Genesis 39: Joseph’s Initial Prosperity

In this chapter, we rejoin the narrative concerning Joseph. When we last left Joseph, he had been sold as a slave to Ishmaelites by his brothers for 20 shekels of silver. Once in Egypt, Joseph was sold again to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officers and captain of the men that guarded Pharaoh. Although it is still early in Joseph’s life, we can already find many examples of how God has blessed him. Joseph’s life follows a prosperous yet challenging path. Through the conditions of familial adversity, slavery and the like, God is preparing Joseph for strong leadership and exemplary righteousness.

In verse 2, we are told directly: “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” People in authority around Joseph notice that prosperity naturally (divinely) accompanies Joseph’s efforts. In Genesis 39, both Potiphar and the keeper of the king’s prison notice this and give Joseph lots of responsibility and oversight. The trust that they give to a virtual nobody comes from the impression they get of his abilities and leadership – abilities and leadership that are directly blessed by God for prosperity.

But Joseph’s master’s wife lusts after him and beckons him to bed with her on more than one occasion. Joseph was young, handsome and capable, but this does not excuse her wandering eyes. However, he does not wilt in the face of the evil temptation and softly rebukes her: “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Later, in a decidedly dramatic event, Joseph’s sense of righteousness forces him to flee as his master’s wife again tries to bring him to bed when they were alone in the home. But as he flees, she keeps his garment and uses it later as supposed proof that Joseph had mocked her. Naturally, Joseph’s master’s anger is aroused at this and he sends Joseph to the king’s prison. But, as we referenced early in this study, the Lord blesses Joseph in all that he does. God’s direction of Joseph’s life thus far is to instill in him strength and prosperity through unlikely adversity: But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.”

Next week: Jospeh’s interpretation of dreams in Genesis 40.


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