Just then he spotted a noble Egyptian walking toward him, obviously in search of a particular type of slave. He immediately saw Joseph and knew, that with him he was getting himself a superb house slave. The Egyptian paid a good price for Joseph50, and took him to his house.
For ten years Joseph was Potiphar’s right hand. Potiphar was the captain of Pharaoh’s body guard, he was the chief of security, a man by nature distrusting and suspicious, especially in the position he held. Yet he came to totally trust Joseph, so much so that he placed him over everything he owned in house and field51.
Even though Joseph was still but a slave – albeit a highly positioned slave52 - G-d was proving to him that He kept His word as He was giving him favor with his master and blessing and prospering everything Joseph touched and undertook. On account of Joseph G-d’s blessings were also on everything Potiphar owned. Joseph patiently persevered in faith, waiting for G-d to fulfill His promise and bring to pass the dreams.
But then the opposite happened, worsening Joseph’s state of affairs instead of improving it: he got thrown into jail on the basis of a lie. He had proven faithful to both G-d and his master, and as a reward for it he ended up in prison, divested of every comfort, privilege, luxury and authority.
Joseph had proven utterly faithful and trustworthy throughout the ten years in Potiphar’s house. Potiphar knew his favorite slave who was almost like a son to him, that this Hebrew was a G-d-fearing man who would not dream of breaking trust by having an affair with his wife.
And Potiphar knew his wife – always on the look-out for a handsome young man to use him for her pleasure. Potiphar was a very busy man as pharaoh’s chief of security, while his wife was at home, bored and lusting. He knew what she was doing but paid no attention to it as long as she was discreet about it. His position did not allow for a scandal.
But this time he could not overlook it quietly, for his wife had made a great noise, telling everybody in his household that Joseph had tried to rape her. He knew she was lying and that Joseph was innocent, but he had no choice: to save “face” – his and hers – he had to declare Joseph guilty and put him in prison.
Potiphar was fuming with anger against his wife. Because of her adulterous escapades he now lost his best slave, one for whom he had feelings as a father for his son. In order not to make it too hard on Joseph he did not cast him into the dungeon for common criminals, but placed him into the jail where pharaoh’s prisoners were confined, who usually were noblemen, highly placed officials at pharaoh’s court53.
Now the chief jailer was accountable directly to Potiphar, who saw to it that the man would not only treat Joseph kindly but in fact put him in charge over the whole jail, because Potiphar knew that the Lord would prosper whatever Joseph did. Eventually the chief jailer did not supervise anything but Joseph was responsible for whatever was done in the king’s jail54.
Not long after this pharaoh’s chief cup bearer and chief baker got confined in this jail, which actually was part of Potiphar’s house (an adjacent complex), the same jail where Joseph was confined. As the captain of pharaoh’s bodyguard55 he put Joseph in charge of those two high officials.
Joseph’s faith had remained unshaken, although at first he wrestled with his worsened lot, having been rewarded with jail for his faithfulness and holy fear of G-d.
“Bunny-trail! Bunny-trail!” it resounded again in his mind. “And what has now become of your dreams? You are a Hebrew slave in an Egyptian prison. You’re never going to get out of here! Forget your high-minded visions. You’re a fool, a dreamer pursing bunny-trails.”
But as he saw that Potiphar was behind easing his imprisonment as much
as possible, he realized that his master knew that he was innocent. But
as the captain of pharao’s bodyguard he had no choice: he could never let
the Hebrew slave’s words prevail over his Egyptian
wife’s. Impossible! It would have been unacceptable, an outrage, and
Potiphar could have lost his position.
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