There is a series of intended acts narrated at Chapter 37 of the Book of Genesis, which culminates in the sale of Joseph.
I don’t think that anyone has more facts than anyone else except as narrated in the said chapter, which I consider pivotal in determining the human trafficking of Joseph which takes place in Dothan, where Jacob’s ten brothers had meandered into from Shechem with their flock.
The fist part of evil intent is expressed by the sons of Bilhah and Zilpha, the maid servants of Rachel & Leah, who when they sighted Joseph afar discussed among themselves that if they killed Joseph, they could put an end to the fulfilment of Joseph’s DREAMS.
Who were the sons of Bilhah & Zilpah?
Dan and Naphtali were Bilhah’s; and Gad and Asher were Zilpah’s children by Jacob. Essentially the four sons who conspired to kill the dreams of Joseph were these four boys born to the maids of Jacob’s wives.
From the narration it is clear that these 4 were in the outer, if we look at the formation of the wives and children of Jacob when they were arranged by Jacob to meet Esau, his bother, at the vanguard were these two maids and their 4 sons. The middle was Leah and her six boys; and the rearguard comprised of Rachel and her two sons Joseph and Benjamin.
This formation must have been the hierarchical structure within the brothers too.
It is clear that they could PROPOSE BUT CANNOT EXECUTE WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF RUBEN.
Ruben heard the conspiracy and tells these four to desist from killing Joseph but to keep him in the pit so that Ruben could rescue Joseph later.
From the narration it is clear that Judah enters with his own proposal of selling Joseph to the Ishmeelites who were on their way to Egypt with their spices and myrrh sourced from Gilead.
When Judah and his brothers were waiting, Midianites pull out Joseph from the pit and sell Joseph for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmeelites.
28 Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
But there arises a contradiction at the end of the chapter wherein it is mentioned as follows:
36 And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
Therefore, the ultimate sale is made in Egypt by the same Midianites to Potiphar.
So what is this arrangement between Ishmeelites and the Midianites?
I believe in speculation that after retrieval of Joseph from the pit, the Midianites who were merchants in articles did not want to take up trading in slaves nor were they into human trafficking, which involved controlling the human being, guarding, feeding and marching him to Egypt, which they as merchants didn’t want to get embroiled in, consequently the Midianites must have sold Joseph for 20 pieces of silver with the assurance that if the Ishmeelites were to successfully bring Joseph to Egypt, the Midianites would get Joseph sold to someone at a good price, which would not only make good their 20 silver but fetch a better price including the cost of transporting joseph and a handsome profit over and above their initial investment. The Midianites would also get a commission on the final sale price.
Wonderful arrangement it seems.
So Ruben returns and finds that Joseph was not in the pit. What was his reaction?
Was Judah with his elder brothers Simeon & Levi the types who would have meekly left the scene without any money?
I guess not.
There is enough room to spin a big Hollywood story on this missing link.
Ruben is astonished that Joseph was not in the pit. Look at Ruben’s reaction, quite sincere:
29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
Ruben is astonished and he is bothered more about how he would answer their father Jacob. The story is spun, the multicoloured coat which the maids’ boys had stripped was drenched with blood and presented to Jacob, as if Joseph was killed by a wild animal on his way to meet his brothers.
There is no effort by the four boys of the maids nor is there any mention of Simeon. In the latter chapters it is shown how Joseph had kept Simeon as a pledge till Benjamin was brought to him. Why Simeon? Simeon and Judah were the FORCE, the brutal force of the twelve and they were a pair. Joseph with all his experience in the most trying circumstances had learnt that these two HAD TO BE SEPARATED and by a master stroke separates Judah from Simeon, while taking Simeon as a pledge.
So from Chapter 37, the persons who were responsible for the sale of Joseph were Judah, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali Gad and Asher.
Ruben was kept ignorant and like a chief executive who is only worried about his charge, upon a credible alibi propounded by the conspirators abandons his pursuit of facts.
