If anyone ever had a reason to become bitter, it was Joseph. His brothers called him names (This dreamer!), they stripped him of the coat his father had lovingly given him. They dumped him in a pit, ignored his pleas for mercy, and even plotted to kill him. But thanks to one of the older brothers, Judah, they were convinced instead to sell him for a profit to traders come down from Gilead with all kinds of goods for Egypt. You know one of the goods mentioned in the caravan was “balm.” Jeremiah once exclaimed over a sick nation, “Is there no balm in Gilead.” He wasn’t concerned about a physical disease in the land but a spiritual one. The condition in the souls of men is called sin. I’ve always loved the old spiritual “There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul.” Isn’t it interesting that the caravan that Joseph’s brothers sold him to and sinned against him so drastically was carrying the very cure! (Figuratively speaking!).

God was with Joseph as he had always been. Joseph went with the Balm of Gilead into Egypt. He was honored by the man who bought him, Potiphar, and was elevated to take charge of everything in his house. The only thing the text said was held back from Joseph was Potiphar’s wife. According to many commentators, Potiphar was a eunuch. Brayford explains how we know that. She writes, “Having introduced Potiphar earlier (37:36) as a ‘eunuch and chief butcher of Pharaoh’ (τῷ σπάδοντι Φαραὼ ἀρχιμαγείρᾠ), the narrator again describes him as a eunuch and chief butcher but uses another Greek word (ὁ εὐνοῦχος) to translate the Hebrew סריס. As was the case with the previous Greek word (σπάδοντι), LSJ (1968, 724) makes it clear that εὐνοῦχος refers to a castrated male, rather than to merely a high court official in the Mesopotamian style.”1 Thus, it helps us understand how the very young, good-looking Joseph was such a temptation for her.

Everything was given to Joseph except that one thing, Potiphar’s wife. Just like in the garden of Eden, everything was given to Adam and Eve except one thing. But that ended up being the very thing they wanted. When they looked at it, handled it, listened to Satan describe all its marvelous benefits, they went for it. Adam couldn’t resist, and he listened to his wife, took the apple, and ate. As a picture of the coming savior of the world, Joseph had all the temptations you could imagine but fled from the presence of his temptation. Even though he was thrown into prison, God was with him and raised him up even in jail. He didn’t just survive. He thrived in many ways. He stayed there for about two years before God raised him up once more. God will always do that.  He may take his time as in Joseph’s case, who languished for two years. The secret is he waited for God. His hope was in the Lord. Isaiah says it well, “even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.” (40:30-31)

LSJ LSJ Liddell, Scott, Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968

1 Susan A. Brayford, Genesis: Commentary, ed. Stanley E. Porter, Richard S. Hess, and John Jarick, Septuagint Commentary Series (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2007), 402–403.