Joseph part 2
Story of his life:
Summary of part one in the series
In part one of this article, we looked at the birth of Joseph and his subsequent raising to a young man. We saw that because of a number of reasons his brothers steadily became more envious of him and hated him. As a result, his brothers conspire to kill him. But one of the brothers, Reuben, steps in to save Joseph's life.
The selling of Joseph
His brothers stripped him out of his coat and cast him into the one of the pits that normally held water. They sat down to eat bread and then saw Ishmeelites coming towards them on camels. They were carrying spicery, balm and myrrh. This was a caravan of Arabian merchants on their way to Egypt. They approached form the north, along a route that passed through the plain of Dothan. This road then led to the coastal road that ultimately made its way to Egypt.
The merchants were taking these goods of spicery, balm and myrrh to Egypt, where they were greatly treasured and used as perfumes, medicine and embalming. The Egyptians depended on these Arab merchants for their supplies of this nature.
So when the brothers saw this caravan, Judah said to his brothers:
“What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.”
And his brothers listened to him. Genesis 37:26-27 ESV
So it was now Judah taking the lead and suggesting that the brothers make a profit out of their betrayal of Joseph.
Who does this sound like in relation to Christ?
We can get the answer if we take the Hebrew name Judah and convert it into it’s Greek equivalent. We find the Greek equivalent of Judah is Judas. For Judas also sort personal profit by betraying his brother. He sought personal profit from his service to Christ and agreed to sell him to his enemies.
The story of Joseph, therefore, discloses the very name of the one who betrayed Jesus, and if the Apostles had studied this Scripture with understanding, they would not have needed to have asked : “Is it I?” .
So when the caravan passed by they lifted Joseph out of the pit and sold him to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver. The book of Leviticus tells us that the price fixed for the redemption of a boy between the age of five and twenty is twenty shekels of silver and that is what is paid here, for Joseph was seventeen years of age.
The Lord Jesus Christ was sold by Judas for thirty pieces of silver (Matt.27:3). We are told in the book of Exodus (21:32) (and Zechariah (11:12)) that this was the price of a slave or a servant. This was appropriate as Jesus was the God’s servant.
So the caravan then continued on and took Joseph to Egypt.
So Joseph had been rejected and thrown into the pit and then later he had been lifted out and sold to Egypt. In a similar way the Jews had rejected
Jesus Christ and he had gone into the pit (or grave) and been lifted (or resurrected) out of it. After Jesus had been resurrected from the grave (or pit), the Apostles proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles. In a similar way, after Joseph was lifted from the pit he was brought into Egypt (in symbol, the gentiles).
The camel caravan of Arabian merchants
The caravan left Dothan and made it’s way down to the coast. Though there is usually great confusion at the setting out of caravan, it would have soon settled into a organised order. The camels would have bells about their necks, which with the singing of the camel drivers, who traveled on foot, would have made pleasant music.
Joseph had plenty of time on the trip down to think about the betrayal of his brothers and also what his father would think and do once he had heard that he was missing. But as time wore on and he drew closer to Egypt, Joseph would have started thinking about the land of Egypt that he was being taken to. A new land to him which he may have heard about perhaps.
The blood soaked coat
In the place called Dothan, Reuben had been absent when the sale of Joseph is made, and had secretly intended to release him. So when he returned he was shocked to find that his brother was no longer in the pit. To cover the act they had carried out, they slay a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat of Joseph in the blood. This action was designed as a cover for their
sin. In a similar way, the Jewish people who had sent Jesus to the pit of death, continued to seek a cover for their sin through continuing to formally observe the law and its sacrifices.
The blood soaked coat was taken to Jacob by the brothers servants and on receiving the news Jacob was overwhelmed with grief.
Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. Genesis 37:34 ESV
The tearing apart of your clothes violently as a token of grief was a very ancient custom. it was usually done with a knife. The wearing of sackcloth is also a ancient custom. It was generally made of the hair of goats or camels and was coarse and black. It was used for mourning and was hung like a sack over the outer garments.
