Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, Part 2 — Genesis 39-40

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While Judah was having sons, and God was killing them off, and Judah was getting his daughter-in-law pregnant and threatening to burn her alive, Joseph was having a busy time in Egypt!

Did you miss Part 1? Go back and read it now!

“Good morning, Shirlee!” Ginny bounced into the classroom. “Isn’t it nice out?”

Shirlee glanced out the window. The big oak tree outside was in full leaf, rustling softly in a gentle breeze. It was much nicer a day than the previous Sunday.

“Can’t we go outside?”

“Well, I asked Pastor about that last week. He said no. He’s concerned that certain children in the class . . .” She glanced at Tom Cerveaux and his sister, “Might get overstimulated. But we can open the windows, how’s that?”

Ginny sighed. “Good as it’ll get, I guess.” She walked over to one of the two big wooden windows and unlocked it, then tried to lift the sash. “It’s stuck!”

“Looks like the sash cords are rotted anyway,” said Shirlee, pointing to the stubs above the pulleys. “I’ll ask Pastor to see about fixing the windows this week. Wonder if that custodian ever came back.”

“Which custodian?” asked Mark, standing inches behind Shirlee.

“Don’t DO that!” cried Shirlee, gasping. Regaining her composure, Shirlee explained that the custodian who’d put the lock on the supply closet door hadn’t been around since, and had probably gone on another of his drinking binges. Mark eyed the closet door uneasily, then took his usual seat, as far from that door as possible.

“Squeeek, squeek,” teased John.

“Enough, gentlemen. It’s time to get back to Joseph. Remember him?”

“Yes,” said Ginny. “He was snotty and uppity with his brothers, so they sold him into slavery. Nice family.”

“Horrible Bible people,” added Mark.

Shirlee glared at Mark, then opened her Bible. “While Judah was busy having multiple sons, and watching them grow up and be slaughtered by God, and getting his daughter-in-law pregnant, Joseph was busy, too.”

The people Joseph’s brothers had sold him to took him down to Egypt, where they sold him to a man named Potiphar, captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Potiphar saw that Joseph was successful at everything he did, and took a liking to him. Over time, Potiphar gave Joseph more and more authority in his house, until Joseph was overseeing everything Potiphar had.

And the Lord blessed Potiphar’s house, for Joseph’s sake; everything in the house, and everything growing in the field. Soon, Potiphar trusted Joseph so much, the only thing he paid attention to was what he was eating that day.

There was one thing Potiphar didn’t hand over to Joseph, and that was his wife. But she wanted to experience Joseph’s hand, too . . . and then some. She tried and tried to convince him to join her in bed, but Joseph knew that would be a great sin against God, and refused. (Genesis 39:1-10)

“What was her name?”

Shirlee glanced up. “I don’t know, John. The Bible doesn’t give her name.”

“How about ‘Harlotta’?” Mark snickered.

“Whatever you like,” sighed Shirlee. At least they were listening to the story.

Potiphar's wife sexually assaults Joseph! Guido Reni, 17th Century

One day, Joseph and . . . er, ‘Harlotta’ were alone in the house, and she grabbed him by his outer garment. He ran away, leaving the garment behind.

Annoyed that Joseph had spurned her advances, Harlotta called together the men of the house and told them Joseph had tried to have his way with her! (Genesis 39:11-19)

“That filthy liar!” Ginny frowned. “Now he’ll be executed, don’t adulterers get put to death?”

“Not in Egypt, Ginny,” said Mark. “You’ll see.”

“Reading ahead again, Mark?”

“You bet, Shirlee!”

Potiphar had Joseph arrested and thrown into prison, where Joseph was looked upon kindly by the prison keeper, who then put Joseph in charge of taking care of the prisoners. And God favored the prison, and it prospered. (Genesis 39:20-23)

“Anticlimac-ac-ac-tic-tic,” whispered Tom.

