A Royal Apparel

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What is Ketonet Passim?

Jacob expressed his love to Joseph by giving him a special gift - ketonet passim כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים. The word passim here can be translated as “colorful”, “embroidered”, or “striped” – but it can also denote a long garment, coming down to the “palms” of the hands and the feet, or the material out of which the coat was made (fine wool or silk). But what's interesting is not how the tunic looked like but what it has to tell us.

The tunic of Tamar

Surprisingly, the very same words occur only once more in the entire Tanach (Old Testament), – in the story of Amnon and Tamar. There this robe definitely signifies special distinction: the king’s virgin daughters wore such apparel (Sam. 13:8). It seems that this robe was destined to be a harbinger of the coming tragedy. Both stories are tragic. Joseph was sold, Tamar was raped; the brothers stripped Joseph of his tunic, Tamar tore her tunic.

Don’t miss Hebrew Insights

This is just an example of how important the understanding of the Hebrew scriptures is. If you rely on translation, you can’t see that Tamar’s clothes were the same as Joseph’s. Moreover, it is only thanks to this verse that we can understand that Joseph’s tunic was very special. It was not just a tunic of many colors, but most likely the kind of robe worn by royalty. In our "Discovering the Hebrew Bible" course, we learn together those Hebrew Scripture insights that are completely lost in translation. Enroll today!  

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