Levi was absent and the other two boys Zebulun and Issachar were probably hoodwinked by their powerful siblings Judah and Simeon.
But did Judah and Simeon make a part of the money out of the 20 silver coins?
For all we know, it could have been these two who had shown the boy in the pit to the Midianites to rescue Joseph and later enter into an arrangement with the human trafficking Ishmeelites.
Maybe Judah used the ill-gotten silver to obtain his wife Shuah, which appears in the very next chapter. A much older Judah is seen with bracelets, staff , all those accoutrements of a dandy when he went after his own daughter-in-law, whom he thought as a harlot‼️
Let us look at Joseph’s version
15 For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews:
Joseph says he was STOLEN and nowhere does he say that he was SOLD BY HIS BROTHERS, that is probably because joseph didn’t want to belittle his older siblings in the eyes of the superior Egyptians. But later in chapter 45 when Joseph makes himself known as Joseph to his brothers he says thus:
5 Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
Joseph’s verdict is that ‘they had sold’
But not before Joseph brings two of his brothers to super time trouble. Simeon was bound and kept for at least 6 months, as only 2 years had expired at the time when joseph made himself known to his brothers.
Secondly, Joseph humbles Judah to such an extent that he makes Judah tell Joseph that he be taken as a bond man instead of Benjamin.
Joseph, who was perceptive wouldn’t have done these to Judah and Simeon, if they had been blameless.
Definitely, Judah and Simeon were the boys who benefitted by the sale and pretended as if the Midianites rescued Joseph and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites.
Why am I leaving out Levi? Levi teamed up with Simeon in the matter of Dinah in respect of Hamor of Shechem, but there was a gross injustice involved of using force to rape Dinah and in this case, Levi wouldn’t have involved himself in such a despicable deal. Simeon was up to any violent deal and Judah’s line of reasoning was always ‘profitability’. Considering these traits I am inclined to believe that Judah and Simeon were responsible for an operation amounting to a sale with the active assistance of the Midianites, disguised as an act of stealing which happened when they left the boy Joseph in the pit‼️
Posts tagged ‘joseph’
What is indigestible to my sense of proportion regarding the Christian clergy, is their skimming over facts to sustain their impression of certain Biblical characters.
Joseph, whose history finds narration in the late 30’s and early 40’s of the Book of Genesis, is gilted by the preachers to purvey their notions of Joseph. My mom, was so fascinated by those homilies that she decided to name me after him, which for me has turned into a double jeopardy! One I am supposed to be WISE, EFFICIENT & SPOTLESS like the Genesis Joseph. Secondly, others expect me to be meek like Mary’s husband and the foster father of Jesus. Both the Josephs hardly did anything to deserve what they got!
Ten of his brothers wanted to put Old Testament’s Joseph’s dreams to test, in the New Testament matter, an angel convinced him that the child of Mary was of the Holy Ghost and not through fornication. Both the Joseph’s would have been happier had they not been put through what they had been put through providence!
The caption of this blog is with specific reference to the Joseph of the Old Testament. The preachers I’ve listened to have emphasised on three major points : IMPECCABLE PERSONAL LIFE OF JOSEPH; DILIGENT IN WHATEVER WAS ASSIGNED TO HIM; finally, HIS HOPE WITHOUT ANY ASSURANCE FROM THE CIRCUMSTANCES HE FOUND HIMSELF IN! The three points are all true, but the preachers fail to talk of how Joseph incarcerated his 10 brothers, including Ruben, for three days and close to a year Simeon!
That was what made Joseph an able administrator! He had a long memory and he carpe deim-ed superbly well, when he was offered a slight chance! He believed in his OWN DREAMS & DID NOT LET GO OF A HALF-CHANCE, WHEN IT LENT ITSELF TO HIS VIEW!
Ruben is supposed to have tried to save Joseph from his brothers, by first recommending his assignment to a pit for later recovery, instead of killing Joseph. Meanwhile the rapacious Judah, devises to get more out of the lad, than merely getting Joseph out of the way by selling Joseph for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites!
