After the narrative of Judah, the story returns its focus back to Joseph. The passage centers upon Joseph’s life journey from a slave in Potiphar’s house to a prisoner in Pharaoh’s prison. The account serves as a reminder for us about God who continually guides us and prepares us for His plan in the midst of hardships and persecutions.
Did You Know...?
- The Egyptian (39:2): The word literally can be translated in Hebrew as “a man of Mitzraim (Egypt).”
- Overseer (39:4): The Egyptian monuments proved the existence of such an officer in wealthy houses at an early period.
In Hebrew, “overseer” can also be translated as “an officer” (
1 Kgs 11:28), “a governor” ( 2 Kgs 25:22) and “an official” ( 1 Chr 26:32).
- “He put under his authority” (39:4): The phrase can literally be translated in Hebrew as “he gave into his hand everything which belonged to him.”
- “Handsome in form and appearance” (39:6): Such an expression in both Hebrew and Greek-Septuagint can be literally translated as “fair to be gazed at in his outward appearance and lovely or pleasant in his countenance.”
- “And it came to pass after these things” (39:7): By this time, Joseph had been nearly ten years in the house of Potiphar. Joseph was seventeen years old when he was sold to Potiphar (Gen 37:2, 36). The book of Genesis mentioned that Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh (Gen 41:46) and two years had already passed after the incident of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker (Gen 41:1). Thus, the remaining eleven years, the difference between Joseph’s seventeenth year and his twenty-eighth year, were spent in both Potiphar’s house and the prison.
- “His master’s wife cast longing eyes” (39:7): The sentence literally can be translated in Hebrew as “his master’s wife lifted up her eyes toward Joseph” or “gazed at Joseph with desire.”
- “Lie with me” (39:7): Such an expression in Greek-Septuagint can be literally translated as “to be fall asleep with me,” with the context of ”to be lulled” or “to be put to sleep.”
- “He did not heed her” (39:10): In Greek-Septuagint, the phrase can be translated literally as “he was not desiring.”
- “She caught him by his garment” (39:12): According to historical evidence and testimony, Egyptian females were well-known for their licentiousness and immorality, even though they were married. In their marriage, they did not live in seclusion but were allowed freely in a promiscuous society.
- “It happened about this time” (39:11): The expression literally can be translated as “at this day” or “it one day happened.”
- “To be with her” (39:10): The phrase in Greek-Septuagint can literally be translated as “the fact of having a sexual relation with her.”
- The prison (39:20): Literally, the word in Hebrew can be translated as ”the round-house” or as “the strong military installation” according to the Greek-Septuagint.
- “Put him into the prison” (39:20): According to an ancient Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus, the laws of the Egyptians were severe in their penalties for crimes against women.
Joseph being put in the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, was considered a mild punishment in comparison to his serious charged-crimes against the wife of his master.
- Joseph In Potiphar’s House (39:1-6a)
- Joseph Refused The Seduction (39:6b-19)
- Joseph Was Thrown Into Prison (39:20-23)
How did Joseph’s descent to Egypt relate to the Lord’s prophecy given to Abraham in Gen 15:13?Hide Answer
Joseph’s descent to Egypt was related to the prophecy once given by the Lord to Abraham. In Gen 15:13, the Lord prophesied to Abraham that his descendants would be strangers in a land that was not theirs, namely Egypt. Though Joseph was brought down to Egypt by force (Gen 37:27-28, 36), it was through his presence in Egypt that the descendants of Jacob could later be moved to Egypt (Gen 45:5-7). Joseph’s life as a sold-servant in Egypt would gradually pave a way to the fulfillment of God’s prophecy.
