Joseph’s Success in Egypt
39 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. 5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate.
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” 10 As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her. 11 Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. 12 She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. 13 When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. 15 When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside.” 16 So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she spoke to him with these words, “The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; 18 and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.”
19 Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me,” his anger burned. 20 So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 22 The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it. 23 The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.
When we compare the first part of the chapter with the last, we are forced to a very significant conclusion: God was with Joseph every bit as much in the prison as He was in the penthouse. In verses 2 and 3 we are told that the Lord was with Joseph as he worked for his master. We are told the same thing in verses 21 and 23 regarding God’s presence with him while in the prison. Again, in verses 2 and 3 it is recorded that God prospered Joseph and made him successful. This same statement is also made in verses 21 and 23 when Joseph was in the prison. Deffinbaugh says the following with regard to this chapter:
God is present as much with His saints when they are suffering as when they are peacefully prospering. More than this, a man can prosper as much in times of affliction as in times of affluence and ease. God does not grow hot-house Christians. He causes our roots to grow deep in the soil of adversity in order that we may better know and serve Him.
We dare not forget that this time of adversity was designed for Joseph’s good as well as for the good of his kinsmen. Let me suggest three ways in which Joseph’s time of service to Potiphar was profitable to him. In these three areas, and no doubt in many others, we see that the hand of God was good and gracious in this time of affliction.
First, the service to Potiphar was beneficial to Joseph in that it prepared him for the important task which lay ahead, that of serving as the second highest official in the land of Egypt. If one were to know that such a position of power and responsibility was 13 years in the future, how would one best prepare for it? Surely it would be necessary to learn the Egyptian language, as Joseph did (42:23), as well as their culture (cf. 43:32). There were no language schools, especially for foreigners like the Hebrews. In the providence of God we can now see that this experience was, for Joseph, Potiphar’s Prep School. Here he learned the language, culture, and political interworkings of the nation, incidentally but not accidentally.
Second, Joseph’s imprisonment by Potiphar, while unpleasant, was probably the answer to his prayers. Knowing that day after day this woman persisted at trying to break down Joseph’s resistance, I would imagine that one of his most oft-repeated and earnest supplications was, “Lord, protect me from this woman.” And that is precisely what those prison bars did. His imprisonment was the answer to his prayers. Those bars and chains (cf. Psalm 105:17-18) in no way hindered God’s plans for Joseph, but they did keep Potiphar’s wife from him, the very thing he sought, unsuccessfully, to accomplish on his own. How frequently the answers to our prayers come wrapped in a different package than we expected.
Finally, it was in this prison that God had planned for Joseph to have an appointment with a man who would introduce him to Pharaoh and his position of power. Who would ever have thought that a job interview would have been conducted in such an unlikely place. But it was in that prison for political figures (verse 20) that Joseph was appointed to meet with the cupbearer of Pharaoh, the man who would someday tell this ruler of Joseph’s unusual ability to interpret dreams. Humanly speaking, to avoid imprisonment would have meant breaking an appointment which would lead to an incredible future.
The necessity of suffering and adversity is everywhere taught in the Scriptures, particularly that of suffering which is undeserved or results from righteousness. It is to be viewed as a part of the normal Christian life and expected as a result of righteous living.
Some people may find this message discouraging, but let's not forget that no matter what happens in our lives here on Earth, when we are believers and followers of Christ Jesus, our final home in Heaven will be all and more the reward than we could ever begin to hope for or imagine. Joseph ended up as 2nd-in-command of an entire country, with the opportunity to save not only the people of the country he had been brought to as a slave, but his own nation as well. We can't know all the opportunities God has in His plans for us, but we can be sure that His plan is always better than our own. It's just that we can't see the whole picture.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 40