Joseph: The Ultimate Victim of Injustice

Posted on November 16, 2017

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By David Ettinger 

The account of the amazing Joseph can be found in Genesis Chapters 37-50.

Without a doubt, Joseph, the 11th of Jacob’s 12 sons, was one of the most amazing men who ever lived. And, unless one has experienced even a tenth of what Joseph had to live through, it is impossible to understand what he must have endured.

He was but a 17-year-old boy when his brothers acted so treacherously against him. Though the worst he could be accused of was being naïve, he did nothing even remotely deserving of the injustice committed against him, a heinous act committed out of nothing more than jealousy.

handcuffedTo be disowned by a family at any age is heartbreaking, let alone as a teenager. Not only was Joseph disowned, but the original plan of the brothers was to kill him. Some quick thinking by oldest brother Rueben saved Joseph’s life, but didn’t prevent him from being sold as a slave. Readers of this loathsome account can only imagine Joseph’s horror and despair as he was led off to Egyptian bondage. Injustice had brutally victimized him and would continue to do so for the next 13 years.

Upon arriving in Egypt, Joseph was sold to a high-ranking official named Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard (Genesis 37:36). Then, something amazing happened: “Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Genesis 39:4). And this considering Joseph was but a teenager, and a Hebrew one at that – neither fact conducive to attaining such a position of responsibility in Egypt.

It seemed that Joseph’s fortunes were changing when injustice stalked him yet again. Apparently an attractive young man, Joseph caught the lustful attention of Potiphar’s wife. A woman without scruples, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce the young Hebrew, who steadfastly refused. “How … could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” he asked (Genesis 39:9).

Joseph’s repudiations did nothing to hinder her onslaught upon Joseph’s purity, and when at last she could no longer stand it, Potiphar’s wife fabricated a story that Joseph had assaulted her. Not even bothering to look into the matter, Potiphar had Joseph immediately sentenced to prison, where the 17-year-old would spend the next 13 prime years of his life.

A horrible injustice indeed.

It would have been enough to crush the spirits of the best man or woman, but then we read this remarkable passage: “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (Genesis 39:20-21). As a result, Joseph was put in charge of the prison.

Even so, how could Joseph have sustained such corrupt treatment? Honor, fortitude, and obedience to God can stretch only so far. The key to Joseph’s remarkable forbearance was God’s enabling power upon him. Joseph was able to bear up under his 13 years of incarceration because, “the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:23). It was the Lord who strengthened Joseph and gave him a reason to wake up every morning.

egyptHowever, despite the Lord’s presence in his life, we can imagine many nights when Joseph must have cried himself to sleep. How he must have greatly missed his father Jacob (his mother Rachel had died while giving birth to Benjamin, his younger brother) and longed to feel his father’s warm embrace. But this was impossible. In fact, it is likely that during the long years of his prison captivity, Joseph never felt the warmth of a embrace, the gentleness of a kiss on the cheek, or even the satisfaction of a pat on the shoulder.

When Joseph reached age 30, a series of events led him to the Number 2 position in the Egyptian government. Many would consider this the highlight of Joseph’s life and the greatest of his accomplishments, but I don’t. For me, Joseph’s greatest achievement was the extraordinary way in which he conducted himself throughout his ordeals. He served God despite his brothers’ malevolent act against him. He refused to sin against God by committing adultery with Potiphar’s wife. He never cried out for vengeance during the years while he was running Pharaoh’s prison. And when, at age 37, he again encountered his brothers, he never used his power to punish them. Yes, he threw a necessary scare into them, but he never laid a harmful finger on them.

Joseph was dealt a lifetime of injustice by the time he was 30 and bore it brilliantly, leaving all victims of injustice throughout history a remarkable example of resilience, strength, grit, and grace under the worst of adversity. Joseph – the hero of all who suffer injustice!

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