Joseph, as narrated in Genesis, was inescapably under the control of murderous, rapacious and lying brothers, except for Ruben. Joseph puts him also in jail for three days, hoping Ruben would sprout a spine. Joseph gives an intense treatment to his ten brothers, of what he himself had to go through hopelessly for more than a decade, clutching at a hope that the Cup bearer of the Pharoah, would get him out through a timely word slipped to the Pharaoh while offering his heady potion! All his efforts had been in vain. Nothing brought him the intended results within the expected time frame, which in lesser mortals could have nibbled away their Hope! Joseph persisted, by hindsight it is easy to say that he was able to sustain his hope because of his innocence. Only two people knew about his culpability, joseph being the one, and the other being Potiphar’s wife!
When he got his brothers, excepting Benjamin, he got them by what hurt them most. When the sh** hits the roof, each is on his own, in keeping with that old adage, the brothers call into remembrance their guilt of not having been kind to the desperate pleas of their stripling brother Joseph. Three days in the cooler and each cracks up – JAILED IN AN ALIEN LAND, where the Egyptians believe that they are superior to the shepherdic Jews(?)- there were hardly 70 jews by then- alive.
Joseph, gets each one to pay for his heartlessness or complicity to it. The best part was, Joseph separates Simeon from Levi! What an administrative genius. Joseph keeps them apart for close to a year! Joseph makes Judah mellow down and keeps Simeon incommunicado from his other brothers. Joseph doesn’t even reveal to Simeon that he was Simeon’s brother, till they all return for the second trip.
What amazes me is Joseph’s assessment of people and situation coupled with restraint when clothed with absolute power. Joseph was one who disproved Lord Acton’s off quoted saying on POWER, long before the saying came in!
It is time Christian preachers taught the willing, such aspects of the Jewish history instead of packaging Joseph as an icon for encapsulating their pet half-baked guilt theories!
Which piece of cloth? as it is preceded by the definite article! The garment which was shown by Potiphar’s wife to Potiphar, as a symbol for Joseph having attempted to outrage the modesty of Potiphar’s wife.
The same garment which was actually the proof of Joseph having fled from his youthful lust (that is, if you believe what is mentioned in Genesis Ch.39 ) became a PROOF of the allegation of Joseph’s attempted, shall we call it RAPE? There is no such thing as “attempt of rape”, at least to the best of my knowledge in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Either it should have been committed for it to be called thus or it isn’t! Rest of all unwelcome tactile sexual advances could be called only an “outrage” of the modesty of a woman. Another fault is that the “outrage the modesty of a woman” presupposes universal modesty in woman – am i sure? Nay.
So the case was decided in favour of the complainant, who had a proof in the garment of Joseph in her hands. THE BIBLE says: POTIPHAR’S WRATH WAS KINDLED! Even assuming that Potiphar had asked for an explanation from Joseph, let us ask ourselves IF JOSEPH COULD HAVE NARRATED THE TRUTH? Had he, then that would have shown his master as an ‘ATTEMPTED CUCKOLD’ and in the eyes of the master and his mistress he would have instead of explaining his innocence would have to ACCUSE his mistress as History’s FIRST ATTEMPTER OF RAPING A MALE, well how can a woman rape a male without him having an erection? So let us call Potiphar’s wife’s offence as ATTEMPT TO DOCK A MALE. That would have had direr consequences – Potiphar would have wanted to “silence” him of the secrets of his wife, who probably had descended to the level of a slave, because of the constant assault on her senses arising out of proximity.
In any case, Potiphar jailed Joseph and ensured that Joseph was sequestered from the wanton ways of his wife. At verse 16 it says: AND SHE LAID UP HIS GARMENT BY HER, UNTIL HIS LORD CAME HOME! King James Version English is amazing! LAID UP instead of ‘kept’ or ‘hid’ the garment – Potiphar’s wife seems to have quite exhilarated about having been at least with the shards of Joseph for a while, instead of having been disgusted with a slave’s garment! Further, it is HIS LORD and not HER HUSBAND or HER LORD!
