Joseph: Prisoner (Part One)

(Please read Genesis 39 in your Bible.)

The following may be one of the more interesting stories of recycling you’ll ever hear about.  The Bible Walk museum is a bizarre biblical museum made up of discarded waxworks of celebrities and other unwanted wax figures from across the globe. The BibleWalk museum in Mansfield in Ohio, USA, was founded in 1983. The museum features over 300 figures rescued from closed or failing waxwork museums.

The museum is split into four exhibitions as visitors take in the Life of Christ, the Miracles of the Old Testament, the Museum of Christian Martyrs and the Heart of the Reformation. It started over 30 years ago with some fiberglass figures purchased from an outdoor museum in Pittsburgh that was closing, and the collection has been added to ever since. The origins of the figures are a closely-guarded secret, but celebrity-watchers have spotted some of the repurposed figures.

* A young-looking Prince Philip is dressed in an all-white gown, playing an angel in a scene depicting Judgment Day. While some burn in the fires of hell, the now 94-year-old cuts a clean figure surrounded by other angels.

* Prince Charles is also a star attraction at the museum which gets up to 40,000 visitors a year. He has been transformed into Abel – the son of Adam and Eve – complete with ‘bowl’ haircut.

* Tom Cruise, the Scientologist, has been repurposed as Jesus.

* John Travolta appears in a scene with King Solomon as does the late Elizabeth Taylor.

* Action hero Steve McQueen plays a mere bystander in one of the scenes.

* Other stars from the world of entertainment include

The Beatles’ George Harrison, and legendary actors Marlon Brando and Burt Lancaster.

Director of the museum, Julia Mott-Hardin, 62 is reluctant to widely publicize the museum’s re-purposed famous figures. Julia, who has worked at the museum since its founding, even refuses to give tours to those who want to see the celebrities. She said: “I’ve had calls from people who wanted to take the tour, but only if I accompanied them pointing out the celebrities. I refused. The museum is about glorifying God and his works. That’s what we want to achieve. I just don’t want to take any of the glory away from God. That’s the most important aspect of BibleWalk; God’s glory.”

(Retrieved from on 8/14/15.)

I loved the director’s comments because that’s the attitude we want to bring to the entire Bible.  The hero of every Bible story is God, no one else.  While we are examining and celebrating the life of Joseph, we need to keep in mind that the important things are the things we learn about God.  Some, like Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Tim Rice, want to glorify Joseph as some paragon of perseverance and hope and merely human attributes.

Our purpose, instead, is to show God’s hand at work in Joseph’s life.  In good times in bad, when his circumstances rose and fell, God was always at work getting Joseph where He wanted him and prepared to do the work God wanted him to do.  HE WILL DO THE SAME WITH US, IF WE ARE FAITHFUL.

Message: Evil has it’s say, but God provides a way.

  1. Joseph landed on his feet (vs. 1-6a).

V. 1 is a repeat of 37:36, a reminder of what happened before the digression that is the account of Judah and Tamar (ch. 38). This is a recurring theme in the account of Joseph’s life: circumstances that cause us suffering can be a forge God uses to accomplish His purposes.  In this part, we see God used Joseph’s brothers’ misdeed to put Joseph where He wanted him: in Egypt.

Joseph’s feet landed in the household of Potiphar.  Potiphar (“devoted to the sun”) served in Pharaoh’s court as CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD.  Based on this we might assume:

– He was happy to have someone like Joseph, with whom he could entrust the boring details of running a courtly house.

– He was away from home a lot.  His absences may’ve been part of the reason his wife’s attention turned to Joseph.

THE LORD WAS WITH JOSEPH AND HE PROSPERED (2) is an apt summary of Joseph’s life.  Part of his prosperity was indicated by the trust his master put in him (3-4, 6). Potiphar recognized THE LORD WAS WITH [Joseph] AND GAVE HIM SUCCESS IN EVERYTHING HE DID; a good reason to trust Joseph with authority in the first place.  Verse six describes the depth of Potiphar’s trust in Joseph in an amusing way: HE [Potiphar] DID NOT HAVE TO CONCERN HIMSELF WITH ANYTHING EXCEPT T FOOD HE ATE!

Another indicator of God’s blessing was the prosperity that came to his master’s household while Joseph served him (v. 5).  The author expresses the same thing two ways in this verse.  However, this is not a story of Joseph’s success, but an account of God’s faithfulness to keep His promises.

