Ashes and Sackcloth

You will remember from *last time* that Asenath first met Joseph at the home of her father, Potiphera. She made as if to kiss him in greeting, but he evaded her, saying his religion didn’t allow him to kiss women he didn’t know, no matter how chaste the kiss.

This distressed Asenath greatly, for she had fallen head over heels in love with Joseph when she had first seen him from afar. Joseph, moved at Asenath’s tears, asked God Most High to bless her.

Joseph’s words produced in Asenath two sorts of feelings – overwhelming joy, and dread. These were contradictory feelings to be sure, but understandable. To be blessed by a Beloved is always nice, but to be spoken to by him in the name of God Most High could not normally be other than most disturbing, even today.

Asenath ran back to the tower where she lived. She fell upon her bed and wept.

“Joseph can never truly love me because I worship the Egyptian gods and not his God Most High” she sobbed, “But I must have him because without him I’m a nothing. Oh, where will this all end?”

When evening came, Asenath went down to the bottom of her tower. She swept up the ashes in the hallway into a leather curtain that she removed from the door. She went upstairs again and scattered the ashes on the floor of her room. Then she fastened her door with an iron bar while she groaned aloud in sadness.

Seven other young women who had never known a man in the fullest sense lived also in the tower with Asenath. They could hear Asenath’s groans and didn’t quite know what to make of it.

They went to the door. One of them asked through it, “What’s the matter, my lady? Do you have a man in there who’s doing things to you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous” said Asenath, “How could you even think that? I’ve got a bad headache, that’s all, and groaning loudly helps take the pain away. Please now all of you return to your rooms and don’t bother me.”

After some moments Asenath opened her door to see if anyone was still about. She went to her second room where she kept all her jewelery and fine clothes and religious icons. She smashed the icons and threw the jewelery and fine clothes out of the window.

She put on a sackcloth and went back to her bedroom and rolled on the ashes on the floor, so that the ashes covered her all over. Then she lay on her bed and resumed groaning and weeping. This went on through the night.

In the morning the ashes on her sackcloth and body had become like mud from the tears that had rolled down her face. This made Asenath feel no better. She wept and groaned unrelentingly over the next seven days, and ate and drank nothing either.


– Genesis 41, 45 – 46

Joseph and Asenath, Chapters 9 and 10

This entry was posted in Asenath, Joseph, Potiphera and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ashes and Sackcloth

  1. jenny says:

    Crazy little thing called love. It’s a disaster. C’mon, give her a happy ending, will ya?

  2. Christopher says:

    I hate happy endings.

  3. jenny says:

    Golly, though, your response made me smile, Christopher.
    Happy ending.

  4. jenny says:

    By the way, Byron Bunch realizes he’s in love with Lena Grove. That’s a beautiful chapter.

  5. Christopher says:

    Yes, Byron Bunch’s falling in love with the pregnant Lena was moving.

    But, was it because Byron was womanless, and wasn’t the sort of man who would easily find a woman to love? Therefore he would be susceptible to the first young woman who spoke to him kindly and needed his help, and Lena just happened to be there?

    The character I most identified with was Joe Christmas, rootless, never quite belonging anywhere, feeling always out of place wherever he was, each foot in two different worlds, turning against himself the prejudices about him from others.

    Having now read “Light in August” only once, I’ve only scratched its surface. It deserves many readings.

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