Chapter 39

  1. Joseph in Potiphar’s House

    • When Joseph was brought into Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer and captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.

      • Guzik’s commentary gives a little background information regarding Potiphar and the Egyptian governmental system, “The name Potiphar means devoted to the sun. It was a name connected with the Egyptian religious system. The ancient Hebrew word officer could be translated eunuch. (A eunuch was a man who had been castrated.) It was a common practice in ancient times to make those highest in the royal courts eunuchs, to ensure they would be wholly devoted to their king. Because this practice was common, the term came to be used for all who served in important positions in a king’s court, whether they were actually eunuchs or not. Therefore, we really don’t know if Potiphar was a eunuch. The idea behind this title (captain of the guard) means chief of police, or probably more precisely, Potiphar was head of Pharaoh’s ‘Secret Service,’ his personal security force. He was a highly trusted official in the government of Egypt.”

    • The Lord was with Joseph and he succeeded in everything he did as he served his Egyptian master. He was so successful that Potiphar noticed that the Lord was with Joseph, so he made Joseph his personal attendant.

      • Guzik makes three great points here:

          1. “We often complain to God that He put us in a terrible or difficult place. Yet God’s will is that we trust Him to bless us and make us successful (as He measures success) wherever we are.”

          2. “ Even at this early point when it seemed Joseph had no control over circumstances – and indeed, he had none – God overruled the evil or capricious choices of man to accomplish His eternal purpose.”

          1. “By his trust in God, diligent work, and blessing from God, Joseph showed Potiphar that God was real. The same principle should be lived out by followers of Jesus today; others should see the difference Jesus makes in our lives by the way we work.”

    • Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household and everything that he owned, and from that moment on, the Lord blessed everything that belonged to Potiphar because of Joseph. Potiphar turned everything over to Joseph and didn’t worry about anything at all except for what kind of food he wanted to eat.

      • Joseph indeed rose to the top, but Guzik notes that it didn’t happen overnight, “Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold into slavery (Genesis 37:2). He was 30 when Pharaoh promoted him (Genesis 41:46), and had been in prison for two years before that (Genesis 41:1). So he was in Potiphar’s house for 11 years. It took 11 years for the full measure of God’s blessing to be accomplished in Joseph’s life. 11 years seems like a long time. Many think if advancement is from God, it must come quickly. Sometimes this is the case, but not normally. Normally, God allows good things to develop slowly…”

    • Joseph was very handsome and well built, and after a while Potiphar’s wife became infatuated with him and asked Joseph to sleep with her.

      • “Potiphar’s wife was undeniably forward towards Joseph. If Potiphar was indeed a eunuch, this shows that his wife looked for sexual activity elsewhere. Perhaps Potiphar was a eunuch, and the marriage was purely a ceremonial arrangement, so she felt free to seek sexual relationships outside the marital bond. Also, it seems that in the ancient world, the code of morality for women in Egypt (even married women) was loose. Egyptian women had a reputation for immorality in the ancient world.” (Guzik)

    • Joseph refused, saying, “Look, my master has put me in charge of everyone here and he trusts me to run his entire household. The only thing that he doesn’t share with me is you because you are his wife! How could I possibly sin against God by doing something so wicked?”

      • “One might justify sinning against another person who has done us wrong, but how can we sin against God? David reflected this same heart in his prayer of repentance: Against You and You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight (Psalm 51:4). Of course, David had also sinned against Uriah, against Bathsheba, against their child, against his family, and against his people; but those were of far less consequence than his sin against God.” (Guzik)

      • “When I regarded God as a tyrant, I thought sin a trifle; but when I knew him to be my father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against him. When I thought that God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against one who loved me so, and sought my good.” (Spurgeon)

    • Potiphar’s wife kept on trying every day to convince him to sleep with her, but Joseph always refused.

    • One day Joseph went into the house to work. None of the other household slaves were there, so Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph by his cloak and said, “Sleep with me!” Joseph jerked away from her and ran, but she held tightly to his cloak so he left it behind.

    • Seeing that she still had Joseph’s cloak, she yelled for her servants.

    • When the servants came she said, “Look! My husband has brought this Hebrew slave to make us look like fools. He came and tried to rape me, but when I screamed for help, he ran, leaving his cloak in my hands.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Though Potiphar’s wife was addressing slaves, she appealed to them as fellow Egyptians (us) to enlist them as witnesses against the despised Hebrew (see 43:32) who had won Potiphar’s trust.”

    • She kept Joseph’s cloak and when Potiphar came home she told him the same story she had told the other household slaves.

    • Potiphar was furious when he heard the things his wife claimed that Joseph had done to her, and he threw Joseph into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held.

      • Guzik points out that the normal punishment for a slave who attempted to rape a high official’s wife would have been death, so it’s very possible that his more lenient sentence could indicate that Potiphar could have suspected his wife of less than honorable intentions. His anger might not have been wholly at Joseph, but at the situation that required him to dismiss a valuable servant in order to save face.

      • Kidner has this to say about the incident, “Death was the only penalty Joseph could reasonably expect. His reprieve presumably owed much to the respect he had won; and Potiphar’s mingled wrath and restraint may reflect a faint misgiving about the full accuracy of the charge.”

  1. Joseph in Prison

    • The Lord was with Joseph and he earned the respect of the prison warden. The warden put Joseph in charge of the prison and the prisoners and fully trusted him to run everything smoothly. Again, the Lord made Joseph successful at everything he did.

      • “Through his experience in both places, God sharpened the administrative skills Joseph needed to one day save his family and to save the whole world.” (Guzik)

      • “It is but of little consequence where the lot of a servant of God may be cast; like Joseph he is ever employed for his master, and God honours him and prospers his work.” (Clarke)