The Majesty of God
Chapter Eighteen – Joseph in Chains
Joseph, in the meantime, had been sent off to prison. His legs and hands were shackled and chained to inhibit movement and then he was herded into a pit to "think on his sins," as the guards said. He relived his slave market fears when the other prisoners leered at him and called out crude remarks as he passed by them on his way to the more secure section where the political prisoners were kept. The jailors remarked that he must be more cunning and dangerous than he looked, if Potipher did not want to risk his escape.
Nobody told him that he was not going to be put to death, and he did not realize that God had him placed with the political prisoners because they were not as rough and crude as the common criminals. He felt crushed. His dreams, that had seemed to be within his grasp, werr shattered. That hateful woman had interfered, demanding to use his body, even demanding that he surrender his whole soul to her, for that was what it would amount to, if he went against his conscience.
She put his life in danger almost every moment that he was inside that house, after he had been made steward. Why could she not have been content with her own husband? He resisted her, was falsely accused, imprisoned unjustly, and Potipher surely despised him now. He felt it keenly that Potipher believed him to be disloyal. Or so he assumed. Otherwise, why was he in jail?
Joseph dreaded what might be done to him before he was put to death, but he wanted to go to God in peace and die manfully. He prayed much that God would give him the strength to forgive, as well as the strength to endure what he must endure. In the stifling heat of that grungy pit that was crawling with loathsome things, Joseph worked on trying to forgive Potipher's wife for harrassing him, as well as Potipher for believing him to be a rapist, and he searched his heart for lurking unforgiveness against his brothers.
Joseph was surprised the next day when he was moved from his solitary pit to a trench with other prisoners. Nobody took him away to be tortured. The other prisoners asked him what he was arrested for. He said, "I have been falsely accused. I have done nothing wrong." They laughed coarsely and said, "That's what they all say." Another man said, "Well, it's true, in my case." The other prisoners turned their attention from Joseph and hectored the man who had said he was innocent, and slapped him around. Joseph learned from that to not say anything further about his innocence. He realized that he would have to demonstrate his character, rather than expect anyone to take his word for it that he was not a criminal.
Joseph was also mindful that each day might be his last, so he tried to do as much good as he could, while he could. The other prisoners found him kind and helpful. It wasn't always easy to do good for others because some looked at him with suspicion and asked what he wanted from them; others thought he was a sissy, and he had to defend himself against getting beat up.
Some of the prisoners tormented him with lurid tales of the kind of torture that went on in the prison, but after he saw Potipher in the prison, he realized that he was not going to be either tortured or put to death. Potipher said nothing to him. He only looked down at him coldly from the edge of the trenches and then turned away as if he did not know him at all. Potipher spoke to the warden about some business and then left.
Guards still did not come for Joseph to take him to a torture chamber either that day or the next. Joseph reasoned that, if a man truly believed that his wife had been tampered with, he would not delay to put him to excruciating torture. Due to official duties, Potipher might be prevented from doing such a thing immediately, but he would surely get around to it the next time he came to the prison. And, yet, such a thing had not happened. Could it be that Potipher believed he was innocent?
At first, he found it hard to believe that, if Potipher thought he was innocent, he would have put him in prison, but as he pondered things and considered Potipher's position, he realized that Potipher had been put in a corner just as much as he had, and that most nobles would have put him to death, even if they believed he was innocent. One could do anything to a slave. They could give their jealousy free rein.
No doubt, Potipher was jealous, hence the cold looks, but it was amazingly admirable of him that he restrained himself and only sent him to prison. Joseph knew nothing about Potipher's disdain for his wife and desire to humiliate her. It did not figure into his thoughts. He only felt grateful to his master for not killing him, and increased admiration for Potipher because he was so powerful, yet exercised that degree of control over his injured pride. He also realized that God had a hand in showing him mercy. If he had given in to temptation, it would have likely ensured his death, but because he remained faithful to God, God had his life spared.
Joseph did not know how God was going to cause his dreams to come true, but they were resurrected with fresh hope. Gratitude to God and gratitude to Potipher infused him with a will to be a faithful and productive servant to his master, even though his master had consigned him to this dreadful prison in heavy chains.
The warden soon noticed that Joseph had a far different attitude than the other prisoners and that he was very bright. He assigned Joseph the best duties and the other prisoners took note. When tough newcomers thought that such a pretty, young man might afford them some amusement, the others warned them, "You better leave him alone. The warden thinks a lot of him." This elicted some crude jokes, but nobody touched him, and Joseph learned to tune out their snide, disgusting remarks.
Joseph did not fear that the warden would molest him. The man's interest seemed to be fatherly, and he was appreciative that he did not have to do anything in the prison at all, except officiate as a figurehead; his job had turned into a sinecure!
Joseph was very capable of handling everything. When anyone came to the warden with a request, he just told them go ask Joseph about it, not even bothering to raise his head from his gambling, or his nap, or whatever he was doing at the time. Soon nobody inside the prison bothered him with requests anymore; they just went directly to Joseph. Joseph knew what the warden's wishes were likely to be and carried on, though he made a lot of improvements.
