Prodigal Part 1, Skit
Golden Rule Game

Joseph window from the Jerusalem windows
by Marc Chagall



The beloved tale of a bold dreamer with a spiffy jacket.


August/early September Year C


ARTS – thumbprint pictures

BEAT BOX – create a rhythm routine based on key elements of the story

KITCHEN – Sparkle Coat Sugar Cookies

Music -- teach "I had an old coat"

COMPUTER – Garage Band


Genesis 37.



Gen. 37.3

"Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours." (KJV.)

After story time in church, all will meet in central Sunday school area for gathering time, brief review, then to scheduled workshops.



We do love to think of the coat Joseph's dad gave him as this uncommon rainbow creation. This seems to have been one of the wonderful hyperbolic expressions entrenched by the translators of the King James Bible of 1611. Footnotes to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (New Revised Standard Version) point out that what Joseph received in verse 3 was a "long robe with sleeves." To be sure, this description is not nearly as picturesque. Nonetheless, it's "a royal garment," which would render Joseph a bit overdressed for his shepherding duties.


There are many flamboyant artistic renderings of Joseph's coat — whether merely long with sleeves or with lots of colours. Regardless, the prevailing impression is that his coat was outstandingly special.

Here's an image from Phillip Ratner.

And one more.

And altho Joseph's not in this one, I like this by Goya, Jacob and his sons with bloody tunic.

[* There a wonderful children's book about a little boy named Joseph who receives spectacular blanket, then jacket, then... that gets further and further worn and recycled. It's by adopted Canadian author/illustrator Phoebe Gilman, called Something from Nothing. Fantastic idea for use with younger children.

Sharon, Lois and Bram recorded the musical equivalent of Something from Nothing -- "I had an old coat," from the Songs Around the Campfire album.]


And as such he joins the company of other eminent shepherds in the Bible, including David and Christ. The shepherd, as noted in our David & Goliath lesson set, was a common image in ancient Near/Middle Eastern art for royalty. So the gift of this swellegant robe fit for a king gives a signal of the kind of leadership figure Joseph will turn out to be (key functionary in Egypt and all that...). Here's an image from Marc Chagall of Joseph as a shepherd.


There's an excellent discussion on the dreams and deep pits element of this early segment of the Joseph story in the book Words with Power, by Canadian writer and scholar Northrop Frye, in the chapter called, "Third Variation: the Cave."

Here the author establishes that the dreams & pits family of images corresponds to a "lower world" of comparatively less intensified consciousness.

Frye explains: "The emphasis on dream and the sense of an increased control over time comes out in the story of Joseph, and of how he brought Israel into the then-more-fertile Egypt. The patriarchs [ie Abraham, Isaac, Jacob] in Genesis are often spoken of not only as conversing or communicating with God, but also as being in a dream or trance state. Their successor Joseph was a dreamer of a different sort. His were aggressive and self-promoting dreams of ascendancy over his brothers; he was tactless enough to tell them his dreams, which failed to increase his popularity with them; they plotted to kill him and threw him into a deep pit. The scene changes to a prison in Egypt, where Joseph turns inside out, as it were, from a dreamer into an interpreter of dreams."

Frye concludes this chapter with the following wonderful closing line: "Only a 'Thou,' who is both another person and the identity of ourselves, releases the ability to love that gets us out of the world of shades and echoes (Echo was the mistress of Narcissus, and his aural counterpart) in to the world of sunlight and freedom."


Joseph's coat is a key member of the family of cloth and clothing mages. Frye has a section on the symbolic significance of clothing in one of his much earlier books, Fearful Symmetry: a study of William Blake. In Chapter 11, 'The City of God,' Frye points out:

"Most of the references to clothing in the Bible represent the transparent "net" which the fallen world flings around us... The swaddling clothes of the infant Jesus are a sign of his descent into the fallen world; and the curtains of the ark, and the veil in the temple... As the story of Joseph is an account of the Fall, the coat of many colors is a symbol corresponding to the coats of skin made for Adam and Eve and to what those coats represent, their exile from a Paradise of innocence now guarded by a Covering Cherub, the monstrous dragon who glitters in gold and precious stones."

