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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 39

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

Verses 1-6

Sold to Potiphar

In Egypt, Joseph was sold to Potiphar. The writer tells us he was an Egyptian. This may be because this was a time when a non-Egyptian dynasty was ruling in Egypt. Potiphar was a commanding officer of the royal bodyguard. These men carried out executions for Pharaoh. The writer tells us God caused Joseph to prosper in all he did. This fact was noticed by Potiphar, who put him in charge of all his house.

God blessed the household because of Joseph. Potiphar did not concern himself with anything going on in the house. All he did was eat his meals and leave the rest to Joseph ( Gen_39:1-6 ).

Verses 7-12

Fleeing From Temptation

"And Joseph was handsome in form and appearance." This simple statement at the end of verse six introduces the reason for another serious problem which was to arise in Joseph's life. Potiphar's wife was attracted to the young Hebrew slave. She tried to entice him daily. He refused for two reasons. First, his master had placed great trust in him which he did not want to abuse. Second, he asked, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" However, she would not be put off. She spoke to him daily and asked him to lie with her.

Though he continued to refuse her advances, she kept seeking an opportunity to have her way. At last, a day came when Joseph was the only one in the house with her. She caught his coat and asked him to lie with her. He ran away, leaving his coat in her hand ( Gen_39:7-12 ). It is as if Joseph was obeying Paul's later instruction to "Flee sexual immorality" ( 1Co_6:18 ; Pro_4:14-18 ). Paul instructed another young man to, "Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" ( 2Ti_2:22 ).

It should be observed that the advances of Potiphar's wife follow a normal course of temptation. First, she looked at him (compare Mat_5:28 ). Next, she began to entice him with her words (remember Satan's discussion with Eve in Gen_3:1-24 ). Finally, she caught him by his garment. As in the temptation of our Lord, Satan does not give up easily. If one advance is turned aside, he takes another approach ( Mat_4:1-11 ).

Verses 13-20

Imprisoned Though Innocent

The unfortunate truth is that people who do what is right do not always receive right treatment. Though Joseph had honored his master and God, Potiphar's wife lied about him. She called the other servants together and told them Joseph had tried to lie with her. She claimed he fled when she cried out. She said the proof was found in the coat he had left beside her. Notice, she did not say left his coat in my hand as that might have shown the true nature of the case.

When Potiphar came home, she repeated her lie. Potiphar was enraged and cast Joseph into prison. This was actually a very mild punishment for the crime supposedly committed ( Gen_39:13-20 ). Whether one thinks Potiphar may not have believed every detail as related by his wife, or not, still it must ultimately be said God protected Joseph (compare 1Co_10:13 ). Such is clearly seen in his being placed in a special prison used for the king's prisoners.

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Genesis 39". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/genesis-39.html. 2014.
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