As when he was a steward, Joseph knew the prisoners would be more likely to cooperate if they were given reasonable expectations, and how he carried out his duties eventually won their respect. They heard that he raped a woman, but, after a while, they supposed that he had merely seduced her. It seemed unlikely that a youngster with his looks would need to rape a woman to get some action. It must have been the wrong woman, they conjectured, and admiringly told him that he was a bold, young dog to venture such a thing. Joseph did not bother to deny that he had seduced anyone, and he most certainly did not disclose who this person was whom he was accused of raping, or give any details of the seduction when they were eagerly requested.
He pondered how ironic it was that he had the reputation of being a randy, ladies' man, yet he was still a virgin. He was getting more education about sex than what he had ever hoped to have, though, for it was impossible to not overhear the other prisoners talking about such things in great detail, and such perverse things as he never imagined could be done to a woman, a man, entirely by oneself, or with a child or an animal! Their lewdness vexed him, but he had enough of a challenge staying in once piece without attracting attention to himself by showing his disgust of such things.
The general population of the prison was rough and some of the prisoners were very cunning, but none were as treacherous as the political prisoners. They were not as overtly aggressive as the common prisoners, but Joseph had to stay on his toes to avoid the pitfalls inherent in daily interaction with them. Even with the warden's favour backing him up, some of these characters would have gladly stuck a knife in his back, if they could have seen any way of it benefiting them, so he had to make sure that he was necessary to them, without compromising his principles. He learned to be more diplomatic than ever.
Joseph increased his skills in whatever way he could. He was among educated men, and some were quite willing to share their knowledge with such an intelligent, attentive student. It passed the time and helped take their mind off of their worries. Besides that, one never knew about these political prisoners. They could be in prison one day and restored to favour the next, so it helped to do favours that one could possibly call on some day to be returned.
Joseph learned more about the Egyptians' writing, their laws, their customs, their history, their religion, and their medical knowledge. Some of their remedies were preposterous, to his way of thinking, but some things made sense and was quite useful in winning him gratitude, as his patients enjoyed a high recovery rate. He was willing to learn anything that was useful that they were willing to teach him.
Highly skilled people like engineers, architects, builders, etc... also were a real boon to him, though it was unfortunate for them that they were incarcerated. His inquiries about how they did this and that in their profession gave them an opportunity to boast about their skills and accomplishments. It also helped them all to keep their fertile minds active and not go crazy from boredom through lack of intellectual exercise. With the knowledge that he acquired, Joseph designed things in his mind that he thought would be really useful to build.
Though Joseph was kept busy in interesting ways and God again blessed everything he set his hand to, it was a huge challenge to stay in the prison. The place was disgusting with its smells, its sights, the violence, and the treachery of the prisoners and guards. Time and time again, he asked God for permission to escape.
He could have done it. He was fluent in several languages. Though his skin was fair and his hair red, he could have darkened his skin and worn a wig or a turban to change his appearance. He knew the geography of Egypt and the surrounding lands well from having looked at maps when he was a steward; his memory was the kind that never forgot a detail after seeing it only once. He would not go back to his father and complicate everyone's lives by showing up and exposing his brothers, but he could board a ship, perhaps sail with the Phoenicians to the ends of the earth and make his fortune.
Besides having the wit and courage to escape, he also had plenty of opportunity because the warden trusted him. The warden kept him in chains to remind everyone that, though he handed over most of his duties to Joseph, he was still in charge. But Joseph could have snitched a file and worked on those chains when he was ready to make a break. He would not do anything, though, without God's permission; he wanted to be sure of success, for a failed attempt could be fatal. God always told him, "Stay."
That word of the Lord tried him like nothing else could have. Why did he have to stay, to spend his youth in this rotten place? Every year, he thought it would be his last before he was delivered from these chains, but nothing ever happened to set him free. Potipher came and went, and eventually he talked to him again, to give him orders, always delivered curtly. He never seemed to thaw, but Joseph did not see the thoughtful looks directed at his bowed head as he backed away to diligently carry out orders.
Potipher regretted year by year that Joseph was no longer his steward. Just as he had in his home, Joseph now faithfully served him in his prison, and with never so much as one kind word of encouragement from his master. Potipher's intuition that Joseph had exceptional character was confirmed beyond anything that he ever imagined. How he wished that he could release him and bring him back to look after his estates and marry his daughter, now that his jealousy had thoroughly cooled.
Asenath still pined for Joseph, though she never mentioned him. She focussed on acquiring an education that would enable her to manage her estates and be considered an equal among nobles. It was apparent that she would accept no marriage proposals, that she intended to look out for herself. She could not bear to marry a lesser man than Joseph, and Potipher did not blame her. It broke his heart to see his cultured, attractive, solemn, young daughter consigning herself to a life of celibacy, denying herself motherhood (and him of grandchildren). But it was impossible. People would think that he was soft, if he let Joseph out of prison.
