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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014
Theme: Overcome: Living Beyond Your Circumstances
What This Study Is About:
study is about Joseph, a man who was very clear about the horrific side
effects of giving in to temptation. His example can help us to not be
taken by surprise when temptation comes and what to do when it does come.
Overcome Being Forgotten
Overcome Hard Times
Overcome an Earthly Mindset
easier to resist temptation when you know what’s at stake.
Presence and Blessing (Gen. 39:3-6)
and Convictions (Gen. 39:7-10)
and Response (Gen. 39:11-12)
OF FOCAL PASSAGE: Genesis
study focuses on one of the most famous temptation scenes in the Bible,
Joseph being tempted to a sexual sin with his master’s wife.
God had blessed Joseph and his service to his master to the point
his master placed Joseph over the entire household and all his
possessions. Even the
master’s wife was impressed with Joseph and repeatedly tried to seduce
him. But Joseph was successful
in his resistance to that temptation.
is adapted from the following sources:
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Sin is so enticing and compelling on the front
end that Satan uses it in his attempt to destroy our relationship with the
Lord. But afterward,
when it is all over and we face the consequences of giving in, we can see
our sin from a different perspective.
It is in the aftermath that we often ask ourselves with regret,
“Why did I give in?”
session stresses that we can resist the temptations to sin more easily
when we consider all the possible consequences of our actions.
The story of Joseph resisting temptation should remind us that
being tempted to sin and actually sinning are different.
We all face temptations, but when we recall Joseph’s story of
resistance we should find encouragement that resistance is always possible
and, of that, we need to be constantly reminded.
Introduction is adapted from the following source:
Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Presence and Blessing (Gen. 39:3-6)
3 When his master saw that the
Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful, 4
Joseph found favor in his master’s sight and became his personal
attendant. Potiphar also put him in charge of his household and placed all
that he owned under his authority. 5
From the time that he put him in charge of his household and of all that
he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house because of Joseph. The
Lord’s blessing was on all that he owned, in his house and in his
fields. 6 He
left all that he owned under Joseph’s authority; he did not concern
himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built
Standards and Convictions (Gen. 39:7-10)
7 After some time his master’s wife looked longingly at Joseph and
said, “Sleep with me.” 8 But he refused. “Look,” he said to his master’s wife, “with me
here my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he
has put all that he owns under my authority. 9 No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from
me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great
evil and sin against God?” 10 Although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with
are the characteristics of a “trustworthy” person?
What characteristics suggest God is with
to verse 7, what was unfolding in Joseph’s life?
did Joseph respond to the invitation to “Sleep with . . . “ Potiphar’s
wife (v. 8)?
he refused her offer, what did Joseph say to her (vv. 8-9)?
does verse 10 tell about Joseph’s conviction in this situation?
According to verses 8-9, what would have been at stake should Joseph have
given in to this temptation?
Had Joseph given in to Potiphar’s wife’s, to whom would he have sinned
against? Potiphar’s wife, Potiphar, or God?
Or all three?
What do you think is the biggest thing that’s at stake when we give in
What do you think is at stake when we give in to a temptation when nobody
knows about it?
When we refuse Satan’s temptation, why do you think he keeps repeating
What is the implication for us when we think we have overcome the
What do you think is the biggest motivator in a believer’s yielding to
When we yield to temptation, why do you think we often try to rationalize
Do you think a non-believer is ever subjected to temptation?
Why, or why not?
Lessons in Gen. 39:7-10:
gain our basic moral convictions from our family and close friends.
Christians, we need to gain our moral convictions from God’s Word.
can resist the temptation to sin more easily when we realize God is with
sin primarily impacts our relationship with God.
sin impacts our relationship with ourselves and with other people.
temptation begins by having standards and convictions already in place.
and Response (Gen. 39:11-12)
11 Now one day he went into the house to do his
work, and none of the household servants were there. 12 She grabbed him by his garment and said,
“Sleep with me!” But leaving his garment in her hand, he escaped and
what unavoidable situation did Joseph find himself (v. 11)?
indicates that the stage had been set for this encounter Joseph was about to
indicates Potiphar’s wife took her advances to a new level (v. 12)?
did Joseph respond to her advances this time (v. 12)?
options did Joseph have besides running away?
was significant about Potiphar’s wife having Joseph’s garment after he fled?
was it that would connect the garment to Joseph (v. 12)?
a believer can’t always count God blessing/s by resisting Satan’s attacks,
what can he/she count on?
resisting temptation brings on serious consequences, what are some things a
believer should do?
Do you believe it’s easier to resist temptation when you know what’s
at stake? Why, or why not?
are we to do when Satan catches us off guard in a moment of weakness?
does this do to our relationship with the Lord?
How importance is it to understanding that, like the persistence of
Potiphar’s wife, Satan will attack us repeatedly?
a culture saturated with temptation, how do we avoid giving in to temptation?
we know how to avoid giving in to temptation, how can we avoid it consistently?
Lessons in Gen. 39:11-12:
best response to the temptation to sin is to change one’s geographical
the temptation to sin occasionally has short-term negative consequences.
make our ethical decisions on biblical standards rather than calculating
The Bible has much
to say regarding fleeing temptation. James
1:14 explains that we are tempted when we become enticed by our own
natural desires. Temptation
comes to all of us. This
chapter in Joseph’s life should serve as a model for us to stand firm in
the face of Satan’s attempts to tear down our relationship with our
Savior, Jesus Christ. Satan is
a very clever tempter, and will be never give up in his efforts to get us
to sin against God. Satan will
see to it that we will face his temptations for as long as we live. So,
we must always be aware of what’s at stake.
Then, by God’s power, we will always be prepared to resist.
So, how well do
you think you are equipped to stand firm in the face of temptation?
How well do you know which of your “hot buttons” Satan is most
likely to push to tempt you into sinning against God?
How would you rate how well you stand firm in the face of the
“hot button” temptations Satan sends your way.
On a scale of 1 (not firm at
all) to 10 (very firm), rate the strength of your stand against Satan’s
“hot button” temptations. Does
your rating need improvement? If
so, how are you preparing to make those improvements?
God will help you if you will ask Him!
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the
center of God’s will.
Lesson Outline, Introduction,
Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Focal Passage from three different translations of
King James Version:
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. 7
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 anything 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. 11 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. (KJV)
When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him
success in everything he did, 4 Joseph
found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of
his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.
5 From the time he put him in charge
of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the
Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar
had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So
he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not
concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and
after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed
with me!” 8
But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does
not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has
entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in
this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because
you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against
God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day
after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
11 One day he went into the house to attend
to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12
She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he
left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. (NIV)
New Living Translation: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30:
3 Potiphar noticed this and
realized that the LORD was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.