All Jacob’s sons and daughters went to comfort him, but he couldn’t be comforted. Jacob rose and said that his sorrow was such that he would go to the grave mourning. How is sons could have gone through such hypocrisy is difficult to understand, but men and women always seek to hide sin and guilt.
Joseph arrives in Egypt
Meanwhile, the Ishmaelites from Midian arrive in Egypt and Joseph is sold at a slave market. The man who buys Joseph is a man called Potiphar. He was a officer of Pharaoh (the king of Egypt). The word officer in the Hebrew means a eunuch. And this may explain why later on, Potiphar’s wife is unfaithful. Many eunichs had wives but they never had any children.
Potiphar was also a captain of the guard. Further translated this literally means he was Captain of the executioners. He was responsible for the safe-keeping of state prisoners, and for the execution of sentence upon them. He was the official guardian of the king and he was chief of the body-guard.
So Joseph was purchased as a slave or servant by Potiphar.
The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. Genesis 39:2 ESV
This verse when correctly interpreted is not suggesting that Joseph personally became prosperous but rather that what he did prospered. So the household of Potiphar prospered from what Joseph did. Potiphar recognised the outstanding ability of Joseph and appointed him head over all his affairs, instead of sending him out to the field to labour with the other slaves. The prosperity of Potiphar therefore became subject to the servant he had bought. Likewise, the prosperity of Gentiles is subject to Christ, the servant of God to whom all power has been given.
From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field. Genesis 39:5 ESV
In a similar fashion to Potiphar, when we place our affairs into the hands of Jesus, we will be similarly blessed. Among other blessings, we will receive forgiveness of sins “for Christ’s sake”.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV
So Potiphar receiving blessings for Joseph’s sake, we likewise will receive the blessing for Christ’s sake. In our case, the blessing will be forgiveness of our sins.
We are told that Potiphar left all that he had in Joseph’s hands.
So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Genesis 39:6 ESV
Christ likewise had been given complete power to supervise the house of God. He administered it as his own.
Joseph and the wife of Potiphar
We are told that Joseph was attractive man:
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Genesis 39:6 ESV
The Hebrew words here mean he was beautiful in countenance. Joseph’s character was reflected in his personal appearance. Joseph was a young man of fine, upstanding, attractive appearance, and in his good looks, he seems to have taken after his mother Rachel. His attractive personality was also appreciated in Potiphar’s house which led to what happened next.
And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” Genesis 39:7 ESV
It is hardly likely that the invitation would have come as abruptly as it is stated in this verse. Potiphar’s wife, no doubt, would first have ingratiated herself in Joseph’s eyes by acts of consideration and favour towards him. Then, as she imagined she had caught him in the web, she would have made the suggestion in verse seven.
In relation to this, look at the words from the book of Revelation:
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. Revelation 2:20 ESV
Potiphar’s wife is similar to Jezebel seducing those who belong to Christ amongst the gentiles. Yet the brethren of Christ were exhorted to resist these temptations put in front of them. In a similar way we are also told to stay close to God to the end and resist all temptations that this world has to offer.
Likewise, Joseph made it clear that he had been given a trusted position in the house and would not allow any temptation to affect his high morality, no calamity to shake his faith in God and no adversity to depress him.
This is a strong example for us as we face the day by day trials of this world.
Joseph asked the question “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?”.
Likewise Christ resisted all evil and...... likewise we must also.
However, Potiphar’s wife’s passion became an obsession, and she was determined to have her way with Joseph. He was subjected to constant temptation, as day after day, she continued to tease and invite him. The tension in the house must have built up to difficult levels.
Then one day Joseph and Potiphar’s wife were the only ones in the house. This provided her with the opportunity that Joseph had been able to avoid up to that time. She grabbed his garment and made her suggestions again, he ran from the house leaving the garment in her hand.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Galatians 3:27 ESV
Baptised believers all wear a special garment, which is, in symbol, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the world will try to strip that garment from us as it attempts to seduce us. What Potiphar’s wife did to Joseph, the world attempts to do to many of Joseph’s brethren living today. Let us manifest the same integrity as Joseph, and refuse to succumb to the attractive appeal of worldliness. Let us be strong and ask the same question Joseph asked when we are faced with the ways of this world :
“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God ?”