Finally, after several years, Joseph thought it looked like there was an opportunity for his release. A couple of high–ranking prisoners were brought in and they had disturbing dreams. Joseph noticed how downcast their faces were when he attended to them and asked what troubled them. They told him of dreams that they had that were astonishingly similar. He knew those dreams had to be of God, so he asked the Lord what they meant, and God gave him the interpretation of their dreams.
The first man, Pharaoh's cupbearer, was apparently going to be restored to his former position in three days, but the Chief Baker would be executed. The baker thought it was cruel for Joseph to tell him such a thing, but Joseph figured it would be cruel to not tell him. He needed to prepare himself to meet his Maker. Seizing the opportunity to maybe get out of prison soon, he asked the butler to speak to Pharaoh on his behalf, asserting that he was not guilty of any crimes. The butler, in a much happier frame of mind because of the words of hope that Joseph delivered, assured him he would.
Three days later, things turned out as Joseph predicted. The baker was executed at Pharaoh's pleasure, as a birthday present to himself, and he gratified his whim to restore the butler. In the busyness of the festivities and his duties to help ensure their success, the butler forgot about his promise. Besides, he did not want to be asking favours of Pharaoh too soon and experience a reawakening of his wrath. After that, Joseph faded entirely from his mind. He was just a slave, after all, and of no further use to him personally.
Joseph waited hopefully for days after the butler was released, but no word came. He reasoned that the butler had not yet found a viable opportunity to mention him to Pharaoh and he tried to be patient. Weeks passed and then months; he finally accepted that the butler had forgotten him. There was nobody else to ask for help. Only Pharaoh could release him, for only Pharaoh was higher in the land than his master. When he again asked the Lord for permission to escape, God still told him to stay put.
Why? Why? Why? His youth was fading away. He was now thirty years old, still not married, still did not know what it was like to have sex, though there were men in this place that had their first woman or girl when they were mere children. Some of them became fathers before they were fifteen! Maybe God intended him to be as old as his father was before he gave away his virginity – in his eighties!
Well, Father had set the example for him of remaining sexually pure, so he would bear with it, but it chafed that he was so limited in his experiences and accomplishments, and was so restricted in where he could go and what he could do. He had not been outside these stinking walls in years. True, they did not stink as bad as they had when he first arrived, before he got the place cleaned up, but it was still a grim, smelly place. Potipher would not let him get it cleaned up any better. He said that prison is supposed to be unpleasant in order to be a deterrent.
He had been seeing a little less of Potipher lately. Potipher never came into the jail much as it was, except to be present at the torture of the most important cases. Joseph was glad that he was not required to be around when stuff like that was going on.
Potipher was now Potiphera, with the name of Ra incorporated into his name, for he was now the High Priest of the Mysteries. From what Joseph could tell, his master really didn't believe in any god, but found it useful to pretend he did.
In his new position, he received more revenues and it gave him more power, but he didn't have to do all that much extra, as far as duties go. He just delegated his authority to others to carry out the actual work, while collecting a percentage of the revenues. This was how Egyptian officials were able to hold many titles without having to do actual work, except give orders, hold inspections, and sit on councils.
Joseph doubted that Potipher found much satisfaction in his achievements. He suspected that he was a very lonely man, and that his drive for power was based on a fear that, if he did not go as high as he could go and hold those positions, he and his family were likely to be devoured by the other sharks. Life was scary for souls who did not put their trust in God.
Joseph realized by now that Potipher's fear of being thought soft toward his enemies was what kept him in prison, for his intuition told him that Potipher no longer resented him. That was a bit of a comfort to his soul, but he still hated this miserable, stifling prison. Oh how he longed for fresh air, for sweet fields to run in, to plunge into a stream and get a good bath, to go anywhere he wanted, whenever he wanted!
How he longed to see his father and Benjamin again, his sister Dinah, Aunt Leah, even his older brothers. He truly forgave the rascals for what they did to him, though he was tempted many times during his imprisonment to be bitter. If they had not sold him as a slave, he would not have ended up in this prison, but such thoughts just made him feel more frustrated, so he laid down his anger towards them each time it reared up, until the hurt faded and he hardly thought at all any more about what they did.
Instead, he started to recall small kindnesses from his childhood, of Reuben carrying him and helping him out in other ways, though he was impatient and grumbling about it. Yes, Reuben was jealous of him, but he considered it his duty as the eldest to look out for his brothers and sister. He remembered some of them refraining from hitting him, though nobody else was about and they knew he would not have told on them. Little glimmers of mercy in his memory helped him appreciate that none of his brothers were all bad. Really, his childhood was not at all as bad as what some of these poor sods in the prison had experienced; in comparison, it was very privileged.
Was it all going to end here, though? Where was the fulfillment of God's promises that He would lift him up and set him on high? Well, what if it never happened? What if it turned out that those dreams were only a delusion of his own vanity, a reaction from his bruised pride over how his brothers treated him? It was kind of embarrassing to think that, in his vanity, he included his parents in his fantasy of his whole family bowing before him. So, what if he was mistaken about those dreams and God was going to let him die in this prison? Would he abandon God?