4 This pleased Potiphar, so he soon made Joseph his
personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything
he owned. 5 From the day Joseph was put in
charge of his master’s household and property, the LORD began to bless
Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All his household affairs ran
smoothly, and his crops and livestock flourished. 6
So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over
everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn’t worry about a thing—except
what kind of food to eat! Joseph was
a very handsome and well-built young man, 7 and
Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with
me,” she demanded. 8 But Joseph refused.
“Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire
household. 9 No
one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except
you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a
great sin against God.” 10 She kept putting
pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept
out of her way as much as possible. 11 One
day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work.
12 She came and grabbed him by his cloak,
demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left
his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.
Blessing (Gen. 39:3-6)
Standards and Convictions (Gen. 39:7-10)
Temptation and Response (Gen. 39:11-12)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Old
“Believer’s Bible Commentary,” and “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Old Testament – Gen. 39:2-12
At this chapter we return to the story of
Joseph. We have him here, I. A servant, a slave in Potiphar’s house (v. 1),
and yet there greatly honoured and favoured, I. By the providence of God, which
made him, in effect, a master (v. 2-6). 2. By the grace of God, which made him
more than a conqueror over a strong temptation to uncleanness (v. 7-12). II. We
have him here a sufferer, falsely accused (v. 13-18), imprisoned (v. 19, 20),
and yet his imprisonment made both honourable and comfortable by the tokens of
God’s special presence with him (v. 21-23). And herein Joseph was a type of
Christ, “who took upon him the form of a servant,” and yet then did that
which made it evident that “God was with him,” who was tempted by Satan, but
overcame the temptation, who was falsely accused and bound, and yet had all
things committed to his hand.
Here is, I. Joseph bought (v. 1), and he that
bought him, whatever he gave for him, had a good bargain of him; it was better
than the merchandise of silver. The Jews have a proverb, “If the world did not
know the worth of good men, they would hedge them about with pearls.” He was
sold to an officer of Pharaoh, with whom he might get acquainted with public
persons and public business, and so be fitted for the preferment for which he
was designed. Note, 1. What God intends men for he will be sure, some way or
other, to qualify them for. 2. Providence is to be acknowledged in the disposal
even of poor servants and in their settlements, and therein may perhaps be
working towards something great and important.
Joseph blessed, wonderfully blessed, even in the
house of his servitude.
1. God prospered him, v. 2, 3. Perhaps
the affairs of Potiphar’s family had remarkably gone backward before; but,
upon Joseph’s coming into it, a discernible turn was given to them, and the
face and posture of them altered on a sudden. Though, at first, we may suppose
that his hand was put to the meanest services, even in those appeared his
ingenuity and industry; a particular blessing of Heaven attended him, which, as
he rose in his employment, became more and more discernible. Note, (1.) Those
that have wisdom and grace have that which cannot be taken away from them,
whatever else they are robbed of. Joseph’s brethren had stripped him of his
coat of many colours, but they could not strip him of his virtue and prudence.
(2.) Those that can separate us from all our friends, yet cannot deprive us of
the gracious presence of our God. When Joseph had none of all his relations with
him, he had his God with him, even in the house of the Egyptian. Joseph was
separated from his brethren, but not from his God; banished from his father’s
house, but the Lord was with him, and this comforted him. (3.) It is
God’s presence with us that makes all we do prosperous. Those that would
prosper must therefore make God their friend; and those that do prosper must
therefore give God the praise.
2. His master preferred him, by degrees made him
steward of his household, v. 4. Note, (1.) Industry and honesty are
the surest and safest way both of rising and thriving: Seest thou a man
prudent, and faithful, and diligent in his business? He shall stand
before kings at length, and not always before mean men. (2.) It
is the wisdom of those that are in any sort of authority to countenance and
employ those with whom it appears that the presence of God is, Ps. 101:6.
Potiphar knew what he did when he put all into the hands of Joseph; for he knew
it would prosper better there than in his own hand. (3.) He that is faithful in
a few things stand fair for being made ruler over many things, Mt. 25:21. Christ
goes by this rule with his servants. (4.) It is a great ease to a master to have
those employed under him that are trusty. Potiphar was so well satisfied with
Joseph’s conduct that he knew not aught he had, save the bread which
he did eat, v. 6. The servant had all the care and trouble of
the estate; the master had only the enjoyment of it: an example not to be
imitated by any master, unless he could be sure that he had one in all respects
like Joseph for a servant.
3. God favoured his master for his sake (v. 5): He
blessed the Egyptian’s house, though he was an Egyptian, a stranger to the
true God, for Joseph’s sake; and he himself, like Laban, soon
learned it by experience, ch. 30:27. Note, (1.) Good men are the blessings
of the places where they live; even good servants may be so, though mean, and
lightly esteemed. (2.) The prosperity of the wicked is, one way or other, for
the sake of the godly. Here was a wicked family blessed for the sake of one good
servant in it.
Here is, I. A most shameful instance of
impudence and immodesty in Joseph’s mistress, the shame and scandal of her
sex, perfectly lost to all virtue and honour, and not to be mentioned, nor
thought of, without the utmost indignation. It was well that she was an
Egyptian; for we must have shared in the confusion if such folly had been found
in Israel. Observe,
I. Her sin began in the eye: She cast
her eyes upon Joseph (v. 7), who was a goodly person, and
well-favoured, v. 6. Note, (1.) Remarkable beauty, either of men
or women, often proves a dangerous snare both to themselves and others, which
forbids pride in it and commands constant watchfulness against the temptation
that attends it; favour is deceitful—deceiving. (2.) We have great need to
make a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1), lest the eye infect the heart.
Joseph’s mistress had a husband that ought to have been to her for a covering
of the eyes from all others, ch. 20:16.
2. She was daring and shameless in the sin. With
an impudent face, and a harlot’s forehead, she said, Lie with me,
having already, by her wanton looks and unchaste desires, committed adultery
with him in her heart. Note, Where the unclean spirit gets possession and
dominion in a soul, it is as with the possessed of the devils (Lu. 8:27, 29),
the clothes of modesty are thrown off and the bands and fetters of shame are
broken in pieces. When lust has got head, it will stick at nothing, blush at
nothing; decency, and reputation, and conscience, are all sacrificed to that
Baal-peor. 3. She was urgent and violent in the temptation. Often she had been
denied with the strongest reasons, and yet as often renewed her vile
solicitations. She spoke to him day by day, v. 10. Now
this was, (1.) Great wickedness in her, and showed her heart fully set to do
evil. (2.) A great temptation to Joseph. The hand of Satan, no doubt, was in it,
who, when he found he could not overcome him with troubles and the frowns of the
world (for in them he still held fast his integrity), assaulted him with soft
and charming pleasures, which have ruined more than the former, and have slain
II. Here is a most illustrious instance of
virtue and resolved chastity in Joseph, who, by the grace of God, was enabled to
resist and overcome this temptation; and, all things considered, his escape was,
for aught I know, as great an instance of the divine power as the deliverance of
the three children out of the fiery furnace.
