I Am Joseph
By Jim Vasquez
I see them as in carriages,
Of stately royal hue,
Theyre borne away, their task fulfilled,
Theyre purses, stomachs, too.
They came an unexpected day,
To whimper and to plead,
When famine struck their land and left,
No stalk on which to feed.
And as their fading images,
Grow smaller to my view,
I wonder at Gods ways with man,
And would impart to you,
These memories of things now past,
These thoughts of things to be,
These queries and uncertainties,
That now sweep over me.
Theyre gone! Theyve been absorbed at last,
By distant hills and plain,
I told them not to argue and,
In sober peace remain.
But only gone from sight, I know,
These brothers shall not leave,
Those empty places, now so filled,
I lived with morn and eve.
I sent them off and ordered them,
To bring my father here,
Some twenty years Ive been away,
I want to have him near.
And for my part I promised I,
Was through with tricks so rude,
Like putting in their sacks the coin,
They paid me for their food.
I scared them well. You ask me why?
It goes back quite a ways,
It started now so long ago,
In heady, youthful days.
I was a shepherd, like the rest,
We watched our fathers sheep,
But there were times I stayed at home,
And by his side would keep.
I was his favorite, it was clear,
He loved my mother so,
And when she died that love to me,
Continued in its flow.
And then a time or two I dreamed.
I had not yet received,
The gift to understand a dream,
And left them quite aggrieved,
When sharing that by night Id seen,
Their stalks before mine bow,
They listened and to my surprise,
They took offense somehow.
And from that time, I guess, it was,
They plotted this ill deed,
My presence to remove at last,
And would no mercy heed.
From father they would keep it
A savage beast theyd blame,
Our land was wild, untamed and crude,
And for such beasts had fame.
And thus the day arrived - far off,
They tended all our flock,
And father sent me after them,
About a three-days walk.
They saw me dressed in gaudy robe,
My fathers hand had knit,
And quickly did I find myself,
Thrown deep inside a pit.
They thought at first to end my life,
With no one there to save,
But Judah rose and then implored,
They sell me as a slave.
And if youd asked me at the time,
Im sure I would have said,
That chains werent my idea of life,
I sooner would be dead.
And thus, despairing of my life,
Into their hands I fell.
But that a greater Hand was there,
So little could I tell.
Id held my place, a favored one,
Within my family,
And thought I was a bit above,
Those who surrounded me.
And with such confidence alone,
In my determined will,
How could I know those purposes,
I one day would fulfill?
And so to Egypt did I come,
And worked from dawn to dusk,
I served them well, the richest food,
My meal was barren husk.
But it was plain to Potiphar,
That all the things I did,
Were blest as if divinely wrought,
Whatever he had bid.
And shortly, then, he raised me up,
And put me over all,
His house, possessions, everything,
That he his own did call.
And Potiphar was captain of,
All Pharoahs guard those days,
His men obeyed his every word,
And jumped before his gaze.
In truth, far more his men he ruled,
Then those within his house,
And in particular I mean,
His own most brazen spouse.
Yes, she had eyes for me, I knew,
But lest you think I boast,
Im sure she lusted for all men,
The closest one, the most.
And one day foolishly I went,
Within the house alone,
She grasped my garb to pull it off,
And then I heard her moan,
"Come lie with me, you handsome man,
Ive pleasures youve not known,
In solitude well have those things,
My husband wont condone."
Now by this time I fully knew,
The blessings that were mine,
The wealth, authority and fame,
The choicest food and wine,
Were given by a greater Power,
Than Potiphar the man,
And in return required of me,
And all my life did scan,
For signs of character Id heard,
In early years long past,
Which I had disregarded but,
Was learning now at last.
My words to her were just and true,
"I could not thus repay,
My master who has been so kind,
Nor all his trust betray."
And so I fled right out the house,
Escaping from that hell,
And quickly then was sentenced to,
My masters deepest cell.
For she had used that very cloak,
Shed pulled from off my back,
To say Id come in secret there,
Intending to attack.
By then I knew the Name of Him,
Who ever faithfully,
Had been my helper all those years,
Without forsaking me.
And in my new surroundings, then,
My pledge I there renewed,
Accepting all God brought to me,
With all my will subdued.
I did all that they asked and soon,
I found I was in charge,
Of prisoners throughout the place,
Of all things, small and large.
And thus it happened that one day,
They said I must appear,
Before the ruler of Egypt,
And had no cause to fear.