Thus the piece of cloth served as a proof in her hands not as a remnant of the failed attempt of a faithless wife, but to exonerate herself and to also wreak vengeance ‘on a sow which refused to respect the pearls offered to it in private’.
The problem is that this is an episode narrated in the Bible and as a Christian I have to believe in everything said in the Bible, but when we reconstruct the same episode scene by scene like a script writer of an historical episode, there are different weightages to be apportioned to each piece of evidence, otherwise we would be placing emphasis on where it is not due. But who is to decide on the correctness of ascription of weightage? So that is where LIBERTY comes in and God in his wisdom has given the balance to weigh according to the moral fibre of the man who weighs.
So if we go scene by scene would we have decided in favour of Potiphar’s wife, had we been Potiphar?
Even if Joseph had told the whole truth, as only 3 persons knew the TRUTH, one was Joseph, second Potiphar’s wife and as always, God. Now God cannot be a witness, except when he chooses to be one, in insignificant human disputes! And in this case, the winner who had written this part, was on Joseph’s side, but at that point, it was a wife’s word against a slave’s word. To compound, Potiphar had to rise to defend his honour in which , if Potiphar were to have believed Joseph’s version, that would have been a hara-kiri on his manhood. Naturally Potiphar went with his wife!
PITY, was what was evoked in our hearts, and like as in Job’s case, had the end not compensated for the calamities in the middle, it would have never found a place in the scriptures as a superb morale booster to the endurance in sufferings of the present.
It all boils down to whether the ‘piece of cloth’ serves that day’s POLITICAL PURPOSE. TRUTH dawns much later. Have we taken sides yet? Better not, we have heard only one side of the story – Moses’ recounting of a history which was at least 400 years old. As some wisely say: ANYTHING COULD HAVE HAPPENED.
When Moses, the Jew, discovered that he was not born to the Pharaoh’s sister but to a Jewess called Joshebeth, he had to decide. Decide whether he was to stay at the palace of the Pharaoh on grounds of charity and continuity, or to assume the responsibility of his recently discovered pedigree, and exit to toil with the Jews- who had by then for all practical purposes have become slaves.
HISTORY DOES NOT REPEAT ITSELF, BUT THE PATTERNS THAT HISTORICAL FACTS OFFER, REAPPEAR WITH A DIFFERENT SET OF FACTS.
Let me exemplify this from the set of historical facts, from the life of MOSES, which have contributed to the growth of the LABOUR UNIONS.
Continuing with the IDEA of Moses, he decided to identify himself with the Jews who had by then slipped into slavery. From Pharaoh’s son he had plummeted to being a slave. Now like the case of Arion (http://www.classicreader.com/book/2823/27/), who mounted the dancing Dolphins in the mid-sea, Moses went back to his family of Joshebeth, Aaron, Miriam etc.. But what could Moses do without the position and the recognition and the Authority that he enjoyed earlier? NOTHING. Absolutely NOTHING. He even gets angry with an Egyptian for ill-treating a Jew, and kills him. So he escapes when Moses gets to know that the fact of his killing had got around. Lands up in Midian and becomes the Son-in-law of Jethro, by marrying Zipphora.
Now at the age of 80 he writes PSALM 90 where he says that a man’s life span is three score and ten or four score. Moses had reached the end of his time. In all likelihood Moses believed in it. But like Dylan Thomas he is not willing to go down gentle into that night without a fight (http://www.welshwales.co.uk/dylan.htm#gentle). Moses makes a last ditch attempt and God appears in a bush of fire.
Moses meets Pharaoh and asks him to relieve the Jews of the bondage and allow them to worship the God of their fathers in the wilderness.
MOSES FIRST WEANS THE SLAVES AWAY FROM THEIR TASKMASTERS. THAT IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARDS BRINGING THEM CLOSE TO GOD. HUMAN BEINGS ARE IN THIS WORLD NEITHER TO SERVE OTHER HUMAN BEINGS NOR TO SPEND THEIR LIVES SOLELY TO FEED THEMSELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES.