1. The temptation he was assaulted with was very
strong. Never was a more violent onset made upon the fort of chastity than this
recorded here. (1.) The sin he was tempted to was uncleanness, which considering
his youth, his beauty, his single state, and his plentiful living at the table
of a ruler, was a sin which, one would think, might most easily beset him and
betray him. (2.) The tempter was his mistress, a person of quality, whom it was
his place to obey and his interest to oblige, whose favour would contribute more
than anything to his preferment, and by whose means he might arrive at the
highest honours of the court. On the other hand, it was at his utmost peril if
he slighted her, and made her his enemy. (3.) Opportunity makes a thief, makes
an adulterer, and that favoured the temptation. The tempter was in the house
with him; his business led him to be, without any suspicion, where she was; none
of the family were within (v. 11); there appeared no danger of its being
ever discovered, or, if it should be suspected, his mistress would protect him.
(4.) To all this was added importunity, frequent constant importunity, to such a
degree that, at last, she laid violent hands on him.
2. His resistance of the temptation was very
brave, and the victory truly honourable. The almighty grace of God enabled him
to overcome this assault of the enemy,
(1.) By strength of reason; and wherever right
reason may be heard, religion no doubt will carry the day. He argues from the
respect he owed both to God and his master, v. 8, 9. [1.] He
would not wrong his master, nor do such an irreparable injury to his honour. He
considers, and urges, how kind his master had been to him, what a confidence he
had reposed in him, in how many instances he had befriended him, for which he
abhorred the thought of making such an ungrateful return. Note, We are bound in
honour, as well as justice and gratitude, not in any thing to injure those that
have a good opinion of us and place a trust in us, how secretly soever it may be
done. See how he argues (v. 9): “There is none greater in this house
than I, therefore I will not do it.” Note, Those that are great, instead
of being proud of their greatness, should use it as an argument against sin.
“Is none greater than I? Then I will scorn to do a wicked thing; it is below
me to serve a base lust; I will not disparage myself so much.” [2.] He would
not offend his God. This is the chief argument with which he strengthens his
aversion to the sin. How can I do this? not only, How shall I? or,
How dare I? but, How can I? Id possumus, quod jure possumus—We
can do that which we can do lawfully. It is good to shut out sin with the
strongest bar, even that of an impossibility. He that is born of God cannot sin, 1
Jn. 3:9. Three arguments Joseph urges upon himself. First, He
considers who he was that was tempted. “I; others may perhaps take
their liberty, but I cannot. I that am an Israelite in
covenant with God, that profess religion, and relation to him: it is next to
impossible for me to do so.” Secondly, What the sin was to which
he was tempted: This great wickedness. Others might look upon it as
a small matter, a peccadillo, a trick of youth; but Joseph had another idea of
it. In general, when at any time we are tempted to sin, we must consider the
great wickedness there is in it, let sin appear sin (Rom. 7:13), call it by its
own name, and never go about to lessen it. Particularly let the sin of
uncleanness always be looked upon as great wickedness, as an exceedingly sinful
sin, that wars against the soul as much as any other. Thirdly,
Against whom he was tempted to sin—against God; not only, “How shall
I do it, and sin against my master, my mistress, myself, my own body and soul;
but against God?” Note, Gracious souls look upon this as the worst thing in
sin that it is against God, against his nature and his dominion, against his
love and his design. Those that love God do for this reason hate sin.
(2.) By stedfastness of resolution. The grace of
God enabled him to overcome the temptation by avoiding the tempter. [1.] He hearkened
not to her, so much as to be with her, v. 10. Note, Those that
would be kept from harm must keep themselves out of harm’s way. Avoid
it, pass not by it. Nay, [2.] When she laid hold of him, he left his
garment in her hand, v. 12. He would not stay so much as to
parley with the temptation, but flew out from it with the utmost abhorrence; he
left his garment, as one escaping for his life. Note, It is better to lose a
good coat than a good conscience.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Old
Testament; Parsons Church Group, A Division Of Findex.Com; Omaha Nebraska
Record, A Scientific And Devotional Commentary On The Book Of Beginnings: Gen. 39:2-12
Potiphar, to whom Joseph was sold, was captain
of Pharaoh's bodyguard, and also probably in charge of political executions
ordered by Pharaoh. He is also called an "officer" of Pharaoh, the
Hebrew word being saris, meaning "eunuch," or
"chamberlain." It was evidently customary in ancient pagan countries,
beginning with Sumeria, to require prominent officers associated closely with
the king's court to be castrated, perhaps to ensure full-hearted devotion to the
duties required of them and to minimize the possibility of their taking over the
kingdom by military coup to establish a dynasty of their own. Since Potiphar was
a married man, it would seem either that Potiphar had consented to such an
operation after he was married in order to acquire his high office or else that
his wife had married him for political or financial reasons rather than for
normal marital relations. In either case, it is perhaps understandable, though
hardly justifiable, that she would be prone to adulterous episodes from time to
Joseph was a highly intelligent and personable
young man, and Potiphar soon recognized his abilities, placing more and more
responsibilities on him. Though Joseph did have a natural problem with personal
pride, and it was probably in part because of this that God allowed him to pass
through so many difficult and humiliating experiences, he was indeed of high
moral integrity and industry, and the Lord therefore prospered his work for
Potiphar in an extraordinary way. It is not unusual that unbelieving employers,
though themselves indifferent to God, recognize that earnest Christians make the
best employees and hence desire to have them in their organizations. Honesty,
integrity, faithfulness, sobriety, and similar characteristics are genuine
assets to an employer; and such are the fruits of Christian faith and obedience.
It may even be that,
because of these attributes, the employee will occasionally have opportunity to
give a word of testimony to his "boss" as to the true source of the
blessing that attends his activities. This seems to have been the case with
Joseph and Potiphar, since "his master saw that the Lord was with him, and
that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand." More and more
responsibility did Potiphar turn over to Joseph, until everything in his
household and business affairs was under Joseph's oversight.
Just as the Lord made everything Joseph did
"to prosper in his hand," so will it be with Christ in His exaltation:
"He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the
Lord shall prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:10). It is a beautiful token of
God's grace that He often blesses even the masters (or, in modern parlance, the
employers or supervisors) of those servants who are faithful to Him.
