.About Jesus Steve Sweetman
And Potiphar's Wife (ch. 39:1 - 23)
The story of Joseph picks
up here in Genesis 39 after a one chapter absence.
We see a man named Potiphar.
He was the one who purchased Joseph from the Ishmaelites.
He was also a very high ranking person in Pharaoh's government.
The NIV calls him the "captain of the guards".
The Hebrew word that is
translated as "captain" here is the word that means
"eunuch". A eunuch
is a man who is castrated, or has chosen to be single.
It is clear that Potiphar wasn't single.
So it is clear there are secondary uses to this word.
Verse 3 tells us that
"the Lord gave Joseph success in everything he did." Many
prosperity teachers will use this as an example that God wants us to all
prosper in all we do, and especially in terms of finances.
I don't believe you can use isolated cases to build an argument.
I see the Lord blessing Joseph here for a specific reason and
that is to receive the Pharaoh's blessings.
Pharaoh's blessing is only important for one thing here and that
is to bring blessing to Israel
later on. Beyond that,
there would be no reason why an Egyptian would be important to Israel.
In verse 5 we see that
Joseph's blessings from God extended into all aspects of Potiphar's
household. Joseph became
very valuable to Potiphar. I
do believe that as Christians, if the Lord's blessings are upon us, they
can spill over to others around us, especially those in our family.
In verse 6 we see that
Potiphar left Joseph in charge of everything.
He didn't have to worry about anything.
Joseph looked after it all, and did a very good job of it.
Potiphar had full trust in Joseph.
This is a key point to this story.
Also in verse 6 we note
that Joseph was "well-built and handsome", another important
factor to this chapter.
In verse 7 we see that
Potiphar's wife took note of how good looking Joseph was.
She probably had her eyes on him for a while so she asked him to
go to bed with her. This
tells you what kind of person she was.
Many Bible teachers think she was somewhat of a lose woman, and
Joseph probably wasn't the only man she wanted outside of marriage. I
have a feeling she usually got what she wanted, but not this time.
In verse 8 Joseph
declines her offer. He told
her that Potiphar had complete trust in him, that's why he was in charge
of everything Potiphar owned. He
did not want to lose this trust. He knew that things would not work out
favorably for him if he slept with Potiphar's wife.
Besides, Joseph was a man of God.
He knew it was wrong, and he knew the importance of trust.
In verse 9 he said,
"how could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God."
The morals in Egyptian and surrounding cultures weren't that good
in comparison to New Testament standards.
Men had other women on the side, but having someone else's wife
crossed the line and was seen as immoral.
Yet Joseph's thinking went farther than that.
He believed that if he had sex with Potiphar's wife, he was
actually sinning against God, not just Potiphar.
We need to realize the same.
When we overtly sin against someone, we're also sinning against
There is a mystical union
when it comes to sex in the context of marriage.
It is more than special and physical.
There is a spiritual element to it.
It also was meant to represent the relationship that we as
individuals, and as God's people should have with Him.
I believe the husband and wife relationship is a type, and
earthly illustration of how our relationship is to be with God. So
in one real sense of the word, the sex act is an act of worship, and we
are only to worship one, whether in marriage or in our lives as
Joseph did his best to
avoid this woman as seen in verse 10.
He not only kept turning her down, but he tried to avoid her day
after day as he went about his work.
Joseph should be a good example for men today who are tempted so
Finally, all of the
turn-downs that Potiphar's wife had from Joseph got her angry.
Verse 11 says that there were no servants in the house on this
occasion. I wonder if she
sent them all away. It would
not surprise me. So in verse
12 she grabs Joseph and tries to forcibly take him to bed with her.
He ran off with his coat left in her hands.
He just wanted out of there as fast as he could, but leaving his
coat behind turned out to be a mistake.
I don't think the coat was the number one thing on his mind.
Just getting out was primary.
In verse 13 and 14 we see
that Potiphar's wife called the servants in.
It's almost as if she sent them out, and now she says it is time
to come back. She tells them
that "this Hebrew" made sport of her, or, raped her.
The words "this Hebrew" is meant to be a derogatory
remark against Joseph.
In verse 15 we note that
she told the servants that when she screamed for help, he ran off
without his coat. OF course
it was all a lie. She was
just getting back at Joseph for turning her down.
Verse 16 tells us that
she left Joseph's coat beside her until Potiphar came home.
I'm sure that Joseph might have wanted to go back and get his
coat, but I doubt if he tried. She
would not let him have it even if he did come back because now she was
using it as evidence that he raped her.
In verse 17 Potiphar
returns and she told him that "the Hebrew slave you bought"
raped her. She was blaming
Potiphar for her situation. I'm
not convinced that Potiphar and his wife had a good relationship.
Many scholars agree that she was probably a lose woman and
Potiphar knew it and just accepted it.
In verse 18 she repeated
the same story she told her servants.
She screamed and Joseph ran off in fear, leaving his coat behind
that she now had as evidence.
In response to this, as
seen in verse 19, Potiphar "burned with anger".
The question is asked, who was he angry with?
Was he angry with Joseph, or was he angry with his wife?
We can't say for sure, but many scholars feel that he was angry
with his wife, or the situation, but not with Joseph.
He actually might have trusted Joseph more than his wife.
Verse 20 tells us that
Potiphar put Joseph in prison. It
seemed to be a special prison, a prison of Pharaoh's.
Now in Egyptian culture and other surrounding cultures, raping a
married woman had a punishment of death.
It is clear that Joseph did not get executed.
God would not allow that, but it appears also that Potiphar did
not want Joseph executed either, or else he would have had him put to
death. For this reason, many
Bible scholars suggest that he did not believe his wife, but was forced
to do something, so he put Joseph in jail.
He did not have him killed for a crime he did not commit.
The blessing of God was
still on Joseph, even in prison. The
head of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners, and
everything that took place in the prison Joseph was in charge of.
We see in verse 23 that
the warden of the prison felt the same towards Joseph as Potiphar did.
He fully trusted him and saw that God gave him success.
This would make the warden's job much easier.
This chapter shows us that those who are called of God don't always live an easy life, but God is with those who are called, and whatever happens is for a reason. God had a reason for all of Joseph's hardships. It all boils down to a matter of trust. Do we trust the Lord for everything that comes our way? This presupposes we're attempting to live a godly life. Some things that come our way are a result of our own bad mistakes, but if we're serious about these things, and think about these things, I think we know what bad things come about due to our own failures.