Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.
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Joseph in Prison
Genesis 39:1-23 Commentary
by Jacqueline E. Lapsley
In reading the story of Joseph in Potiphar’s house, in which Potiphar’s wife tries to force Joseph, a high-ranking servant in the household, into a sexual relationship, we may feel that we are reading the script for the next episode of “House of Cards.”
In the corridors of the mighty, lust and corruption are rampant, destroying lives and deforming governmental structures so that the powerful accrue more power and the innocent are incarcerated.
Joseph is purchased by Potiphar, “a captain of the guard,” from the Ishmaelites, then is installed as an overseer in Potiphar’s house. The story emphatically repeats that God is active in Joseph’s life, making him successful in all his undertakings (Genesis 39:2, 3, 5, 21, 23). Potiphar, noticing his success, wants it to rub off on him and his household and so raises Joseph into a position of power within his household. Potiphar’s wife is also attracted to the success that emanates from Joseph. She uses her position to try to compel him to do her will, and when rejected, has Joseph put in prison.
Shows like “House of Cards” both reflect our current reality and shape that reality. In American politics those at the apex of power today may well stumble tomorrow, ...
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Summer 2020 Readings
2020-21 Readings (Year 3)
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
Narrative Lectionary 141: Joseph in Prison
September 21, 2014
Join Profs. Cameron Howard, Craig Koester and Kathryn Schifferdecker for "I Love to Tell the Story," a conversation on Year 1 of the narrative lectionary. This podcast covers the reading for Sept. 21, 2014: Genesis 39:1-23. Accompanying reading: Matthew 5:11-12.