It is interesting that three times (verses 1, 2,
5) Potiphar is specifically called an "Egyptian." Since Joseph was in
Egypt, this would seem unnecessary, even tautological, except on the supposition
that Pharaoh and most of the rulers of Egypt were themselves not
Egyptians, as would indeed be the case if this was the time of the Hyksos
Potiphar eventually came
to trust Joseph so implicitly that he no longer even bothered to check up on his
own business. He knew that he would prosper more by completely forgetting it all
than by checking the records, offering suggestions of his own, and so forth.
In addition to his assets of mind and character,
Joseph was of handsome physique and countenance. A similar statement was made
much later relative to young David (I Samuel 16:12), whom God also selected for
a high calling and special service. On the other hand, even in the same context,
Scripture makes it clear that it is not such outward features that matter with
the Lord (I Samuel 16:7), but the attitude of the heart. Absalom, for example,
was also of handsome appearance (II Samuel 14:25), but his heart was vindictive
and filled with personal ambition and rebellion, and he came to a bitter end.
Although adultery was subject to severe legal
penalties in Egypt, it apparently was often tacitly condoned and was not
uncommon. Especially in such situations as in Potiphar's household, where a wife
was married to a husband who had been made a eunuch, it may have been regarded
as almost something to be expected. Though nothing is said explicitly to this
effect, one gets the impression that this was not the first of his wife's
amorous adventures. In any case, as Joseph became more and more important around
the household, and more and more on his own, he gradually became more and more
attractive to this woman.
Joseph certainly would have behaved politely and
considerately toward his master's wife, but he soon must have realized she was
taking more interest in him personally than was fitting. There is no indication
that he encouraged her in any way—quite the contrary in fact. Finally she
impatiently decided that, since a subtle seduction was not proving effective,
she would try overwhelming him with a bold invitation to her bedroom!
Now Joseph was a virile and active young man,
and this invitation must have both flattered and tempted him. Her husband was
gone, none of the other servants were around (and, even if they should find out,
they would probably think nothing of it), and she was an attractive and eagerly
available woman. Sexual dalliances were common in such circumstances and, even
in his own family, Joseph had no doubt seen examples of his brothers'
indifference to high moral standards. Furthermore, in view of his knowledge of
the unsatisfactory nature of her marital relations with Potiphar, he might even
have justified it as an act of service to meet her own needs.
With such an array of rationalizations easily at
hand, it would have been natural to yield to her invitation. But with Joseph
there was one consideration which overshadowed all others. He knew that such
actions were contrary to God's revealed will. Even though the Mosaic laws were
not yet written, there was enough primeval knowledge concerning God's purposes
for mankind available for him to know beyond question that adultery and
fornication were wrong in God's sight. He knew from the account of man's
creation that God had ordained the permanence and sanctity of marriage, and that
none of man's convenient excuses for breaking this ordinance were justified in
In rejecting her invitation, Joseph tried not to
offend her. It was not that she herself was unattractive or undesirable, nor
that he was condemning her as immoral for making such a proposal, but that there
were greater considerations which must take precedence. His master, and her
husband, trusted him fully; it would be a terrible betrayal of his trust for
Joseph to take the one thing he had kept from him, his own wife. Even more
importantly, such an action would be a great sin against God Himself! Even
though neither her husband nor the other servants should ever find out, God
would know. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil
and the good" (Proverbs 15:3). All sin, and especially sin against the
integrity of God's first institution, that of marriage, must fundamentally be a
sin against God.
Therefore Joseph refused her invitation, strong
though the temptation may have been. Potiphar's wife, however, was not persuaded
by Joseph's good and proper reasoning, but continued day after day trying to
attract him to her bed. Joseph not only continued to refuse, but began to avoid
her altogether, trying not even "to be with her."
The situation came to a climax one day when
Potiphar's wife apparently determined that she would actually pull Joseph to her
side by force. The time was opportune, since everyone was gone. Possibly if she
could once get him intimately close to her, his resistance would be overcome and
he would be impelled by passion to continue all the way. She felt that, if she
could really have him completely just one time, then he would keep on coming
back to her whenever she wished.
Joseph, however, realizing the danger of the
situation, especially the spiritual implications if he should yield, pulled
himself away from her arms and rushed out of the room and even out of the house.
She had been in the process of pulling his clothing off him (her own had
probably already been removed when she came up to him) when he realized what she
was doing and immediately fled. However, she clung to the garment as he fled,
partially unclothed, from her presence.
At that point, the passionate desire of
Potiphar's wife suddenly turned into the rage of a woman scorned. Knowing that
her desire for Joseph was now completely impossible of fulfillment, her only
thought was to humiliate him as deeply as possible for his rejection of her.
Joseph's garment (Hebrew beged, apparently a sort of long cloak or robe)
was still in her hand. She knew it would be interpreted as evidence
incriminating her unless she quickly took the initiative by accusing Joseph.
Accordingly she began to make a loud outcry,
calling for the men servants to come help her. She cleverly appealed to their
latent jealousy of Joseph and resentment of Potiphar, by suggesting it was her
husband's fault for bringing in an outsider ("an Hebrew") who would
come in and endanger all the women of the household ("to mock us").
Now, sure enough, this man, elevated so quickly above all the other servants,
had actually attempted to rape the very mistress of the household! She had only
saved herself by screaming so loudly that he was frightened away, leaving his
shed garment in his haste.
Nothing is said, however, about whether the
servants believed her tale. The chances are that they knew her, as well as
Joseph, too well for that. In their position, however, they could hardly
challenge her story. Joseph probably went to his own quarters to await the
SOURCE: The Genesis Record, A
Scientific And Devotional Commentary On The Book Of Beginnings;
M. Morris; Foreword by Arnold D. Ehlert; Baker
Book House’ Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Gen. 39:2-12
again the contrast with 38:1. Judah was free and his sin was his own choice. The
dark picture of his sin in chapter 38 makes the purity of Joseph in the
following account stand out all the more. Joseph was a slave and he was about to
be tested again and again. The first test was to see how he would react when he
was made a slave to Potiphar. As the captain of the king’s bodyguard and chief
executioner, Potiphar must have been a man who was severe and not easy to
of becoming bitter, Joseph trusted the Lord. His confidence in God’s promises
must have made him willing to commit his way to the Lord (Ps. 37:5). He must
have done everything he was asked to do as unto the Lord. Thus, the Lord was
with Joseph and honored his faith and faithfulness by making him successful in
his tasks in the household of his master. Potiphar could not help noticing this.
Perhaps Joseph gave testimony to the Lord. So Potiphar recognized that
Joseph’s God was making him successful in all he was doing.