Hed heard I could interpret dreams,
Id done it while in jail.
Hed sought his own advisors help,
And they did naught but fail.
"Are not the dreams of every man,
Known only to our God?
How, then, can we divine such things,
We who are made of sod?"
Yes, bold they seem, these words of mine,
I spoke to Pharoah high,
But through the years all that Id learned,
(And all Id learn for aye),
Assured me of this endless truth,
Whoever God will heed,
Will never find himself alone,
In times of greatest need.
I knew the moment he disclosed,
Those dreams hed had by night,
Thered be a time of feast ahead,
And then sevn years of blight.
I urged he quick prepare himself,
He had no time to waste,
The fruitful years hed soon forget,
When famine he then faced.
And just as sure as God had givn,
This wisdom, choice and dread,
He then convinced great Pharoah of,
The truth of what I said.
So Pharoah shook things up a bit,
He elevated me,
So high, in fact, whereer I went,
The people bent the knee.
And from that day to this, I say,
Whatever has been done,
In Egypt has been ordered by,
This shepherds cast-off son.
And so for fully nine years now,
Ive ruled at Pharoahs word,
Theres none whos greater save for him,
And all the worlds heard.
There came the day, then, when appeared,
These brothers gaunt and tired,
I recognized their father was,
The man who me had sired.
Yes, there was Reuben, Levi, too,
And Simeon by their side,
And Judah with the rest bowed down,
Shorn of conceit and pride.
They knew me not as there they bowed,
And would not for a while,
Id teach them now a thing or two,
And use a little guile.
I put them all in jail three days,
Theyd pay for that old sin,
And then I said, "Youre free to go,
But bring me Benjamin."
And then I heard them, filled with fear,
Recall that distant day,
When they my bondaged soul did sell,
And sent me far away.
"He begged for mercy and his life,
With his last ounce of breath,
And now at last our sin has come,
To haunt us to the death!"
And deeply touched was I, of course,
Thus to hear their voices,
At last acknowledging their sin,
And rueing sorry choices.
But what they did was from the Lord,
Hed led and prospered me,
How could I seek my vengeance, then,
And repay spitefully?
Then I could not contain my tears,
And hurried from the place,
They oughtnt yet to see the pain,
That covered all my face.
They still were brothers, all Id known,
There was a time when we,
Did wrestle, work and laugh as one,
At home so joyfully.
And these sweet thoughts in all their power,
Swept through my soul just then,
And oh! I wanted them to know,
Those dark and weary men,
Just who I was, just how I loved,
Just how I pardoned them,
How safe theyd be in this new land,
With no one to condemn.
And after one more trip they took,
To bring my brother Ben,
I told them who I was at last,
And they were speechless, then.
Yes, "I am Joseph," I declared,
"The brother whom you sold.
I rule this land neath Pharaohs hand,
And all the power I hold.
"And lives my father still?" I asked,
And feared what they would say,
For silence followed and I thought,
The answer must be "nay."
But quick I was assuring them,
That though they meant me ill,
The thing had been from God to work,
His good and sovereign will.
And when they had recovered well,
For truly theyd been shocked,
We wept a while, embracing still,
And finally then we talked.
"Come here to live," I strongly urged,
"Therere years of famine left,
In Egypt youll be cared for well,
In Canaans land, bereft.
"And bring my father, let him see,
And all our ample clan,
How good our God has been to me,
How kind has been His plan.
"His purpose now is plain to see,
A mighty nation, saved!
Though all the path He carried me,
Was pain and sorrow paved.
"Yes, I am Joseph, and before,
All Egypts sons, the first,
I rule her armies, seal her laws,
And all my larders burst."
Now if youd know just when I came,
To understand the best,
What God does seek in each mans soul,
What parts him from the rest,
Ill tell you twas in moments when,
I served anothers need,
And thinking not of what I lacked,
I helped him to succeed.
And whether, then, neath darkened sky,
Of servitude it be,
Or seated on the throne of power,
Where others bend the knee,
My greatest glory and reward,
Was not in what I had,
For when I donned a servants garb,
Was I most richly clad.
Ah! Soon they shall appear again,
Oer yonder barren hill,
To see them after all these years,
Will my best hopes fulfill.
Theyll settle in this land so vast,
My joy will then abound,
And then Gods plan will be complete,
With family all around.
from the December 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine