Summary of passage: Joseph was taken to Egypt and purchased by Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Because the Lord was with Joseph, he became Potiphar’s attendant and then put in charge of his household and everything in it. Because of Joseph’s presence, the Lord blessed Potiphar and everything in his house and in his fields.
Potiphar’s wife tried to get Joseph to sleep with her but Joseph refused, saying he is to care for everything that is his master’s and he cannot sin against God committing adultery. She tried daily and he avoided her.
One day Joseph was alone with Potiphar’s wife and she grabbed him by his cloak. He slipped out of his cloak and ran outside. She told her servants that he had come to her to try to sleep with her and had left his cloak behind. She told Potiphar who put Joseph in prison.
Still, the Lord was with Joseph so Joseph was put in charge of all the prisoners and all the happenings there and had success in whatever he did.
3a) Genesis 39:3, 23: When God is with you, you have success in whatever you do.
Genesis 39:21: When God is with you, God shows you kindness and others see you favorably.
Joshua 1:7-9: Follow and obey the law and meditate on it day and night and you will be successful and prosperous wherever you go.
b) Joshua 1: God promises to never leave us or forsake us. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. Be strong and courageous. Follow and obey the law and meditate on it day and night and you will be successful and prosperous wherever you go. God will be with us wherever we go.
Psalm 1: Blessed is he who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. Whatever he does prospers. The Lord watches over the righteous.
4) Personal Question. My answer: Potiphar probably witnessed the abundance Joseph brought in whatever tasks he was doing before he was promoted. Joseph was honest (as shown by not sleeping with his wife), which was hard to find in slaves back then. I would imagine Joseph was one of those people whom you just know God is with him. He probably had an aura about him that just attracted others to him.
5a) Personal Question. My answer: He trusted in God and God’s plans. He was also young. He hadn’t experienced yet how hard the world could be until this moment so he probably took a positive attitude and made the best of every situation.
b) By prospering those around Joseph. It was like Midas and the Golden Touch. Everywhere it seemed Joseph made everything turn to gold so to speak and everyone knew it. Even in prison God blessed him and made that life tolerable. God allowed others to see how Joseph was the reason for all the good in their lives; hence, they showed him favor.
Conclusions: Mixed on this lesson. The theme was if you obey and trust in God you will prosper no matter your circumstances, which is a good lesson. God blesses. However, something was missing–depth perhaps?
Prisons of ancient times were NOTHING like prisons of today. No regular meals. No sanitary conditions. No toilets. No showers. And definitely no human rights. Prisoners were tortured, beaten, and starved to death. No one cared if you lived or died back then and if you were thrown in prison for a crime (like Joseph was), odds are you’d never get out and you would die there. You’d literally be left to rot, especially if you had no money in which to buy your freedom.
A prisoner being put in charge of prisoners was rare. Yet God had to intervene here or Joseph would die.
Fun Fact: The name Potiphar means “devoted to the sun”. In Ancient Egypt, the Sun God, Ra, was considered the King of the gods and was worshipped by some as the creator god. Pharaoh was seen as the son of Ra. He was said to command the chariot that rode across the sky and brought day to the world. He was universally worshipped throughout the entire Ancient Egyptian reign (3000 years).
Hence, Potiphar’s name means devoted to this god as well as to Pharaoh since Pharaoh is the son of Ra and considered his embodiment on earth.
Potiphar’s job was personal security to Pharaoh. He wasn’t in charge of the army. Hence, he was very important in Egypt.
Joseph was in Potiphar’s house for 11 years. We are not told how long it took him to work his way up but we can assume it took a bit of time. We must remember Joseph is a foreigner. He didn’t know the language, the culture, the customs, the religion, etc. There had to have been a learning time and an adjustment period.
Interesting Fact: Joseph is one of only 3 men called handsome in the Bible. The other two are David (1 Samuel 16:12) and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25). Hence, I think it is safe to say he would have been voted Time’s Sexiest Man Alive!
Why is Potiphar’s wife coming on to Joseph? Besides the fact Joseph is handsome, there is debate amongst scholars on whether or not Potiphar was a eunuch. The Hebrew word for “official” in verse 1 may be translated as eunuch and it was common for high officials serving the Pharaoh to be castrated in order to ensure complete loyalty. This may be another reason his wife was seeking attention elsewhere.
Plus, Joseph, a mere slave, said no to a woman of noble status–very rare in ancient times. I’m sure she felt the need for retribution (and indeed she had her revenge). When she tired of the challenge, she had Joseph thrown in jail. End of story.
Egyptian religion was lax when it came to marriage rites and being unfaithful was not uncommon.
The temptation Joseph endured could have gone on for years. We are not told–only that it happened “day after day”. This was definitely a test of strength for Joseph–one in which we are to gain strength from.
Joseph did everything right: he avoided temptation, never being alone with her; he knew it was a sin; he said no; and then he ran when she trapped him. Yet he still paid a price for following God. As we all do.
Joseph could have been killed but instead was put in prison. This hints that Potiphar probably suspected his wife’s lies (what husband doesn’t know his wife is flirting in his own household?). Also, this shows how God saves.