph was called handsome was in Egypt. He was never called handsome in Canaan. It’s not on record. Right in the midst of all his trials God made his handsomeness known. Why, you ask. When we’re going through trials such compliments serve to lift us up. They are post cards of encouragement from God. May your beauty shine through your trials and may you receive encouragement in trouble. May the world see you and acknowledge you’re goodly and highly favoured of God.

Dreams have always been a problem for humans, singular or collective. They have always associated dreams with omens. The moment you begin to dream, to signify a desire to move up in life the world comes after you. You don’t need to realize the dream. Dreaming is enough. They hated Joseph not because he realized his dreams but just because he dared to dream.

Sometimes those around us can’t see what is in us, or our value. The brothers of Joseph never saw the value of his talent. They were blinded by envy. Don’t despair if those around you can’t appreciate your gifts. The family of Jesus never appreciated his gifts either. God will give you an opportunity to display that talent and Potiphar will recognize it. Just be faithful and diligent. Your diligence is your exhibition.

When Mrs. Potiphar made a desperate grab for Joseph, the Bible says he left his garment in her hands. And for the third time we see Joseph’s apparel playing what would be a defining role in his life. The first time his jacket marked him out in life. The second time his jacket became evidence of his supposed death. And in this third instance his garment became the icon of his temptation.

Once you begin to distinguish yourself in life Satan is going to send temptation your way. The commonest temptation for men is sex. What Satan seeks to do through such intervention is destiny diversion. You see, as far as Mrs. Potiphar was concerned Joseph had reached the pinnacle of his career as a slave. He was never going to stop being a slave. He could be a favoured slave, a senior slave, an administrative slave or an intelligent slave but he was still a slave, would always be a slave. And he had a very good deal with Mrs. Potiphar’s offer. A toy-boy slave has certain benefits as you can imagine. He would no doubt change status to sex slave. But the man had the fear of God and that fear preserved his destiny. May the fear of God preserve your destiny.

Mrs. Potiphar accused the young man of attempted rape, mockery and aggravated assault. Joseph was sent to prison without trial, or fair hearing. That spelt the end of his life.

But I want you to see two levels of reality going on here. On the surface things were going down for Joseph. His situation was going from bad to worse. He was moving from frypan to fire. His brothers had buried him in a hole, then he was sold into slavery, and now he’s in a dungeon.

But there was another reality playing out behind the scenes. As things were getting worse for Joseph God was moving him closer to his destiny. The worse things got on the surface, the closer to destiny he was. You see, without being sold to the Ishmaelites he wouldn’t have landed in Captain Potiphar’s house. If Mrs. Potiphar hadn’t lied against him he wouldn’t have landed in prison. And if he hadn’t been sent to jail he wouldn’t have met the government official who mentioned him to Pharaoh.

Stop looking at just one set of realities. There are two realities. There’s all the trial and all the difficulties of your life. Then there’s God behind the scene using those trials as raw materials of your transportation to destiny.

The refrain of your heart ought to be, “All things are working together for my good.” Which means you have to trust God that he knows what he’s doing. And that somehow, somehow, he’ll bring you into Pharaoh’s court. How God does his thing is his business. Your business is faith in his word. In fulfilling his purpose God may take you through the backside of the desert, or through the slave market of Egypt. Some people have been known to pass through prison. The treachery of your brothers can’t halt your destiny. Neither can the heat of the desert and lack. Nor the false accusation of Mrs. Potiphar. Or the anger of Captain Potiphar. All things will work together for your good – be it the hatred of your brothers, or the accusation of Mrs. Potiphar, or the anger of Captain Potiphar… All things will work together for your good. God is orchestrating a coincidence of wonderful circumstances to deliver your destiny. Trust your God and his word! He always delivers.

It then becomes obvious that what we call trials are actually transportation vehicles of destiny. In this wise, it’s important for you to understand the dreams of Joseph. Let me show you a common misconception.