Frye further writes: "If we try to visualize this development of the "clothing" symbol, we get something more like a mirror, a surface which reveals reality in fewer dimensions than it actually has."


Here's a fantastic poem from Canadian poet AM Klein. He manages to roll in a whole bunch of images from and allusions to this Joseph story — colours, dreams and prophecies. It's called "A Psalm to Teach Humility." See what you think!

O sign and wonder of the barnyard, more
beautiful than the pheasant, more melodious
than nightingale. O creature marvellous.

Prophet of sunrise, and fortuneteller of times!
Vizier of the constellations! Sage,
red-bearded, scarlet-turbaned, in whose brain
the stars lie scattered like well-scattered grain!

Calligraphist upon the barnyard page!
Five-noted balladist! Crower of rhymes!
O morning-glory mouth, O throat of dew,
announcing the out-faring of the blue,
the greying and the going of the night,
the coming on,
the imminent coming of the dawn,
the coming of the kinsman, the brightly-plumaged sun!

O creature marvellous — and O blessed Creator,
who givest to the rooster wit
to know the movements of the turning day,
to understand, to herald it,
better than I, who neither sing nor crow
and of the sun's goings and comings nothing know


Okay, again perhaps a bit of a stretch. Roger McGuinn's feature song for November on the Folkden site is 'The John B's Sails.' We all know this from the Beach Boys rendition of it. And what does it have to do with Joseph's long-sleeved coat, one may rightly ask. Well, read through the lyrics Roger provides. This simple song features sails (that cloth thing) and a narrator in a pretty deep funk who really extremely just wants 'to go home.' Fun to listen to at any rate. To hear it, click this link: http://www.reveries.com/folkden , and scroll down in the archive to November 2004. Enjoy!


1. Do you think it was a very good idea for Jacob to give just one of his sons such a swanky new coat?

2. How do you think the other brothers felt?

3. Has anything like this every happened to you — like a relative or friend being rewarded for good work, and even though you knew they deserved it and you were happy for them, you still felt totally jealous?

4. Could your jealousy have been actually harmful to the person in question?

5. How did you deal with or get past these feelings of jealousy?

6. How do you think God fits into this story?

7. Now try to relate to Joseph in this story. Have you ever been on the receiving end of some powerful and destructive jealousy. Can you describe a bit about the situation?

8. Is being stuck in a pit a good description of how you felt?

9. What would you say was the person or people or thing that helped you get out of that pit?

10. Were things simply hunky dory afterward? Or did you carry something of that experience with you for a while after? A long while or a short while?


Please find below suggested workshops for this unit. For each one, when you are in real time with the children:

1. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity. Each week, see how much more detail each group of kids can supply on the story they've been studying.

2. Link or explain your activity to the current story.

ARTS -- thumbprint pictures

Why -- to remind students of the unique imprint Joseph left on the children of Israel.

Materials: ink pads (various colours), fine tip markers or pens, legal size papers.

Each thumbprint can be the head of Jos and his brothers. Make a coat shape under Joseph's head with different coloured finger prints. Sketch outlines and faces, other detail with fine tips.

Sparkle Coat Sugar Cookies

Use favourite sugar cookie recipe to make gingerbread man shapes and decorate with sprinkles to represent Joseph's special coat.

Materials: ingredients for fave cookie recipe, large gingerbread man cookie cutter, can of frosting, wide assortment of sprinkles, cake decorating gel tubes.

Special directions: You want to highlight the coat here. So frost cookies, add sprinkles and outline the coat with gels.

Music -- teach "I had an old coat."

See write up in Music section of Notes.

Click here and follows links for audio sample.

Here are the lyrics:

I Had an Coat

I had an old coat and the coat got torn, what'll I do
I had an old coat and the coat got torn, what'll I do
I had an old coat and the coat got torn
So I cut it down and a jacket was born
And I sing every day of my life.

