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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 39

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-23


How good it is to turn from Judah's sordid history to consider Joseph's history of faithful devotedness to the Lord! The deepest blessing for us in this is of course in the fact of the refreshing way in which Joseph is a type of the Lord Jesus. Just as Joseph learns through suffering, so the Lord Jesus "learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8).

Joseph was sold in Egypt to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's bodyguard. But the Lord was with him (v.2). He had suffered unrighteously, losing every connection with relatives and friends, and the Lord delights to encourage the lonely and deprived. The result was that he was faithful and dependable in his work, prospering in it, though he was a slave. For this reason Potiphar put him in charge of the work of his entire house, and everything prospered under his direction. This included too the work carried out in the fields of Potiphar (v.5), so that he was no doubt over many other servants.

This faithful, dependable character reminds us of the far more devoted life of the Lord Jesus in His proving Himself through lowly obedience to be fitted for the highest honor of His being entrusted by God to rule over all creation.


But Joseph must learn that further suffering must take place in view of his being eventually promoted to a higher honor than he would have before imagined. If God is to exalt anyone, it must be through suffering. Those who humble themselves to bear the suffering will be exalted, while those who seek to exalt themselves will find themselves abased.

Satan's instrument in this wicked attack was Potiphar's wife. She sought a number of times to seduce Joseph to commit adultery with her (vs.7-14), but he stedfastly refused, telling her that his master had trusted him with great responsibility in his house. He was not going to prove false to that trust by violating the marriage between his master and his wife. By doing so, he tells her he would be committing great wickedness, and sinning against the Lord.

When Potiphar's wife continued urging Joseph to commit adultery with her, what could he do but firmly refuse? If he reported it to Potiphar, she would accuse him of lying, and probably say that Joseph had tried to seduce her. Finally, when no-one else was present and Joseph had to go into the house to take care of work responsibilities, she caught him by his garment and demanded again that he commit adultery with her. He pulled away, anxious to get far from her, but she held on to his garment while he left the house (vs.11-12).

She then saw an opportunity of getting revenge on Joseph because he would not join her in evil. She called out for other men, no doubt servants of the household, and told them Joseph had come in with the object of raping her. She said she cried out, and he left without his garment. Thus, from the very time of the incident, she had witness against Joseph that seemed conclusive. When Potiphar came home she told him the same false story, having Joseph's garment there as apparent proof of her evil accusation (vs.16-18).

Of course Joseph was helpless to do anything. His word, the word of a slave, would mean nothing to Potiphar in comparison to the word of his wife. He was understandably angry with Joseph, and not only demoted him from his high position in Potiphar's house, but put him in prison with others who were evidently mostly political prisoners of Pharaoh (v.20).

But again, as in verse 2, we are told, "the Lord was with Joseph." How good it is that everyone who suffers for righteousness sake will have the gracious sympathy of the Lord, and He will not give him up to self-pity and depression. The chief jailer of course observed that Joseph was an honorable man, not a common criminal, and he soon entrusted Joseph with unusual responsibilities for a prisoner. He could see that Joseph was well able to keep things in order even among the other prisoners, and willingly left to Joseph the responsibilities that were normally those of the jailer himself. Again we are told that the Lord was with Joseph and whatever he did the Lord made to prosper (vs.22-23). It may seem strange that this could be true of a prisoner, but it does indicate that Joseph was not of a negative character, but positive and faithful.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Genesis 39". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/genesis-39.html. 1897-1910.
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