Joseph had two dreams. In the first dream he had, he and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field and his sheaf stood up while his brothers’ sheaves gathered round his sheaf and bowed down to it. The interpretation of that dream was obvious. His brothers would someday bow down to him within the context of the harvest of grains. And it happened exactly in that manner. His brothers bowed down to him when they came to buy grain in Egypt during the great famine.

But the second dream is generally misinterpreted because we don’t interrogate it. His family made the mistake as well. They misinterpreted the dream.

In the second dream, the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowed down to Joseph. This dream didn’t go down well with his family at all, and that includes his father. They read it that he was saying in effect that his entire family was going to bow down to him. They assumed the sun was his father, the moon his mother, and the stars his brothers. His father actually took offence.

Now I need to ask you some questions. Did this dream come to pass or not? The answer is yes. Did his father and mother bow down to him? The answer is no! His father never bowed to him and his mother was dead by the time the dream came to pass. She suffered maternal mortality giving birth to Benjamin, so she didn’t bow. Therefore the sun and the moon were not his father and mother! The eleven stars were his brothers no doubt, but the sun and the moon were not his father and mother.

Who then are the sun and the moon?

The Egyptians worshipped the sun god, Ra. He was their primary god and considered the king of the gods. To him was ascribed all creation. They also worshipped the moon god, Khonsu. According to Egyptian mythology, Khonsu was instrumental in the creation of new life in all living creatures. In other words, Ra was a pretender to the throne of God the Father while Khonsu was a pretender to the deity of Jesus. These pretenders were going to bow to the wisdom of God personified in Jesus and manifested through Joseph. Jesus is the wisdom of God. At that precious name every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord.

No, the sun and the moon were not Joseph’s father and mother. The sun and the moon were the ancient Egyptian gods, Ra and Khonsu. They bowed to Joseph. How you ask? Well, since the gods of Ancient Egypt could not bow physically; they being represented by statues, the people bowed as representatives of their gods. The people were commanded to bow the knee every time Joseph rode in his motorcade, sorry chariots. It wasn’t Joseph they were bowing to. It was the Lord Jesus Christ who was with Joseph. His goings forth is from of old, from everlasting to everlasting. If you want the systems of this world to bow down to you get God on your side.

Four hundred years later, the rivalry between Jehovah, Ra and Khonsu would be reignited. The rod of the Great Shepherd represented by Moses would go on to swallow the rods of Ra and Khonsu and all their associates. That was the beginning of the decomation of the spiritual powers of Egypt. By the time God was through, Egypt never rose again. Moses didn’t face the Egyptian army. He couldn’t. He faced the gods behind the throne. This is a great lesson for us. Your neighbor is not the problem, neither is your mother-in-law the problem. Face the powers behind the problem, stop fighting humans. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. They are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

The fourth time we come across the apparel of Joseph was after the Cupbearer had mentioned him to Pharaoh. In Genesis 41:14, the Bible says he shaved and changed his clothes to meet Pharaoh. To see the king we must make ourselves presentable. And if we can make ourselves presentable to earthly authorities, how much more God Almighty!

And just as a change of attire was given Joseph in prison, so the Lord Jesus Christ gives us change of attire when we come out of spiritual prison. He gives us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Every time you come to church and praise God, you are wearing the garment God gave you. Praise is our garment. The most important part of service is not the sermon. It is praise and worship.


Now as you very well know, Pharaoh had issues of his own. He laid out a binary set of dreams to Joseph. No one, he said, could interpret them. But, wait a minute! Are these not the same sorcerers and magicians who duplicated the sign of Moses when he turned the rod into a snake? They were seasoned sorcerers not apprentices. Why COULDN’T they interpret Pharaoh’s dreams?

It was not that they couldn’t interpret such obvious dreams but God blocked their capabilities in order to bring his servant to a place of destiny. God would do the same with Daniel.

When you’re seemingly the only one who can solve a problem at work, realize that God is trying to bring you to a place of destiny. It is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth but of God who showeth mercy (Romans 9:16). Therefore we must be humble. “For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them (Psalm 44:3) May God favour you and give you answers that consternate your competitors and superiors.