Throughout the passage, what was the significance of the phrase “The LORD was with him”: To Joseph’s personal relationship with God;Hide Answer
Throughout his life, the incident in Gen 39 was the first time Joseph was outside his comfort zone, his family and his hometown. But the passage mentioned that when Joseph was in Egypt—in Potiphar’s house—and in prison, the Lord was with Joseph (Gen 39:2, 21). The phrase “the Lord was with Joseph” signified how the Lord’s presence and guidance was with Joseph though he was a stranger in the new place. Previously, when Joseph was with his family in Canaan, the Lord gave him dreams of future blessings (Gen 37:5-7, 9). Now, in times of adversity and uncertainty, the Lord was also with Joseph. Both in Potiphar’s house and in prison, Joseph could personally feel the presence and the guidance of the Lord in his daily routines. Thus, strengthening his personal relationship with the God of his father, Jacob and gradually enlarging his understanding of God’s will behind the dreams which Joseph had received back in Canaan.
To other people around Joseph;Hide Answer
The phrase “the Lord was with him” was significant toward other people around Joseph. First, to Potiphar, the master of Joseph. According to the book of Genesis, Potiphar could see that the Lord was with Joseph and thus, he made Joseph an overseer of his house (Gen 39:3-5). Second, to the wife of Potiphar. In replying to the seduction of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). From the reply, the wife of Potiphar could see clearly that the Lord was with Joseph and he was a man of God. Third, to the keeper of the prison. Though Joseph was thrown to prison, the Lord was with Joseph. Thus, the keeper of the prison favored Joseph because of God’s guidance (Gen 39:21-23).
In the book of Genesis 39, the passage mentioned twice that the Lord was with Joseph (Gen 39:2, 21). Throughout the Scriptures, the repetitive phrase of “the Lord was with him” serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people for us today. In the time of Jacob, the father of Joseph, the Lord once said to him that He would be with Jacob during the adversity from the sons of Laban (Gen 31:3). Furthermore, in the times of Moses and Joshua, generations after Joseph, the Lord promised the Israelites that He would be with them during battles and hard times (Deut 20:1, 31:6; Josh 1:9). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul admonished the members in Rome that the Lord would be with them during evil times of divisiveness and offensiveness from false members (Rom 16:17-20). The Scriptures attested that God’s faithfulness to His people throughout times and generations even during hardships was everlasting. In the same way, the Lord is with us today.
Describe Joseph’s noteworthy work ethic toward his employer in the workplace.Hide Answer
During his stay in Egypt, there were several noteworthy work ethics of Joseph toward his employer. Even during his youth, his work ethic in being a responsible member of his family was commendable. After Joseph was given a task, he took his responsibility seriously and gave his effort to complete it (Gen 37:13-17). But his praiseworthy work ethics were the result of him being a God-fearing person (Gen 39:9). In whatever he did, he always thought of God first (Gen 40:8, 41:16, 41:51, 42:18, 45:5). Therefore, by being a God-fearing person, not only was Joseph blessed by the Lord (Gen 39:2, 3, 5, 21, 23) but Joseph developed God-like ethics throughout his life. Several of Joseph’s God-fearing work ethics in Gen 39 are as follows:
First, Joseph was diligent. His hard work was noticed by Potiphar so that Joseph was allowed to serve him and later became an overseer in his whole house (Gen 39:4). Joseph’s promotion to be an overseer proved that he was not the type of person who slacked off during his duty “in the house and in the field,” overseeing “all that [the Egyptian] had” (Gen 39:4-5).
Second, Joseph was honest and trustworthy. When Joseph became an overseer, his master, Potiphar “left all that he had in Joseph’s hand.” Potiphar could rely on Joseph. Although the master “did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate” (Gen 39:6), Joseph did not misuse his master’s trust by making any dishonest gain. Joseph was a faithful steward (Lk 12:42-44). Just like the writer of the gospel of Luke narrated the parable of a faithful steward who was faithful in “[ruling] over [his master’s] household [by giving] them their portion of food in due season” (Lk 12:42-44), Joseph was faithful in his work with Potiphar. Though there was no one greater in the house than Joseph (Gen 39:9), Joseph faithfully committed to his duty without supervision. Thus, Potiphar had full trust and confidence in Joseph (Gen 39:6).
