That’s Not What I Expected! The Story of Joseph’s Clothes

by Kevin Braswell - May 15, 2024

Where is God when things go wrong? Has God abandoned me? Is He still out there? How should we act when life changes rapidly and things go wrong?

The story of Joseph in Genesis is laden with constant setbacks. If we were to insert ourselves into his shoes, would we be able to handle even a tiny portion of the trials he experienced? 

Let’s look at the example Joseph left us and see how God works in our lives, even when we might not see Him.

Joseph’s clothing changes

When Joseph was born, he already had 10 brothers and at least one sister. He might have been easily overlooked in his large family had he not been the first child born to Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel. This gained him immediate favor from his father. Unfortunately, this favor also affected the opinions of his brothers. 

Jacob’s favoritism caused Joseph’s brothers to hate him, and when Joseph started having dreams of greatness, his brothers began to hate him even more (Genesis 37:4-5). This hatred led them to plot his exit from their lives.

His fall from his comfortable, special status landed him in a literal pit! The symbol of Jacob’s favor, the famous coat of many colors, was ripped from him and later stained in goat’s blood to make his father think that he had been killed (verses 12-35).

Things just got worse from there. 

Joseph’s salvation from the pit was being sold to strangers. He was relocated to Egypt, where he eventually became a servant to a high-ranking Egyptian official named Potiphar. Although he was in a terrible situation, his character grew in the new life that had been thrust upon him. He was eventually promoted to the position of overseer in Potiphar’s household.

Yet again, things took a terrible turn. Potiphar’s wife made sexual advances on Joseph. The Hebrew indicates that the seduction was not passive, but violent. As Joseph fled her strongest advance, she ripped part of his clothing from him (Genesis 39:11-12). Life got more difficult when Potiphar’s wife accused Joseph of what she had intended to do! His honest, hard work dissolved, and he became a prisoner, unjustly condemned for a crime he hadn’t committed.

Although Joseph could have become bitter and given up on living a life of integrity, his attitude didn’t waver. He continued doing the right thing and was eventually appointed to run the prison where he was a resident.

Joseph believed God was still working with him, although things looked quite dim. When two of his fellow prisoners had jarring dreams, he responded by looking to God for answers (Genesis 40:8). This eventually led to his being brought before Pharaoh to interpret his troubling dream. 

Joseph looked to God, not himself, to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Pharaoh was in such awe of Joseph’s interpretation that he responded in a completely unexpected way: he ordered Joseph to change his clothes again, but this time for the better. His prison clothes were replaced with Egypt’s finest clothing, and he was given a ride in Pharaoh’s second chariot. 

God blessed Joseph for not giving up during the darkest of times.

Lessons from Joseph’s clothes

Joseph’s clothes represent Joseph’s status, both of which changed several times—for good and for bad—but never by his own free will. Joseph’s example shows us that, even in difficult situations, we can and should maintain our core character—if it’s aligned with God.  

Growth comes through trials and is expected of us (1 Peter 1:6-7). Joseph’s character was continuously tested and strengthened. It developed so that he was prepared to manage a disastrous famine that would bring even more power to Pharaoh’s kingdom and bring about God’s plan for Joseph’s family.

What lessons can we draw from Joseph’s example? 

Like Joseph’s life, our lives can be filled with events beyond our control that can drastically change our circumstances. God calls us to work through trials and come out victorious on the other side. 

In the messages to the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus declares that the overcomers and victors will be worthy of God’s Kingdom. Our lives will have setbacks, but God is looking for people who can grow and overcome difficult trials.

Keep seeking God’s will

Joseph knew that God was working with him. When Joseph revealed himself to his unknowing brothers, he also revealed that God had been working with him all along. In the end, his diligence and perseverance through tremendous adversities enabled Joseph to save the lives of his family and serve next to the most powerful man on earth (Genesis 45:7-8). 

If we also persevere, we’ll become joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17).  

Stay strong, grow and keep seeking Him even through the darkest times.

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