39:4-6. Because Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s eyes, he
made him his personal attendant. Later, he made him overseer of his household
and over everything he had. That is, he became the business manager with
responsibility over all Potiphar’s possessions. It was not uncommon for a
trusted slave to be made a personal business manager (cf. the case of Eliezer,
Gen. 15:2). From that time the Lord blessed everything Potiphar owned, in his
house and in his field or farm property--on account of Joseph (for Joseph’s
sake). So completely did Potiphar trust Joseph, that he turned all of his
household and personal business over to him without asking Joseph to give any
account of it to him. Potiphar carried out his duties for the Pharaoh and paid
no attention to anything at home except to enjoy the food he ate. This
was important preparation for Joseph. The 17-year-old boy who was sold into
Egypt needed several years to learn how to handle business affairs before he
could fulfill the dreams God had given him.
39:7-9. The second great test that came to Joseph was the
test of personal purity. He was away from home, a handsome young man who was a
slave with no rights. It would have been easy for him to yield to temptation
when Potiphar’s wife enticed him. Probably no one would have known. But Joseph
refused. Potiphar had put him over all the other servants and given him access
to everything in the household except her, for she was Potiphar’s wife. Then
Joseph revealed the secret of his keen sense of responsibility and of his
victory in this great test. He could not do this great evil for it would be a
sin, not just against his master, but against God. Joseph’s relation to God
was the secret of his victory over temptation to sin.
after day Potiphar’s wife kept trying to entice Joseph to have sex with her.
He kept refusing to do so, or even to be with her. He avoided her as much as
possible and would not even give her his friendly company. But one day when
Joseph came into the house to do his usual tasks and no one else was around,
Potiphar’s wife grabbed hold of him by his outer garment and commanded him to
lie down with her. But he left his outer garment in her hand and fled out of the
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary
Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.
“blessed the Egyptian’s house because of Joseph” (Gen. 39:5).
The concept of blessing can cover a wide range of benefits and
activities. Kenneth Mathews pointed
out that “’blessing’ in Genesis typically involves material wealth (24:35;
In other places in the Bible being blessed includes a closer relationship
with God or other humans. For
instance, Jesus’ “beatitudes” in the Sermon on the Mount include God’s
blessings those who mourn and on those who are peacemakers (Matt. 5:3-12).
In a hostile world, God’s people might be persecuted, but God blesses
them by His presence and love. The
Book of Revelation includes several beatitudes or blessings, such as Revelation
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Blessed and blessing: Blessed and blessing
(v. 5) are words used both to describe a human response toward God and God’s
response toward humankind. The
Hebrew word at its root means “to kneel.”
Therefore, when we bless the Lord or bring blessing to Him, we are
kneeling in spirit before Him in honor, exaltation, praise, and thanksgiving.
When used of God’s response toward humankind, the word refers to the
favor of the Lord, that is, something favorable added to our lives.
In Genesis, blessings generally involved material wealth, for that was
often the way favor with God was measured.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Garment—The Hebrew word translated garment (or “cloak,” NIV) in Genesis 39:12 is a generic word for
clothing. The word appears
frequently (about 200 times) in the Old Testament referring to men’s and
women’s apparel. Sometimes it is
used of sacred clothing; sometimes it is used of common clothes.
The same word is used for Tamar’s “widow’s clothes” in 38:14,19.
In fact, the term appears six times in chapter 39 (vv.
garment was likely not as unusual as the coat of many colors he received from
Jacob (37:3), but it must have been distinctive enough that Potiphar’s wife
used it as evidence in her accusation against Joseph (39:18).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
The Hebrew word rendered garment (v.
12) is the term most often used to refer to clothing in general.
The word was used for sacred clothing and common clothing and for
clothing worn by men or women. It is
also rendered “robe” or “cloak,” but the world for garment
in 39:12 is a different word that that rendered “coat” in 37:3.
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
Bergen is associate professor of Old Testament, Hannibal-LaGrange College,
the well-known figure within the Book of Genesis who had the distinction of
being the only person in the Bible to own one of the patriarchs of Israel as a
slave. According to Genesis 37 and
39, Potiphar purchased Joseph, son of Jacob, for use as a household slave,
elevated Joseph to a position of privilege within his household, and then threw
him in prison after Joseph was accused of attacking Potiphar’s wife.
An Egyptian by nationality, Potiphar is one of only two Egyptian men
whose names are supplied in the patriarchal accounts.
straightforward reading of the Masoretic Text suggest that Potiphar lived during
the Twelfth Dynasty of the Middle Kingdom period of Egyptian history.
John Walton, who adopts an early date chronology for Old Testament
events, suggests that Joseph was sold to Potiphar in 1898 BC.
Such a date would place Potiphar’s career during the reigns of the
Egyptian pharaohs Sesostris I
(1943-1898 BC, also known as Senusert or Senwosret) and Amenemhet II
This early 19th century BC date for Potiphar assumes that King
Solomon began constructing the great temple of the Lord in Jerusalem in 966 BC
and that the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1 and the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 are to
be taken literally. An alternative
view, one which assumes that Potiphar was a historical figure but that the
number of years mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1 is symbolic, would place him around
1700 BC, in the Thirteenth Dynasty.2
Twelfth Dynasty was a period of particular prominence and prosperity in Egyptian
history. Amenemhet I,
the founder of the Twelfth Dynasty, moved the royal city from Thebes back to the
northern regions of Egypt. The site
he chose became the city known as Itj-Tawy, “[Amenemhet is] the Seizer of the
Two Lands,” located just south of Memphis.3
establishment of the capital city there marked the return of a national capital
to this region; two hundred years earlier the center of government had been
moved southward to Herakleopolis, then farther south to Thebes.
During the reign of Sesostris I, a pyramid was built
for him at Lisht and temples honoring various deities were constructed
throughout Egypt. The most notable
temple constructed by Sesostris I
was located in Abydos and dedicated to Osiris.
Egyptian inscriptions indicate that Amenemhet II fostered extensive
international trade, and he is known for having caused the copper mines in the
Sinai desert to be worked intensively.4
Other accomplishments associated with
the Twelfth Dynasty included the conquest of Nubia, the construction of
irrigation canals, and development of the Fayum oasis region west of the capital
city of Itj-Tawy into a more productive agricultural district.
Overall, the Twelfth Dynasty was marked by an increase of wealth
throughout the land, great military campaigns throughout Africa and western
Asia, unification of the land, and centralization of the national government.
“Potiphar” is the Hebrew transliteration of an
Egyptian name meaning “He-whom-(the sun god) Re-gives.”5 The name
reflects reverence for one of the most popular gods in the history of Egypt, the
one god that even Pharaoh, who was himself considered a god, was expected to
worship. Re had been honored in
Egypt since at least the Third Dynasty, about 2700 BC.6 The name
“Potiphar” was widely used in the history of Egypt, with examples being
found in nonbiblical literature dated from the 11th-3rd
described in the Bible, Potiphar was one of the highest ranking military
officers of his day. Two separate
descriptions relevant to Potiphar’s professional status were provided in
Genesis, possibly indicating two different responsibilities that he held within
the Egyptian government.
was first of all called “Eunuch of Pharaoh” (KJV “officer of pharaoh,”
Gen. 37:36; 39:1). The term
“eunuch” (Heb. saris) is normally
figurative when used in an official title and refers to an administrator (see
also Gen. 40:2; 1 Sam. 18:5). It
can, however, be taken literally, referring to one who had been castrated so as
to pose no threat to the king or those in his household (2 Kings 9:32; Esth.