"No," he decided, "God has never abandoned me. He saved me alive when most men who were accused of what I was accused of would have died a painful death. He gave me favour with the warden, nobody has raped me, and everything I have set my hand to in this place has been blessed. But even if God had let any of those things happen to me, it would have been the work of the devil and none of His, and God would still be worthy of my worship. I love God because He is wholesome, totally good, and thoroughly just. I will stick with Him just because I like Him, no matter what happens to me."
As Joseph pondered things more, he decided that it must have been God who gave him the dreams. They still burned in his heart with holy zeal. He remembered the fantastic things, humanly impossible things that God had done in his family before now. He called Abraham and Sarah out of Ur before it was destroyed, He gave conception to Sarah when she was ninety years old, He sent angels to save Lot and his family from being roasted in a holocaust, He sent a ram to get its horns caught in a thicket when Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac and stayed his hand, He gave conception to Rebekah who was barren for twenty years, and to his own mother, as well, and He delivered Father from Grandpa Laban and from Uncle Esau when they were in a rage.
The God who did all that, and many other wondrous things besides, could certainly take this poor, wretched man who was falsely accused and perform all that He promised. He was not going to abort God's plan for his life by letting satan convince him that it was only a delusion of his own mind. He felt so weak, like he could not go on any longer, but he had felt like that before, and God always restored his inner strength. Even if he sat in a shadow just now, feeling that God was far away and His eyes were shut to what was happening to him, he would not move away from doing what he knew was right, which included continuing to trust God.
"This is Your shadow, God," he thought within himself, "Where your eyelids try the hearts of men, to see if they will continue to trust you, even when they do not feel that you are near or they think that You have closed your eyes and do not see what is happening to them. I know You care, even if I don't feel that You care, for feelings are not what we are supposed to live by, but what we know of Your character. I don't understand why I am supposed to stay here, but I will stay here for as long as You want me to be here, and I will trust that You have a good reason for me being here, and that when You take me out of here, it will not be too late for those dreams to be fulfilled."
Joseph's heart still felt low, but he found the strength to get up and go about his duties again. His face was solemn, but not resentful, his hope still only glimmered in what seemed to be a deep darkness, but a bit more brightly than before. "I believe You, I believe You," he chanted inwardly, while focussing his thoughts on the Lord, meditating on mighty deeds that God had done before in the world's history and in his own personal life, and rehearsing to himself what he knew of God's righteous character.
This helped get him through the next few hours, but then one of the new prisoners started to give him a hard time about the food he brought to him, and he was starting to feel beaten down again under the verbal abuse. He thought, "God, I don't know if I can take any more of this. Will You still be with me, even if I lose my mind?" Just when he felt like he was at the absolute end of his tether, two of the guards appeared at the top of the trench, and ordered him to get cleaned up and shave because he was commanded to appear before Pharaoh.
Joseph followed the guards to where he could wash and shave to get rid of his lice. He knew better than to argue when they told him to shave everything. He felt dizzy with wonder as he attended to his task, trying to figure out what he would say. Surely this summons must be due to the butler having finally remembered to put a good word in for him. It could not be that Pharaoh had heard something that displeased him and was going to order his death. That would be too cruel. No, God was faithful. He was not going to be put to death, and anyway, Pharaoh would have had it attended to directly at the prison, if that was the case.
It was unlikely that he would concern himself with a slave whom he had never met. Besides that, he had not committed any crimes. But he might have been falsely accused of another one. No, no, that was the devil speaking to his mind, trying to make him doubt that God would keep His promises. He did not know what to think, so he would just think on God and leave it in His hands as to what this summons was all about.
With a smooth face and bald head, Joseph left the chamber, girding a clean kilt about him as he followed the guards down the passage. Some of the viler prisoners whistled and joked, "Hey, Joseph, who are you going to see, dressed so pretty like that?" Other prisoners told them to shut up, because he had been summoned by Pharaoh. The hooting stopped and the prisoners all wondered what the summons could mean.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh waited on his throne for Joseph to appear. He had disturbing dreams the night before, and none of his sorcerers could tell him what they meant. The whole court was perplexed, and then suddenly the Chief Butler begged permission to speak. It came to his mind that there was a Hebrew whom he met in prison two years ago when he had displeased Pharaoh. The Hebrew knew how to interpret dreams and he correctly predicted that the Chief Butler would be restored to favour and the Chief Baker would be executed. Perhaps this Hebrew could interpret Pharaoh's dream.
Pharaoh was deeply troubled about his dream. He knew that it was vitally important to find out the meaning of it. He ordered that the prisoner be brought to him, and then he asked the Grand Vizier, who was also his Captain of the Guard, what he could tell him about this Hebrew slave, whom he had been told was his servant. Strangely, Potiphera looked somewhat embarassed, but he answered readily enough.
He was embarassed, but he was also elated for he immediately saw a way out of his troubling predicament. If Joseph could satisfy Pharaoh, the king might grant him amnesty, and then nobody would suppose that Potipher was soft.