  1. Mrs. Potiphar tried to sweep him off his feet (vs. 6b-18).

Verses 6b-7 explain Mrs. Potiphar’s attraction to Joseph as simple lust of the eyes.

Joseph has learned from his initial misfortunes; he is a pious young man and he refused her advances (8-10).  His moral maturity is evident in his:

– Unwillingness to violate his master’s trust (8).

– Refusal to abuse the authority he’s been given (9a).

– Recognition that adultery is a sin; a WICKED offense against God (9b).

Joseph wisely tried to avoid her.  But in this world, doing the right thing does not guarantee a righteous result (11-18).  Case in point: Joseph remained faithful, but Potiphar’s unfaithful wife brought a lot of trouble on Joseph’s undeserving head.  In fact, Joseph’s moral maturity is greater than his forbearers:

– Of all t Patriarchs, it is written of Joseph alone, T LORD WAS W HIM(3)

– Of all the patriarchs, only Joseph was recognized as gifted with the SPIRIT OF GOD (41:38).

Joseph was one of the most undeserving sufferers in the Bible.  We need to understand that suffering isn’t always about what a person deserves.  However, it is always about God accomplishing His purposes in us and through us.

Mrs. Potiphar finally caught Joseph alone.  This became one of those “he said/she said” situations with no way out!

Joseph panicked.  The only thing he could think to do was run.  The problem was that he left behind his CLOAK, which the vengeful Mrs. Potiphar used as “evidence” against him.

  1. Joseph’s feet were chained (19-20a).

After having placed such trust in Joseph, it’s hard for me to understand why Potiphar would turn on him so suddenly and fully: HE BURNED WITH ANGER (v. 19).  I guess that he was under the influence of his wife.  The text clearly wants us to blame her:  Mrs. Potiphar is the villainess and Mr. Potiphar is a dupe.

Another reason may be implied in v. 14, where Mrs. Potiphar calls in HER HOUSEHOLD SERVANTS and tells them the outrageous lie she will repeat to her husband in vs. 17-18.  I can think of no good reason for her to do this other than to enlist their support as false witnesses.  She’s making sure all of them have their story straight before the boss comes home.

Why would the other servants support Mrs. Potiphar’s story? They may have been jealous of Joseph’s rise to authority (she emphasized he was a HEBREW and said Potiphar used Joseph TO MAKE SPORT OF US).  They may have been used to bowing to their mistress’ strong, vindictive personality.  Who would want to get on this woman’s blacklist?

While he might not have believed Mrs. Potiphar’s story on her word alone, the additional weight of the other servants’ testimonies and the CLOAK in her hand helped to convince Potiphar of Joseph’s guilt in the matter.  Also, Joseph was not there to defend himself.  It’s easier to get angry at someone when they’re not right in front of you.

However we understand the details of the plot and the motivations of the characters, Joseph was cast into the king’s prison, which may have been a worse situation than others.

  1. Joseph landed on his feet again (20b-23).

By outward appearances, being thrown into prison may have indicated Joseph was an evildoer and God had abandoned him.  The author of Genesis allowed no such misinterpretation and promptly informs the reader of the truth; BUT WHILE JOSEPH WAS THERE IN PRISON, THE LORD WAS WITH HIM (20b-21, 23).

This time the LORD’s presence took the form of favor in the eyes of the WARDEN (21-23).  It’s amazing how the attitude of the WARDEN parallels that of Potiphar and how Joseph earned the Warden’s complete trust even as he’d earned Potiphar’s.

Joseph suffered another setback, but God would use this to raise him higher still: The LORD GAVE HIM SUCCESS AT ALL HE DID.

William Congreve (1670–1729), a playwright, penned these familiar words in The Mourning Bride. Act iii. Sc. 8. “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

Joseph was the unhappy victim of that maxim.  But, in spite of his setbacks, the important thing was that the LORD was always with him.  Joseph prospered because of that fact, not because of his cleverness.

It would be good for us to remind ourselves that what was true of Joseph could be true of us as well.   We can trust that the LORD is with us and despite the way things go – or how we feel about them – He is working for our ultimate good.  As Rev. Randy Rassmussen put it to me this week; The LORD uses adversity to prepare us for authority.  Ministry, maturity, and other good things come as a result of what we have suffered faithfully.

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