As a seventeen-year-old teenager, Patriarch Joseph had exciting dreams about his future. These dreams were not simply the fascinations of an unrealistic mind. They delineated the divine plan about his destiny. Just as Jacob, his earthly father, gave Joseph a multi-coloured garment, so also his heavenly Father gave him a colourful dream. But, the way Joseph’s dream came true was very strange. As the biblical story of Joseph unfolds, we come to know that his dreams did not realize all of a sudden or in miraculous ways. Rather, Joseph had to wait so long for it. Joseph had to cling to his dreams against all odds of his life for around thirteen years as a slave and a prisoner in a foreign land.
Joseph was a victim of the jealousy of his brothers. Their violence against him ended up in Joseph becoming a slave in Egypt. The brothers could strip him of his multi-coloured garment given by his father; but they could never take away his colourful aspirations. They could separate him from his physical father; but they could not alienate him from his heavenly Father. His brothers could rid him of his physical comforts and conveniences; but none of them could deprive him of his wisdom and character, his talents and capabilities.
As his trials and troubles did not separate Joseph from God, Satan now turned to pleasures to alienate Joseph from God. Thus, the wife of Potiphar pleads him to lie with her. Had Joseph been an opportunist in his moral commitment, he could have found several excuses to succumb to the temptation: The initiative for the sinful act was not from himself; he was, in fact, forced by his mistress; it was dangerous for a slave not to appease his mistress; it might also help him to climb the ladder of his career and even help him to escape from the slavery; it was a sweet revenge against his being kept and exploited as a slave; this sinful act was not going to be known by anybody; the temptation to fornication is not just a one-time event – it took place every day (after all, who can resist the temptations of flesh when it routinely comes across?). But, Joseph did not make any of such reasonings with his own self. Rather, he reasoned with the wife of Potiphar. He tried to explain why he should not sin with her. He reminded him and her of his obligations to his master and to God.
Joseph’s story teaches us that in certain cases no reasoning will suffice to overcome the force of temptation. In such cases, the only resort is simply to flee from the occasion of sin. That is what helped Joseph in the end. Again, this story illustrates that our innocence does not guarantee a good reputation. Joseph was innocent to the core of his heart; but he was accused of a very nasty offence. Not only was he unjustly accused but was also punished for it and thus badly branded in the public.
It is interesting to note that Potiphar was not greatly infuriated by the allegation his wife levelled against Joseph. It was an affront that no husband would tolerate – a slave attempting to rape the wife of his master! Potiphar, being the chief of the executioners, could very well put Joseph to death. Rather Joseph was only imprisoned. Moreover, in two years’ time Joseph was greatly promoted. It gives the hint that both Potiphar and the warden of the prison were convinced of the innocence of Joseph. As some scholars suggest, Potiphar could very well make out what must have actually transpired between Joseph and his wife. However, Potiphar had to act to save the face of his wife and his own too.
Joseph had enough troubles in his life. None of these hardships ever turned him away from God. Six times it is reiterated in this chapter that God was with him (Genesis 39, 220.127.116.11.23). God is with His own even when they pass through the weirdest experiences of life. The presence of God with us does not insulate us from troubles. But it opens for us new avenues to flourish and flower. Through all these hardships God formed Joseph as a strong ruler of Egypt. Joseph trusted in God and stuck to his dreams. His dreams came finally true but through ways beyond his wildest dreams.