Joseph in Prison

After many days’ journey, in scorching sun by day and starry cold by night, the Ishmaelitish merchantmen, with their camels and spices and other merchandise, came down into Egypt. There all that Joseph saw was new and strange to him. They made their way into the chief city of Egypt and pushed on through the babel of its thronged and narrow streets into the market-place. Here they unladed their camels. On the morrow they took Joseph into the slave-market, where captives from all countries that bordered the land of Egypt were bought and sold. And Joseph himself was bought by an Egyptian whose name was Potiphar, a man of wealth and one of the king’s high officers.

At first sight of his keen open face, though it was now haggard with pain and sleeplessness, Potiphar judged well of Joseph. Unlike most of his slaves, Joseph was not sent to labour in the fields and vineyards under a taskmaster, but was taken into Potiphar’s house and became his personal servant.

And the Lord was with Joseph; he kept him in all perils. Whatever Joseph did, he did well. He prospered in the house of his master, the Egyptian. And seeing that in all things he was upright and faithful, Potiphar as the years went by gave Joseph more and more authority in his household, and at last made him steward or overseer over his servants and his slaves, not only those who were within the house, but also over his gardeners and the tenders of his orchards and vineyards. So entire was his trust in Joseph that he had no care or anxieties apart from his office under Pharaoh the king, and knew nothing of what passed in his household except only what he himself had to eat and drink. In all that Joseph did, he was answerable to Potiphar alone.

Yet in age Joseph was still but a young man. He was of a natural courtesy, and he had an open and beautiful countenance. And Potiphar’s wife, who had often cast her eyes on him as he went about his business in the house, began to lie in wait for him and to pine for his company. She was a woman false and vain, and by all the deceits she knew she strove to beguile him, and at last spoke openly of her love. But he hated her, mind and body, and refused to listen.

‘I entreat thee,’ he said, ‘say no more. My lord has shown me many kindnesses. He has made me chief of all his servants, and so complete is his trust in me that when at evening he returns home, he does not even question me on what has passed in the house during his absence. Everything and everyone in it has been given into my charge except only thee thyself; for thou art his wife. How vile a thing would it be, then, if I were to deceive him and sin against God.’

Day followed day, and still the Egyptian’s wife continued to pester him, until there came a morning when, they being alone together, lovesick and shameless, she once more besought him. He turned from her with loathing, and fled out of the house. And she knew at last that her deceits were in vain. Her love, never else than false, corrupted instantly into bitter hatred. And having proof that Joseph had been in her company, she set about to revenge herself against him.

She summoned the other chief servants of the household and lied to them. ‘See now,’ she said, ‘this vile Hebrew whom my lord bought from the slave-traders and set up over you all! Why, he makes mock and insult even of me, the wife of his master. There is nothing safe from him.’

That night when her husband was with her she lyingly accused Joseph, and this she did so guilefully, weeping, and as though in shame of having to confess what would anger and trouble him, that Potiphar believed her every word. He was beside himself with rage. He summoned his slaves and bade that Joseph should be bound and instantly cast into prison—the prison where offenders against King Pharaoh himself were kept in captivity. And Potiphar thought of him no more.

There Joseph lay, in a foul dungeon, and was set to such pitiless labour that when night came and the day was done, he was thankful to fling himself down in the darkness and forget his miseries in sleep. Yet in spite of all the hardships that he shared with the rest of the prisoners—driven and beaten and half-starved—he never gave up hope or lost courage. And the Lord was with Joseph in the prison. As time went on, his mere presence there became a solace to the wretchedness of those who languished with him, and the guards or warders spoke well of him, eased his labour and freed him of his fetters.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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