Compiled by B.H. Porter


The Stolen Garment

Hugh Nibley, Ancient Documents, Lecture 23:12

It's the famous story of the stolen garment. The priesthood garment of Adam was stolen. It should have belonged to the other brethren. They all had an equal claim, but when they were coming out of the ark, Ham stole the garment, made a copy of it, and claimed he had the priesthood. For that reason he was denied the priesthood until all the others should have it first. But this says he would fain claim it from Noah. That's the very thing we have here and the story we have in the Genesis Apocryphon.


The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Mormonism and Early Christanity, p. 366

Since we cannot here treat them individually, we must be content to note that the archetype of all usurpers is Nimrod, who claims kingship and priesthood by right of "the cosmic garment of Adam," which his father Ham stole from Noah. When in turn Esau, that other great hunter, by a ruse got this garment from Nimrod, he sold it as a "birthright" to Jacob, and then tried to get it back again "and force his way into the temple," according to the Leptogenesis. Early Jewish and Christian traditions report that Nimrod it was who built the Tower of Babel, the first pagan temple, in an attempt to contact heaven; it was he who challenged the priesthood of Abraham; it was he who built the first city, founded the first state, organized the first army, ruling the world by force; he challenged God to an archery contest and, when he thought he had won, claimed to be no less than God's successor. The interesting thing is that all his activities center around the temple, whose rites and whose priesthood he boldly attempts to seize for himself.


Nibley, Hugh W. Teachings of the Book of Mormon --Lecture 62

The student says, "Verily, if my master owned a house full of needles and Jacob came to him and begged for the use of a needle for one hour that he might sew up the torn garment of his son Joseph, he would refuse to lend it to him. That's the kind of man I'm working for." The point is that it takes for granted the torn garment that Jacob wanted to sew up, that Joseph's garment was torn in two parts. The one part was spoiled, and one part never rotted. It belonged to Abraham, and it went back to Adam. In the tradition it was the garment of the garden, and it had the marks on it. That's why Jacob recognized it, and that's why the brethren were jealous obviously. It was the greatest favor he could possibly give him. This is a great thing. Here we get something in the Book of Mormon that really "sews things up."


Nibley, Hugh W. Teachings of the Book of Mormon --Lecture 65

That's the story of Nimrod. Remember, there was Noah, Ham, and Cush. Cush's son was Nimrod. He was a righteous young man until he was 25 years old. He became the king, and he had received the garment of Adam, which had been stolen by Ham when they were leaving the ark. It belonged to Adam and Noah had it. We mentioned that garment before, but there is great literature about this garment. Nimrod lost the garment later on, but when he wore it all people and animals assumed that he was a holy man and priest acting for God, and they submitted to him willingly. That was right. But then it turned his head, and he decided to become the great conqueror.


Nibley, Hugh W. Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price. Lecture 9.

So Geb gave his own entire portion to Horus, the son of his son who was his firstborn. Well, what the theme is here is priesthood and kingship as well as land. Now, the division of the land is no trouble. You notice in the Bible the land is divided among the sons of Noah-Shem, Ham, and Japheth. No controversy there. In the fourteenth chapter of Genesis it's divided among the nations, etc. And the children of Israel divide it again. Israel (Jacob) divides it among his twelve sons; and they get their shares and that's all right. But they are jealous of one who is Joseph. They were jealous of him because he got the garment of the priesthood. We won't go into the story of the garment now, but the garment of many colors; incidentally, the word "many" is added in the King James; it's not in the Bible at all. It says the garment that had marks in it. It's a long story about the garment. When it was brought to Jacob by the brothers to show him that the lion had killed Joseph, Jacob both wept and laughed (this is a story told in the Book of Mormon). He was both pleased and oppressed by the fact that the garment was soiled and bloody. But also it showed that Joseph was alive. When he felt the garment (this is a very old source), he says he knew it. Remember, he had gone blind from weeping we are told. When he felt the garment, he knew it was the true garment of Joseph because we are told there was no other garment in the world like that. It was the garment that he had received from his father, Abraham, and Abraham had received it from Adam, and Adam had received it in the garden. This was the garment of the priesthood of which there was only one. When he gave this to Joseph, of course his brethren were jealous. And remember in the dreams he had, he was the king and they all bowed down to him. You can only have one king. And where did they bow down to him? In Egypt. This is an Egyptian story too as far as he goes, remember? Joseph becomes the second in power. He becomes the king's right hand. With all this authority he becomes a Rp't in fact which allows him to sit on the throne. So the brethren were very jealous of him because he became king.


Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Approach to the Book of Mormon, p212

Moroni then reminded the multitude that they were actually "a remnant of the seed of Jacob," and also "a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces and if they should do wickedly "our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain" (Alma 46:23). Then Moroni told an apocryphal story of how Jacob

211 - p.212

before his death . . . saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said--Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved, . . . while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment (Alma 46:24).


