Part 2 Joseph
This is the second in a series that examines references to prisons and prisoners in the Bible. This time we will look at the story of Joseph who was unjustly imprisoned in Egypt.
19 ¶ And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.
20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.
In this familiar story Joseph had been sold by his brothers to slave traders that took him to Egypt. Eventually he ended up in the home of Potipher, “the captain of the guard” and “an officer of Pharaoh.” Clearly he was an important and influential man in Egypt. Joseph proved to be a loyal and trustworthy servant and was promoted to the position of manager of all the affairs of Potipher’s household. Potipher’s wife was attracted to Joseph, but Joseph repeatedly refused her advances. One day when she was trying to seduce Joseph he ran out of the room, leaving behind his coat which she was clinging to. Potipher’s wife used the coat as evidence that Joseph was the in fact the one trying to seduce her. Enraged by the accusations and making no attempt to discover the truth Potipher threw Joseph into a prison that was designed to hold political prisoners that threatened Pharaoh. This is the first time prisons are mentioned in the Bible.
The most significant part of the above quoted passage is verse 21 which says, “the Lord was with Joseph.” This is a clear and graphic reminder that God is alive and active in every circumstance. There is no dungeon so dark and bleak that God’s presence is not there to give strength and encouragement to the person that trusts in Him.
This story illustrates the influence of a faithful witness for the Lord. Despite the tremendous injustice which happened to Joseph he did not allow anger and bitterness to control him. Rather he chose to exemplify integrity and dedication always keeping in mind that his actions were a reflection on the God of Israel whom he loved and served.
Because of Joseph’s faithfulness he became a trustee of the jailer in the prison and was responsible for the care of the other prisoners. One day as he making his rounds he noticed that two of the prisoners, Pharaoh’s cupbearer (butler) and baker , seemed especially sad. This is a striking statement since one would expect that all the prisoners would be sad. The fact that Joseph was able to notice that these two men were particularly gloomy indicates that he was a man that really paid attention to others.
We do not know how long Joseph was in prison except that it was between 2 and 12 years. Yet throughout that entire period Joseph maintained a faultless testimony and through an exemplary life was able to give honor and glory to God. Likewise we can see that despite such bitter conditions God does not forsake His beloved servants and continues to use them for His honor and glory. These principles are just as true today. There are thousands of inmates in jails and prisons around the world, most deserving to be there and some not, that have committed their lives to Christ and are a part of God’s work of reaching the lost with the gospel.