It is this REALIZATION that brings LIBERATION.
Therefore the Jews were made to realize that true LIBERTY is achieved only when they possess their own lands and build their own cities and own their own livestock and worship unhindered their own GOD. They cannot get growth through SURROGACY of building the Pyramids for Pharaohs and making the Pharaohs a rich and powerful dynasty.
Moses weans them away and leaves the Pharaoh with a kingdom without the WORKFORCE.
The maintenance of the cities, the cultivating and loading of the granaries with food grains and being mercenaries in the armies of the Pharaoh all took a beating. All the organizing that was done by JOSEPH, the son of JACOB, was DISMANTLED 480 years later by MOSES. The Pharaoh had been deprived of the workforce, that merely lived on fleshpots and shacks to stay.
From the facts of the life of MOSES, it is not inappropriate to draw the conclusion that Moses was the first TRADE UNION LEADER. But the difference in fact was that he obtained for Jews their Liberty and not better wages and compensation.
The interesting part was that as long as he had the WORKFORCE under him, when he was still Pharaoh’s sister’s son, Moses never thought of their Liberty. It was only after he had reached the time limit of 80 years ( as per Psalm 90), that he took his chance at integrating the Jews with the LIBERTY concept.
NECESSITY, AFTER ALL IS THE MOTHER OF ALL INVENTIONS!
The title relates to the Biblical characters who find a place in the Book of Genesis and Judges respectively. The point that is the focus of my blog is the relationship that Joseph and Samson had with their respective women.
Joseph was a slave in Egypt, because his brothers (especially Judah, who had the bright idea that what would the brothers benefit if they killed him, so more as a matter of greed they agree with Judah and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites) had sold him and he winds up in the Pharoah’s Chief of Guards house and becomes a steward there. The Chief of the Guards is one Potiphar, who has a wife who eyes Joseph and openly and shamelessly makes a declaration of her lust to Joseph and says, “LIE WITH ME.” The story goes that one day when Joseph was alone, Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce him and Joseph runs away leaving his cloak behind, making that cloak a piece of evidence for Potiphar’s wife to bolster her accusation that the slave Joseph was trying to force himself upon her. Potiphar believes her and puts him in the Special Jail meant for the Royal Prisoners (persons who were working for the royalty and fell out of favour with the Royalty for one reason or the other!)
Let us see Samson’s story. He was from the tribe of Dan, not a powerful tribe within the Jewry like Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin or Judah, and he was a VALOROUS MAN. A man who with the jaw-bone of an ass, killed a thousand men (Judges 15:15). He had taken many women from time to time but the Bible says that he fell in LOVE with a woman called DELILAH.
Whether she loved Samson or not is a mystery, but to put it a woman’s lib way, “DELILAH LOVED SAMSON IN HER OWN WAY!!” She was however under the payroll of the Philistine Lords who promised her 1100 pieces of silver each for finding out the secret of the strength of Samson and revealing the same to the Philistine Lords. Then one of the most terrible of charades of love unfolds, where Delilah PESTERS him daily for telling him the secret of his strength.
Judges 16:15 And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.
16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
Samson is caught, after his locks were shaven while he was lulled into sleep by Delilah on her lap, taken bound hand and foot and made a spectacle before the Philistines. He was caught by the guile of the Philistines and the treachery of Delilah. Samson could not take it anymore and his hair had grown (Philistines were so dumb that they did not get his head shaved on a daily basis) and his strength was returning!! So one day while the SPECTACLE OF THE BLINDED SAMSON WAS GOING ON IN A CLOSED THEATRE HE PRAYS TO HIS GOD THUS-
JUDGES 16:28 And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.
30 And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
NEVER ONCE WAS THAT VERSE 28 OF CHAPTER 16 READ BY ME WITHOUT TEARS WELLING UP IN MY EYES WITH PITY FOR THE VALOROUS SAMSON.