2:14). In the case of Potiphar, the
term was certainly figurative, since he possessed a wife (Gen. 39:7).
Though this title is unattested in extant Egyptian literature dated
earlier than the fifth century BC7 and therefore cannot be connected with any specific set
of responsibilities, it suggests that Potiphar played a significant
administrative role in Pharaoh’s court.
The most descriptive professional title applied to
Potiphar is “captain of the guard” (37:36; 39:1, KJV).
The literal meaning of the phrase carried with it the idea of being a
butcher, of wielding a knife, or of serving as a bodyguard.
Thus, the implication is that Potiphar was in charge of providing meat
for Pharaoh’s household and also had military responsibilities.
A closely related title, “captain of the guard, a servant of the king
of Babylon,” was applied later to Nebuzaradan, the Babylonian officer assigned
the task of demolishing Jerusalem following its defeat in 586 BC (2 Kings
25:8-10). Taken as a whole, the
biblical evidence clearly suggests that Potiphar was one of the highest ranking
officers in the Egyptian army, and probably the commander of an elite military
Within the Egyptian language, known titles of military
commanders within the Middle Kingdom period include “general,” “commander
of shock-troops,” and “instructor of retainers.”8 Scholars
believe that the commanders of shock-troops were in charge of soldiers trained
for duty in military expeditions. Instructors
of retainers, on the other hand, are believed to have been men from wealthy
families who were given positions of leadership over detachments of one hundred
soldiers assigned to protect the pharaoh.
from the Book of Genesis suggests that the Hebrew title “captain of the
guard” may correspond to the Egyptian military position “instructor of
retainers.” According to Genesis
40:3, it was a captain of the guard who managed the dungeon-prison in which
Joseph, Pharaoh’s chief wine steward, and his chief baker were incarcerated.
The task would most naturally be assigned to one who provided security
for Pharaoh and his household.
piece of evidence pointing to the possibility that Potiphar held the Egyptian
position instructor of retainers is that he was a wealthy man.
Potiphar had a sizeable house and possessed fields (Gen. 39:5).
He also owned several slaves (vv. 11,14) and had a personal attendant who
managed all but the most intimate of his affairs (vv.4-6,9).
A further indication of his wealth is
the fact that his chief slave was given a full garment to wear (v. 12), not
merely a loincloth, as many Egyptian slaves would have worn.
also of his upper-class status is the fact that Potiphar was able to obtain an
almost instant legal resolution to his complaints against Joseph.
The fact that he was able to have Joseph imprisoned in the same
dungeon-prison that was used to incarcerate Pharaoh’s prisoners (v. 20) adds
further evidence to support the view that Potiphar was a top official within
Pharaoh’s military echelons. Finally,
the fact that Joseph was imprisoned in the royal dungeon-prison indicates that
Potiphar lived in the royal city, a privilege probably reserved for only a few
as a whole, the biblical portrait of Potiphar is that of a wealthy man who held
a high rank within the Egyptian military. He
lived in the royal city, was engaged in a profession that demanded his constant
attention, owned fields and a large house, and possessed many slaves.
Because of his position he had access to Pharaoh’s own facilities;
Potiphar was one of the most privileged men in Egyptian society during his
SIGNIFICANCE WITHIN THE BIBLICAL NARRATIVES
importance within the biblical accounts is rooted in his connection with the
patriarch Joseph. Potiphar purchased
a 17-year-old Asian slave from an Ishmaelite caravan, thereby placing Joseph in
one of the wealthiest homes in Egypt, effectively rescuing the patriarch from
many of the hardships that would have otherwise awaited him.
Potiphar’s spiritual insight enabled him to recognize that “the Lord
was with” Joseph “and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper” (v.
3, KJV). Foreshadowing what Pharaoh
would do for Joseph later, Joseph was put in charge of everything Potiphar owned
(37:9, 41:40). Unhappily, also
Potiphar’s blindness to his depraved wife’s deceptions led to Joseph’s
imprisonment. Yet even in this,
Potiphar’s actions were used by God. Potiphar’s
placement of Joseph in the prison used for Pharaoh’s prisoners set the stage
for Joseph’s eventual rise to a position of power even greater than
Walton, Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament, rev. ed.
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 15,62.
Kitchen, “Egypt, Land of” in Zondervan
Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975), 2:237
Murnane, “Three Kingdoms and Thirty
Four Dynasties” in Ancient Egypt, ed.
Silverman (New York: Oxford, 1977), 26-28.
Murray, The Splendor That Was Egypt, rev. ed. (New York: Hawthorn, 1963),
Redford, “Potiphar” in Anchor
Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), V: 426-27.
Cottrell, Life Under the Pharaohs (New York: Holt, Rinehart-Winston, 1960),
Miller is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Mid-America Baptist Theological
Seminary, Germantown, Tennessee.
SCHOLARS usually date Joseph to Egypt’s Middle
Kingdom Period (2040-1782 BC ) or the Second Intermediate Period (1782-1570 BC
).1 Early chronology has
much to commend it and is the dating system we will follow.2
Although the specific pharaohs of Joseph’s
lifetime will vary depending on the dating scheme followed, everyday life in
ancient Egypt changed little throughout the centuries.
Political Life in Joseph’s Egypt
the early chronology, Jacob entered Egypt about 1876 BC.
Since Joseph preceded his father by approximately 25 years (compare Gen.
37:2 and 41:46), he arrived about 1900 BC during the reign of Amenemhet II
(1929-1895 BC ), third pharaoh of Egypt’s stable Twelfth Dynasty.
Evidence suggests an increase of Asiatics during Amenemhet’s time,
apparently brought in as household servants.
However, Egyptian records indicate that sometimes Asiatics (like Joseph)
attained important government posts. Joseph
lived for 110 years (50:22), dying about 1805 VC during the reign of Amenemhet
III (1842-1797 BC ). Amenemhet
III’s reign marked the zenith of economic prosperity in the Middle Kingdom.
Perhaps in the Middle Kingdom. Perhaps,
this is partially due to Joseph’s administrative skills and the acquisition of
land for famine (47:20). Statues and
other likenesses of these pharaohs have survived providing a remarkable glimpse
into the very faces of people Joseph knew.3
in Joseph’s Time
Egypt was a fascinating place. The
capital of the empire was in the north—near Memphis about 30 miles south of
modern Cairo. The great Nile (the
longest river in the world) was abuzz with activity.
