Joseph in Potiphar’s House
1Joseph had been taken to Egypt. Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s Egyptian officials and captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
2The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. He worked in the house of his Egyptian master. 3Joseph’s master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful. 4Potiphar liked Joseph so much that he made him his trusted servant. He put him in charge of his household and everything he owned. 5From that time on the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s household because of Joseph. Therefore, the Lord’s blessing was on everything Potiphar owned in his house and in his fields. 6So he left all that he owned in Joseph’s care. He wasn’t concerned about anything except the food he ate.
Joseph was well-built and handsome. 7After a while his master’s wife began to desire Joseph, so she said, “Come to bed with me.”
8But Joseph refused and said to her, “My master doesn’t concern himself with anything in the house. He trusts me with everything he owns. 9No one in this house is greater than I. He’s kept nothing back from me except you, because you’re his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10Although she kept asking Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or be with her.
11One day he went into the house to do his work, and none of the household servants were there. 12She grabbed him by his clothes and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he ran outside and left his clothes in her hand.
13When she realized that he had gone but had left his clothes behind, 14she called her household servants and said to them, “Look! My husband brought this Hebrew here to fool around with us. He came in and tried to go to bed with me, but I screamed as loud as I could. 15As soon as he heard me scream, he ran outside and left his clothes with me.”
16She kept Joseph’s clothes with her until his master came home. 17Then she told him the same story: “The Hebrew slave you brought here came in and tried to fool around with me. 18But when I screamed, he ran outside and left his clothes with me.”
19When Potiphar heard his wife’s story, especially when she said, “This is what your slave did to me,” he became very angry. 20So Joseph’s master arrested him and put him in the same prison where the king’s prisoners were kept.
While Joseph was in prison, 21the Lord was with him. The Lord reached out to him with his unchanging love and gave him protection. The Lord also put Joseph on good terms with the warden. 22So the warden placed Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in that prison. Joseph became responsible for everything that they were doing. 23The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with Joseph and made whatever he did successful.
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Joseph Serves Potiphar
1After the Ishmaelite traders brought Joseph down to Egypt, he was purchased by an Egyptian officer # 39:1 This is actually the Hebrew word for “eunuch.” In Egyptian culture, the key officials surrounding the king were made eunuchs to prevent them from having sons that would compete for the throne. This may help the reader understand why Potiphar’s wife chased after Joseph later in the chapter. of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, whose name was Potiphar. # 39:1 Potiphar means “given by the sun-god Ra” or “one who belongs to the sun-god Ra.” 2Yahweh’s presence was with Joseph and he became successful # 39:2 Or “prosperous.” The implication is that Joseph excelled in everything. God’s presence and favor do more for us than our skill, intelligence, and cleverness could achieve. God had his hand in everything that happened to Joseph, and he has his hand in everything that happens to you (see Rom. 8:28). while living in the house of his Egyptian master. 3When his master realized that Yahweh’s presence was with Joseph # 39:3 The Talmud teaches that the Hebrew text should be translated as “Yahweh was continually on Joseph’s lips”; in other words, Potiphar noted that Joseph did everything as unto God and gave him the glory. There is something trustworthy about a person with no agenda other than to give God glory in everything. and caused everything he did to prosper, 4Joseph found favor with Potiphar. He was quickly promoted to become the overseer of Potiphar’s house and was put in charge of all that he had. 5From the moment Potiphar appointed Joseph over his household, Yahweh blessed the Egyptian’s affairs for Joseph’s sake. The blessing of Yahweh was upon everything Potiphar owned; his finances increased, his crops flourished, and his flocks and herds multiplied. # 39:5 Or “everything Potiphar owned, at home and in the field.” 6So Potiphar placed all that he owned under Joseph’s oversight. And with Joseph in charge, Potiphar had nothing to worry about, except deciding on what to eat! # 39:6 Or possibly a figure of speech for “his private affairs,” or euphemistically for “his wife.”
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
Now Joseph was strikingly handsome, very good-looking, and well-built. # 39:6 No other man is described in these terms in the Bible; however the Hebrew phrase is nearly identical to the description of Rachel (see Gen. 29:17). 7It wasn’t long before his master’s wife # 39:7 Although unnamed, Hebrew tradition identifies Potiphar’s wife as Zuleika. As an Egyptian aristocrat, she was no doubt a beautiful woman. noticed Joseph. She demanded: “Come make love to me.”
