Summary: Joseph was stuck as a slave, then a prisoner in Egypt. He could have claimed God had forgotten him, but Joseph remained faithful and a man of character on the inside and outside. It gives us many lessons on how to live our lives in Christ.
The story of Joseph reminds me of someone else later on in the Old Testament - Daniel. Like Joseph, Daniel was carried off to a foreign land but because of his God given talent and integrity, he was given broad trust and responsibility. Also like Joseph, that character got him enemies who sought to accuse him. Those accusations brought trouble to both Daniel and Joseph, but the Lord prevailed and their positions after were even greater than they enjoyed before.
This week we see Joseph - a young man of perhaps 17 years - afraid for his life as his brutal brothers almost kill him, threw him into a cistern instead, then sell him as a slave to distant kin - the Ishmaelites. All he could see was difficulty and despair. Think about it - his brothers rejected him, he was taken away from his mom and dad and brother Benjamin - taken away from his home and didn’t even know if he’d make it wherever they were taking him - and what was it going to be like going from a favored son to a slave.
What must have Joseph thought about God - here God gave him these dreams that his family would serve him and what became of it? You’d be tempted to just give up on God - either you heard wrong or God doesn’t really love you - and after all, nothing of what God said in the dream came true.
How often do we find ourselves in a situation where we trusted God, thought we heard him speak, followed that voice, only to find everything go wrong - people reject us, circumstances go the opposite way - blessing seeming to turn to a curse - what is our reaction? Joseph never stopped believing or trusting God - and that is one of the chief lessons of the entire Joseph narrative - he didn’t let circumstances dictate his faith and trust in God - he took a long view, and was blessed because of it.
Potiphar means ’devoted to the sun’. The Egyptians worshipped the sun god On. He would have lived in the Nile delta region bordering Canaan. He was an officer - which meant he was in government service. But it also says he was "captain of the guard." Possibly he was the chief executioner - which makes the fact that Joseph wasn’t killed later on even more amazing.
Verses 2 - 6
So even in a tough place - a place some might say he was being punished for arrogance - the LORD was with him prospering him. 5 times in this one paragraph the word LORD appears. That’s actually the Hebrew word Yahweh. God personally saw to it that Joseph did well - so well that Potiphar turned over all the administration of his house to Joseph. Literally "except the food he ate" probably refers to the preparation of food in religious observance to his gods - something her would not entrust to a foreigner.
What place has God put you in? Do the people around you know that you serve the LORD and that He is the reason for you being blessed? Once Potiphar realized that the LORD was with Joseph his whole household was blessed. You as a Christian will positively affect those around you. Don’t be afraid to be who you are as a Christian and let others know why you are who you are.
Titus 2:9-10 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
This is what Joseph did - and Potiphar realized that there really was something to this "Yahweh" thing.
But the enemy had other things in mind - trying to frustrate God’s plan and the care for the family of the Messiah.
Verse 6b & 7
Literally the Hebrew says "fair of form and fair of face" and is the same term used of Rachael in chapter 29. For a man I guess we say he was a "hunk"
We never learn the name of Potiphar’s wife - in fact, that’s how we refer to her. Obviously lust leads her here - and as the mistress of the house she was probably used to getting her way. It’s not going to be that way this time. You know - no matter how much power you have, righteousness is always more powerful - she can accuse Joseph, and change his outward circumstances, but she cannot force him to be different on the inside.
Verses 8 - 10
Servants were expected to avoid eye contact with the master’s wife - she, however, put her eyes on Joseph. One translation says "she became infatuated with him." In her position she could order her servants to do anything.