by Robert Brow    (

Brow Publications, Kingston, Ontario (e-mail: 2004

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Table Of Contents:

Genesis 39:1-5
Genesis 39:6-18
Genesis 39:19-23

GENESIS 39:1-5        (Joseph put in charge of Potiphar’s household)

 39:1   Potiphar, the Captain of Pharaoh’s Guard, had bought Joseph in the slave market from the Midianite traders (here again they are called Ishmaelites, see notes on 37:25-28). 

39:2-3    Though a slave, Joseph had the LORD on his side.  Potiphar may not have realized that, because he was empowered by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (see 40:8; 41:38),  all that Joseph was assigned to do was unusually successful.   As Solomon wrote about the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit, “I have good advice and sound wisdom; I have insight, I have strength: (Proverbs 8:14).

 39:4-5     Potiphar soon put Joseph in charge of his property and household servants.  He noted that from the time Joseph became his steward the LORD blessed his household and his farms.  


GENESIS 39:6-18    (Joseph is accused of molesting Potiphar’s wife)

 39:6-9    The only detail Potiphar had to be concerned about was what to eat at table.  What he did not notice was how his wife had become infatuated with his good looking steward.   When she invited Joseph to go to bed with her,  he pointed out that his master had put him charge of everything in the household except for his wife.   Joseph must have been tempted into adultery, but he told her he could not sin against God.   Unlike Shechem (34:1-2) and Ammon (2 Samuel 13:10-14), Joseph’s close friendship with the LORD empowered him to resist sexual temptation.

 39:10-12  She tried to tempt Joseph day after day, but he refused to lie on her couch or even to be near her.  But on one occasion when he was alone in the house she caught hold of his garment (compare 37:3) and tried to pull him to her bed.   He fled from her, leaving the garment in her hand, and escaped out of the house.    In the New Testament we are told that “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested (tempted) beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Joseph’s story reminds us that the way of escape may turn out to be very costly.

 39:13-15    Having failed to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife now decided to destroy him.   She immediately lied to the servants that Joseph had taken off his garment and attempted to assault her.   She added that when she cried out he left his garment beside her and fled naked outside. 

 39:16-18   She kept Joseph’s garment as evidence, and when her husband came home from work she told the same story and blamed her husband for bringing this Hebrew scoundrel to work for them. 


GENESIS 39:19-23    (Joseph put in charge of the royal prison)

 39:19-20   Potiphar was enraged, and could easily have had Joseph executed there and then.  But Potiphar had recognized God’s hand on his steward, and he may even have wondered about his wife’s story.    So he had Joseph put in the royal prison, over which he had the charge as Captain of the Guard (39:1).    Joseph was later conscious that God had preserved him for a purpose (45:5-8).

 39:21   The word khesed translated “steadfast love” is used of the LORD’s loving care and provision (as in the prayers of Abraham’s servant, 24:12, 14, 27, and Joseph’s father Jacob, 32:9-10).  This suggests that Joseph also looked to the LORD’s steadfast love in the jail.  The chief jailor, who was used to evaluating the character of the inmates,  probably realized that Joseph was unjustly condemned and viewed him with favor.

39:22-23    As in the case of Joseph being given responsibility in Potiphar’s household, the chief jailor trusted him with the care of the other  prisoners and all the day to day administration of the prison.   Again the words “the LORD was with him” are used (39:2), and the result was that Joseph was successful and his work in the prison prospered remarkably (39:3)



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