Genesis 39
Genesis 39 Kingcomments Bible Studies


Just as Joseph is among his brothers in Genesis 37, so he is among the nations in Genesis 39. He is also rejected by them and ends up in prison. Thus is the Lord Jesus rejected by His people and by the peoples (Acts 4:27).

Joseph with Potiphar

While Joseph serves as a slave in the house of Potiphar, the LORD is with him. We read these words several times. This is also recorded of the Lord Jesus (Acts 10:38). If God is with you, what do the circumstances matter? Our problem is that we often only see the circumstances and are guided by them in our feelings. But if we are aware that God is for us, what can frighten us about the things that are against us (Rom 8:31b)? All that Joseph does, all that he comes into contact with, is blessed. This is also the case with the Lord Jesus, Who in His walk on earth has only spread blessing around him. How is that with us?

Joseph is “handsome in form and appearance”. His whole appearance and the radiance of his face are beautiful and in harmony with his performance. His outward reflects the spiritual beauty of his inner being. This also applies to the Lord Jesus, with Whom faith perceives “glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father” (Jn 1:14). This beauty of form and appearance is also perceptible for faith when it is has to be said of Him externally: “So His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men” (Isa 52:14), and: “He has no [stately] form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isa 53:2b).

Resist the Temptation

Satan is doing everything possible to bring down this clear representative of the LORD. In Potiphar’s wife he has a suitable and willing instrument. She looks with desire at Joseph. Again sin begins with seeing (Gen 38:2; 15-16). She wants to seduce the handsome Joseph to fornication. But Joseph refuses to accept her proposals. He has the strength to do this through his constant contact with God.

Through his contact with God, he is aware of the great trust his lord has in him and he does not want to abuse that trust. He knows his position that there is no one greater in the house than him. Such a position is a reason for many people to seek their own interests, but not for Joseph. He knows the responsibility that goes with his position and acts accordingly. Then you are really great.

Also, through his relationship with God, the blessing promised by Him stands before his attention. This blessing – promised to him by God in his dreams – he does not give in for a temporary enjoyment of sin with an oh so bitter aftertaste.

His defense lies in realizing how horrible sin, and especially this sin of fornication (1Cor 6:18), is to God: “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen 39:9). God, Who helps him so much, and blesses him so much, will he sin against Him? If the proofs of the constant goodness of God, the greatest of which is the gift of His Son, are more in our mind, we will also have more strength to resist temptation of any kind.

And don’t think the woman tries it only once. It says that she speaks “to Joseph day after day”. Again and again Joseph said: ‘No.’ You have to have spiritual strength to do this. Joseph is an ordinary young man, with ordinary, natural feelings, also sexually. He is also a slave, someone who only has to obey. But this is about the temptation to sin. Whatever a superior asks of us, we will have to do, except in the case of sin, to perform actions that go against God’s Word. In such cases, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Then there comes a moment when the woman seizes her chance. There is none in the house except her and Joseph. Joseph does not seek danger; he is in the house to do his work (Gen 39:11). If the woman wants to force him to go to bed with her, Joseph puts Paul’s call in 1 Corinthians 6 into practice: “Flee immorality! (1Cor 6:18a). He leaves his garment in her hand and flees outside. You better lose your garment than a good conscience.

The example of Joseph can be taken to heart by all young people, especially those who, for example, can no longer live at home due to their study. It then comes down to the choices that are made. It must start with an inner conviction: ‘Even if the whole world sins, I at least do not.’ So Joseph says it as it were.

The real power to say ‘no’ to sin lies in having a living relationship with the Lord Jesus and obedience to God’s Word. If that is found, temptation will not be sought, and if she comes, she will be resisted in the right way. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping [it] according to Your word” (Psa 119:9).

The False Accusation

The woman cannot be trusted in her marriage. She also doesn’t shy away from turning things around completely. She is degraded, but she wants an axe to grind. Joseph will have to pay for his refusal to satisfy her lusts. Sinful love always changes into hatred.

The woman keeps Joseph’s garment with her. It must serve as proof of the accuracy of her story. It is the second time that a Joseph robe is used as ‘evidence’ for twisting facts to cover a crime (Gen 37:31-33).

People who want to make ‘love’ like this woman, are in reality the most ruthless people walking around. John the baptist was also thrown into prison and finally beheaded because a woman, Herodias, could not stand him and his preaching. This Herodias also lives in a relationship that is to be condemned and John did so (Mk 6:17-18; 24; 27).

Put into the Jail

Potiphar in his reaction looks like the indifferent Pilate. The man believes his wife. What else can he do? If he believes Joseph’s story, it is at the expense of his prestige. Once again Joseph is the object of terrible iniquity, against which he cannot defend himself. Without trial, he is put into the jail.

He undergoes what the Lord Jesus also underwent. “They laid hands on Him and seized Him” (Mk 14:46); they tried “to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death” (Mt 26:59). Pilate testifies of Him: “I find no guilt in this man” (Lk 23:4), yet he “handed Him over to them to be crucified” (Jn 19:16).

Joseph in the Jail

It seems as if faithfulness only causes misery. But the LORD will teach Joseph, and also us, that the place of the deepest humiliation is necessary to come to the greatest glory. The jail, the place of rejection and humiliation, becomes a place where the blessing of the LORD is experienced (Psa 105:17-19). There too is the LORD with Joseph.

Joseph is also faithful in his humiliation. Therefore the LORD gives him “favor” in the sight of the chief jailer. In the jail, he gets to care for all the prisoners. This makes him a source of blessing for all who are there.

Joseph receives strength to endure this new trial by thinking of what the LORD has shown him in his dreams about the future. We too receive strength as we look forward to the coming of the Lord. “Those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength” (Isa 40:31). His faithfulness in the jail is a preparation for his government later. David also has much hardship to endure before he becomes king of Israel.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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