In a couple of years those threads got thin, what'll I do.
In a couple of years those threads got thin, what'll I do.
In a couple of years those threads got thin
So I called it a shirt and I tucked it in
And I sing every day of my life.

Then the arms wore out in the East and West, what'll I do.
Those arms wore out in the East and West, what'll I do.
The arms wore out in the East and West
So I pulled them off and I had a vest
And I sing every day of my life.
Then the vest got stained with cherry pie, what'll I do.
That vest got stained with cherry pie, what'll I do.
The vest got stained with cherry pie
So I cut and sewed 'til I had a tie
And I sing every day of my life.

Soon that tie was looking lean, what'll I do
Soon that tie was looking lean, what'll I do
Soon that tie was looking lean
But I made a fat patch for my old blue jeans
And I sing every day of my life.

Soon that patch was next to nuttin', what'll I do
And when that patch was next to nuttin', what'll I do
When that patch was next to nuttin'
I rolled it up in to a button
And I sing every day of my life.

When that patch was next to nuttin', what'll I do
When that patch was next to nuttin', what'll I do
When that patch was next to nuttin'
I rolled it up into a button
And I sing every day of my life.

When that button was almost gone, what'll I do
When that button was almost gone, what'll I do
When that button was almost gone
With what was left I made this song
Which I sing every day of my life.

(Not too focussed on the Joseph story. But has a coat, dwindling fortunes, and ends with song. Whereas Joseph lives forever as in a Bible story.)

Beat Box

Divide into 4 groups or parts. Brainstorm phrase and actions 4 four parts. Practice. All try each part. Try together as if in a round, with each part coming in in sequence.

Suggestions for parts:

1. Joseph has a special coat, Joseph has a special coat (model as if in front of mirror).

2. Not happy, not happy, not happy, not happy. (As if brothers, make hrummphy frowny faces, crossing arms over chest.).

3. Down you go, down you go (mime throwing Jos into deep hole)

4. God is with Joseph, God is with Joseph (make motion of reaching arms down to pull someone up).


Still story has some extreme emotional highs and lows. Plot out the hi and low points and compose music to reflect its moods using the Garage Band program.


My son Neil prefers to be outside. So he offered to run an outdoor games workshop for this story. He unveiled it last weekend (Sept 7/08), and it went swimmingly. (And I mean swimmingly - it poured rain, so he had to move his workshop indoors. So clearly the workshop is adaptable!) Find below a list of Neil's game suggestions, as well as a link to a photo page. Well done, Neil!

Neil’s Outdoor Games Workshop – Joseph Rotation

1. Joseph’s Fashion Frenzy – dress up relay

2. Sheep Scamper (like Octopus)

3. Sons of Jacob Vs Egyptians Dodgeball

4. “Into Slavery in Egypt” Wheelbarrow race

5. “Reuben’s Lend a Hand” 3-Legged race

6. Joseph Dreams (Like Simon says)

7. “My Brothers Took my Cool Coat and All I have Left is this Sack” Race

8. Lion Hunt (parachute game like Cat and Mouse)

9. Lions and Lambs (Parachute game 2)

10. Survivor (self-explanatory).


• dress up box for dress up relay

• ball for dodge ball

• bandanas for 3 leg race

• sacks for sack race

• parachute

Here's the link to photos from Neil's Joseph Games Workshop:

Neil's Joseph Games Pix

Here's the link to Joseph Games, the movie:

Jos Games, the movie.

Click here go back to top of Joseph's Coat, Rotation 2.

Review, Activities from Joseph's Coat 1

Arts/make cloth scraps coat plus other costumes

Drama/use coat and costumes in play, Joseph's New Duds. Click here for script.

Kitchen/dirt pudding

Computer/create movie on MovieMaker program

Movie 1 - Veggie Tales, Ballad of Little Joe

Movie 2 -- opening sequence, Joseph King of Dreams

Joseph's Coat 2 @ November 2007, LD McKenzie

All original text 2004 - 2014, LD McKenzie

For a brief site ed's bio, click here:


Components of these lesson sets may be used for non-profit educational purposes, citing this author and site.

free web counter