Genesis 39 (NRSV)
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.
Captain of the guard: The idea behind this title means “chief of police,” or probably more precisely, Potiphar was head of Pharaoh’s “Secret Service,” his personal security force. He was a highly trusted official in the government of Egypt.
2The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.
How easy it is for us to complain to God that He put us in a terrible or difficult place. Yet God’s will is that we trust Him to bless us and make us successful (as He measures success) wherever we are. The point is not the comfort and ease of our lives. The point is our obedience in being conformed to the image of Christ through the circumstances we encounter. We can be certain that God will be faithful to us in all things.
5From 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. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate.
Proverbs 14:27 (New International Version)
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
turning a man from the snares of death.
Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking.
Joseph’s appearance is of special note. The Bible only calls two other men beautiful: David (1 Samuel 16:12) and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25).
7And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”
8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. 9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
Reflection, a story:
“Rabbi, what can I do to silence the voice of temptation,” asked the man. When the rabbi replied that this voice might never be silenced, the man exclaimed, “But it’s driving me crazy. Is there any advice that can help me overcome it?”
“Ah, overcome it,” mused the rabbi, “Overcoming the voice is not hard at all. There is one magical word and when you say it, the voice is instantly overcome. It doesn’t go away, mind you. It rarely ever does that, but it can be overcome.”
“A magical word that will deliver me from the brink of temptation? Please share it with me,” the man begged.
The rabbi smiled and firmly replied, “No.”
“Why not? Please, I beg you.”
“No,” repeated the Rabbi. Crestfallen, the man turned to leave — when the rabbi softly explained that word “no” was, in fact, the magical word.
–from Countering the Voice of Temptation, by Lazer Gurkow.
10And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her.
11One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, 12she caught hold of his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.
Hebrews 13:4 (English Standard Version)
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
Each vict’ry will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward; dark passions subdue;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.”
This song was written by Horation R. Palmer in 1868. HERE it is sung by Ramona Campbell.
13When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14she called out to the members of her household and said to them, “See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; 15and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” 16Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, 17and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; 18but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.”
19When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, “This is the way your servant treated me,” he became enraged. 20And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison.
Potiphar went easy on Joseph because he suspected his wife’s role in the matter. The anger aroused may have not been directed towards Joseph, but against the wife for manipulating him into a situation where, to save face, he had to dismiss the man who made the whole household run well.
21But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 22The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
The dominating theme is that Joseph succeeded because of the blessing of God:
- The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man (Genesis 39:2)
- His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand (Genesis 39:3)
- The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had (Genesis 39:5)
- But the Lord was with Joseph (Genesis 39:21)
- The Lord was with him (Genesis 39:23)
Romans 6:15-18 (New Living Translation)
Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.
Bruce Feiler: Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land through the Five Books of Moses (Book II, Chapter 1 “On the Banks of the Nile”).
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.