Summary: God proves to Joseph that He will be with him and bless him no matter how many times he’s demoted and no matter how bad his life seems.
We return to the story of Joseph here in chapter thirty-nine. He is a Hebrew who believes the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He also believes the dreams from God that he will be in authority and even his parents and brothers will bow down to him. He holds the birthright and he is Jacob’s favorite son. Then his whole world crashes down: he’s attacked by his brothers and sold to some slave traders. Now he’s on his way to a foreign land where he’ll spend the rest of his days:
And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.
The first thing I imagine the original readers would have noticed is that Joseph goes to Egypt to be a slave. These first readers had just followed Moses out of Egypt in the Exodus. They would benefit from hearing that God had rescued their people from slavery before and that He had taken good care of them in defeating their enemies.
And Joseph certainly has his share of those even being away from his brothers. It says he’s been taken to Potiphar’s house. Potiphar is the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard so he’s got some wealth and influence. More importantly, he has access to Pharaoh. It’s impossible for Joseph to know how God will come through, but we know the story and we can see how this was all for his good.
2And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
Here’s something that seems like an oxymoron. How can God be with Joseph if Joseph is in Potiphar’s house? I mean, if God is with Joseph, why doesn’t he free him from slavery? But the plan of God is much bigger than Joseph and it includes this brief time of suffering.
But the Lord wasn’t just with Joseph; He was with him in a visible way:
3And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
Everything Joseph does works out well. Whatever is under his charge is blessed abundantly so that Potiphar notices and can’t deny that Joseph is a valuable man:
4And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. 5And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. 6And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat.
Joseph turns out to be such a success that Potiphar turns over all his affairs to him. The only decision Potiphar has to think about now is what to eat next and he can watch the gold pour in. Once again Joseph finds himself a favorite and in a place of authority. He is still a slave but at least he’s not at the bottom anymore, right? But God has a purpose in this promotion and it’s not going to seem good at first. This rise in Potiphar’s house gives way for another problem:
And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.7And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
Before we get into the rest of this I want to remind you of something very important. Joseph is a good example of purity and obedience but that’s not the reason for this story. He is what he is because of grace and grace alone. If we were in the same situation we believe that God would give us the same grace to endure. The point of this encounter is not to prove Joseph’s great faith but to prove that God is with him no matter what. Jospeh will do what’s right and God will let him suffer for it; so is God still with him?
8But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 9There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?