April 25, 2016

The Garment of Adam and the Garment of Joseph

By John Sanidopoulos

Genesis begins with the account of the creation of the first-formed Adam and Eve, and records their disobedience to God by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When the Lord confronted them regarding their disobedience, and gave them an opportunity for repentance, they refused to put the blame on themselves, incurring a curse from God and banishment from the Garden of Eden. As they were being banished, we read in Genesis 3:21: "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." No longer were Adam and Eve "clothed" in the uncreated light of God and thus protected from the elements, but their disobedience made them realize their purity was gone and they were left naked and exposed to the elements. God, however, in His goodness, provided for them with lowly earthly garments made of animal skin. Just as someone who enjoys special favor from the king is clothed in royal and expensive garments, but after some sort of disobedience or betrayal is stripped of such garments and made to look like a slave, so also were Adam and Eve. Their clothing, from now on, was to be a constant reminder of their disobedience and the loss of their purity.

Genesis ends many generations later, with the account of Joseph in Egypt, who at first enjoyed the favor of his father Jacob, shown by the exclusive gift to him of the coat of many colors, above that of his other brothers, but they out of jealousy wanted to at first kill him but rather sold their brother Joseph into slavery to Ishmaelite traders, although he was innocent of any crime, and was made a servant in the household of Pharaoh, specifically to Potiphar, an official of the Pharaoh. Joseph was an innocent and pure young man, and with his innocence and purity he brought with him wherever he went and in whatever situation he was in the blessing of God. In his duties as a servant of Potiphar, he brought prosperity to his household and gained the favor of his Egyptian master. And we read in Genesis 39 that Potiphar entrusted all he had to Joseph, like God did with Adam in Eden. However, Potiphar's wife took notice that Joseph was "well-built and handsome," so she tried to seduce him. Joseph adamantly refused her offer, understanding that his master entrusted him with everything he had and he was deeply grateful for it, thus he could not betray his master's trust and "eat the forbidden fruit". But then one day the wife of Potiphar found Joseph in the house alone, and she threw herself at him and grabbed his cloak to get him to go to bed with her, but he left his cloak in her hands and ran out of the house. When his master came home, his wife, realizing that her efforts were in vain, betrayed Joseph and falsely accused him of trying to do to her what she tried to do to him. For this Joseph was imprisoned on false pretenses and "banished from his little Paradise", but God remained with him, and blessed him, raising him to a position not only above that of Potiphar, but he was second only to Pharaoh himself in all of Egypt. And we read in Genesis 41:42: "Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck."

We thus read at the beginning and at the end of the book of Genesis the tales of two garments, that of Adam and that of Joseph. The first went from being clothed in God's glory to wearing a leather tunic of disobedience and slavery, while the second went from wearing a coat of many colors to the garments of an imprisoned slave, although he was innocent of any crime, and then to royal garments of fine linen worthy of the Pharaoh himself, having remained faithful to God from the beginning. In regards to Adam, we learn that such is the price for disobedience, unrepentance, and the loss of purity and innocence. In regards to Joseph, we see that it is possible to regain Paradise if we remain obedient to God, humble, pure and innocent. Thus Joseph, who is a prefigurement of Christ Himself, reversed the curse of Adam by resisting the Egyptian woman, who was a second Eve, and gained eternal glory beginning in this life and continuing in the next. And by this act, Joseph gained the wisdom from God to assure that his family became the patriarchs of the Hebrew nation, and the forefathers of Christ, the Savior of the world. As a prefigurement of Christ, Joseph becomes an imitator of Christ, and Christians today who are baptized into Christ, having died to their sins and risen to a newness of life, have put on Christ like a garment, illuminated in His glory. This is the great lesson of Holy and Great Monday, when we chant the last hymn of the Aposticha of Matins:

"The serpent finding the Egyptian woman as a second Eve, hastened through words of flattery to cause the downfall of Joseph; but he leaving his garment, fled from sin; and being naked, felt unashamed, as the first-formed before the disobedience. By his intercessions, O Christ, have mercy on us."