August 30, 2006

Explaining Potiphar's Wife and Other Excitements

We're talking about Joseph here in school. The faith of Joseph through all the trials and all the good times, and the very human side of him, as well as the story of the long term providence of God, have always made it one of my favorites. Although The Boy already knows these tales from Sunday School, I think I may have raised more issues than I wanted to in our lesson today.

First, we had to back track and discuss Jacob and his two wives. This was certainly a bit troubling to The Boy, who wanted to know not only why Jacob could marry both Leah and Rachel, but why it wasn't really a good thing to have two wives, and why women couldn't have more than one husband.

Then we wound up chatting about why having favorites among one's children is also unwise and unfair.

Moving right along, try explaining the story of Potiphar's wife to a kid who steadfastly refuses to be interested in the birds and the bees, but wants to know why Potiphar would imprison Joseph and what Potiphar's wife wanted.

And then there is the issue of the illustrations in the book we were reading. Why is Benjamin drawn as though he is about seven when his brothers bring him to Egypt? He's almost always portrayed this way in drawings, but by my count, Joseph has to have been gone at least 19 years. Naturally, The Boy wanted to know why I was disagreeing with the book.

And although I shouldn't have done it, I did happen to mention that some people think there are better translations than "coat of many colors." Being a traditionalist, The Boy took great exception to this and objected strongly to any suggestion that any but the common translation might be correct.

I enjoy these discussions, but whew! The Boy is wearing me out.


I love this story. It is one of my favorites. And you're right. The coat actually probably just had sleeves, unlike everyone elses. If you had sleeves it meant you didn't do the hard work. It was a position of honor. A rainbow colored coat? I guess it's more fun for the kids to tell it like that, like the picture of Noah in the ark with all these gentle animals smiling. That place was a smelly zoo!

Posted by: jason berggren at August 31, 2006 04:12 AM

The traditional Jewish interpretation is Joseph was in captivity in Egypt for 22 years, to repay Jacob for the 22 years he did not contact his parents.

I'm not personally familiar with alternative explanations of the Coat of Many Colors, but there are traditionally 4 levels of explanation for each bible verse, including (As I recall) the simple explanation, homiletical, mystical, and one I think that translates as "hint" - things implied but not expressly stated. So I imagine there's plenty of discussion of the Coat in all those modes, I just haven't read any myself.

Posted by: skinnydan at August 31, 2006 08:22 AM

He will certainly keep you on your toes. With all the intellectual curiosity he has, and his superior (and occassionally embarassing) language skills, he'll do well in any profession he choses.

Posted by: Diane at August 31, 2006 10:52 AM

You can look at the coat as symbolic of Jacob putting his mantle (of approval, of being the favorite) on Joseph. As this story was handed down orally, I'm sure many storytellers would embellish on the coat's appearance.

As cute/handsome and outgoing as your son is, it won't be too long before girls start "throwing" themselves at him, especially the aggressive ones some folks are raising. Joseph's story is a good example to teach him about honor and respect, even when temptation is ready and willing.

Posted by: MarcV at August 31, 2006 11:36 AM

Ah, the complications we encounter when we leave VeggieTales behind (It'll be a while before I have any post-preschoolers around, so I can relax for now). If you've seen "Little Joe", you know they sidestep that whole issue and say Joe got framed because Miss Kitty was piqued at being displaced as employee of the month. Of course, the ultimate in reframing adult subject matter was "King George and the Ducky", where David's "harem" is an armoire full of rubber duckies and his rival is restored to health after a bath.

If you're flummoxed by the Boy, just think what he must have been doing to those German hippies! ;)

Posted by: Lenise at August 31, 2006 12:00 PM