He told him that he was a young man who was accused of rape, but a bright, young man who was very faithful in fulfilling all the duties that were given him, and who even went beyond what was expected of him to be efficient and productive.
Pharaoh fixed him with a stare and asked, "And whom did he supposedly rape that he ended up among your special prisoners? It must have been someone important, else nobody would have paid attention to the accusation, but not likely true, else you would have had him put to death." Potiphera murmured that the servant had always behaved in an exemplary way prior to the accusation.
A provocative thought was niggling away at the back of Pharaoh's mind, a juicy tidbit of gossip that he heard years ago. He looked at Potiphera sternly and said, "You did not answer my question. Who accused him?" Potiphera mumbled, "My wife," and was relieved that Joseph entered the hall before Pharaoh could humiliate him any further.
Pharaoh turned his attention away from Potiphera with a smirk that trembled on his lips as he watched the Hebrew approach and then prostrate himself before him. It gratified him to see Potiphera embarassed. He was such a cold, unemotional man, though his ruthlessness was useful. It was irksome how self–assured the man was, how he always had an answer for everything and could not be caught off guard, except in this one instance. He was too sure of himself and since his promotion to High Priest, was getting much too powerful; Pharaoh was considering replacing him as his Vizier to take him down a few pegs. Besides that, he was getting old and was going to need to get replaced some day, anyway. It would be gratifying to replace Potiphera before he expected it.
Pharaoh observed the slave who was being escorted through the court. How amusing it was that this so–called interpreter of dreams was Potiphera's slave and happened to been involved in some way with Potiphera's wife. He was a well–built man of about thirty years, fine featured, but not in an effeminate way. By his eyebrows, he looked to have red hair. Very interesting! He must have a lot of magic in him. Yes, he could see why Lady Potipher took the risk to have an affair with him. It was just like Potiphera, so practiced in torture, to place such a tempting tidbit in front of his frustrated, young wife, and expect her to remain completely loyal to him, the conceited, old prig. Well, that was part of the fun of being a man; tormenting women with one's privileges, but still, he did not like it that Potiphera always seemed to have the upper hand, even over him, because he did not have anyone better to replace him.
Joseph's years in prison had imparted some ruggedness to his face, but it added to his attractiveness. The court ladies looked at him intently, eager to see this slave who had spurned Lady Potipher. She stopped attending court years ago, finding it too wearing to run the gauntlet of their smirks and snubs. Hmm. They could understand the attraction. What would come of this? Would he successfully interpret Pharaoh's dream and become available to them to dally with?
Asenath stood among them, so absorbed in beholding Joseph that she had no attention to spare for the catty noblewomen who whispered to each other behind their hands. She had learned a few years ago, when she first came to court, of her mother's attempted indiscretion. When Mother would not come to court any more, it fell to her to be at her father's side during official functions. At first, she could not make any sense of the innuendos tossed her way, but she asked her maid. Servants seemed to know everything when it came to gossip. Her maid was reluctant to say, but Asenath commanded her to tell her, and assured her that she would not punish her, even if she was displeased with the truth.
She was stunned at what her maid told her. Memories finally made sense to her. She realized that she must have known all along that her mother tried to seduce Joseph, but she had not wanted to believe it. She had wanted to believe that her mother's affection for her was genuine, that her mother would not deliberately try to sink her future with the man she loved.
She must have known that Father intended for her to marry Joseph. Some clues had been there, little things she said, certain expressions on Mother's face when she overheard the servants talking about him, the sour look she cast in her direction, and a sharp command to never again say his name or speak of him. It had been devastating to realize that her own mother would try to steal her intended, and demand his death for having refused her.
Asenath did not think of that now. In the past few years, her mother had been changing, her affection seeming to be more genuine, if her instincts were correct. Time would tell. All she was interested in at the moment was seeing Joseph, and she felt like she could hardly breathe. She hoped that nobody noticed how her knees were trembling.
Joseph was more handsome than she remembered, in spite of a few scars on his face and body, probably sustained from other prisoners. Before he had been gentlemanly. He was still that, but he seemed more manly, as well. His body had filled out more with hard toil and was tautly muscled. He was pale; his skin contrasted sharply with the dark skin of her fellow Egyptians. Asenath missed seeing his shining, red curls, but his skull was well–shaped and attractive.
Asenath admonished herself to focus and concentrate on what was being said. Pharaoh again related his dream about the ears of grain and cows. Seven fat ears of grain were swallowed up by seven meagre ears of grain, and seven fat cows were swallowed up by seven scrawny cows. Joseph said that interpretations of dreams came from God, and he would seek an answer for Pharaoh. Asenath's heart was warmed that Joseph still believed in his benevolent God, regardless of his hardships.
Joseph looked thoughtful for several moments, and then the answer came to him. He told Pharaoh that God had given the dream to him twice, to confirm that the following events would soon come to pass. He said that the seven fat ears of grain and the seven fat cows represented seven years of abundant harvest that would be followed by seven years of famine so severe that the seven previous years of abundance would be entirely forgotten.
