three ruined outfits


Genesis 37:29-36

29 When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes

30 and he came back to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where can I go?”

31 Then they took Joseph’s tunic and slaughtered a goat and dipped the tunic in the blood.

32 And they sent the sleeved tunic and brought it to their father and said, “We have found this; please identify whether it is your son’s tunic or not.”

33 And he identified it and said, “It is my son’s tunic. A ferocious animal has eaten him. without doubt, Joseph is torn to pieces.”

34 Then Jacob tore his clothing and put sackcloth around him and mourned for his son many days.

35 All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted and said, “No, I will go down to Sheol to my son, mourning.” Thus his father wept for him.

36 Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguards.[1]


three ruined outfits

The tearing of clothes was “used to describe a Hebrew custom which indicated deep sorrow. Upon the death of a relative or important personage, or when there was a great calamity, it was customary for the Hebrews to tear their garments.”[2] There are two examples of this custom in this passage. First, Reuben tears his clothes when he discovers that Joseph had been taken from the pit. His plan to use the pit to keep Joseph safe from his brothers had backfired.

Then, Jacob, upon seeing the bloody tunic, tore his clothes in grief. The blood-soaked tunic was – for Jacob – a symbol of great loss. He did not expect to recover from the loss of his son. He thought Joseph had died and was now in Sheol – the place where all the dead go. He would not be comforted. He expected to die of grief, and join his son – not in heaven, not in hell, but in Sheol. Sheol is the place where all the dead go, and are unconscious of anything until awakened by resurrection.

LORD, thank you for showing us that there is hope beyond the grave. Now we know that even tragic loss is not eternal loss.

[1] The tabachim were bodyguards and executioners, attached to Pharaoh’s palace. A more literal rendering of the name would be butchers.

[2] ISBE Bible dictionary.

About Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !
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