8“Never!” Joseph replied. “Don’t you realize that my master has nothing to worry about with me in charge, for he has put everything he has under my care? 9There is no one greater in his household than me, # 39:9 Joseph understood the great favor shown to him and could not violate the trust of his master. He valued Potiphar’s trust in him. Joseph knew that he was elevated to a place of honor; nothing was held back from him. Joseph had self-respect and respected Potiphar’s wife. Though she was evil, he was honorable toward her. nor has he kept anything back from me except you, because you’re his wife. Why would I want to do such an immoral thing and sin against God?”
10Yet day after day, she was determined to seduce him. But Joseph continually refused her advances and would not even go near her. 11Then one day, when he had to go into the house to do his work and no one else was there, 12she grabbed him by his robe and said, “Come on, sleep with me!” But he abruptly ran out of the house, leaving his robe in her hands! # 39:12 Interestingly, the triliteral Hebrew root for “robe,” b-g-d, has a homonym meaning “marital fidelity.” There are times when running is the mark of a coward, and there are times when running is the mark of courage. Joseph would rather run in embarrassment than linger, falling into the trap of sexual promiscuity (see 1 Thess. 4:3–8). Self-control is a true sign of integrity. It is better to lose a good coat than a good conscience! He may have lost his coat, but Joseph kept his character. If the Lord has destined you for greatness, if God has a work for you to do, there should be no surprise when this kind of temptation comes to you. 13Realizing he had fled, and she was holding his robe in her hands, 14she called for her household servants and said to them, “See! My husband brings this Hebrew foreigner here to make fools of us! # 39:14 Or “to play with us,” a possible euphemism for having sex with them. He barged into my house and tried to have sex with me, and I screamed; 15and when he heard me scream for help, he ran out of the house and left his robe!”
16She kept the robe beside her until his master came home 17and she told him the same story: “This Hebrew foreigner you brought among us barged into the house and tried to violate me. 18As soon as I screamed out for help, he ran outside and left his robe here beside me.”
Joseph Goes to Prison
19When his master heard his wife’s account about how his servant had treated her, he became furious. # 39:19 The text does not say with whom Potiphar was furious. Perhaps he knew his wife’s promiscuous ways. He had Joseph only thrown into prison when a man with his authority could have had him killed. Perhaps he doubted the truth of her story, but to save face, he had Joseph imprisoned. According to the Yalkut Shimoni, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphar, did her best to convince her father of Joseph’s innocence and what really happened. Later, when Joseph was freed from prison, Asenath became Joseph’s wife. 20So Joseph’s master took him and threw him into prison, the place where the king’s prisoners are confined, and he was left there. # 39:20 In Ps. 105:17–18 we learn that Joseph’s feet were in chains and an iron collar was placed on his neck (or “his soul”). It would be hard to imagine a lower point in Joseph’s life. Betrayed by his brothers, sold as slave, and falsely accused, he suffered for a season until his time of deliverance arrived. As hard as it may seem, God may allow others to take advantage of us in order to carry out his secret will for our life. He will let us look like a fool in order to perfect our character. This is “the place where [our King’s] prisoners are confined” (Gen. 39:20; see Eph. 4:1)! 21But Yahweh was with Joseph and demonstrated to him his faithful love by giving him great favor in the sight of the warden. 22The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care; he was placed in charge of all the prisoners and everything in the prison. 23The warden had no worries about the prison with Joseph in charge, because Yahweh’s presence was with Joseph and caused everything Joseph did to prosper. # 39:23 Joseph had a God-favored life. A study of the life of Joseph is a study of the favor of God. He was faithful as a son, a shepherd, and a servant. He was diligent in all that he did. Wisdom guided him, even in a strange land, and everything he did prospered (see Ps. 1:3)! He not only adjusted to living in Egypt but also flourished and became the personal attendant (administrator) of Potiphar’s affairs and eventually the supervisor of the penal system. Joseph would never have been given such an honor if he had not demonstrated a high degree of integrity and faithfulness. Everyone could see that God was with Joseph. He that was faithful over a few things was now being made a ruler over much. See Matt. 25:21.
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