Large temples and statues were visible throughout the land.
The three huge pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx had already weathered the
desert sands for over half a millennium. The
Great Pyramid of Khufu rose about 481 feet high, and each of its four sides
stretched about 756 feet. This one
pyramid contains 2,300,000 stone blocks, averaging at least 2.5 tons each.
Originally covered with gleaming white limestone, the Giza pyramids must
have been quite a spectacle. The
Greeks designated the Great Pyramid one of the seven wonders of the ancient
world and is the only one of the seven that remains.4
Religion was a crucial part of
Egyptian life. The Egyptians
worshiped a myriad of deities. Seven
hundred and sixty-five gods decorated the walls of the vestibule leading into
the tomb of Ththmosis III (1504-1450 BC ).5
Amun (Amun-Re) was hailed as the king of Egypt’s gods.
Osiris was vital because he was the god of vegetation and the after life.
The life-giving Nile River was even thought to be Osiris’s bloodstream,6
ironic in light of the first exodus plague—when the river turned to blood (Ex.
7:14-25). Other noteworthy gods were
Nut (sky goddess), Isis (goddess of mothers and love), Hathor (goddess of love,
joy, and sky; portrayed with horns, with cow’s ears, or as a cow), Thoth (moon
god and god of writing, ironically sometimes depicted as a baboon!), and various
sun gods—Re (or Ra), Aten, and Atum. Egyptians
worshiped the pharaohs as the embodiment of the god Horus (represented by a
falcon), doubtless the motivation for hauling the millions of tons of stone to
build the pharaohs’ pyramid tombs.
The Egyptians believed in life after
death. If they passed Osiris’s
examination, they entered a beautiful paradise called the Field of Reeds.
If not, their hearts were devoured by the hideous monster Ammit.
But those in the Field of Reeds still were not safe.
If all earthly memory so a person was lost, the deceased could suffer the
Second Death, a permanent annihilation of the spirit.
Preservation of the body by mummification and likenesses (tomb paintings,
statues) of the deceased were, therefore, necessary to maintain their memory and
in turn their eternal life. No
wonder the pharaohs filled the land with images of themselves.
Their eternal life depended on
During Joseph’s day, Egypt led the
world culturally. In fact, the 20th
and early 19th centuries BC have been designated the apex of Egyptian
literature and craftsmanship. Reading
and writing were the most important subjects in the schools, and the scribe (the
most desired profession in Egypt) spent years mastering the 700 signs of
Egyptian hieroglyphics. Two great
literary works were composed in the 12th dynasty, “The Instructions
of Amenemhet” and “The Story of Sinuhe.”
Jewelry recovered from Middle Kingdom tombs exhibits superb
craftsmanship, and tomb paintings show musicians with instruments (for example,
zither, lute, drum, harp, and flute).
Everyday Life in Joseph’s Egypt
majority of Egypt’s population (perhaps 1.5 million in Joseph’s time) lived
on the narrow strip of productive land along the Nile.
Principal cereal crops were wheat and barley.
Rainfall was sparse, and farmers depended on the Nile’s inundations to
water the land. If the Nile rose too
little, famines such as that in Joseph’s time could result.
Early Egyptian records mention such famines, one lasting seven years.7
In addition to agricultural activities, scenes on tomb walls depict
fishing, hunting, bread making, and brick making, as well as potters,
carpenters, decorators, goldsmiths, and sculptors.
Most clothing was made of linen.
Men usually were depicted wearing skirt-like garments of varying lengths;
and women, ankle-length gowns held up by shoulder straps.
Both men and women applied cosmetics heavily and women were frequently
buried with their mirrors. Short
hair was the rule, but both genders often wore wigs.
Men were typically clean shaven (compare Gen. 41:14), though images of
the pharaohs often depicted them with fake beards.
Originally, the Sphinx had a beard.
Mummies from ancient Egypt indicate
the average height of women was about five feet and men, about five feet, five
inches. Of course, there were
exceptions. Amenhotep II (who may
have been the pharaoh of the exodus) was six feet in height and Senusret III
stood six feet six inches tall.8
Analysis of mummies also reveals that Egyptians suffered from arthritis,
tuberculosis, gout, gallstones, tooth decay, and parasites.
The Egyptian diet included bread
(mainly from barley), grapes, dates, figs, olives, cabbage, cheese, goat meat,
pork, various fowl, and fish. Barley
beer and wine (grape, date, and palm) were popular drinks.
Sugar cane was introduced later, but the rich could afford honey.
Monogamy was the norm, though nobles
and pharaohs could have many wives and a large harem.
Ramesses II had 8 principal wives and fathered over 100 children.
Love poems suggest people pursued marriages for love, and tomb paintings
often portray a husband and wife in loving embrace.
Unlike Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:7-19),9 marriage partners
were expected to be faithful. This
is underscored by the penalty for adultery—burning or stoning.10
Egyptian children played games and had toys and dolls.
Family pets included dogs and cats.
Egyptian custom, both Jacob and Joseph were embalmed or mummified (50:2,26).11
We have learned much about the mummification process from the writings of
the ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Diodorus, from tomb paintings,
inscriptions, and from modern scientific analysis of mummies.
Natron, a mixture of sodium carbonate
and sodium bicarbonate, was applied over a period of days to dry out the body.
Except for the heart and kidneys, internal organs were removed.
Finally, the skin was anointed with resins and the body wrapped in strips
of cloth. In Jacob’s case, the
entire process for mummification and mourning took 70 days (Gen. 50:3), a number
cited in at least five Egyptian texts and by Herodotus.12
Joseph died at the age of 110 years.
Apparently, 110 was considered the ideal lifespan for this same age is
mentioned in at least 27 Egyptian texts.13
Egyptian chronology and spelling of the pharaohs’ names are from Peter A.
Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs: The
Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt (London:
Thames & Hudson, 1994).
further discussion on the chronological issues, see the following articles: Joel
F. Drinkard, Jr. and E. Ray Clendenen, “Chronology of the Biblical Period”
and Ralph L. Smith and Eric Mitchell, “Exodus” in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (HIBD) (Nashville: Holman Bible
Publishers, 2003), 291-95; 524-28, respectively.
to the late chronology, Joseph lived in Egypt during he latter part of the weak
and obscure Thirteenth Dynasty (1782-1650 BC ) and in the first part of the
Fifteenth Dynasty-Hyksos (1663-1555 BC ). Records
of the kings of this period are meager. For
further study, see Clayton, 90-4, and Daniel C. Browning, Jr. and E. Ray
Clendenen, “Hyksos,” HIBD,
47; Lorna Oakes and Lucia Gahlin, Ancient
Egypt (London: Amness Publishing Limited, 2003), 66; and . . .
