How can you explain Genesis chapter 39?
Genesis 39 recounts the account of Joseph’s rise to leadership in the house of Potiphar, descent into prison for being falsely accused, and his rise to leadership within the prison. More than that, it shows the character and integrity of a man of God despite his station in life.
The beginning of the chapter picks up from the ending of Genesis 37. Genesis 38 in between seems like it doesn’t fit in the narrative, but it shows how one of his other brothers, Judah, was not a man of integrity or conviction while Joseph is.
So we pick up the story and the beginning of Genesis 39. After his brothers sold him to slave traders who took him to Egypt, we find that he, as a slave, becomes the master of Potiphar’s house. He is second only to Potiphar. He makes all of the decisions and takes care of all of Potiphar’s belongings.
Don’t miss the key phrase, although it is small, in Genesis 39:2 where the Lord was with Joseph. That is the key to all of his success no matter where he was. He didn’t do these things on his own. He had the favor of the Lord.
Favor and success were given to him by the Lord. Even Potiphar, not an Israelite or a believer in the Lord, could see the favor. Potiphar completely trusted Joseph. He saw that he was a man of integrity. And the only reason for this was because he trusted in the Lord.
But Joseph had a big problem I wish I had. He was handsome. Potiphar’s wife began to take notice of him. And after Potiphar left the house, she took her advantage. She backed Joseph into a corner and commanded this slave to lie with her.
But Joseph refused to do it, and I love his reason. He said that he had Potiphar’s trust and didn’t want to break it. And even more than that, how could he do this great sin against God (Genesis 39:9). This showed integrity to both the master of the house and to God. Joseph feared the Lord first and also understood his place, privileged that it was.
He pushed away her advances many times until one day when he refused her, she took his garment when he resisted her. This time they were alone so she could make up her own story. It cost him two years in prison because of her lies. Potiphar listened to his wife and put his slave, Joseph, in jail.
Even still, Joseph wasn’t put in just any prison. He was put in the prison where the king’s servants were placed. The opportunity for God to do something special was evident. It is God who works in the background of our lives and his favor continues even when we think he has moved on from us.
God continues to favor Joseph even in prison because Joseph was genuine before him. Because Joseph cared about sin against God, God granted him favor in the prison. He was right in the place he needed to be, right in the center of God’s will.
I think the theme of this chapter is that the Lord was with Joseph because it appears again in Genesis 39:21. Even in prison, the worst place you would think a person could be, God’s favor extended to him and made him a leader among the prisoners.
Like Potiphar, the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of the prisoners. As a slave and a prisoner, he was put in leadership positions for the same reason. He was a man of integrity. He received God’s favor because of that integrity.
No matter what situation Joseph was in, he maintained his faith in God and his integrity. This kept the doors wide open for God to give him favor and use him. God was setting the stage for something even bigger.