This article is part of a series of articles that resulted from my time preaching through the book of Genesis. The commentary on the passage is my own, resulting from hours of research and exegetical study. It is my intent to draw a biblical theology chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis that places the events of the narratives into the broad picture of the entire Bible, demonstrating the progressiveness of theology and the sufficiency of every Word of Scripture. It is my prayer that these articles are helpful to those seeking a better understanding of the book of Genesis and of the Bible as a whole. The sermon series and other resources can be found at www.fbcroxana.com.
1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there.
Contrary to his brothers’ assumptions, Joseph was not sold into hard and menial slavery where he would be worked to death. Instead, he was sold to a high ranking Egyptian officer, where he would be well treated.
2 The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.
Just as the LORD had been with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so He was now with Joseph to prosper him and to make everything he put his hand to successful. When Jacob had lived with Laban, Laban’s household had flourished. So it was with the household of Potiphar with Joseph living in it.
3 Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.
Just as Pharaoh and Abimelech had recognized God’s blessing on Abraham, so now Potiphar recognized this blessing on Joseph. So he put him in charge of everything. As a result, the house became more blessed.
5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate.
Joseph’s master held nothing back from him. Everything was under Joseph’s charge, and Potiphar had no hand in the household dealings since he so trusted Joseph. Everything seemed wonderful, until temptation reared its head.
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” 10 As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her.
Joseph was stalwart! He would not give in to the lusty seduction. He feared God, knowing that adultery was a great evil and sin against God. Also, he would not betray his master, who had such trust in him. So he refused her many advances for days.
11 Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. 12 She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.
The only answer to such temptation is to flee it. Joseph had probably went to great strides to always have the other servants close by while in the house. But Potiphar’s wife may have arranged for the servants to all be outside at a certain time. So when he was caught alone with her, Joseph’s only option was to flee. While running away, his clothing (probably nothing more than a loincloth on account of the Egyptian heat) was torn off. So Potiphar’s wife took the chance to have revenge.
13 When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. 15 When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside.”
Potiphar’s wife first alerted the servants who were outside, and played off their anti-Semitism—which was apparently already existent—in order to stir up their hatred and give Joseph nowhere to run. Having gained the support of the servants, she would wait until her husband returned home.
16 So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she spoke to him with these words, “The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; 18 and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.”
This false accusation cost Joseph everything that he had gained in Egypt. The LORD gave him his high position and had taken it away. But God had something even greater in mind, and the route to that future greatness involved great loss.
19 Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me,” his anger burned. 20 So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.
According to Egyptian law, Potiphar had every right to kill Joseph. Either he did not fully believe his wife or he had much love for Joseph, for he settled on imprisonment instead of execution. Yet even in prison, God prospered Joseph.
21 But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 22 The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. 23 The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made to prosper.
Just as Potiphar had not concerned himself with anything in his household while it was under Joseph’s care, so now the chief jailer did not concern himself with the prisoners in the jail. He put them in Joseph’s charge, because he saw how God was blessing him. It is amazing how God continues to pour out grace on His beloved people.
God would continue to use Joseph, eventually putting him into position as Pharaoh’s second-in-command in order to provide for the people of Israel and for the world. In the same way, God provided for Israel and the world by sending His Son, Jesus, to die in their place in order to take away their sins. Through His death, reconciliation is made between God and whoever believes in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who are reconciled are forgiven of their sins, and will receive eternal life in the kingdom of God when He fulfills His covenant with Abraham and his descendants. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and come to know the hope of eternal life in the presence of God.