Genesis 39:1-6 – We now return to Joseph, who is the focal point of the remainder of the book of Genesis. Joseph had been sold by the Ishmaelites to Potiphar the Captain of Pharaoh’s body guards. Joseph was an intelligent and personable young man and Potiphar recognized his abilities by promoting him. He not only was bright but maintained a high moral standard in his dealings, and on top of all that, the Lord blessed all that he did.
Most employers prefer the work ethic, honesty and blessing that comes from genuine believers. Those that are abiding in the Messiah will bear much fruit and it is this kind of fruit that the world appreciates. Believing workers at times also will have opportunity to confess to their employers the source of their character. Potiphar, the Scriptures tell us, recognized that God indeed was with Joseph. Potiphar came to trust Joseph so much that he no longer bothered to check up on him, putting all of his business into Joseph’s hands.
Not only was Joseph blessed and a blessing, he was also good looking, just as David the King was. Yet the key characteristic was not the outward but rather the inward that commended both David and Joseph to the Lord (1 Samuel 16:7). Joseph at this point has been in Egypt 13 years.
Genesis 39:7-15 – As Joseph became more responsible for the affairs of the house, coupled with his good looks, he became increasingly the object of desire for Potiphar’s wife. No doubt Joseph ignored the subtle advances, but she became blatant in her desire for Joseph. Joseph seems to do all that he can to discourage her advances but she persists. Joseph could have come up with a myriad of reasons to justify sleeping with her.
Her husband was seldom around, nor were any of the servants (the servants probably would understand since her husband was a eunuch). He could have seen himself ministering to his master’s wife because he was unable to perform his function as husband. Sexually promiscuity was something he was exposed to considering the many wives of Jacob and Reuben’s affair with his step mother. But what overshadowed all of this was that he knew that it went against God’s revealed will to him.
In rejecting her advances Joseph tried to be tactful and not offend her. Joseph knew that any thing done with her would not be hidden from God. Potiphar’s wife would not be deterred; she was going to get what she wanted!
She probably approached him without clothing and began to take his clothing off. Rather than hesitate and fall he ran (1 Corinthians 6:18) (Proverbs 7:7ff). With this rejection she is infuriated and with the garment left by Joseph she accuses Joseph of attempted rape. This was the second time a garment of Joseph’s was used to perpetrate a lie about him (Genesis 37:33). She calls the other servants to bear witness and to understand that her husband put her in danger by having this foreigner living among them.
Genesis 39:16-23 – When Potiphar returned his wife shared with him her lie placing the blame for it all on him for bringing the Jewish slave into her home. Potiphar’s reaction is anger, but it doesn’t seem to be fully directed at Joseph since he didn’t have him executed which would have been justified. Joseph is placed in a cell with political, rather than criminal prisoners. One could easily infer that Potiphar knew that his wife was not blameless in this.
What angered Potiphar probably more than anything else was losing the services of Joseph. It should be noted that Potiphar likely is the one in charge of this prison. There is nothing to indicate that Joseph defended himself in these matters but committed himself to the Lord throughout his ordeal. In this behavior we see again the character of Jesus (Isaiah 53:7;1 Peter 2:23). The overseer of the prison who served Potiphar saw in Joseph the same traits that Potiphar saw and quickly elevated Joseph to chief trustee. Joseph no doubt ran the prison more efficiently than it had ever been run.