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Joseph had two dreams where his brothers, father and mother would bow down to him. These were fulfilled in Egypt (except for his mother who died beforehand). Each color of the coat symbolically represents one of the brothers as tribes of Israel, and Joseph's ascendency over each of them in Egypt.
The passage in question is a mis-translation. A "coat of many colors" never existed. A coat with long sleeves, stretching from palm to palm, and going all the way down to the feet is the type of robe that was given Yosef. Check out the rest of the Bible where this translation is used... preferably in a good solid translation. Locations exist in both the Tanakh and the Greek commentary.
It was most likely Jacob's method of telling the family that Joseph had been decided to be his beneficiary.
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