Genesis 39


(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg

Again this evening, we are going to hear the story of Joseph. I would like to make two comments before I read the story. First - the story contains mature themes which may lead your children to ask some pointed questions. These questions are very much worth taking the time to answer.

Second - you may notice that this story has a little more imaginative interpretation though still accurate to Genesis 39. The reason is because Joseph is very clearly a type of Christ - there are very intentional parallels between Joseph and Christ - both through suffering ascended to Glory for the purpose of saving God's people.

"What will become of your dreams - dreamer?" His brothers' mocking question rang in Joseph's ear as he stumbled along behind the Ishmaelites's stinking camels.  His blood stained coat was in his crying Father's hands at home. If he slowed down to avoid the stench of the camel - the rope would pull tighter. There was only one place for a slave - behind, the camels. Joseph's owners saw how plump and pampered he was

"You say you're Jacob's Favorite son - dream on kid!"

They wouldn't listen to his reasoning or pleading. At the end of each day, they gave him a few scraps of food to appease his ravenous hunger. He slept on the cold hard ground at night. For close to 30 days he walked, each day losing a little more weight, each day looking less like a plump prince, more like a hard working muscular slave. The Ismaelites were impressed - this slave would fetch them a good return in Egypt's slave market - he looked like he was ready to work.

The big city Zoan amazed Joseph. Pharoah Hyksos, the king of Egypt had slaves working everywhere. Large stone buildings and pyramids seemed to rise up from the desert floor. Food was piled in every market - but he could take none, he could only follow the camels. Finally, in the middle of the city, Joseph with his owners arrived at the slave market. This was a place of contrasts - people either wore many coloured coats, because they were rich, or they wore the rags of slaves. The ropes that kept Joseph behind the camels were removed, an iron collar was placed around his neck and chains around his ankles - and then they ripped off all of his clothes. Everywhere, children cried as they were taken by force from their mothers - they were someone else's property now - slave masters like to start with young children. Joseph stood out in this crowd, a tall young man. Joseph's owners, as they yelled in a language that Joseph could not understand, wanted everyone to see just how good this bare naked slave that they were selling looked. It was obvious from his build that he had been well fed - now the fat was gone, all that was left was a tall 17 year old muscular young man.

A man in an army uniform came, inspected his teeth, looked at his body and bought Joseph - 30 pieces of silver, 1 ½ times the going rate - the Ishmaelites were delighted at their profit. Slaves rags were thrown over Joseph's bare hips, again, ropes were tied around his hands, this time he had to follow his new master's horse - running fast, as fast as his legs could carry him. If he tripped he would be dragged. This man, Captain Potiphar was his name, Pharoah's body guard, had no time to be kind to a slave.

He was given the job of feeding the pigs and keeping their pens clean. A few weeks later, Captain Potiphar noticed something - Joseph was doing a good job - the pigs looked well fed and acted content. Captain Potiphar gave him responsibility for other animals and it was not long before they were doing well. Soon, Joseph was given the responsibility to show the other slaves how to take care of the animals. It seemed, wherever Joseph was in charge - the animals and then even his other slaves did well. The work was done better. Potiphar didn't even have to be mean to his slaves when Joseph was in charge of them. It was not long before Captain Potiphar put Joseph in charge of all his slaves, and then even his workers - because he found that he could trust Joseph and when Joseph was in charge - things just seemed to work out better.

Potiphar didn't understand that there was a reason for Joseph's success - you see, God was with Joseph. Just like God had been with Joseph in the dry cistern (well), God was with Joseph wherever he was, even as a slave. And God made sure that what Joseph did would be successful. Potiphar probably didn't understand why - but he knew that he had gotten a golden boy for a mere 30 pieces of silver, a steal of a deal at the slave market. In a matter of a few years, Joseph was Captain Potiphar's favorite slave. Except for his wife and his meals, Potiphar gave to Joseph responsibility over all his affairs, his fields, his animals, his slaves, even his money and his home. With Joseph in charge, he had no worries - it would go well. He trusted Joseph. If he gave to Joseph an errand, it would be well done. Soon he was asking Joseph to do almost everything. That way he could focus almost all his time on the dangerous task of making sure Pharoah Hyksos was safe. For Joseph, it seemed that just maybe, he could afford to start dreaming again - dreaming about being a prince.

Oh, I did mention Potiphar's wife didn't I. Let me tell you a little about her. As the wife of Captain Potiphar, she was the wife of one of the most powerful men in the whole land of Egypt. And she liked the power she had as his wife. Sometimes she would order her servants and slaves to do strange things - just for the pleasure of watching them try to follow her orders. She liked to control, even use other people. At times she could be mean, at other times she could be very nice - depending on what she wanted from a person. And when Joseph became the slave that took care of her husbands business, even in his house, she started acting very nice to Joseph.

Quietly other slaves warned him...

"Watch out for ‘Mrs. Pot - of - Fire.' If you don't you'll get burned!"

