The Case of Joseph’s Coat: Giving Gifts to Children in the Hebrew Bible




Joseph, giving, child, gift, counter-gift, Hebrew Bible, Genesis, textiles, coat, garment, social persona


Joseph’s coat is one of the most recognizable garments in the Hebrew Bible. In The Gift, Marcel Mauss theorizes that a gift contains part of the giver’s social persona, thus requiring a counter-gift to be given. Drawing on Mauss’s work as a heuristic category, this study investigates the economy of gifts and counter-gifts in the Hebrew Bible using Joseph’s coat as a case study. Joseph’s age at the time he receives the gift and the seeming lack of a counter-gift form the two main questions that this study investigates. To answer these questions requires determining who made the coat, a question best answered through an archaeological analysis of how textiles were created in ancient Israel. The paper concludes that an ancient audience would have understood both Jacob and Rachel to be makers of the gift, and therefore the (expected) recipients of a counter-gift. The end of the Joseph Novella suggests that this expectation was met after a period of delay, during which time Joseph grew into adulthood and rose to a position where he could properly return a gift on par with the special coat.


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How to Cite

Henriksen Garroway, K. (2022) “The Case of Joseph’s Coat: Giving Gifts to Children in the Hebrew Bible”, Avar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Life and Society in the Ancient Near East . London, UK, 1(2), pp. 185–211. doi: 10.33182/aijls.v1i2.1452.