A pastor said he met someone from Ninive who asked him, “Do you know why the father of the prodigal son from the parable put his robe on his son?”

He continued “because, otherwise, the villagers would have killed him, due to his bad behavior”.

Is this true? Is there any known evidence of this custom?


According to the OT this is true, in part. I’m sure that centuries later it might have been modified, where if a father rejects his son the community would purge the son from their midst without the parent’s initiative, especially in a society that is heavily based on honor (and shame).

“"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭21:18-21‬

The robe being placed on the son definitely assumed a reinstating of position into the family. The text says the best robe, so therefore it was an immediate visible sign of acceptance from the father.

But the ring with the family seal reinstated the son’s authority. A ring that represented the family allows the son to put his stamp of approval on decisions in the household.

The shoes also reinstated the son and took away his shame, consider the text about Boaz and the law of raising an heir for a deceased relative. If the next in line refused, he was shamed by having his shoes removed, spat on and insulted Ruth 4:6-8 and Deuteronomy 25:5-10

“But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:22‬ ‭

Any member of the community that would have seen the son with a robe of value, much more valuable than a regular robe, distinct in design, colors or material would have immediately understood the son was accepted and received by his father and left no doubt. Even a regular robe would have been enough but especially a robe kept for special occasions. Consider the story of Joseph and he coat that clearly demonstrated Jacob favored him just by giving Joseph a garment that was distinct. Same idea here

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