And the fifth time we see the apparel of Joseph playing a role of destiny in his life was when Pharaoh changed his clothes (Genesis 41:42). The Bible says that Pharaoh clothed Joseph in garments of fine linen; and not just that, he put a signet ring of authority on his hand and a gold chain of prosperity about his neck.

May the God you serve cloth you with the fine linen of his mercy, the signet ring of his power and the gold chain of his riches. May the world recognize your giftings and capabilities, and may you ride on the glory cloud of your God like Joseph rode. May your past be incomparable to your future, and may all that you have suffered be multiplied back to you in loving kindnesses. Whatever you have lost may God multiply back to you. May those who did you evil bow down to you and may you be the salvation of your enemies. May God give you a new name, just like he gave Joseph through Pharaoh, a name of purpose, a name of destiny.

Joseph lost his coats to his brothers that he may receive a new garment of authority and power. You might have lost your coat and your shirt to the turbulence of this world but God will replace them with a higher grade of clothing. And just as clothes cover shame and nakedness may God cover your shame in glory.

The trial you’re facing is not the end of your life. God forbid! It is a transition vehicle and soon you will arrive at Pharaoh’s court – in the place of prominence, prosperity and power. May the glory of your latter be greater than your former.

Don’t you despair and don’t you give up! God will not let you down. All the betrayal, all the slander, all the accusation, all the hatred, all the envy, all the fears, all the pain, the loneliness, the anxiety, all the hunger, all the thirst… All are raw materials of your destiny. Don’t you give up! Don’t you give up! God is working behind the scenes. All you need is one strategic insight from God. One strategic insight from God will take you to the pinnacle of your career. Go to God expecting!

Now, let me show you something that might have escaped your notice as you read the story of Joseph.

In Genesis 42:9, the Bible says that when Joseph saw his brothers he remembered the dreams he had dreamed. In other words, he had forgotten his dreams.

Sometimes the difficulties of life make us forget our dreams. In all his difficulties Joseph forgot his dreams – the dreams God gave him. Our memories may be treacherous and unfaithful but God remains faithful. God will remain true to his word irrespective of circumstances.

I know some of you have forgotten your dreams – the dreams God gave you. The circumstances of life have forced you to abandon your dreams. All you want to do is survive! But God has sent me here today to tell you he hasn’t forgotten your dreams, and he hasn’t forgotten you. Don’t throw away your hope. God is orchestrating the fulfillment of your dreams.

And so we see the garment of Joseph intersecting circumstances and directing his journey towards his destiny – a total of five times in scriptures!

The first time, we see his father give him a coat of distinction.

 The second time we see his coat being dipped in blood and presented as evidence of his demise.

 The third time we see his garment in a situation of temptation.

 The fourth time we see him changing his clothes in prison to go and see Pharaoh.

 And the last time we see Pharaoh clothing him in apparel of fine linen.

This is the story of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We see our Lord Jesus Christ wearing a coat of distinction as he stepped into the Jordan and the Father testified of his son.

In time we see the people casting off his clothes as they debated his crucifixion.

Soon those clothes were dipped in blood as they led him to Golgotha.

Then we see him enter the tomb in death clothes.

But we see him risen in glory in the garment of righteousness.

The apparel of Joseph played a role five times in his life. Five is the number of grace. May the grace of God intervene in your life.

In all his difficulties, God never abandoned Joseph. The Bible says God was with Joseph even in prison. Because of his love for a man God went to prison. And many testified that God was with Joseph. Potiphar testified of it, the prison warder testified of it, Pharaoh testified of it. May the world testify of the grace of God upon your life.

Quit thinking God has abandoned you. God will never abandon his own. For he has promised, “I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down. I will not relax My hold on you! Assuredly not!” (Hebrews13:5 Amp)

God can never abandon you. You must boldly proclaim, The Lord is your helper, I will not be seized with alarm.

Stand up and give glory to the Lord. Amen.


Delivered at The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Remi Olowude Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos
Sunday, 15 March, 2015

© Leke Alder |