Saturday, July 28, 2012

XXIII - Chapter 39 - Joseph and Temptation

Brief note:  You might have noticed that sometimes I'll type the abrevaition "vss" followed by "-->"  ie. vss 34-->  This means verse 34 and follows.

In the last post we covered chapter 38 and saw a rather dark side of Jacob's fourth son Judah.  Chapter 39 comes as a welcome relief as we pick back up on the life of Jacob's eleventh son Joseph.  Joseph's moral integrity stands in stark contrast to Judah's questionable conduct.   A quick reading of the scripture through Genesis 40, it would seem that God has forsaken Joseph, but as we study Joseph's life in its entirety we see that God was at work in Joseph's life every step of the way.  And nowhere that I can find did Joseph ever voice a single complaint.

Joseph was 17 years old when he was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelites and sold as a slave.  It so happened that he was purchased by Potifar, the Egyptian Captain of the Guard, a very high ranking official in the Egyptian government.  Vs 2 says the Lord was with Joseph and Joseph prospered, which meant that he performed well and in such a fashion that promoted trust in him by others.  I believe God's hand was in Joseph being puchased as a household servant because common sense tells me that a young healthy 17 year old would have been placed in the fields or some type of manual labor.  But instead he was placed in the home of an Egyptian official which probably served as a training ground in Egyptian administration, which would come in handy later.  Joseph had performed so well that Potifar promoted him to his personal attendant, in charge of everything he owned, including the other slaves.  Vss 5-->  Potifar  noticed that God was blessing not only Joseph, but also everything Potifar had in his whole estate.  He gave over everything he had to Joseph's charge and did not concern himself with any part of his business, which left Potifar the time to concentrate on the Pharoah's affairs, thus placing Potifar in a more favorable position with Pharoah.  So Joseph seems to have found his nitch.  Everybody was happy, and Joseph's life as a slave was about as good as it could be.  But we know things like that don't last long.

Vs 6b-->  Joseph was well built and handsome, and after not too long, Potifar's wife took notice of Joseph and tried to seduce him sexually.  But Joseph refused, not  allowing temptation to get a foothold.  He gave her two reasons for rejecting her advances:  1)  Potifar entrusted to him everything he owned and he wouldn't think of betraying him.   2)  It would be a sin against God.  Vs. 10 tells us that Potifar's wife was persistant, as she persued him day after day.  {I'm sure Potifer's wife was not accustomed to being rejected.  She probably got everything she wanted for quite some time up to this point.  Human nature has shown us that the thing a person will want the most, is the very thing he/she cannot have.  Ask Eve.}

Vss 11,12:  Merely talking to Joseph wasn't getting Potifar's wife what she wanted so, out of desperation, she arranged for all the household servants to be gone, and she physically lays her hands on Joseph, pleading with him to lie with her.  Here is an example of Joseph doing the proper thing in response to a bad situation like this:  He ran.  He simply ran.  Sometimes, we have no better option than to flee a situation which we know can lead to nothing but trouble.  He could not have persuaded her to stop this sinful behavior.  She was so aggressive that to physically ward off her advances would only result in injury to one or both of them.  Joseph made the right decision.  And he knew this was not going to turn out good, not matter what.  He became the proverbial "victim of circumstance".  I've never been aggressively seduced by a woman, but I've been in situations that have placed me as a victim of circumstance.  Life offers plenty of those.  We must be prepared for them.

Vss 13-18 tells the story of a "woman scorned".  She was rejected and she's going to exact revenge no matter what.  Amazing, isn't it?  The person whom she wanted so much was the very person she instantly came to hate.  As determined as she was to get Joseph to lie with her, she will now be equally detemined to make him pay.  {An additional quick thought about human nature:  Evil hates good more than good hates evil.  Joseph not only rejected her advances, but he took the high road while she was trying to drag him down into the muddy hole of sin and wrong doing.    Sinful wrong doers have always tried to drag good people down to their level.  I have been victimized by this and I'll bet you have too.  Shining light on the darkness of evil will always cause an aggressive response.}

She screamed for the servants to come.  Notice what she tells them in vs 14.  She says "this Hebrew has been brought in to make sport of us".    When I read this, I think of this "Hebrew" being promoted over all of you "Egyptians" and has been made your boss.  "And now look what happened", she said.  To me, she has stirred up a sensitive subject to these other servants, making them immediately sympathetic to her claims.  KJV says in verse 14 "See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us.....  In front of the servants, she is also placing some blame on Potifer.  Something tells me at this point that Potifar's marriage wasn't all that great, and she has criticized him in front of other people in times past.  Notice in verse 17 after Potiphar returns home, she says "That Hebrew slave YOU brought us came to me to make sport of me".  Adam tried to pull this on God back in capter 3.  Ever notice that guilty people will point the finger at as many people as they can so as to keep suspicion away from themselves?  People haven't really changed much through the centuries.

When Potifar returned, his wife had her tearful story, the testimony of the other servants, and Joseph's pile of clothes as evidence.  This was a perfect framing of Joseph for a crime he did not commit.  And I suspect she had an "I told you so about this Hebrew" to lay on Potifar as well.  Vs 19 says Potifar burned with anger and tossed Joseph in prison.  I am inclined to believe that Potifar was a bit suspicious about this whole matter, but opted to proceed with judgement against Joseph for fear that his servants would lose repect for him, not to mention the chilling atmosphere that would be in his home.  The Scripture doesn't give an account of Joseph being arrested and explaining himself, but I'm certain that Potifar himself approached Joseph about the incident.  I'm convinced of this because of where Jacob was imprisoned.  It says the place where the king's prisoners were confined.  This might be a stretch, but I've found that the prison of the king's was near the king's palace and was not so dungeon-like as the prison for the regular law breaking citizens.  But none the less, Joseph was now a prisoner.  He has gone from the son of Jacob, carrying the royal bloodline, to slave in a foreign country, to prisoner in a foreign country, none of which was caused by his own doing.  Joseph has the right to be a little discouraged right now.  But let's finish the chapter.  Vss 21-23  -  The Lord was with Joseph in prison.  He granted him favor in the eyes of the warden.  {By the way, although we as Christians are not to be OF the world, we must still be IN the world.   We must deal with both Godly and un-Godly people.  God will use both as vehicles to bless us and watch over us.  A good prayer to remember is to ask God to grant you favor in the eyes of the people that are in control of circumstances that effect your life and the lives of your family.}  Vs 22 tells us that the warden put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners plus everything that went on in the prison (administrative duties; jailers; security; etc.)  I am not sure how long Joseph was in prison before the warden gave him such responsibility and authority, but I would suspect a number of months.  In vs 23 the warden, like Potifar earlier, did not worry about anything when Joseph was in charge "because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did".  We all need to take lessons from Joseph.

Next post  -  Chapter 40  -  The Baker and the Cupbearer.

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