Third, Joseph was obedient to his master (Col 3:22-23). Even though Joseph had been wrongly accused and sent to a downgraded position, Joseph was not being sulky or being vengeful towards his master (Gen 39:20-40:15). Joseph’s obedience to Potiphar in all things, even to the point of his wrong accusation and imprisonment, reminded the reader of the apostle Paul’s message in his letter to the Colossians. In the letter, the apostle admonished that “bondservants [needed] to obey in all things [their] masters according to the flesh…in sincerity of heart, fearing God” (Col 3:22-23). Though Potiphar had wrongly imprisoned him, Joseph obediently and sincerely accepted his imprisonment without a vengeful heart.
What lesson can we learn from Joseph’s work-ethics in the workplace? See also Eph 6:5-7.Hide Answer
From Joseph’s notable work-ethics, we can learn an important lesson pertaining to our attitude in the workplace. Once the apostle Paul advised the Ephesians that as bondservants, we ought to serve in sincerity of heart instead of doing it with eye service (Eph 6:5-6). Joseph’s diligence, honesty and thoroughness reflected his sincerity in doing his work. Thus, sincerity will always be a valuable trait in every working environment. Through a sincere heart, the end result of one’s work will be revealed distinctively, not as man-pleaser but as an honest goodwill of service—most importantly to the Lord, and not to men (Eph 6:7).
How did Joseph’s godly character shape his relationship with his employer in the workplace?Hide Answer
When Joseph was taken down into the house of Potiphar, the relationship between Joseph and his master, Potiphar, was gradually developed. First, Potiphar began to notice Joseph. As an officer of Pharaoh, it was common for Potiphar to purchase slaves to be servants in his house. Yet, among his many slaves, Joseph stood out. Potiphar could see how Joseph was successful (Gen 39:2) in the work and the responsibilities given to him. Thus, Potiphar favored him (Gen 39:4).
Second, Potiphar began to accept Joseph. Seeing that the Lord was with Joseph and the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand (Gen 39:3), Potiphar set aside Joseph from among all the slaves and picked Joseph to serve him (Gen 39:4).
Third, Potiphar began to promote Joseph. Now, as a slave who was positioned to personally serve Potiphar, Joseph was diligent in all his responsibilities. The success and the prosperity in his work continued. Therefore, his master, Potiphar promoted Joseph to be an overseer of his house and of all that Potiphar had (Gen 39:5).
Fourth, Potiphar began to trust Joseph. From a humble slave to a diligent overseer, Joseph had reflected and proved his godly character to his master, Potiphar, through all the work which he had accomplished. Now, not only did Potiphar commit everything into Joseph’s hand (Gen 39:8) Potiphar also did not keep back anything from Joseph (Gen 39:9).
The blessings of the Lord to Joseph in Gen 39:5 fulfilled the prophecy of God to Abraham in Gen 12:2-3. Previously, in the book of Genesis 12:2-3, the Lord prophesied to Abraham that He would bless him and he would be a blessing and in him all the families of the earth would be blessed. Now, through Joseph, the descendant of Abraham, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house and on all that he had in the house and in his field (Gen 39:5). Moreover, in Joseph’s later years as governor of Egypt, all countries came to Joseph to buy grain to avoid the severe famine in all lands (Gen 41:57). At that moment, God’s promise of blessings throughout the book of Genesis to the forefathers (Gen 18:18, 22:18, 26:4, 28:14) was indeed fulfilled gradually through the life of Joseph in Egypt.
Compare the description of Joseph’s physical appearance to that of Rachel’s in Gen 29:17.
From a worldly point of view, what were “the costs and the benefits” of refusing or accepting the offer of Potiphar’s wife? The costs of refusing the offer;Hide Answer
When Joseph was at the peak of his career in Potiphar’s house, the wife of Potiphar tried to seduce him (Gen 39:7). Refusing the offer of the wife would mean that Joseph offended and insulted the wife of his master. Not only did the refusal would jeopardize Joseph’s future relationship with the wife of his master but also Joseph’s integrity and career would be prone to be sabotaged by the disgruntled wife of Potiphar (Gen 39:14). Indeed, the end result of the refusal would have caused Joseph not only to lose his comfortable career at Potiphar’s house (Gen 39:20) but also to lose his life for offending the order of his master’s wife.