The man who cared for none, and had led a life where he had taken STRENGTH for granted , begs God, for REMEMBERING him THIS ONLY ONCE for committing a SUICIDAL ATTACK. From a Jew’s point of view, he had even forgotten that there was a life after Death and through this prayer he seeks a finality not only to his woes, but also to any FURTHER CONSCIOUSNESS. It is the ultimate passage in PATHOS, which out-pathoses even KING LEAR of Shakespeare.
Now these two characters i.e Joseph and Samson are in stark contrast. One FLEES FROM THE TEMPTATION OF A PHYSICAL RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOMAN and THE OTHER WALKS INTO IT WITHOUT HAVING A CLUE AS TO WHERE IT WAS LEADING HIM.
7 And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,
8 Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,
9 In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:
11 (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:
12 Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)
13 So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,
15 Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.
21 With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.
VERSES 6-18 OF THE CHAPTER 7 OF PROVERBS, defines both Potiphar’s wife as well as Delilah. The consequences of having a physical relationship with women of that type is enumerated in verses 21-23 of the same chapter. So this is the statistical TRUTH. Mostly, if humans were to take to such women, they are likely to end up the way, as mentioned above. As an example to these verses Joseph and Samson could be cited.
But unfortunately, LOGIC does not end here. It goes beyond and tries to apply the formula in respect of every case. So when we apply this formula to the case of KING DAVID, it miserably fails. King David was not only a notorious womanizer, but at least in one case, i.e in Bathsheba’s case was an adulterer and a murderer. That is leaving out the case of Abigail, the wife of Nabal- as it is difficult to believe that Nabal died out of a contrite spirit and not of the conspiracy entered into between Abigail and David the previous night based on their meeting. Maybe Nabal died more out of the knowledge that his wife Abigail had met David on the sly without his knowledge!! As it is Nabal did not have a good opinion of David and in sexual matters he must have had a fairly good idea of David’s proclivities.
But David survives it all, and proves to be an exception. That is GRACE. David had obtained IMMUNITY from the general RULE. That is because he TRUSTED in THE MERCY OF GOD. And at every instance, when he was informed of his wrongdoing, he was not merely PENITENT but also took all reasonable steps to ensure that his GUILT is not made a PUBLIC ISSUE. In fact, if Adonijah had become the King, it would have been quite possible that Adonijah would have made the Prophets and Priests as the witnesses and proved the guilt of adultery between Bathsheba and King David, and got Bathsheba executed for adultery after the death of King David. So King David, while still alive, WISELY declares Solomon, the son of Bathsheba and David as the heir to the throne and protects his own name after his death besides protecting the interests of the co-adulterer. AFTER ALL ONLY A SON COULD BE TRUSTED WITH THE JOB OF PROTECTING THE MOTHER’S HONOUR AND NOT A STEP SON, U SEE!!
If one asks the question, why Samson was caught up in the snare of the woman Delilah but not David, when both of them had led a dissolute life, there is no logical answer to it. Jesus beautifully solves this conundrum in the Gospel of Luke chapter 13 as follows:-
3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
So what Jesus says is that we are still ALIVE by HIS GRACE and let us not squander our TIME by taking individual instances and testing the ESSENTIAL TRUTHS against isolated cases, which have escaped the general laws of RETRIBUTION. Let us make use of the TIME to REPENT and REFORM. As that is the objective of LIFE.
In THE BIBLE chapters 37-50 of the very first book, GENESIS, one could find the narrative of the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob. There are many episodes that have been narrated, but the episode that brings out Joseph’s DEVOTION TO DUTY and HIS SEXUAL PURITY relates to this one episode where Potiphar’s wife (Potiphar was the captain of the Guards of the Pharoah of Egypt), pursues Joseph , who was a slave then at Potiphar’s house, with vehemence and shamelessness.
