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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dolly Parton: Biblically adorned

Joseph's Brothers Fooling Jacob

Long known for her neon fashion statements, Dolly Parton is still singing about one technicolor article of clothing.

According to Wikipedia, Parton regards “Coat of Many Colors” as her favorite of all the (3,000 or so) songs she’s ever written.  It tells the true story of a coat that her mother patched together from rags for her when Dolly was a child in the hills of Tennessee.  (Today that coat hangs proudly in the Chasing Rainbows Museum at Dollywood, along with the original dry-cleaning receipt that Dolly first penned the lyrics on.) 

The lyrics explain that Dolly’s mother told her young daughter the biblical story of Joseph and his coat as Dolly’s coat was being stitched together.  The moral of the song is summed up in these last two lines:  Now I know we had no money, but I was rich as I could be  In my coat of many colors my momma made for me.

The biblical coat of many colors was given to Joseph by his father, Jacob, as a token of Jacob’s intense love for him.  Hopefully, Dolly’s mother didn’t favor Dolly over her 11 siblings in the way that Jacob favored Joseph over his.  Jacob’s favoritism, as symbolized by his gift of the coat to Joseph, resulted in a tragic degree of sibling rivalry.  Joseph’s brothers contemplating killing him, but instead settled upon selling him into slavery.  How did they explain Joseph’s sudden absence to Jacob?  Again, the coat played a significant role.  The brothers seized it, then smeared it with blood in order to fool Jacob into thinking that Joseph had met an untimely end.

The ruse worked until karma (not instant in this case) caught up to them.  A severe famine took hold, and Joseph’s brothers were forced to seek goods from Egypt.  There they met up with Joseph, who was now the Vizier.  Although they didn’t recognize Joseph, he sure recognized them.  Things could have gotten quite ugly had Joseph’s better nature not ultimately prevailed.

As Dolly’s song concludes – people are only as poor (or as rich) as they choose to be.  This seems especially true when dealing with matters of spirit.


Copyright January 19, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved    

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