Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
Genesis Chapter 39

Genesis 39:1-23

 - Joseph in Potiphar's House

According to our reckoning, Perez and Zerah were born when Judah was in his twenty-eighth year, and therefore, Joseph in his twenty-fourth. Here, then, we go back seven years to resume the story of Joseph.

Genesis 39:1-6 "And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. 2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. 5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. 6 And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured."

Joseph fares well with his first master. "Potiphar." This is a racapitulation of the narrative in Genesis 37: "The Lord;" the God of covenant is with Joseph. "In the house." Joseph was a domestic servant. "And his master saw." The prosperity that attended all Joseph's doings was so striking as to show that the Lord was with him. "Set him over" - made him overseer of all that was in his house. "The Lord blessed the Mizrite's house." He blesses those who bless his own (Genesis 12:3). "Beautiful in form and look" (Genesis 29:17). This prepares the way for the following occurrence.

Genesis 39:7-10 "And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. 8 But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; 9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? 10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her."

Joseph resists the daily solicitations of his master's wife to lie with her. "None greater in this house than I." He pleads the unreserved trust his master had reposed in him. He is bound by the law of honor, the law of chastity (this great evil), and the law of piety (sin against God). Joseph uses the common name of God in addressing this Egyptian. He could employ no higher pleas than the above.

Genesis 39:11-18 "And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. 12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. 13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, 14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: 15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. 16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home. 17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: 18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out."

"At this day," the day on which the occurrence now to be related took place. "To do his business." He does not come in her way except at the call of duty. He hath brought in. She either does not condescend, or does not need to name her husband. "A Hebrew to mock us." Her disappointment now provokes her to falsehood as the means of concealment and revenge. A Hebrew is still the only national designation proper to Joseph (Genesis 14:13). Jacob's descendants had not got beyond the family. The term Israelite was therefore, not yet in use. The national name is designedly used as a term of reproach among the Egyptians (Genesis 43:32). "To mock us," - to take improper liberties, not only with me, but with any of the females in the house. "I cried with a loud voice." This is intended to be the proof of her innocence (Deuteronomy 22:24, Deuteronomy 22:27). "Left his garments by me;" not in her hand, which would have been suspicious.

Genesis 39:19-23 "And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. 20 And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. 23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper."

Her husband believes her story and naturally resents the supposed unfaithfulness of his slave. His treatment of him is mild. He puts him in ward, probably to stand his trial for the offence. The Lord does not forsake the prisoner. He gives him favor with the governor of the jail. The same unlimited trust is placed in him by the governor as by his late master.


Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
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