Genesis 39–40. And the Lord Was With Joseph.
Key Notes: Sexual integrity. Adultery is sin against God. The discipline of three pits. God was with Joseph. The effects of trials.
If Joseph was an arrogant and spoiled young man, he will emerge a mature and effective servant of God. Becoming a slave will teach him practical skills, temper his character and force him to trust the Lord.
39:1–6 Potiphar, a captain of the guard, bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites. The Lord was with Joseph and he became a successful steward and manager of the captain’s house. Potiphar saw that God was with him and was the source of his prosperity in house and field, just as Laban had seen his lands prosper under Jacob's hand (Gen.30:27). Potiphar had nothing to worry about except what he ate.
39:6–9 Potiphar's wife commanded him to make love to her; after all, he was a slave and he was not a eunuch. He refused on grounds that might be used by others as excuses to comply:
a. I have minimal supervision. Potiphar has no concern about anything in the house.
b. I have considerable power. He has put everything in my hand. Only one thing has been withheld from me: yourself.
But he also refused on moral and spiritual grounds:
How can I do this great wickedness?
How can I sin against God? Adultery is sin against God. Psa.51:4. His brother Judah did not realize that, feeling only embarrassment. (Gen.38:26). Reuben slept with Jacob's Bilhah and there was no immediate comment. Gen.35:22
39:10–18. He had resisted a direct invitation. "There is no fury like a woman scorned." Now he had to resist daily reminders of her desire. He would not listen to her or spend time with her. Finally, he had to survive being grabbed. She caught him on a day when no one else was in the house, and tearing away from her, he left his coat. She used it to frame him. First she told the servants, "See, he (Potiphar) brought among us a Hebrew to insult us." When Potiphar came she repeated, "The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came to me to insult me."
30:19–23. Potiphar was angry, but not clearly at Joseph. His wife's accusations make their relationship appear distant. But Joseph must go to prison. He could have been executed. Quite a price to pay for not being an adulterer.
“…Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters,
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
until what he had said came to pass
the word of the Lord tested him. “ (Psa.105:17–19)
Some believe that Potiphar was in charge of the prison. It was a special prison where the King's prisoners were kept. God was with Joseph and he was favored by the prison warden. He became the manager of the prison.
40:1–19 The butler and baker to the Pharaoh were put in the same prison. Each had a dream. Joseph was empathetic and asked about their distress. He said dream interpretation belonged to God and asked them about the content. (Joseph had interpreted his own dreams when he was younger.) The butler's dream was hopeful and Joseph interpreted his return to royal favor. The baker's dream prophesied death in three days and Joseph was blunt in his interpretation.
40:20–23 The accuracy of Joseph's interpretation was confirmed in a matter of three days. But the butler forgot about Joseph for two more years! 41:1
Joseph was dropped into three pits: a dry well as a victim of his brothers's hatred; slavery in an Egyptian household; a dungeon in spite of doing right. God was teaching Joseph some lessons:
a. humility. He thought he was Somebody and his brothers made him a Nobody. He thought he was their king and they told him he was a slave. At 17 that was a hard lesson.
b. skills. In Potiphar's house he learned Egyptian language and house-hold affairs--a crash course in economics. He learned to manage money, buy food and household goods, deal with merchants and craftsmen, cultivate fields, and oversee servants. He learned domestic administration. He discovered that he had the gift of supervision / house management and he was affirmed in that role.
In the dungeon he learned about court politics, the inside workings of Pharaoh's house, some law and how to keep in the Pharaoh's favor. He learned political administration.
c. patience. There were long periods when nothing happened and he simply had to wait. He could have ranted and paced like a caged tiger. He worked instead, helping whoever was near him. Later, Joseph will show spiritual leadership over his brothers.
d. He learned about God. He acknowledged God's power in dream interpretation. He knew that sexual sin was sin against God, something our "Christian" country has forgotten. To Masters and Johnson, sex is as simple and natural as drinking water. And many have believed them.
But for all that, Joseph did fall into three pits, none of which was pleasant and each of which contained the threat of death. Fear would be his companion for almost 14 years. The sense of being stuck, with no way out, was part of each pit. Even when the butler afforded him the chance for a reprieve, nothing happened for two years. Seven-hundred days went by with no evidence that anyone on the outside remembered that he existed, or cared. Can't we imagine Satan whispering "Where is your God now?" But God was with Joseph (Gen.39:2,3,21,23). After his trials, he was ready to do a great work.
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
or be weary of His reproof,
for the Lord reproves him whom He loves,
as a father the son in whom He delights." (Prov.3:11,12)
“For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. “ (Heb.12:11)