Potiphar’s wife’s name is not given in the Bible, making it a little cumbersome to be identified as Potiphar’s wife everytime and not by her own distinct name. However it should be pointed out that Thomas Mann, the German Novelist had overcome this problem by naming her MUT-EM-ENET in his novel JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS. However, since i write this blog entirely based on the Bible, she shall remain Potiphar’s wife with no distinct name- just like Lot’s wife, Noah’s wife etc. etc.
Genesis ch.39 says as follows:-
39:7 It happened after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph; and she said, “Lie with me.”
further down Potiphar’s wife says:-
39:12 She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” He left his garment in her hand, and ran outside.
In the Bible there have been many female characters who have seduced powerful men to their doom, like Samson being seduced and the truth extracted to his detriment by Delilah; Jael inviting Sisera to her home/tent and driving a tent peg into his temple; Herodias extracting an irrevocable promise from, her husband and erstwhile brother-in-law, Herod through Salome; Esther using her status and charm to get Haman executed and in the Catholic Bible the story of Judith.
What sets these seductions different from that of Joseph’s story?
All the characters viz. Samson, Sisera, Herod, Xerxes and Holofernes had already reached their respective positions of eminence. Here we find that Joseph had not yet reached any position of eminence or prominence. Only by hindsight we know that he was on his way up. But at that point, maybe 2-3 years before he was promoted as the Governor of Egypt, he was a MERE SLAVE. And in the words of the accusing Potiphar’s wife A HEBREW WHO HAS COME TO MOCK THE EGYPTIANS. When Joseph has food for the first time with his brothers, he (who was accorded the status of an Egyptian) would not sit with them as it was INFRA DIG to have food with the shepherdic Hebrews. So we can imagine the contempt with which the Egyptians must have held the nomadic Hebrews!!
But Potiphar’s wife says LIE WITH ME!
It was not a sudden passionate invitation from his master’s mistress. It was the culmination of a mind imbued with the very thought of Joseph, the Hebrew. Potiphar’s wife could have had any MAN, but for her Joseph was THE MAN. The man who though placed below in station of life, yet worthy enough to climb the bed of his master!! That inner worthiness was first discovered by Potiphar’s wife much before the butler and the baker had had the opportunity to discover. POTIPHAR’S WIFE WAS THE FIRST DISCOVERER OF JOSEPH’S WORTHINESS.
But Joseph did not go for it. Joseph is stated to have said, ” howI could indulge in this wickedness against my master Potiphar”. He waited for RECOGNITION. An official RECOGNITION. He had dreamt that he would be elevated in life, but he did not want the unofficial clandestine relationship with Potiphar’s wife which was fraught with troubles. He was waiting for that OFFICIAL RECOGNITION WITH HOPE.
It is quite possible to imagine that had he become the paramour of Potiphar’s wife she could have obtained further concessions from her husband for Joseph. But he had already reached a point of saturation, so far as Potiphar’s house was concerned. His last step could have been the matrimonial bed of Potiphar (there are stories which say that Potiphar was a Eunuch and that his marriage was more ceremonial than real). Joseph must have been acutely aware of the fall that could come about from that liaison- the other slaves might not want the Hebrew to become that powerful and therefore might sneak the secret to Potiphar somehow!!
But JOSEPH was wise. He HOPED and waited. He ran away leaving behind his clothes. I am sure Joseph would have had the strength and the wisdom not to leave his clothes in the hands of the wailing Potiphar’s wife, had he been the attempted rapist- as claimed by Potiphar’s wife. But he had no other consideration- HE WAS FLEEING AGAINST HIS OWN RISING TEMPTATION. He was fleeing his own youthful lust. Therefore he had no time to consider if his clothes could become evidence of his attempted rape of Potiphar’s wife.
Joseph is thrown into the jail and uses his administrative and executive skills to establish his preeminence over the other inmates. With hope he divines, and foretells the fates of the King’s butler and baker. But it takes 2 more years before he is rescued and brought out and honoured.
FOR WE KNOW THAT ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD.