When the Patriarch Joseph was thrown into prison in Egypt, he must have wondered if things could get much worse. He had already suffered the indignities of fraternal rejection and being sold for the price of a slave to passing traders. Then, after making an auspicious start in Egypt, he fell afoul of his master’s wife and ended up in prison. Within a few years he would be the right-and man of Pharaoh, guiding the land of Egypt through a seven-year famine. But when the prison doors clanked shut every night, nothing could be further from the truth.
How did a young man, an immigrant no less, become the prized employee in the largest “family business” in Egypt – managing Pharaoh’s household? The key to his success can be gleaned from the story of Gen 40:1-8, and especially two characteristics mentioned in that passage.
When Joseph was in prison he ended up serving and caring for two newly-arrived prisoners, Pharaoh’s butler and baker. Each had offended the ruler in unspecified ways. Each received a different dream on the same night in prison, but the dream left each of them perplexed, angry and dispirited.
Joseph did two things that launched his successful career. The first was that he actually paid attention to the anxieties of his fellow prisoners and asked them about it. He became great because he first became human. The second thing he did was to bring a specific skill to interpret the pain of his fellow prisoners. They each had dreams that confused them. Joseph’s skill in understanding and explaining dreams both brought a dose of reality to the situation (one of the prisoners lived and one died), but became the means for him to be recognized in Pharaoh’s household.
The Lessons for Today
So many things rush through your mind as you try to make the right “hire” of a non-family member. Davon and Alleah have skillfully pointed out some of those things. But keep in mind that the key to Joseph’s success was his demonstration of genuine concern for others – before even using his special skill.