The benefits of accepting the offer;Hide Answer
Joseph was just at the peak of his career in Potiphar’s house, when the wife of Potiphar tried to seduce him. From a worldly-point-of-view, there were several benefits that Joseph could reap from accepting the offer of Potiphar’s wife: First, Joseph could receive the favor of Potiphar’s wife. The book of Genesis mentioned how Potiphar’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph (Gen 39:7). Joseph already had the favor of Potiphar, his master. Accepting the offer of the wife meant that Joseph would receive twice as much favor as he could accept, from both the master and the master’s wife separately. Second, Joseph could enjoy the pleasure together with Potiphar’s wife. It was the wife of Potiphar who was trying to get Joseph to lie with her (Gen 39:7, 10). Giving into the intimidation meant that Joseph was just submitting to the command of Potiphar’s wife. Third, Joseph was presented with convenient opportunities in front of him. Joseph could have the pleasure with Potiphar’s wife without being detected by his master or by the people of the house. The convenient opportunities came in two fold: Joseph’s master, who did not know anything in regards to the matter of the house, was mostly absent from home and the men of the house were often out of the way (Gen 39:10-11).
The worldly-point-of-view conclusion;Hide Answer
Weighing on the costs and the benefits related to the offer of Potiphar’s wife, from a worldly-point-of-view, it is far more beneficial for Joseph to accept the offer. On one hand, the benefits spreaded from maintaining a personal favor from the wife to enjoying personal pleasure with her without being detected by the husband nor the people of the house. On the other hand, the stakes of the costs were as high as losing his life for directly offending the master’s wife through his refusal.
The book of Genesis 39:7 mentioned how the wife of Potiphar cast longing eyes on Joseph with the intent of sleeping with him. Concerning lusting over someone, the writer of the book of Proverbs once advised the readers that lusting after one’s beauty in heart would have caused one to fall upon the prey of adultery (Prov 6:25-26). This teaching was further elaborated by the Lord Jesus in the gospel of Matthew. The Lord Jesus clearly emphasized that if one looks and lusts for someone, one has already committed adultery with the person in the heart (Mt 5:28), causing one to sin before the Lord (Mt 5:29). The wife of Potiphar casting longing eyes on Joseph teaches us a lesson that lusting over someone should be taken seriously. According to the Lord Jesus’ standard, the act of an adultery, a sin against God, is not just a physical act but it also starts from one’s heart through lusting.
What were the differences between the temptation of Joseph with the temptation of David in
2 Sam 11:2-5.Hide Answer
There were two differences between the temptation of Joseph and the temptation of David. First, the resistance against temptation. While Joseph firmly resisted the seduction of Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:8), David succumbed into his own desire to continue lusting over Bathsheba (
2 Sam 11:2-3). Second, the evasion toward temptation. Whereas Joseph fled from the wife of Potiphar and ran out from the house (Gen 39:12), David continued to inquire about the bathing woman and willingly plunged into his lust by physically taking her to himself ( 2 Sam 11:3-4).
By following Joseph’s example, we can learn several things on how to handle the immoral entanglements in our lives.
First, we need to flee from temptation. Instead of delaying or even testing his strength to temptation, Joseph firmly “refused” the seduction of Potiphar’s wife and “fled and ran outside” against her insistence (Gen 39:8, 12). The apostle Paul explains in his letter to Timothy that one must “flee [from] youthful lusts” to “escape the snare of the devil” (
2 Tim 2:22, 26). If we continue to walk according to the fleshly lust, we will be “burned” in the lust (Rom 1:27) and will be “taken captive by [the devil]” ( 2 Tim 2:26). Just as King David took Bathsheba to himself based on his continued lust ( 2 Sam 11:2-4), if we continue to nurture the lustful desire inside our heart, that lust will grow and then control our behavior to fulfill it.
