The context for this story is the continuation of the Joseph narrative that began in Genesis 37. Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob (37:3). You would think that Jacob would have learned his lesson about favoritism in families! However, he lived in a complex family system of his own making. He had children by 4 different women and was faced with the challenges that naturally arose from those decisions.
Joseph was viewed with disdain by his brothers as evidenced by their desire to kill him (37:18). Finally, they seized an opportunity when a band of Midianite traders were passing through their fields and sold him to them as a slave. They concocted a story of Joseph’s death to report to their father, Jacob and Joseph was carried to Egypt.
Joseph was sold in Egypt at the slave market to Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. In fact, he was the “chief of police” (37:36) for Pharaoh. He immediately recognized the significant talents of Joseph and promoted Joseph to his highest ranking servant.
39:1-6 – Joseph found favor and proved his value to Potiphar. Joseph’s success was no doubt connected to his giftedness as a person. He was obviously a gifted man who handled responsibility well. However, notice v. 2 – “the LORD was with Joseph.” God’s providential care is a part of this story. He was watching over Joseph. Joseph was to play a key role in shepherding the promise of God for the people of God. God’s grace was in action in his life. He did not abandon Joseph to his own devices.
Also – notice how influence works. The force of influence is illustrated in v. 5 – God blessed Potiphar’s house because of Joseph! That is how it works. Influential people in God’s hands result in blessings! God blessed Potiphar because of Joseph.
39:7-20 – In the midst of Joseph’s work for Potiphar, he encountered a great temptation. His master’s wife began to pursue him. Notice v. 10 – this occurred “day after day” – this was not a one-time incident or an occasional temptation. No – this challenge was woven into the atmosphere of Joseph’s life. He had to face this temptation again and again. Potiphar’s wife was seductive and persistent.
Joseph refused her advances. He saw them for what they were – sin! He was firmly committed to God and was not going to compromise his commitment despite the circumstances. Joseph proved to be just as persistent as Potiphar’s wife!
Finally, she laid a trap for Joseph one day when they were alone in the house (39:11). Once again, Joseph refused to give in to her. He fled from her and removed himself from the temptation. However, she stole his outer cloak and used it against him as “proof” that he had attacked her. She presented the “proof” to her husband and Potiphar had no choice but to send Joseph to jail.
39:21-23 – Imprisoned again, Joseph responded with a determination to be faithful to God. Once again, “God was with Joseph” and gave him favor in the face of unfavorable circumstances (39:21). Joseph rose in the ranks among his fellow prisoners and was given the “chief of staff” position afforded to him by Potiphar earlier.
Notice how the chapter closes – God prospered whatever Joseph did! There was a connection between the gifts and talents of Joseph and the providential care of God.