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YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN
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Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel, was one of the great heroes of the Old Testament. Despite the jealousy of his brothers and some
very bad luck, Joseph triumphed. He had a high opinion of himself and did not know when to keep his mouth shut, but he also had superlative administrative skills, quick intelligence and the ability to impress the right people. In other words, a man who was bound to succeed.
Joseph had dreams, and he was always interested in the meaning of these dreams. Twice he dreamt that he dominated his whole family, including his father and mother. Unfortunately he did not keep quiet about these dreams, but shared them with his brothers, who became increasingly irritated by what they saw as his conceit and arrogance.
One day his father Jacob sent Joseph to check on his brothers who were in the fields shepherding their flocks. The brothers saw him coming in the distance, and before he had reached them they had determined to kill him. Reuben, the eldest, tried to head them off. He was successful insofar as they did not kill Joseph, but instead threw him down into an empty water cistern.
Then the brothers sat down to eat, but as they ate they saw a caravan of camels approaching. Judah, another of the brothers, suggested they sell Joseph to these traders, instead of killing him - he was, after all, their brother.
This was what they did. They sold their young brother for twenty pieces of silver, the going rate for a male slave. To cover up what they had done, they killed a goat and smeared its blood on Joseph's coat. Then they took it to Jacob and told him Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. Jacob was distraught, and could not be comforted at the loss of his beloved son.
JOSEPH AS A SLAVE IN EGYPT
Joseph was young, clever and handsome. Potiphar had a wife who was rich, bored and lonely. Before long, the inevitable happened. She fell violently in love with Joseph, and could think of nothing else but him - the Egyptians had a frank and uninhibited interest in sexual love, as their poetry shows.
'Lie with me', she said.
Joseph was in a dilemma: he could not betray his master, but he could not avoid his master's wife. One day she cornered him and pulled the loose cloak off his body, leaving him naked. He ran away, but she was furious at the rebuff - a woman scorned. So she shouted 'Rape!' and told the other members of the household that Joseph had attacked her. She pointed to the cloak as proof.
When her husband came home, she told him the same story. He was enraged, and had Joseph put in prison. (For more on the story of Potiphar's wife, see BIBLE WOMEN: POTIPHAR'S WIFE)
But even in prison Joseph prospered. The jailer saw how capable Joseph was, and entrusted the prisoners to him.
One day she cornered him and pulled the loose cloak off his body, leaving him naked. He ran away, but she was furious at the rebuff - she was a woman scorned. So she shouted 'Rape!
JOSEPH AS A PRISONER
Two years later Pharaoh himself had a dream, and asked his wisest men to interpret it. They could not. Then the cupbearer remembered Joseph, and told Pharaoh about this Hebrew man who could interpret dreams. Pharaoh sent for Joseph and told Joseph the dream he had had. Joseph immediately knew what it meant, and told Pharaoh. It was a warning of a famine that was soon to happen. But there would be seven good years first, giving Pharaoh time to prepare stores of food for the seven bad harvests that would follow.
Pharaoh was impressed by Joseph's interpretation, and believed it. He decided to organize food storage on a grand scale, and looked round for someone who could supervise this immense task. His eye fell on Joseph, who was given the task. They would collect all the surplus from the good years and keep it in reserve against the seven years of famine that were to follow.
Pharaoh took off his signet ring and gave it to Joseph. Now only Pharaoh was more powerful than Joseph.
JOSEPH AND HIS BROTHERS
Unknown to them, Joseph was now in charge of selling grain, and when he saw them he recognized them immediately. They did not recognize him.
He was not friendly to them, accusing them of being spies come to reconnoiter the land. They groveled, insisting on their innocence. He repeated the accusations, and put them in prison. Only if they brought the youngest brother, who had been left at home with Jacob, would he believe them. He harried and tormented them before he finally revealed his identity - and then he wept so loudly that Pharaoh was informed of what was happening.
The reconciliation was complete. They sent for their father Jacob, who hardly believe his son Joseph was still alive. Jacob came to Egypt, reunited with the son he had loved so much, and met Joseph's two sons Ephraim and Manasseh.
It was a wonderful moment. He spoke to all his children, told them he wished to be buried in the filed that Abraham had bought as a burial site for his descendents. Then he 'drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people'. Joseph was overcome with grief. He had had so little time with his father. Then he had his father's body embalmed, and he and a great company of relatives and servants accompanied the body on the journey.
When Jacob had been buried, Joseph and his brothers all moved back to Egypt, where they settled, and where eventually Joseph died.
IN THE STORY
INTERESTING WEBSITES - stories, pictures, information
wife as one of the Top Ten Bad Women of the Bible
in the Bible, with a case study of Joseph
paintings of the seduction scene
Slaves and the Law
Slavery then and now: a debate
depth study of one person's story
your presentation (approximately 10 minutes), answer the following questions:
What are the main events of the person's life?
Tell the story.
Tell the story.
2. What were their main qualities? What made them stand out from the crowd?
What obstacles did they face?
Did they overcome them, or go with the flow? Explain.
Did they overcome them, or go with the flow? Explain.
How did they use their abilities to do God’s work?
5. Which part of their story appeals to you most? Why?
You must include three short quotations from the Bible texts to illustrate the points you are making.
'Particularly in Genesis
39-42, Egyptian life and institutions are described in astonishing detail
and color. The narrator relishes reporting the exotic customs of the
Egyptian court to entertain and instuct his readers. Clearly he was
someone well informed about Egypt. Indeed, according to Vergote, he must
have had experience living in Egypt, for his knowledge extends to the
smallest details (Vergote, Joseph en Égypte, p209). The names of people
in the story, Potiphar, Asenath, Zaphenath-Paneah are well-known types of
Egyptian names. The rise of Semites to high positions in the Egyptian
court is well attested. The description of Joseph's investiture
corresponds well with Egyptian paintings of such ceremonies. The dreams
are full of authentic Egyptian color; their importance and that of
official dream interpreters are also true to life. The comments on land
tenure in Egypt, that all land except for the priests' holdings was held
by the Pharaoh, is also an apt generalization. Finally, the mummification
of Jacob and Joseph is typtically Egyptian; and Joseph's age at death,
110, was the ideal span of life in ancient Egypt.'