The Story of Potiphar and Pharaoh


Sometimes you begin somewhere and end up somewhere else.

I have been reading the story of Joseph in the Old Testament these days because as far as I know, Joseph is the only person – or at least the first person the Bible records as having been trafficked. His brothers sold him to wandering traders for a sum of money who then resold him to the Egyptian aristocrat, Potiphar.

But as I followed the story of Joseph and Potiphar, my mind trailed off to think of something else. I have been thinking of how lucky Potiphar was. With Joseph as his chief overseer, Potiphar could be so much at peace that he could afford not to be concerned about anything else except the food that he ate.

A few verses earlier, it says in the narrative that the Lord prospered Potiphar and blessed everything that belonged to Potiphar – both in the house and in the fields. In other words, Potiphar knew all round contentment. It also says that the Lord blessed the house of Potiphar because of Joseph.

I am trying to explore the story here. Is it that Potiphar hit pay dirt, because he had the servant with the right pedigree, the right credentials, and the right connections, so to speak; in this instance, Joseph with a direct hot line to Almighty God? Well of course we do know that Joseph did have a particularly intimate relationship with God, but Potiphar at this point of the story wasn’t to know that; the dreams that Joseph had in prison and which catapulted him to celebrity status came much later in the Egyptian prison dungeons.

I think the answer lies elsewhere and not in God’s blessing floating over Potiphar’s household like some mystic dew, just because Joseph stayed there. I think the answer lies in Joseph’s character, as a man who worked hard and diligently at his task using the wisdom that God gave him and blessings followed as a result in due course.

We see that characteristic of Joseph in later years, when he was again the de facto ruler – this time not of a household but of an entire country. Joseph had his dreams which gave him insights in to what was to happen in the future – seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of drought and famine. Lots of people have dreams; they had them then, they have them now.

But Joseph picked up the kernel of insight that God provided and planned. Planned so diligently in fact , that not only did Egypt have food stocks  to feed its own people, they could afford to take in refugees from neighbouring states who did not have ‘Josephs’ to plan for them. And again, like Potiphar decades before, Pharaoh could entrust the entire country of Egypt to Joseph’s care and relax, because he knew that Joseph could be trusted; that he would do nothing amiss. And Joseph did not; not once in his entire life did he misuse the trust that was reposed in him.

And that brings me to the question that I have been asking myself- what kind of a worker am I? I serve as the Executive Director for Oasis in India. In several ways, I am in a position of responsibility. Do I function like a Joseph in the way I discharge my responsibilities? I have a Board I report to. I have many donors I relate to. My own Potiphars and Pharaohs. They are all important people with their own jobs to do. Can they sleep well at night, knowing that “all is well”? Or do they stay up, restless and confused because I am sleeping on the job and things are getting messed up.

But this is not just my story; it is every one’s story. Everyone has a Pharaoh and a Potiphar in their life; a person who has been placed above them, and hopefully trust has been placed in them too. Am I vindicating that trust, living up to that expectation? Are we doing our jobs well, so that they can do theirs? Or do they have to do our jobs too, in addition to their own, slowing everything down? it is good to live a life of such a quality that those around us can trust us so much that they can afford to be unconcerned about everything else except the food that they eat. It may not be good for Potiphar and his heart but that is another story; but it was great for Joseph’s conscience and it will surely be good for us!

Shantanu Dutta

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One Response to The Story of Potiphar and Pharaoh

  1. Prime Naukri says:

    Hi Wonderful Blog u Wrote i actually enhanced my Knowledge

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