But it was Mrs. Potiphar who was doing the watching. At first Joseph noticed how her eyes followed him whenever he came in the house. She was noticing his handsome features and his rippling muscles. It made Joseph feel good - after all, he was attractive. It made him feel uneasy, after all, she was married to Potiphar, his boss, and her eyes looked like the hungry eyes of a lip licking lion watching and waiting for the moment to strike. Joseph knew he would have to be careful.

Mrs. Pot - of - Fire was accustomed to the slaves obeying her orders and fulfilling her every wish. At first she asked in a sweet seductive voice - "Joseph - come to bed with me."

But Joseph knew that Potiphar trusted him, that Captain Potiphar had given him a position of power in his house that totally depended on whether or not Potiphar could trust him - and Joseph wanted to keep that trust. He refused and walked the other direction.

In the days that followed, Mrs. Pot - of - Fire asked him again and again to come to bed with her - knowing that she would wear him down eventually. And she had her excuses.

"Potiphar is always working watching out for Pharaoh. He never watches out for me any more. I need someone."

"Everyone else is doing it - what's your problem?"

"I'll make it worth your while Joseph!"

Joseph refused again and again. At times doubts crept into his mind - after all, Mrs. Pot - of - Fire was the attractive wife of a very powerful man, and he at one time dreamed of being a prince - maybe if he went to bed with Mrs. Pot - of - Fire - she could help him on his way. Maybe she could help his dreams come true.

But then he would come back to his senses. A trust given is a trust worth keeping. And besides, Joseph remembered how God is a God who is trustworthy, and God gets angry when his children are not trustworthy like he is. To go to bed with Mrs. Pot - of - Fire was to sin against God too.

He refused again and again. As much as he could, he started avoiding coming into the house because avoiding coming in was easier than always having to say "NO!" But one day, Mrs. Pot - of - Fire caught him by surprise. First she sent all of the servants and slaves on errands. Joseph came into the house thinking there were others there, and all he would have to do was say "NO" again and go on with his work. But the house was silent. Suddenly she came from behind, grabbed he shirt and pulled hard - "Come to bed with me NOW!" This time it was a command, she was not asking. Any slave in his right mind would obey - disobedience could get Joseph killed. But he had made up his mind. As she pulled hard, he ran the other direction, the belt around his waste tore loose, his shirt ripped off his shoulders as he ran out of the house.

"I'll get you!" she yelled after him holding onto his torn shirt. If she couldn't have the power to seduce him, if she couldn't have the power to control him, then she would get power over him some other way. (Lust unfulfilled turns to hate because lust has nothing to do with love, it has everything to do with power.)

And this is how she did it. She told a lie - first to the servants as they returned from their errands, they stared at her in disbelief, then, later, with lots of tears and outrage to Captain Potiphar her husband.

"Look what this evil man did. He came in here to rape me, but I screamed and he was afraid that others would come to my rescue so he ran. Look, here is his shirt!"

Potiphar looked into the eyes of his beautiful disturbed wife - he couldn't believe his ears - Joseph - so trustworthy, so trustworthy that he had given all of his affairs into Joseph's charge, how could it be?

"This is how your slave treated me!" Now the fault was Potiphar's. Potiphar's anger began to burn. Had Joseph been so good over these years just to get to his wife, to use his wife? And now this was all Potiphar's fault?!

His anger burned.

"Bring Joseph here!"

In no time, the soldiers had Joseph in front of Potiphar.

"What have you done?!"

Joseph, the slave, once again in chains did not answer. He knew that Mrs. Pot - of - Fire's word would be believed - Potiphar was committed to believing her. Potiphar would certainly have him killed.

Potiphar was confused. Never had he seen Joseph do any wrong. He was worthy of trust in every way. And now this charge - a charge that for a slave deserved a death penalty. He was not sure what to do. He needed some time to think...

"Throw him in Jail!" he roared.

An iron collar was clamped around Joseph's neck. The chains around his ankles tightened. As the soldiers led him away, he notice Mrs. Pot - of - Fire's lip curl up - she had won and she knew it.

They threw Joseph into the darkest cell. The dirt floor stank from previous prisoners who had laid there until they were dead.

Joseph's mind raced

"I should have - NO - I know I did the right thing."

And his brothers' taunt

"What will come of your dreams now - dreamer?"

And questions

"God where are you ... - I thought I was doing the right thing."

Joseph maybe did not understand. But just like in the dry cistern, now even in a dark stinking prison cell with an iron collar around his neck, God was with him.

It wasn't long before the Potiphar's prison officers gave him jobs to do - after all, Joseph had a reputation of be reliable and they found that when they gave him jobs he did them well. The prison warden noticed his work and gave him responsibility over other prisoners and their work - and he noticed that when Joseph was in charge of other prisoners and their work - he had no worries - the prison was run well. And so the prison warden made him responsible for the other prisoners. He didn't know why - but whatever Joseph did, he did well.

And so Joseph went from being a favorite son - to a favorite slave - to a favorite prisoner - all because God was with him.

Go to Next Chapter

Go to Story Index

Let me know if you enjoyed this story