Genesis 39 Commentary
Chapter 39 brings us back to Joseph. The LORD is with Joseph. Potiphar prospers as a result of Joseph’s presence. Joseph is living the blessing. Nations are being blessed because of Joseph.
But the blessing isn’t going to have it easy. So Mrs. Potiphar comes into the picture. We are tempted to draw comparisons. While Judah (in chapter 38) is busy and willingly picking up prostitutes (and paying them) Joseph here is refusing sexual offers and actually aggressively resisting temptations being forced on him. In the process the innocent Joseph finds himself in prison. It is difficult not to think of the real SEED here. Joseph is a model of what the LORD Jesus would go through – the innocent suffering the punishment of the wicked.
The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.
Genesis 26:2-3 NIV
Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Genesis 31:3 NIV
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.
Genesis 39:2 NIV
Compare the three verses. You will notice that nothing like this is said of any of the other sons of Jacob. Joseph is prospering wherever he goes because of the blessing. The presence of the LORD entails the presence of the history long blessing. The story of Joseph is the continuation of the story of the patriarchs. It must be seen in this context.
We also notice that the blessing is very stubborn. You cannot just destroy it. It survives all human attempts to shut it down. It also enjoys unparalleled protection. We have already noticed how Sarah was protected from sexual sin even after being legally offered to two different kings on two different occasions. Each of the kings got her for her beauty yet none of them got near her. Strange but we know why. Rebekah was equally very beautiful and was also offered by Isaac in the same father/son fashion but the LORD rebuked the would-be husband Abimelek. It is actually very strange because you normally want to test a new ride right away especially when the ride is very beautiful but Abimelek was kept far by the LORD. And here in this chapter we see the LORD keeping Joseph away from sexual sin. It really doesn’t matter what is thrown at the blessing, it just doesn’t die. Only the bearer himself or herself can keep it away by being unfaithful. The LORD had demanded… When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Genesis 17:1 NIV
We can therefore rightfully suspect that the hand of the LORD is behind Joseph’s decisions and strength of character in resisting sexual sin. When personal virtue is available, no matter how little, the LORD expands it to huge scales of righteousness.
The story of Joseph isn’t a story of excellence of work execution – one that you teach in a management class. It’s a story of the blessing and it’s work in a life of a humble soul. The holy script makes it very clear that the LORD’S blessing was responsible for the prosperity.
In this chapter we see another dimension of the blessing. It is a first in the scripture. The blessing of the LORD translates into service to mankind. Both Potiphar and the prison warder are served by Joseph. And the blessing ensured that the service given was excellent.