Genesis Chapter 39


Joseph preferred by Potiphar. (Verse 1-6.)

Joseph resists temptation. (Verse 7-12.)

Joseph is falsely accused by his mistress. (Verse 13-18.)

He is cast into prison, God is with him there. (Verse 19-23.)

1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

[Psa 105:17]

2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

[Gen 21:20]

3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.

[1st Sam 16:18, 1st Sam 18:14, Acts 7:9]

Joseph cared about pleasing his earthly father while he was back in Canaan and that carried over even into the time when he was a slave.

4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

here the Bible defines for us what an “overseer” is; the overseer is the one man in charge of the entire house and controls that which is put into his hand by the owner of the house; vs. 5 shows that the overseer is also responsible for the fields and from vs. 6 it can be seen that all of this is done in the master’s absence.  These points become important when trying define the role of the NT elder, or “overseer” of the local church (see Acts 20:28).  Some churches have elaborate hierarchies of bishops, priests, etc.; others have boards of elders that run their churches.  The NT however seems to point out that each local church should have one pastor or overseer responsible to God (see Heb. 13:17) for the people that the Lord has placed in that local church. As an overseer, Joseph did not report to various levels of authority above him or to his fellow elders – he was the one man placed in charge of the house by his master.

5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.

6 And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

Joseph’s time in which he was a slave and a prisoner is typical of Jesus’ time prior to his ascension to heaven. He did always those things that pleased the Father.

Not only did God prosper Joseph’s work, but he also blessed him because of who he was, a direct descendant of Abraham, through whom God would eventually build a great nation.

7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

[2nd Sam 13:11]

8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

[2nd Sam 12:13, Psa 51:4]

Joseph could have blamed his circumstances on God and made excuses for going in unto his master’s wife, but he would not allow his circumstances to determine his actions.  Joseph obeyed his father while he was with him and he would now obey his Heavenly Father even though it would have appeared to some as though God had abandoned him. God will never leave us nor forsake us. It is we that leave and forsake Him.

Notice Joseph’s response in verse nine, “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Adultery is a great wickedness to yourself, your spouse and ultimately unto God because marriage unites two people together and pictures the eternal security we have as believers in our relationship with God.

To commit adultery then is to break that picture which portrays the relationship we have with God which took place the day we were saved and unites us together eternally. That is why God hates divorce.

10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

“or to be with her” – Joseph tried to obey the command of Rom. 13:14,  to not even make a provision (or opportunity) to fulfil the lusts of the flesh

11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.

12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

[Prov 7:13]

Joseph wisely refused the advances of his master’s wife

The Bible teaches us that we are to flee youthful lusts and that is exactly what Joseph did, but just because we run as we should does not mean we won’t be persecuted for our faith, in fact the opposite is true. Joseph was tempted and did not sin just as Christ was tempted in all points.

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

   Potiphar’s wife was typical of the devil that tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Being a slave was a type of a wilderness experience for Joseph. How do you respond when you are not around other believers? Do you find yourself giving in to your fleshly desires?

Study Question

What does I Cor. 6:18 instruct the believer to do when it comes to fornication?

13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,

14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:

Joseph was falsely accused as was Jesus (Mark 14:56).

15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.

16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.

17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:

[Exod 23:1, Psa 120:3, Prov 26:28]

18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.

But take heart my friend for it is when we are persecuted for our faith that we come to know our Saviour more and more.  Was not the Saviour betrayed? Was he not innocent of the crimes laid against him?

19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.

20 And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

[Psa 105:18, 1st Pet 2:19]

Though Joseph lost his coat, his job, and his reputation, he still has his character!

Notice that it is recorded here that Joseph does not defend himself. Jesus also was brought before his accusers and remained silent. Mark 15:4 It was also prophesied by Isaiah that the Saviour would be put into prison for crimes he did not commit as Joseph was:

Isaiah 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgement: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

[Psa 105-17-18, Exod 3:21, Exod 11:3, Exod 12:36, Dan 1:9]

Before Joseph was put in charge of the prison, he apparently spent some time firmly “locked up”

22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.

