The Trafficking of Joseph

Dreams of life vs Plots of death

Joseph dreams of the future, dreams of life, dreams of greatness, but others dream a different dream for him. They plot for death, they plot for exploitation, they plot for profit. Evil sets itself against the “dreamer” and his freedom of seeing the dreams come true: “… let us see what will become of his dreams!” (Gen 37:20). The victim of trafficking grew up with dreams for life only to see them crushed against the plots of her trafficker. In the story there is only one side: the survival of the dreamer. We are anxiously waiting to see the realization of dreams and the victory of life!

Removal of Clothing

“…they stripped Joseph of his tunic, the varicolored tunic that was on him; and they took him and threw him into the pit” (Gen 37:23-24). Stripping one naked is first and foremost an act of dehumanization, of shaming, of the denial of dignity and honour. Joseph is stripped naked of everything that represented the loving home of the Father. The removal of all visible manifestations of the Father’s love towards the victim serves the dehumanization further. It is easier to exploit one who does not look loved, one who is left as a vulnerable prey before its vultures. Victims of human trafficking are constantly physically exposed before their predators, visually and emotionally unprotected. What is needed are people who can picture them in the varicolored tunics of the Father in the absence of any visible clues of dignity.

Joseph Commodified

“What profit is it for us to kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites…” (Gen 37:26-27) In numerous cases the victim of trafficking is sold by her own family, the ultimate betrayal. What is priceless to the Father receives a price tag in the market of this world. Packaged, bound, sold, purchased, denied of self-ownership and shipped to slavery, the land of slavery: “Thus they brought Joseph into Egypt”. (Gen 37:28). Joseph’s journey begins, with various dangers, loneliness, imprisonment while at the same time the father’s mourning begins in absolute identification:”… but he refused to be comforted. And he said, Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son”. (Gen 37:35). The victims of trafficking are in constant danger and bondage but they also have a Father who will not be comforted until they reunite… The pricelessness of these souls can only be declared as the church gives EVERYTHING it takes to “buy” them back.

The Forgetfulness of Freedom

Joseph cries to the cupbearer who is now being freed: “Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.” (Gen 40:14-15) A slave cries to a slave who is now free. Joseph counting on the memory of the same experience of enslavement shared by a fellow human being, Joseph pleading with those who are enjoying the gift of freedom, indulging in their freedom…. “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” (Gen 40:23)

Freedom is a dangerous thing for it usually comes with forgetfulness, denial, oblivion, selective amnesia of anything that disrupts the conditions of bliss which come with freedom. The Church has forgotten its slavery in the palace of Pharaoh. The Christians are freed slaves but not entirely free. Freed slaves are not allowed to rest in their freedom until Joseph is free too just as the Israelite was ordered not to rest unless the alien in his land was also resting (Deut 5:13-15).

The victims of trafficking are still sitting in prison, hoping that the cupbearers will not forget…

2 thoughts on “The Trafficking of Joseph

  1. But we, knowing how the story turns out and forgetting that it describes real people, minimize Joseph’s thirteen years of slavery and imprisonment–nearly one half of his life by the time he enters Pharaoh’s service–which makes it truly convenient for us to forget its humane and social implications, and thus to ignore that it comes to us from a God whose bounty extends toward us blessings beyond imagination, and who establishes his throne in heaven in justice and equity, and to whom we and all beings shall give account.

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