Asenath was so proud of him for being able to interpret the dream; his answer rang true, and she could tell by the look on Pharaoh's face that he thought so, too. She became even prouder when Joseph took the initiative to suggest to Pharaoh that he should prepare for the famine by storing much grain during the years of plenty and immediately outlined a plan how to do it.
Even if Potiphera had not told Pharaoh about how clever, industrious, and productive this slave was, he was immensely impressed with Joseph's ability to interpret his dream, and the bold, but dignified and properly respectful way he offered advice afterwards. He was also impressed that Joseph could come up with a sensible plan so quickly.
He said, "Where are we going to find someone who is so gifted by God to be able to handle that task? Since God has shown these things to you, it is evident that there is nobody else so wise and discreet. I am putting you in charge of my kingdom. Everyone must obey you. The only one greater than you will be myself." He waved his hand towards his courtiers and said to Joseph, "See, I have put you over all the land of Egypt." Everyone then bowed to Joseph, including Potiphera, Joseph's former master!
It was a shock to Potiphera to suddenly, without any warning, be stripped of his position as the second ruler of Egypt, let alone be obliged to bow to a man who had been one moment his slave, and was in the next moment his master! If that were not enough, it also hit him that he had put Joseph in prison, and what might Joseph do now that he had the power to get revenge? It would not necessarily be an easy thing for Joseph to exact revenge, if he was inclined to do it, but he could swing it eventually, once he found out more about the court's politics.
He probably knew quite a bit about the court already, considering how much time he had spent among the political prisoners, and he now had the authority to release all of Potiphera's enemies, though Pharaoh could rescind that authority, if he saw that Joseph was not wielding it responsibly. What might such a clever man say to the king, though, to convince him that he had Pharaoh's best interests at heart? Joseph might be able to do it, for Pharaoh's resentment towards Potipher apparently ran deeper than Potipher had guessed.
When Potiphera raised his head and looked into Joseph's eyes, he felt relief. He saw no malice there. If he had to give up his position to someone, there was nobody else who could handle it better, nor whom he would resent less for taking it. This was the man, after all, whom he had chosen to be his heir.
His former slave was an exceptional person, and he seemed to be surrounded by miracles. Potiphera thought of how everything Joseph touched seemed to turn to gold. Everywhere he went, prosperity followed. Even in prison, things ran so much more smoothly when Joseph was involved. It would be good to take things a bit easier, to let someone else bear the responsibilities, though he would be on hand to coach Joseph and assist him in his duties.
Potiphera reflected on how he could just as easily have had Joseph killed, if his thoughts had gone another way the day that his wife cried rape. He considered the amazing chain of events that had brought about his release, Pharaoh going into a snit about two of his servants and sending them to prison, their dreams, Joseph's interpretation, Pharaoh's dream, the Chief Butler remembers Joseph, Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dream, then immediately comes up with a solution, and then Pharaoh decided to make Joseph the second ruler of the whole kingdom! Surely there must be a God in charge of everything for such amazing things to happen, and Joseph appeared to know that God. A huge chunk of Potiphera's cynicism dropped off of him at that moment.
Pharaoh was now taking off his ring, putting it on Joseph's hand, and beckoning for royal robes to be brought. He turned to Potiphera and said, "That is a very fine chain you are wearing around your neck, Potiphera. Give it to my Vizier and I will give you another one."
Potiphera's pride was bruised at this command, but only a little. Mostly he was happy to do it, for he was seeing that Joseph's change in fortune was reopening the door to Asenath that he had thought was closed forever, if Joseph would have her. Many other doors of marriage would open for him now, but he might be able to wangle it so that his beloved daughter would be the one to marry the highest ranking man in the land, next to Pharaoh. As he placed the chain around Joseph's neck, his eyes slid over to his daughter.
Joseph's eyes followed his gaze, expecting to see Lady Potipher. He was surprised instead to see a slim, elegant, young lady. Had Potipher taken another wife? No, it could not be. The young lady was looking directly at him and her face was glowing with a big smile, as if she knew him. Indeed, she did look familiar.
Was this little Asenath, all grown up? And dressed more modestly than the other ladies in the court? Her make–up was subdued in comparison, her garments less sheer, ornaments strategically placed to impart more modesty, and none of them depicting idols, though her father was now the Priest of On. She would not have dressed deliberately this way to impress him, as she would not have had any idea that she was going to see him today, or ever again. Joseph's heart warmed with the conviction that Asenath still remembered the things he told her long ago about God, and that she had taken those things seriously.
He looked quizzically at Potipher and his smile answered the next question that came to mind. Was she still unmarried? Indeed, yes, and her father would not be reluctant to give her to him in marriage, but he had no time to think of that just now. Potiphera was draping linen on him, Pharaoh was making more announcements, conferring more gifts, telling his servants to prepare the second chariot for the new Vizier, and his duties were starting immediately, though a feast was ordered for that evening to celebrate his installment as the Grand Vizier of Egypt.
The next few hours passed in a dizzying whirl as Joseph tried to grasp what was happening around him. He swung between feeling almost crushed by the heaviness of the challenge before him, and wanting to shout for joy that he was finally out of prison and no longer a slave. He steadied himself with quick prayers to God to help him sort out what should be done, guide him in how to behave, and to keep him from either bursting into deep sobbing or maniacal laughter at the suddenness and extremity of change in his status. He was able to keep himself under control and be dignified.
After Joseph was paraded through the streets in Pharaoh's chariot while it was announced that he was the new Grand Vizier, he was finally taken to apartments that had been made ready for him, so that he could refresh himself for the feast. When he was about to leave after being washed, dressed, bewigged, and fresh paint applied to his face, he discovered that his servants had been dismissed and Potiphera stood in his outer chamber with Asenath at his side.
Asenath looked bashful, and Potiphera, in his dignified way, begged his pardon for entering unannounced and dismissing the servants. He and his daughter then prostrated themselves before him. Joseph extended his hands to him when father and daughter rose from the floor to stand with lowered eyes before him, and he assured Potipher that he was welcome. Potipher had expected so.
He smiled and said, "Please allow me to reacquaint you with my daughter. She has been anxious to meet you again." Asenath blushed a deep red beneath her dusky skin and kept her eyes lowered. Joseph graciously and sincerely replied that he was thrilled to meet her again, as well. Asenath shyly raised her eyes and murmured, "I never forgot you." He replied softly, "I know. And I never forgot the sweet, little girl who used to follow me all over the house and yard." She blushed again and gave an awkward laugh, hating herself for feeling like such an eager child, instead of the sober and sophisticated lady that she was used to being.
Potipher was deeply gratified that Asenath was finally coming out of her shell and that Joseph was being so gracious to her. His hopes rose yet higher when Joseph offered Asenath his arm, and said, "Shall we join the guests? I think that they might be getting impatient for their dinner." Asenath straightened and glided at his side, making a dignified entrance on Joseph's arm, and the hopes of the court ladies plummeted when they saw Joseph arrive with the Chief Executioner's daughter.
If that was the way the wind was blowing, then none of them would dare to meddle with him, as they would have her Daddy to deal with. In this way, God reduced the temptation to indulge lust that Joseph faced in the future as the second most powerful man in Egypt, and one of the most handsome.
Pharaoh was agreeable to Joseph taking Asenath as his wife, in spite of his chagrin that making Joseph his Vizier was not quite the blow to Potiphera that he thought it would be. He knew Potiphera had been flummoxed over his demotion, but he bounced back so quickly, immediately betrothing his daughter to the new Vizier, and he seemed to have a great deal of genuine affection for Joseph.
It took a little while for Pharaoh to make inquiries and figure out that, years ago, Potipher intended to make Joseph his heir. Ah well, so his attempt to set Potipher down did not have quite the impact on him that he intended, but it was probably for the best. Potipher was an excellent administrator, and it was better for the country for him and Joseph to work together. It was very fortunate that his Grand Vizier seemed to hold no ill will against the Chief Executioner, his former master and the man who had sent him to prison.
When Potipher spoke to Joseph of it shortly after his promotion, asking him outright if he held it against him that he had put him in jail, though he really did not believe that Joseph was guilty of what he was accused of, Joseph replied, "No, rest easy about that. You showed me mercy; you had the prerogative to kill me, but you didn't. I appreciate that, and when I figured out that you believed I was innocent, it was a great relief, for I always highly valued your good opinion of me."
Potipher replied, "The way you conducted yourself in prison raised my opinion of you yet higher. I do not think that there is a man in Egypt who deserves your position more than you do, or who could handle it better. I venture to say that those years in prison prepared you for this position." Joseph agreed that he learned many important things in prison.
There was no happier woman in Egypt than Asenath. Her personal suffering prepared her to be the wife of this very important man. Setting aside all hope of marriage, concentrating on her education, and becoming practiced in masking her feelings equipped her for her new duties as the Grand Vizier's wife.
As for the unhappiest woman in Egypt, whoever she was, it was not Potipher's wife. She had been humbled, and the loss of privileges that she formerly took for granted caused her to become more sober–minded. She was uncomfortable with Joseph at first, but that was eased away by how graciously he treated her, as if nothing untoward had ever happened between them.
It made Potiphera feel ashamed of how he had taken revenge on his wife when he saw how forgiving Joseph was of her. He gradually reinstated former favours and the servants took their cue that they must not speak negatively about her to even their most trusted friends. Likewise, the court took their cue from Joseph and Potiphera, and the Lady Potiphera was treated with every courtesy from then on. She did not make it hard for them to do this, as she no longer behaved haughty and arbitrary, as she had before her fall.
Life at court was not easy for Joseph and Asenath, but they met the challenges of politics with courage and wisdom, and appreciated that they could retire to their home and be alone to refresh themselves in each other's company, and resort often to the Presence of the Lord to renew their strength.
God blessed them with two handsome sons, who also delighted their grandfather's heart. Their grandmother, too, but Potiphera especially because he had always secretly wished for a son, and now he felt like he had three of them, three of the finest in the land.