Second, we are not invincible. On the first attempt of Potiphar’s wife’s seduction, Joseph was able to resist her (Gen 39:7-9). But his refusal did not stop her. Potiphar’s wife continued her seduction “to Joseph day by day” (Gen 39:10) and she even aggressively “caught [Joseph] by his garment” (Gen 39:12) when both of them were alone in the house (Gen 39:11). In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul reminds the reader that he who thinks that he stands strong, he should “take heed lest he fall” (
1 Cor 10:12). In the example of King David, he thought that he was strong, but at the end he fell into temptation. When David saw a woman bathing from the roof of his house, David did not flee from the roof. Instead, David continued to behold the woman ( 2 Sam 11:2) until he finally gave in to his lustful desire. On the contrary, Joseph, in the book of Genesis, knew his own strength and limitation toward his youthful desire. Instead of giving in to the opportunity to be with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph fled from her (Gen 39:12). Similarly, when we underestimate the snare of temptation, refusing to flee from it and thinking that we are able to stand strong, the temptation will catch us and will cause us to fall into it.
Third, we ought to keep away from evil company. Knowing that Potiphar’s wife was being out of all reason, Joseph “fled and ran outside” (Gen 39:12). The apostle Paul warns the readers in his letter to the Corinthians that “evil company corrupts [our] good habits” (
1 Cor 15:33). Joseph knew that if he remained to be in the company of Potiphar’s wife who was willing to break even the sanctity of her marriage, Joseph would soon be corrupted of his good habits. Likewise, when we continually immerse ourselves with the company of evil, our conscience will gradually become blunt and eventually our good habits will be corrupted by the influence of evil.
How did Joseph counteract the schemes of Potiphar’s wife?Hide Answer
There were several counter-actions which Joseph did to confront the seduction schemes of Potiphar’s wife. Joseph acted with firmness. When Potiphar’s wife enticed him and seduced him day by day, Joseph firmly did not heed her (Gen 39:10). Joseph did not waver or hesitate in his decision to not be with her. Joseph also acted with truthfulness. Instead of trying to find excuse to prevent any unhappy and insulted feeling from Potiphar’s wife, Joseph was being truthful about his reason of refusal. He dared not commit such a great wickedness against God (Gen 39:9). Finally, Joseph acted in bravery. In refusing the wife of Potiphar’s invitation to lie with her, Joseph directly disobeyed and offended her. Though Joseph knew that Potiphar’s wife had the power to do him harm, he still bravely counteracted her harassment and left her.
How did Joseph’s refusal to lie with the wife of Potiphar reveal his faithfulness to: To himself;Hide Answer
When Joseph was promoted to be an overseer, the master left all that he had in Joseph’s hand (Gen 39:6). In other words, the master fully trusted that Joseph would take care of everything which he left to him and the master needed not to supervise Joseph on such matters. Although the master would not have known (Gen 39:8) if Joseph chose to have a relationship with the master’s wife, Joseph’s conscience stood firm and he refused to be with her. Joseph was being faithful to his conscience by not misusing the trust given by his master.
To Potiphar;Hide Answer
As an overseer, Potiphar had given Joseph a great amount of power in the house. Literally, Joseph held the highest position in the house of Potiphar (Gen 39:9) and his privilege made it possible for him to have a relationship with Potiphar’s wife. But Joseph refused to misuse the power given to commit immorality with the master’s wife. Joseph was being faithful to Potiphar by putting a limitation to his great power in the house.
To the wife of Potiphar;Hide Answer
In replying to the seduction of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph reminded her that her husband had not kept anything back but her—because she was his wife (Gen 39:9). In other words, Potiphar never handed over his wife to Joseph to be taken care of. Potiphar kept back his wife from Joseph. Thus, Joseph’s refusal to have a relationship with Potiphar’s wife revealed his faithfulness to her and to her sanctity of marriage with Potiphar. Through his reply, Joseph reminded Potiphar’s wife that she already belonged to Potiphar by marriage, and not to Joseph.
