Reading For Tuesday Genesis 39:1-23


God's story continues to unfold in a way that for us is sometimes difficult to perceive, much less trust. God never breaks a promise and his plans always succeed. God's blessing and favor are bigger than any circumstances not matter how bleak they may appear because God is greater than any circumstances we may face. In spite of Joseph's previous arrogance, he was still a man that God would use and he was still under the blessing of God. Even though Joseph was away from his homeland; even though he had been betrayed by his brothers; even though he was no longer a free man; and even though he ended up in prison: still the Lord was with him.

Joseph’s life is a series of exaltations and humiliations. In Egypt, his master observed that everything Joseph did was blessed with success. Step by step Joseph rose to prominence, from Potiphar’s personal attendant to the chief of household servants, to manager of the entire estate. Everything was entrusted to his care. The Lord showered blessing upon Potiphar’s house. The Egyptian came to trust Joseph implicitly (39:1–6). But, Joseph faced severe temptation in the house of Potiphar. His master’s wife had her eyes on the handsome youth. He was almost certainly a man of marriageable age, with sexual desires and needs of his own. However, his response to what was not just a single unwelcome lapse on the part of Potiphar’s wife but a settled policy and a pattern of behavior. This is only the fourth time in the narrative in which Joseph is said to speak, but already it seems that  Joseph has grown through his trials. She constantly urges him to become sexually involved with her. Joseph firmly rejects her advances because he would not betray the trust of his master and he would not sin against God. The stage is set for Joseph’s downfall. This is the second time that Joseph loses a position of prominence because of an article of clothing.

The woman's words are striking. The freedom with which she speaks disparagingly of her husband. She blames him because he ‘brought among us a Hebrew’. It is possible that the servants were resentful of Joseph’s position in the household and that Potiphar’s wife was seeking to exploit that, but these most certainly are not the words of a happily married woman. Potiphar’s wife repeats the charges to her husband, including the implication that he was responsible for this turn of events. Potiphar is enraged and puts Joseph in prison. 

As it happens, this is the prison over which Potiphar himself had the responsibility, as ‘the captain of the guard’. Potiphar acts swiftly and severely and without any attempt to hear the other side of the story and Joseph is incarcerated without any recourse to law, or any hope of deliverance. Ironically, he is punished for doing the right thing. Joseph’s situation has gone from bad to worse and the decline was all the more exasperating because of the success and prosperity he had known for some time in Potiphar’s house. Success and prosperity return, albeit on a smaller scale, in a reduced sphere of influence. The text is silent about  Joseph’s feelings about his predicament with regard to any resentment he may have felt towards either Potiphar and his wife, or what struggles he may have had to retain his trust in God. Joseph’s prospects were bleak: a reasonably comfortable existence in the confines of the prison was about as much as he could hope for.

Thing To Consider:

  • How should what we know about God's sovereignty inform our circumstances?  
  • How does Joseph approach his circumstances?  
  • Why does integrity matter?  
  • What can we learn from Joseph's approach to dealing with sexual temptation?  
  • Have you ever suffered for doing the right thing? How did you respond?