Genesis 39:1-23

 |  April 9, 2018

Gen. 39:1-23

  1. Locate the passage

After a brief interlude following Judah’s sexual mispursuits, this passage resumes the Joseph cycle. The interlude shows that after Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph into slavery, they went on about their lives, perhaps not even giving Joseph another thought. Meanwhile, Joseph was sold and then resold and wound up at the home of the captain of the Egyptian guard.

But, while his brothers may have abandoned him and the Ishmaelites may have profited from his sale, the Lord had not forgotten Joseph or His promise to him. The Bible tells us twice in this passage that “the Lord was with Joseph.”

  1. Genre

The passage is narrative. It records the conversation between Joseph and the wife of Potiphar, his master and the subsequent conversations she had with Potiphar out of spite after Joseph rebuffed her.

  1. Determine the structure of the passage

39:1-6 – Because the Lord was with Joseph

39:7-10 – Joseph was faithful in temptation

39:11-19 – Joseph was falsely accused and imprisoned

39:20-23 – Because the Lord was with Joseph

  1. Exegete the passage

Joseph went from being thrown into a pit by his brothers to being thrown into a prison by Potiphar. Joseph’s residence in Potiphar’s household (39:1–19) and in Potiphar’s prison (39:20–23). Mathews shows the parallel of Joseph being in Potiphar’s house to later being in prison to Israel dwelling in Egypt to later being imprisoned by Egypt. [1]See Mathews, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 725.

It is noteworthy that in the Hebrew, Potiphar’s name only occurs once in this pericope (and nowhere else again in the OT), Gen. 39:1.

The passage demonstrates a chiastic structure with 39:1-6 parallel with 39:20-23. The common features in each being slavery/prison, the Lord was with Joseph, the awareness of his master of the Lord’s presence, and the trust Joseph gained from his master.


It would have been easy and understandable for Joseph to blame everyone else for his predicament: Dad, Brothers, Potiphar’s Wife, and later the Baker and the Butler. But, we don’t see that in Joseph’s response. He has matured since his early dream-revealing days with his brothers.

Note the recurrence of the word, “cloak” in this pericope (39:12, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18). This is the second time Joseph’s outer garment has been a focus of his betrayal by others.

39:2 – The Lord was with Joseph

39:3 – His master saw that the Lord was with him

39:4 – Joseph became the overseer (Lit. “the one appointed over;” Hb. “paqad”) over Potiphar’s house.

39:5 – Verse 5 repeats the emphases of vss 3 & 4.

39:6 – Joseph was so trustworthy that Potiphar’s only concern was what was for dinner.

39:7 – Potiphar’s wife noticed Joseph. Her temptation is not at all subtle. She proposes a sexual encounter with Joseph.

39:8-9 – But he refused

39:10 – The temptation kept coming, but Joseph persisted in his refusal

39:11-12 – No one was inside

39:13-18 – Holding Joseph’s cloak in her hand, Potiphar’s wife concocted a plan to get back at Joseph for his repeated refusals

39:19-20 – Potiphar was angry and threw Joseph in prison

39:20-23 – These verses parallel 39:1-6 (see above)

  1. Let the structure of the text drive the sermon

Exp. More than Joseph, God is the true hero of this story. God was working through Joseph’s circumstances to accomplish His purpose.

App. God still does that in our lives!

Ill. So, Eph. 6 tells us, “having done all to stand, then stand!


Category: Sermon Structure
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