To the Lord;Hide Answer
When Joseph was seduced by Potiphar’s wife, he firmly answered,”How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). Joseph’s response was a confession of his faith in God. When tempted with an inappropriate intimacy with the wife of his master, Joseph chose the intimacy with God. Instead of making up excuses to Potiphar’s wife or showing signs of hesitation toward his belief, Joseph revealed his conviction of his faith in God to Potiphar’s wife. Joseph was being faithful to God by preserving his faith from committing a heinous sin against God.
From Joseph’s conviction to avoid committing a great wickedness and a sin against God, we can learn several things to motivate ourselves to live a clean and a holy life. First, the love of God which has been given to us. The writer of the book of
1st John admonishes us that we, who are born of God, ought to love God, who has begotten us. Therefore, to show our sincere love toward God, we should keep His commandments ( 1 Jn 5:1-3), including the one which warns us not to commit adultery.
Second, the fear of God which will bring our holiness to perfection. In his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul invites the readers to perfect our holiness through the act of cleansing from all filthiness in the fear of God (
2 Cor 7:1). Joseph refused the offer of Potiphar’s wife, not because she was unattractive nor did he was without his youthful lust. Joseph dared not commit such a wickedness because of the fear of God. Instead of fearing his master’s wife for sinful pleasures, Joseph chose to fear the Lord and maintain his clean and holy life.
Third, the desire to please God which will compel us to diligently seek Him. The writer of the book of Hebrews reveals that faith of His existence and of seeking Him will please the Lord (Heb 11:6). Joseph firmly refused the enticement of Potiphar’s wife because he believed in God and sought His will by refusing to commit the great wickedness against Him. Therefore, the sincere belief in the Lord must be accompanied by the desire to please Him through seeking His will.
After she was insulted by Joseph’s refusal, Potiphar’s wife carefully manipulated her scheme not just to attack Joseph but also her own husband, the one who had brought Joseph in to their home. Potiphar’s wife schemed several attacks against her husband. First, Potiphar’s wife spoke poorly of her husband in front of his slaves. Potiphar’s wife called to the men of her house and alleged that her husband had brought in a Hebrew to mock them (Gen 39:14). She wanted to make it appear that her husband was irresponsible, foolish and could not care less about her. She wanted Potiphar to look bad in front of his slaves.
Second, Potiphar’s wife directly put the blame on her husband. After her husband came home, the book of Genesis recounted the words of Potiphar’s wife, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us” (Gen 39:17). In other words, she was saying it was Potiphar’s fault that she had almost been raped by his Hebrew slave. Thus, not only did Potiphar look bad but he was also being accused of having committed a grievous act against a woman.
Third, Potiphar’s wife belittled Potiphar’s authority on his lack of control and judgment over his slave. In the book of Genesis, Potiphar’s wife falsely reported to her husband that it was his servant who “did to [her] after this manner” (Gen 39:19). The allegation that Joseph attacked her in that manner was meant to show how Potiphar had already lost control and authority over his own slave. Furthermore, Potiphar’s wife wanted to point out how Potiphar’s judgment was already clouded as his favorite overseer was her rapist.
Joseph: See Gen 39:14;Hide Answer
Offended by Joseph’s refusal to give in to her seduction, Potiphar’s wife exerted all her manipulative effort to bring Joseph down. The wife of Potiphar took several steps to demean Joseph into the lowest possible degradation. First, Potiphar’s wife degraded Joseph’s persona to a mere foreigner. In front of all the men of the house, the wife of Potiphar emphasized that Joseph was but a Hebrew (Gen 39:14). Thus, she redisclosed Joseph’s identity as a foreigner in the land of Egypt and reminded them in a degrading way that this Hebrew foreigner had become their overseer.