23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.

Joseph is only a type of Christ and because of that not everything that he does typifies everything that Christ would go through but there are so many that parallel the prophecies of Christ that the possibility that it is by chance is very improbable. I believe that God intended to show the world a little taste of what the Messiah’s life would be like in the person of Joseph.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 1-6 – Our enemies may strip us of outward distinctions and ornaments; but wisdom and grace cannot be taken from us. They may separate us from friends, relatives, and country; but they cannot take from us the presence of the Lord. They may shut us from outward blessings, rob us of liberty, and confine us in dungeons; but they cannot shut us out from communion with God, from the throne of grace, or take from us the blessings of salvation. Joseph was blessed, wonderfully blessed, even in the house where he was a slave. God’s presence with us, makes all we do prosperous. Good men are the blessings of the place where they live; good servants may be so, though mean and lightly esteemed. The prosperity of the wicked is, one way or other, for the sake of the godly. Here was a wicked family blessed for the sake of one good servant in it.

Verse 7-12 – Beauty either in men or women, often proves a snare both to themselves and others. This forbids pride in it, and requires constant watchfulness against the temptation that attends it. We have great need to make a covenant with our eyes, lest the eyes infect the heart. When lust has got power, decency, and reputation, and conscience, are all sacrificed. Potiphar’s wife showed that her heart was fully set to do evil. Satan, when he found he could not overcome Joseph with the troubles and the frowns of the world, for in them he still held fast his principle, assaulted him with pleasures, which have ruined more than the former. But Joseph, by the grace of God, was enabled to resist and overcome this temptation; and his escape was as great an instance of the Divine power, as the deliverance of the three children out of the fiery furnace. This sin was one which might most easily beset him. The tempter was his mistress, one whose favour would help him forward; and it was at his utmost peril if he slighted her, and made her his enemy. The time and place favoured the temptation. To all this was added frequent, constant urging. The almighty grace of God enabled Joseph to overcome this assault of the enemy. He urges what he owed both to God and his master. We are bound in honour, as well as justice and gratitude, not in any thing to wrong those who place trust in us, how secretly soever it may be done. He would not offend his God. Three arguments Joseph urges upon himself.
1. He considers who he was that was tempted. One in covenant with God, who professed religion and relation to him.
2. What the sin was to which he was tempted. Others might look upon it as a small matter; but Joseph did not so think of it. Call sin by its own name, and never lessen it. Let sins of this nature always be looked upon as great wickedness, as exceedingly sinful.
3. Against whom he was tempted to sin, against God. Sin is against God, against his nature and his dominion, against his love and his design. Those that love God, for this reason hate sin. The grace of God enabled Joseph to overcome the temptation, by avoiding the temper. He would not stay to parley with the temptation, but fled from it, as escaping for his life. If we mean not to do iniquity, let us flee as a bird from the snare, and as a roe from the hunter.

Verse 13-18 – Joseph’s mistress, having tried in vain to make him a guilty man, endeavoured to be avenged on him. Those that have broken the bonds of modesty, will never be held by the bonds of truth. It is no new thing for the best of men to be falsely accused of the worst of crimes, by those who themselves are the worst of criminals. It is well there is a day of discovery coming, in which all shall appear in their true characters.

Verse 19-23 – Joseph’s master believed the accusation. Potiphar, it is likely, chose that prison, because it was the worst; but God designed to open the way to Joseph’s honour. Joseph was owned and righted by his God. He was away from all his friends and relations; he had none to help or comfort him; but the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy. Those that have a good conscience in a prison, have a good God there. God gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison; he trusted him to manage the affairs of the prison. A good man will do good wherever he is, and will be a blessing even in bonds and banishment. Let us not forget, through Joseph, to look unto Jesus, who suffered being tempted, yet without sin; who was slandered, and persecuted, and imprisoned, but without cause; who by the cross ascended to the throne. May we be enabled to follow the same path in submitting and in suffering, to the same place of glory.