Writer’s Note: One of the characteristics I hope follows me during my time on this earth is that I pursued excellence in whatever I did in order to magnify the name of the Lord Jesus. With that in mind, and in light of the passages in Scripture I’ve been reading lately, it is clear that I have fallen woefully shortly in recent months & years, and I am committing myself to pursuing excellence each day, starting with today. Thanks for reading this entry regarding the life of Joseph, an extraordinary man in every sense of the word.
Imagine what it would feel like to be hated by your siblings because your parents favor you over them, of no doing of your own, and as a result being sold by your siblings into slavery, sold to a stranger, a passerby who only wanted you in order to make a profit.
Imagine what it would feel like to be sexually harassed daily in your place of employment, then to be falsely accused of sexual assault by the very one doing the harassing, and then imprisoned unjustly based on that false accusation with no evidence or witnesses.
Imagine what it would feel like to help a fellow prisoner be freed from prison (through legal means, of course), and then to be forgotten by that very person once they are free.
These are some of the highlights of the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel, the foundation of the Israelite nation. What I find most fascinating about Joseph’s journey are the details in between these highlights, and there is a lot we can learn from these intermittent details. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the first highlight, and we’ll discuss the other two in future blogs.
In verse 2 of chapter 37, we read that Joseph brought a bad report about his brothers to his father, and I’m sure his brothers didn’t appreciate that. This may have been a reoccurring role for Joseph to go check on his brothers and bring a report, as verses 12-14 describe, and overall, it appears Joseph was a positive person who obeyed his father’s orders to check on his brothers and report back. This may also have caused tension between him and his brothers.
When Joseph was sold into slavery by his siblings due to their jealousy, he was sold to a merchant trader whose sole purpose in buying Joseph was to make money. It was a business deal, no more, no less. It would have been understandable, and even reasonable, if Joseph would have become angry and bitter at what transpired between him and his brothers, but the text doesn’t say.
It also doesn’t tell us much about what happened on the walk from Dothan to Egypt, which was about a 500-mile journey. I wonder what went on during that walk. Was Joseph complaining or did he have a positive attitude? Was he kicking and screaming or was he cooperating? Was there any dialogue between him and the trader?
The only detail we’re given in verse 36 is that when they arrived in Egypt, the merchant traders sold him to Potiphar, the second most powerful man in Egypt. So what would give these traders the confidence to offer Joseph to Potiphar? Keep in mind, if a trader offers a lemon to the most powerful people in the land, his reputation would be tarnished forever. But that is not the case here, as the merchant trader goes straight to Potiphar to offer Joseph, and probably for a pretty hefty price, I would imagine.
What’s also fascinating about this story is that Joseph’s siblings sold him to an Ishmaelite. If we look back just a few generations back to Genesis 16 & 21, it would be safe to assume the Israelites (Joseph’s family which descended from Isaac and Abraham) were not fans of the Ishmaelites (Ishmael being the son born to Abraham and Hagar, Sarah’s servant, whom they sent away once Isaac was born). So on top of being sold into slavery, Joseph was sold to an enemy. However, somewhere along the long walk to Egypt, Joseph won the favor of the merchant trader who saw fit to offer Joseph to the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. We can have confidence in this based on what we see in Joseph’s life as the story continues.
Once Joseph was sold to Potiphar, he lived in Potiphar’s home. He was still a slave, mind you, tending to Potiphar’s affairs for only living accommodations. It was probably a nice home, but it did not belong to Joseph. He was merely a hired hand. However, once again Joseph quickly won over Potiphar as someone who could be trusted to handle his business, and Potiphar eventually turned over all management of his entire household to Joseph’s care. Verse 6 of chapter 39 tells us that Potiphar was so pleased with Joseph’s work that “he did not concern himself with anything but the food he ate.” That is a pretty strong endorsement from the second most powerful man in all of Egypt, whose business affairs were probably quite expansive. But Joseph was up to the task, handling his work with excellence and earning favor from an unlikely advocate.
Lessons we can all take away from this highlight in Joseph’s life:
- When we’re in a bad situation, even one that wasn’t due to anything we did wrong, our attitude and work ethic can bring about a positive result.
- When life seems out of control, we can take hope from the fact that God is always in control and working out His plan for our good and His glory.
- The way we handle ourselves can turn enemies into friends and those in charge of you into your greatest supporters.