Second, Potiphar’s wife debased Joseph’s character to that of a mere slave. In her accusation against Joseph, Potiphar’s wife reminded her husband and the men of the house that it was this slave, Joseph, the one whom Potiphar had bought from the Ishmaelite merchants, who had mocked her in such a manner (Gen 39:17). She highlighted the alleged mockery to show to Potiphar and all of the house’s slaves that Joseph, the slave, should not have been given the trust which he did not deserve.
Third, Potiphar’s wife demeaned Joseph’s quality as a person to that of a mere rogue. She alleged that the Hebrew slave had not only committed a heinous act but that he also had gone rogue (Gen 39:17, 18). She continued to allege that it was Potiphar’s own servant who had done such things to her (Gen 39:19). Through the repeated allegation, Potiphar’s wife wanted her husband to quickly convict the rogue slave and dispose of him immediately.
How did Potiphar’s wife manipulate her surroundings to expedite Joseph’s judgment? By playing the victim;Hide Answer
After Joseph had refused her offer and had left her, Potiphar’s wife manipulated the fact by playing the victim in front of the men of the house and Potiphar. She alleged that Joseph had tried to rape her (Gen 39:14). She made up a story that during the attempt, she lifted her voice and cried out for help (Gen 39:15). Furthermore, to Potiphar, she dramatized how Joseph had come to mock her and had done to her after such a manner (Gen 39:17-19). Potiphar’s wife was constructing a dramatic picture of her fear, her struggle and her survival of the alleged attempted rape by Joseph.
By provocating the men of the house;Hide Answer
First, apart from playing the victim, Potiphar’s wife also provoked the men of the house to feelings of indignation (Gen 39:14). Second, under the pretense of reporting a rape attempt, Potiphar’s wife called to the men of the house and spoke to them. In her allegation against Joseph, she purposely made a distinct comparison between the Hebrew slave and the natives of the house. Third, Potiphar’s wife wanted the men of the house to feel that the mistreatment toward her equaled their mistreatment. Fourth, her words were calculated to make sure that not only had Joseph offended her but that he had offended the men as well. Fifth, Potiphar’s wife was doing everything she could to exploit the men’s feelings of discomfort, dissatisfaction and resentment toward Joseph.
By inciting Potiphar’s anger;Hide Answer
Lastly, the wife of Potiphar incited her husband to feelings of anger. In front of his slaves, Potiphar’s wife humiliated her husband by implying that he had been incompetent in handling the rogue Hebrew slave. Joseph was Potiphar’s slave, yet he had allowed Joseph to commit such a grievous act against his wife (Gen 39:19). She wanted the men of the house to know that Joseph’s attempt to rape her meant that Potiphar’s power and authority had been weakened. The humiliation hit hard at Potiphar’s pride and dignity as the owner and the master of the slaves. In addition, Potiphar’s wife manipulatively played on Potiphar’s emotion. Through the harassment of herself, the wife of Potiphar wanted to know that his favored and trusted slave-became-overseer had betrayed the earned trust and misused the given power during Potiphar’s absence. And through the false report and false evidence of rape-attempt toward herself, Potiphar’s wife tested her husband’s patience whether he felt comfortable knowing that his own trusted slave tried to dishonor and to violate his wife.
If we were Joseph, remembering the contrast between the hope of the dreams in Gen 37:5, 9 with the difficult reality at hand might cause us to feel resentment and regret toward the Lord. The first dream of Joseph in Gen 37:5-7 gave him the sense of ruling and dominion in the future. Yet, in the years to come, Joseph was being enslaved. The book of Genesis 39 revealed how Joseph was being ruled and dominated without his freedom. If we were Joseph, such a contrast would cause us to feel angry and resentful of being cheated by the false hope.
Moreover, the second dream of Joseph in Gen 37:9 indicated how he would have great power and authority in the future. Instead, several years later, Joseph was being degraded and overpowered. The book of Genesis 39 showed how Joseph was sentenced to prison for the crime he never committed. Joseph had maintained his truthfulness and integrity. However, he received ill-treatment and evil from the ones he trusted and respected—his master and the wife of his master. If we were Joseph, such a backstabbing and a treachery from the closest people might have decreased our faith and even caused a sense of regret in believing the Lord.