If we ask this question and then answer it correctly as Joseph did, then God willing there will be a place for us in the coming kingdom where we can be with not only Joseph but the man who he pointed forward to, that is, the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Joseph ran away, Potiphar's wife was very angry.
she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, Genesis 39:14-16 ESV
In these words you can see the contempt and dislike she had for her husband. She blamed him for bringing this slave in amongst them. But in addition to this she took full advantage of race prejudice by calling Joseph a Hebrew. It is very similar to what we see these days, with the negative feelings to Israel by a large part of the world.
and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. Genesis 39:17 ESV
Again we see Potiphar’s wife taking advantage of racial prejudice by calling Joseph a Hebrew. She then goes on to indirectly blame her husband for what had happened. And then she blames Joseph himself.
So all the fabricated evidence was against Joseph. What could he do to prove his innocence ? In a similar way, the accusations were laid against Jesus by the Jews, and later on against his brethren by the Gentiles.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:3 ESV
Or as the NIV puts it :
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:3 NIV
Paul exhorts us to do the same. We will face opposition in our lives from those of the world and we are exhorted to endure such opposition for Christ’s sake.
Joseph is cast into prison
So we see Potiphar’s wife making this accusation and her husband believing it. Unable to prove his innocence, Joseph was stripped of his office and cast into prison. He was not only imprisoned but we know from Psalm 105 that his feet were put in fetters. The prison he was put in was the royal prison for court officials.
In the first moments of his imprisonment, Joseph must have been of a confused and depressed state of mind. Here he was in prison as a result of false accusation. But like Jesus had to suffer for a good result for the house of Israel, in a similar way Joseph also had to suffer so that a good result would be brought about for the house of Israel.
Yet Stephen said in his answer to his accusers that even when Joseph was in prison he had God with him. In like manner, God can be with us in the most distressing of circumstances, and it is for our own good to remember this.
God was indeed with Joseph, for he gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. Joseph had proven trustworthy and as a result, the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners in the prison.
The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph's charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed. Genesis 39:23 ESV
So the warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
As a prisoner and slave, Joseph could have seen his situation as hopeless. Instead, he did his best with each small task given him. His diligence and positive attitude were soon noticed by the jail warden, who promoted him to prison administrator.
Are you facing a seemingly hopeless predicament? At work or at home? Well then you need to follow Joseph’s example by taking each small task and doing your best. Remember how God turned Joseph’s situation around. He will see your efforts and can reverse even overwhelming odds.
God was with Joseph because Joseph, in his troubles, had drawn near to God.
James, in his letter, wrote about drawing near to God:
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 ESV
This verse makes it clear that to draw near to God we need to purify ourselves like the priests did in the Old Testament. And if we draw near to God in a state where we have tried to keep ourselves clean of sin, then God will draw near to us. This is what happened in the case of Joseph.
And returning to Genesis chapter 39 it tells us in verse 39 that because the Lord was with Joseph he gave him success in whatever he did. Though Joseph did not understand the purpose of his sufferings, he never lost faith in God. Most likely, in the darkness of the prison, he would have thought about the dreams he had received years before, and would have realised that in some way there would be a improvement of his current situation. He exercised patience and waited for God to act.
If we commit ourselves to God in righteous lives, then God will guide our steps and frame our way for comfort and well-being. It is where we leave God out of lives and follow other things for our own purposes that we leave ourselves open to be trapped.
Joseph was not in this class, he feared God and was afraid of sin. As a result, God protected him when he found himself in the middle of evil situations, and God guided his paths to honour.
The keeper of the prison found that he could trust Joseph and that under his hand, the prison functioned efficiently.
The next part in the series on Joseph
In the next part we look at the story of the Pharoah's cup-bearer and baker. We see how they are thrown into jail by Pharoah and whilst there, both have a dream. Joseph interprets their dreams to reveal their future. Later on, Pharoah also has a dream which Joseph correctly interprets leading him to become second in charge of Egypt.
E-mail the web manager with questions or comments about this Web site.
Last Updated: Sunday, 08 March 2015