“You know what I wanna do to them? First, I’m gonna cut off their thumbs and feed them to my hounds. Then I’ll start on their toes – that should wipe the grin off their faces.”
“Oh shut your face, Joe! You know I hate it when you talk like this. You hardly know these people - why pick on them?”
Joe lifted a stiletto from the ebony table and used the point to clean the crud from under his fingernails, studiously avoiding his wife’s question. Underneath his placid exterior, turmoil raged as questions of conscience clashed with insatiable craving for vengeance. He had the authority to carry out these threats – but did he have the heart?
“Because they owe me, that’s why. They treated me like dirt. And they thought they had gotten away with it. So now it’s my turn to show them who’s boss.”
There was a knock at the door; a bodyguard strutted in, bowing low before his patron. “Those men have been arrested. Should I have them flogged, sir?”
Joe toyed with the idea, relishing the crash of the falling strap, the cry of unrestrained agony, the heady excitement of the torturer, the pitiful terror of the accused. But one look at his wife warned him not to push his luck at this time. Asenath could be impossible once roused and he didn’t want anything to spoil the sweet satisfaction of revenge.
“What did they do to you, my love?” The guard had hardly left the room when Asenath threw herself at him, pressing her silk-wrapped body against Joe’s bare chest.
The explanation didn’t need further coaxing; words poured forth like water: “They beat me. They left me to bake in the desert’s heat. They sold me to slavers and laughed as I was dragged away, kicking and screaming and begging for mercy. I was my father’s son and heir but they consigned me to a life of cleaning out the trash. That’s why I’m gonna do them.”
“But why, Joe? Why would such strangers hate you?”
“Because they’re not strangers – they were my brothers!”
The high chancellor of Egypt tore himself free from his wife’s arms and threw open the doors to his chambers. “Guards,” he hollered, “bring the prisoners to the main hall! And summon the executioners!”
Men hurried off to carry out their master’s bidding. Part of Joe wanted to call them back, to explain that he had changed his mind. But the decision was already made. The gods of Egypt understood about vengeance – Horus had slaughtered his father’s murderer even though he was also kin. Surely the God of Jacob could not so different?
“Joseph…” It was years since he had last heard that voice, so powerful, so full of compassion.
“Lord, I’m here,” he finally replied. “I’m ready to be your sword of justice, to execute punishment on the ungodly.”
“Joseph, when you served in Potiphar’s house, was I not with you?”
“Indeed, Lord, but—”
“When you were thrust into prison, did I abandon you?”
“No, you didn’t, but—”
“Did I not exalt you in Pharoah’s sight?”
“Yes, Lord, but—”
“Forgive them, Joseph! They have suffered many times over for their sins. Today is a new day in all of your lives. Walk with me.”
“Forgive them? Never!” Joe slammed through the heavy drapes at the end of the corridor. Emerging into the main hall of his villa, he snatched a spear from an immobile guard and advanced menacingly to greet his visitors. To the man, they fell to their faces, grovelling for mercy. Fury gripped him as he towered over their prostrate bodies, the shaft of the spear heavy in his hands. There lay Levi who had sneered at his dreams. There was Simeon who had counted the silver. There cowered Reuben who had scurried away, leaving him to the mercy of his brothers. The hour for vengeance was at hand.
The spear hung trembling in the air, awaiting the command to plunge. But at that moment a solitary face looked up from the floor. Eyes that were justly free from guilt. Eyes that had once captivated Joseph, full of love and tender mercy. His mother’s eyes. Now set within Benjamin’s beloved face.
The armed guards didn’t know how to respond. Joseph lay prostrate on the marble floor, sobbing his heart out, begging forgiveness from eleven men also on their faces. Grace had crept into Joseph’s home. Mercy was at work reuniting the family.
Adapted from Genesis 44:1 - 45:15 and dramatized
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