When Joseph was put in the prison, the Scriptures emphasized that the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy (Gen 39:21). Joseph’s condition was similar to the several examples of biblical characters throughout the Scriptures. In the book of Judges, when Gideon was confounded about his life, the Lord comforted him to not be afraid and to be at peace (Judg 6:23). Next, the writer of the book of Psalms narrated his concern for the afflictions of the righteous. But the writer continued to reassure the readers that the Lord would rescue the afflicted (Ps 34:19). Moreover, in his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul shared how the Lord stood and strengthened him during the time of evil (
2 Tim 4:17-18). Likewise, the Lord was with Joseph during his confusion and uncertainty in the prison and showed Joseph mercy during his ill-treatment from the wife of his master. From the example of Joseph we can learn that not only will God guide us in times of difficulties but the Lord will also strengthen us to make us able to go through such hardships of life.
Describe the attitude of Joseph when he was being put in prison: Joseph’s attitude toward the keeper of the prison;Hide Answer
Joseph had been wrongly imprisoned, yet he still respected the prison keeper. Joseph did not protest or rebel against the prison keeper. He was not sulky or depressed. Instead, the keeper of the prison saw how favorable Joseph was (Gen 39:21). From Joseph’s appearance and attitude in prison, the prison-keeper could see the reflection of God’s mercy upon Joseph. So even though Joseph did not deserve to be thrown into prison like a criminal, the prison keeper elevated Joseph and put him in charge of all the other prisoners and gave him the authority to run the prison.
Joseph’s attitude toward his fellow prisoners;Hide Answer
When the keeper of the prison handed over all the daily operations of the prison to Joseph, he also gave him all the prisoners and “whatever they did there, it was [Joseph’s] doing” (Gen 39:22). Therefore, Joseph was responsible to take care of each prisoner. They did not complain over Joseph’s way of management nor did they dislike the way Joseph handled things around the prison. Joseph maintained a good relationship with his fellow prisoners.
From the teachings of the Scriptures, we know that the hardships and difficulties of Joseph do not equate to God’s curse or God’s carelessness upon Joseph. First, Joseph’s hardships were a part of God’s bigger plan to prepare Joseph to be the ruler who would save the Israelites. The book of Genesis showed that through imprisonment, Joseph was able to communicate with the butler and the baker, one of whom would later inform the Pharaoh that Joseph was a man of God (Gen 40:5, 6, 41:9-14). Thus, the lowest point of Joseph’s life was indeed the necessary stepping-stone for Joseph to continue his journey to the realization of his dream by God.
Furthermore, the apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy reminded him that all who desired to live a godly life in Christ Jesus would suffer persecution (
2 Tim 3:12). What Joseph experienced was persecution in the name of God. Since Joseph maintained his holiness and decided to uphold his obedience in God’s command, he was persecuted. Therefore, we know that Joseph’s hardships were but an essential part of being godly and leading a holy life in front of God. Similarly, once we are committed to living a godly and a holy life, we should prepare ourselves for the upcoming persecutions that relate to such a commitment.
Finally, though Joseph experienced several hardships in his life, the guidance and the mercy of God were present in Joseph. When he was working as a slave and as an overseer in Potiphar’s house, the Lord was with Joseph and made him successful in his work (Gen 39:2). And when Joseph was in prison, the Lord also was with him and gave him favor in the sight of the prison-keeper (Gen 39:21). Thus, in hardships as a slave or as a prisoner, the Lord’s guidance was always present in Joseph’s life. The apostle Paul once confessed in his letter to the church in Corinth, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (
2 Cor 12:10). He said this because the Lord had said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul followed this by explaining he would rather boast in his infirmities, so that the power of Christ might rest upon him ( 2 Cor 12:9). This is applicable to us today when we are in distresses and persecutions for His sake, the Lord will not leave us behind and He will continually give us His guidance throughout our hardships.