Genesis 39: Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.

-When it says that Potiphar recognized that the Lord was with him, it probably isn’t that Potiphar knew anything about the God of Abraham as this seems extremely extremely unlikely. Rather, he recognized Joseph as being what we would call in American culture “good luck”. It just seemed that everything Joseph did and was involved in turned out well and Potiphar saw that. So he likely thought of it as “the gods favor him”. Either way, he respected the idea of some kind of higher being enough to know they influence things and if he propped Joseph up ahead of other servants it would go well for him. God has influence even among nonbelievers. He will use their superstition and their flawed way of thinking in His favor to accomplish His will.

6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. 11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

-This is an example of why Paul in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” If we allow a window, we will sin because it is in our nature. No one, no matter how much knowledge and wisdom you have, can resist sin completely when there is enough temptation and opportunity. This is why in the Lord’s prayer we ask not to be lead into temptation. We do not ask to resist temptation, because when there’s enough, we can’t. We have to avoid the opportunity. We aren’t told but it may be Joseph was tempted to give in and lie with her. We know Joseph did not have a wife so it was highly likely given that he was so righteous himself that he had never done anything with a woman. His reaction, regardless, was right in that he RAN away. This is what we must do with all temptation…RUN. Run as fast as we can quickly because once that temptation reaches a certain level, nothing can be done to resist it. It’s too late. This is why we must always ask God not to lead us into temptation as Jesus prayed. Because we are guilty of the sin of pride if we think we can overcome sin ourselves. Only Jesus’ death on the cross overcame sin, NOTHING ELSE! To say we can resist sin is to say that we are equal to Jesus, equal to God, and we are not.

13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” 19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.

-We see not just the wickedness of Potiphar’s wife but also the value put on servants in this society. Because Joseph would not obey and lie with her, she was going to punish him. She felt rejected and sought revenge on him. But along with the good in Potiphar promoting Joseph, God is also in charge of the bad in him being sent to prison. Everything we do is all apart of his will, even when we sin greatly. Joseph’s brothers sinned greatly to sell him to the Ishmaelites and we are going to see at the end of this story the tremendous good that God made out of that terrible terrible sin. Because only God can overcome sin.

21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

-It is hard to imagine this happening today. Imagine a prison warden and all the guards deciding that a prisoner was so good and so trustworthy that they would hand this prisoner the keys to all the cells. This sounds supernatural because these people aren’t stupid. Anyone can lie and lie convincingly and pretend to be good long enough, even for years, until enough influence is gained. The keeper of the prison, having worked with prisoners, had to know this yet he still put Joseph in charge. Joseph had the Holy Spirit and even though they didn’t understand, all the Egyptians who saw him somehow recognized this and just knew that he was good. There was just something about him. The passage says Joseph was handsome but it may be this quality that attracted Potiphar’s wife to want to lie with him so badly. It may be similar to the men of Sodom who wanted to lie with the three “men” who came to rescue Lot. There was something about them that everyone sensed and they “wanted”. Because of their sinful, twisted hearts, however, this wanting was in a selfish way rather than wanting to know the source of this quality, the God of all creation.

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