Joseph guarded his sons strenuously against becoming involved in their grandfather's religion, but Potiphera did not fault him for that, and he was glad that Joseph's power kept his grandsons from having the defiling Mysteries imposed on them. Their sweetness and innocence and eager affection for him was like a balm to Potiphera's soul. Throughout their childhood, they had no idea why their grandfather had been, and still was, one of the most feared men in Egypt.
Joseph stoically attended to his duties, working industriously to store up grain for the coming famine, among many other things that he had to attend to. The power he wielded did not go to his head. He secretly considered himself still something of a slave in Egypt. He did not delude himself that he was a totally free agent, though he had so much power.
Egypt needed him, and it would not have let him go, if he had gotten a notion to leave the country. Pharaoh would have set guards on him, if it looked like he was inclined to do that. They would have been polite, but the message would have been unmistakeable that he would have to fight his way past them, if he wanted to leave.
Sometimes he wished he could, for the waters of politics were treacherous. Many people around him vied for power, but Potiphera was a staunch ally. Together, the two of them were a formidible bulwark against sedition. Both had genius, both won favour with the populace for their tendencies to be reasonable rather than arbitrary, and where Joseph was thought to be lacking in ruthlessness (though he was not a fool or lacking in courage), Potiphera did not quibble at supplying whatever force was necessary to keep things under control.
Another of Joseph's challenges was maintaining his integrity in regards to his beliefs, without offending the Egyptians in the worship of their gods. Joseph accepted that the Egyptians were trained towards idolatry by centuries of practice, but he was powerful enough that nobody imposed it on him. He had to be present at some of their ceremonies, but he was not expected to bow to their gods. By quiet influence, he was able to turn many of his friends and servants to the worship of God, but some of their idolatrous practices still clung to them.
Though he felt like he was still a prisoner in some respects, Joseph often took the time to single out various moments to contrast his present state with what he had suffered in prison. He filled his lungs with fresh, sweet air, savoured the feel of the sun beating down upon his head when he wanted exposure to it, and shade whenever he wanted relief, and looked around him for as far as his eyes could see. How wonderful it was that his sight was no longer limited by grim, dungeon walls, and the people around him behaved with great courtesy towards him, in contrast to the rude and crude remarks of his former associates and their ill manners. When anyone dared to attack him now, he did not have to lift a hand to defend himself; he had bodyguards who were always watchful and intercepted such attacks.
Turning his attention to what was good about his life helped him keep a positive outlook, in spite of its difficulties. Most especially, his loving wife and adoring sons compensated for his current difficulties and all the suffering of his past. He was thankful that his position gave him the power to protect them. The years in prison seemed like they were a dream, that his sojourn there had been only a few moments. Even his pain over his brothers' rejection and betrayal vanished, and his longing to be reunited with Father and Benjamin was under steady control.
One of the things that helped in that area was that he could see his vision becoming fulfilled. The years of plenty were not likely to bring about that reunion, but the years of famine surely would, when his family would need food and his brothers would come to Egypt. Who else would come for food but they? Jacob would be too old to travel, and he would entrust the money and food only to his sons. How many would come? Who would Jacob send? Would he recognize them? Would they recognize him?
Joseph made plans about what he would do when they arrived, discarding one idea after another, until he came up with what he felt would serve his purpose. His plans involved some deception, but his motives were not selfish; his purpose was to do good for his brothers, but their trustworthiness had to be tested. If they had not changed, then he had to help them find incentive to change their attitude.
Knowing that it was also for his father and brethren that he was laying up grain, Joseph worked with all the more enthusiasm for his task. They would need to settle in Egypt for a while; this was in accordance with Abraham's prophecy that his descendents would live in a strange land for a time, and it also made practical sense. The drought was going to last for seven years, and it was in Egypt that Joseph had power and could do the most for his family, even after the famine ended.
Joseph considered various places in Egypt where he could settle them and set his sights on Goshen. It was too swampy for heavy settlement, though it was the best land in Egypt for grazing, but he knew how it could be made liveable. He discouraged new settlers and any plans that others came up with to improve the area for residences. He wanted his family settled there with the least inconvenience to the Egyptians, to allay their resentment.
When herds were moved aside, it was so that Pharaoh's herds could be moved in. The Egyptians dared not complain about being pushed out to make way for Pharaoh's growing herds. When his family arrived, if his brothers had truly changed their ways, Joseph wanted them to be put in charge of Pharaoh's herds and flocks, and he sometimes slipped in a brag to Pharaoh that the Hebrews were excellent herdsmen and shepherds.
Thus Joseph worked steadily for the interests of his father's family, as well as to promote the wealth, power, and dignity of Pharaoh and govern the millions who were entrusted to his care. His energy and wisdom were supernatural; he knew that God enabled him beyond his natural abilities, as prodigious as they were, and he remained humble. Pharaoh found it refreshing and restful to have a Vizier who had no personal ambition for power for its own sake, but rather to benefit others. He blessed the God who had sent Joseph to him.
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The Majesty of God, Chapter 19