Lesson 29

Joseph’s Coat Identified

"They took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood . . . and they brought it to their father."
Genesis 37:31, 32

Jacob had become the father of twelve sons. The oldest son was Reuben who was kind but not wise. Simeon was very clever, but not very kind. Each of the sons was very different from the others. Joseph and Benjamin were the youngest and still at home while the ten other brothers were tending the flocks. Jacob especially loved Joseph and made him a beautiful woolen coat of many colors. The older boys became very jealous of Joseph and when he had two dreams which seemed to indicate that all of the family would some day bow down to him and he (Joseph) would bless them, it only made them more jealous.

One day Joseph went out to the fields to bring messages and food to his brothers from their father. The brothers could see him coming and they plotted to get rid of him. The cruel brothers sold him as a slave to a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants on their way to Egypt. Then they killed a kid and smeared Joseph’s beautiful coat with its blood. When they gave Jacob the coat he thought exactly what they intended him to: that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.

Jacob was heart broken and bitter—no one could comfort him—and he cried, "I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning" (Genesis 37:35 Revised Standard Version).

This is the first use of the word sheol in the Bible and it is the only word translated hell in the Old Testament, King James version. Jacob did not think of his beloved son as having gone to a place of eternal torture. He knew of no such place. Some teach that because sheol is translated hell in the common version it means a place of everlasting punishment, yet the words "hell," "grave," and "pit" were used interchangeably as a translation of sheol in the Old Testament. Bible scholars now agree that it simply means tomb or grave.

In the New Testament the word which means tomb or grave is hades. Some modern translators leave sheol and hades untranslated (such as the Revised Standard Version). One of the meanings of the word hell is "a place that is covered or hidden." It is very clear that there is no thought of eternal fire and everlasting torment with either sheol or hades

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