“Yes, it is. Every bit of the Bible can’t be exciting, Tom.”

Mark grinned. “A prosperous prison, Shirlee? What does that look like, exactly?”

“No idea, Mark. The Bible doesn’t say. I assume peaceful and clean.” Shirlee glanced at her watch. “That chapter didn’t take long. Let’s keep going!”

Not long after, Pharaoh’s butler and baker annoyed Pharaoh, so he had them put in the same prison where Joseph was being kept. The captain put Joseph in charge of taking care of the butler and baker for the duration of their sentences.

“What were they in for, Shirlee?”

“They were in because they offended Pharaoh, Mark. That’s all the Bible says. Does it really matter?”

“I read somewhere that they were accused of trying to poison him.”

“Can you show me anything like that in your Bible, Mark?”

Mark studied the text briefly. “No. It just says they offended him.”

“Thank you. Can we get back to what the Bible actually says, instead of the ridiculous fictions some greedy people have made up to sell their storybooks?”

One night, the butler and the baker each had a dream.

The next morning, Joseph came in and saw that both men looked sad. So he asked these two high-ranking servants of the Pharaoh who were now in prison why they were sad, as apparently being in prison instead of their homes wasn’t reason enough.

They explained that they had dreamed dreams, and could not interpret them. So Joseph told them that dream interpretations belong to God, and asked them to tell him the dreams. (Genesis 40:1-8)

“See?” said Ginny, poking John, who let out a surprised yelp. “I told you dream interpretation was OK!”

“Ginny, stop poking John. And be careful about dream interpretation, it’s easy to get them wrong.” Shirlee looked back to the Bible.

Joseph interprets the butler and baker's dreams. Domenico Maggiotto, 18th Century

The butler went first. He had dreamed of a grapevine with three branches, and he saw the buds come forth and bloom, and bring forth grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in his hand, and the butler squeezed the grapes into the cup and gave it to Pharaoh.

Joseph explained that the branches indicated three days, and that at that time, Pharaoh would put him back to his former position, and he would deliver the cup to Pharaoh as he used to do.

Joseph asked that the butler remember him to Pharaoh and ask for his release, explaining he’d done nothing wrong and didn’t deserve prison.

The baker, seeing that the interpretation was good, then told Joseph his dream. He’d had three baskets on his head, with all sorts of baked goods for Pharaoh in the top basket. The birds ate the baked goods out of the basket on his head.

Joseph interpreted the dream, saying that in three days, Pharaoh would hang the baker from a tree, and the birds would pick the flesh off him.

And on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, Pharaoh had a feast for all of his servants. He restored the butler to his former place, and hanged the baker.

And the butler forgot about Joseph, and did not mention him to Pharaoh. (Genesis 40:9-23)

“So . . .”

“Yes, Mark?”

“The only people who heard Joseph interpret the dream were the butler and the baker.”

Shirlee nodded.

“And the baker died and the butler forgot.”


“So what verification is there of this dream interpretation event? I could claim I dreamed how an election would turn out, or any number of other things, and just tell you about it after the fact.”

“It’s in the Bible, Mark. What more verification do you want?”

“Any. Any would be nice.”

John put his hand up. “Shirlee? Joseph wasn’t stupid, I can see that.”

“That’s true!”

“And he served these two guys for a while, and probably knew what they were in for. Which we don’t.”


“And likely knew when Pharaoh’s birthday was coming, which it did every year, since he was formerly a servant of the captain of the guard. So he’d know the sorts of things Pharaoh did for his birthday . . . like free or execute prisoners.”

“I see where you’re going here, John,” said Mark. “He just applied his basic knowledge to explain the dreams based on what he expected would happen, and he was right.”


“That’s all very well and good, boys, but just wait until you see what comes next!” Shirlee closed her Bible. “Next week, you see what Joseph does with his God-given dream interpreting skills!”

Continue to Part 3: Pharaoh’s Dream!

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