Moroni suggested that the lost remnant of the garment may actually represent the Nephites who had fallen away from the church (Alma 46:27).


Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Approach to the Book of Mormon, pp. 218-220.

The Torn Garment, an Apocryphal Tale

When Moroni begins his story by saying, "Let us remember the words of Jacob," he is plainly reminding his hearers of a tale that is familiar to them all. Yet who in the West has ever known anything about the story that follows, in which the words of Jacob are: "Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved, . . . while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment"? Here the survival of Joseph's garment guarantees and typifies the survival of Joseph (Alma 46:24).

Most significant is Thaclabi's discussion of the two remnants of Joseph's garment, from which we quote:

Note here that there were two remnants of Joseph's garment, one sent by Joseph to his father as a sign that he was still alive (since the garment had not decayed), and the other, torn and smeared with blood, brought by Judah to his father as a sign that Joseph was dead. Moroni actually quotes Jacob ("Now behold, this was the language of Jacob" [Alma 46:26]) as saying: "Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son" (Alma 46:25). Compare this with Judah's statement in the Old World account, that the undecayed garment caused Jacob as much joy as the bloody garment caused him sorrow. In both accounts Jacob is described as being near to death--hence Judah's haste to reach him with the garment and make amends for the evil he has done.

Nibley, Hugh W. Teachings of the Book of Mormon Lecture 62, p.61.

He is talking here about the shirt of Joseph and the two things. This is what he says: "And when Joseph made himself known to his brethren, he asked them about his father. 'What happened to our father, Jacob?'" He was in Egypt and he was the important man. The brethren had been brought before him, and he said, "What happened to my father after I left?" They said, "He lost his eyesight from weeping." Then Joseph gave them the garment. He had the good half of the garment with him. That's the part that clung to him and he still wore. Joseph handed them the garment, which is called the qamis. Our word chemise comes from that. "And this garment was the garment of the Garden of Eden. It had the weave and the pattern of the janna." That is the Garden of Eden. It is usually rendered just as paradise, before man fell. "It had in it the breath of the garden."


"Y so that it never rotted." It used the word decayed. He saw the part that never decayed. The half he had was the part that "never rotted, never decayed, and its threads never deteriorated. That was its true state." It kept its true state. There were two parts. "Y the remnant of the coat of Joseph which was preserved and had not decayed, whereas the other half shall perish even as the remnant of this garment." It was decayed and rotten. We'll hear about that one in a minute here. "Joseph gave that garment to them [this is important here:], and this was a garment that had belonged to Abraham."


The idea of a garment of many colors is an invention. If you look in your Bible every time it mentions many colors the word colors (even in the commentary) is in italics because it is put in there by modern editors. It's found in no ancient source. It's not a garment of many colors at all. A garment of certain marks is the term that's used here. We'll see what it is in a second. "This garment had belonged to Abraham, and it already had a long history." It's history was lengthy because it went back to the Garden of Eden, you see. That's the garment; it's the only one. Just as we treat the story of Cain and Abel, we trivialize this. We say, "Joseph was the youngest kid, so his father favored him and gave him a pretty garment of many colors." There is no mention in any ancient source of a garment of many colors. That's an invention of modern editors trying to explain it. But here it was the garment he gave him. It was the garment of the priesthood. No wonder they were jealous of him, they being the elder brothers and he the younger in the patriarchal line coming down from Abraham. This garment had belonged to Abraham and had come down to Joseph instead of to the other brethren.


You always get lost among these little tiny things here. "And he said to them, 'Go with this very garment and place it upon the face of my father, and his sight will return to him.'" It's a miraculous garment. "And then come back to me and bring all the family with you." So they did. This is when the Israelites went into Egypt. They brought Jacob back with them, and the whole family came back to Egypt. Remember the story of Joseph and his brethren. "And when they had turned their faces toward Canaan and finally arrived [p.62] there, their father, Jacob, said to them, 'Behold, I detect in this garment the odorY '" Riha is smell or odor. It's the same word as ruakh and the English word reek. Reeky is smoke; it's Rauch in German. They used to call Edinburgh Auld Reekie, because it was a smoky city; they burned coal there. It's the same word we use. The Hebrew word ruakh is the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. The same word in Arabic is riha. It's always feminine. It also means wind. In the Dead Sea Scrolls it has led to lots of controversy because when it talks about the rih, does it mean spirit or wind? For example, in the story of Abraham in Egypt, an evil spirit has come. Or is it an evil wind? The Jewish scholars don't like "evil spirit," so they change it to "evil wind." It can be read "evil wind" all right, but it obviously means (and they admit it) an evil spirit came upon Pharaoh.