Siliotti, Guide to the Valley of the Kings
(New York: Barns & Noble Books, 1996), 30.
Davis, Moses and the Gods of Egypt:
Studies in The Book of Exodus (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1971), 94.
Wilson, trans., “The Tradition of Seven Lean Years in Egypt” and “The
Prophecy of Neferti,” Ancient Near
Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (ANET), ed. J. B. Pritchard, 3rd
ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 31-2, 444-46.
and the Gods of Egypt, 105; Clayton, 84.
Story of Two Brothers” (ca. 1225 BC ) tells of an adulteress turning on a
young man who spurned her (ANET, 23-5). The
fictional tale no doubt reflects reality.
Tyldesley, Judgment of the Pharaoh: Crime
and Punishment in Ancient Egypt (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000),
66; A. Rosalie David, The Egyptian
Kingdoms (New York: Elsevier Phaidon, 1975), 109.
excellent discussions of mummification, see Howard F. Vos, Genesis and Archaeology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 106-9; and
Joyce Tyldesley, The Mummy (Dubai:
Carlton, 1999), 15-39.
Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in
Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), 303; Tyldesley, The Mummy, 21.
to Prison, 304. For an example
written in the Middle Kingdom Period, see “The Instruction of the Vizier
Ptah-Hotep,” ANET, 414.
By Claude F.
Mariottini is an associate professor of Old Testament, Northern Baptist
Theological Seminary, Lombard, Illinois.
HE STORY OF
JOSEPH OCCUPIES a large place in the history of Israel.
He is portrayed as the ideal Israelite, the model of the exemplary youth
who possessed many ideal characteristics. Joseph
was the eleventh son of Jacob and the first son of Rachel, the wife whom Jacob
loved most. To give a precise date
for the birth of Joseph is difficult, but historical and archaeological evidence
place his birth in the Middle Bronze Age (about 1700 BC).
Joseph was born, Rachel, recognizing that the Lord had removed her barrenness,
said: “May the Lord add to me another son” (Gen. 30:24, NIV).
For this reason she called his name Joseph, which means “He adds”
(Gen. 30:22-24). Joseph has born in
Paddam-Aram a few years before Jacob received a vision from God commanding him
to return to Canaan. When Jacob and
his family left Paddam-Aram, they came to Shechem and then settled in the valley
of Hebron, also called Kiriath-arba (Gen. 35:27; 37:14).
Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son because he was the son born in his old
age and because he was the son of his favorite wife.
Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph was contrary to the practices and
culture of his day. In the ancient
Near East a father would customarily show his favor toward his firstborn son
who, according to tradition, was the legitimate heir of his estate.
But at times, special circumstances contributed to the selection of the
younger over the elder son. Jacob,
the younger son of Isaac, received his father’s blessing.
Now Jacob bypassed his firstborn son, Reuben, in favor of Joseph, his
younger son (Jacob’s youngest son was Benjamin, who was born a few years after
Joseph) and later, on his deathbed, Jacob favored the younger Ephraim over
Manasseh, Joseph’s two sons (Gen. 48:8-20).
To express his love for Joseph, Jacob gave him a special
coat. One version says it was a
“coat of many colors” (Gen. 37:3, KJV). However,
the Hebrew word seems to indicate that the coat had long sleeves, the kind of
coat used by royal persons. In
addition to the passage in Genesis, the word appears in 2 Samuel 13:18 to
describe the ornamented robe Tamar, David’s daughter, wore.
By giving this type of garment to Joseph, Jacob placed Joseph above his
brothers and “exempted him from the menial tasks of farming.”1
Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, his brothers were jealous of him.
This jealousy increased with the passing of time because of Joseph’s
dreams. His brothers called him
“that dreamer” (Gen. 37:19, NIV). The
Hebrew title “a master [baal] of dreams” means more than a mere dreamer.
The title indicates a person who can master or interpret dreams.
All the dreams in the Joseph stories come in pairs: the two dreams of
Joseph, the dreams of the baker and the butler, and the two dreams of Pharaoh.
The doubling of the dreams is an indication that the events predicted are
soon to occur. In his dreams Joseph
saw his father, his mother, and his 11 brothers bowing down to him.
When Joseph told his dreams to his brothers, they became hostile to him
(“they hated him,” Gen. 37:5-11, RSV).
Westermann said that “the statement that the brothers became hostile to Joseph
rather than to their father, who is actually responsible for Joseph’s
elevation, reveals a deep understanding of human nature: the hatred of the
disadvantaged is often directed not against those who bestow privilege unjustly
but against those who receive it.”2
One day when Joseph was 17, Jacob sent Joseph from Hebron to Shechem to
see how this brothers were doing and to bring a report of their activities.
Joseph’s brothers were shepherding the flock of their father in Shechem.
The sons of Jacob were shepherds, and as such they had to move constantly
from place to place seeking pasture in which to forage the flock.
Joseph arrived in Shechem, he was told by a stranger that his brothers had moved
to Dothan. Dothan was not far from
Shechem. Because the flock was in
constant need of water, the distance that shepherds traveled in search of
pasture had to be limited. So Joseph
went to Dothan seeking his brothers. When
the brothers saw Joseph from afar, they decided to kill him and report to their
father that a wild animal had devoured him.
opposed killing Joseph. Instead, he
proposed to throw him in one of the cisterns in the wilderness.
Reuben’s intention was to rescue Joseph from the hands of his brothers
without their knowledge and return him to his father.
But during Reuben’s absence (for unknown reasons), the brothers took
Joseph from the cistern and sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelite traders who were
going down to Egypt.
brothers took his coat, dipped it into the blood of a goat, which they had
killed, and brought the coat to Jacob saying: “We found this.
Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe” (Gen. 37:32, NIV).
When Jacob saw the coat and the blood, he concluded that a wild animal
had killed Joseph. Jacob cried and
mourned the death of his son.
Ishmaelites took Joseph to Egypt and sold him as a slave to Potiphar.
Potiphar was an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of Pharaoh’s
bodyguard. When Joseph came to
Potiphar’s house, he became a successful man (Gen. 39:2).
The Lord blessed Potiphar and his house.
Potiphar understood that the prosperity of his house was to be credited
to Joseph’s presence, so he placed Joseph over all his possessions.
“Joseph was the very model of an administrator.
He is pictured as modest—at least in his Egyptian career—hard
working, honest, wise, and devoted to his superiors.
All these qualities contributed to the rapid rise of Joseph.”3 Joseph
served Potiphar faithfully, but his master’s wife, noticing that Joseph was
“well-built and handsome” (Gen. 39:6, NIV), attempted to seduce him.
She said: “ Come to bed with me” (Gen. 39:7, NIV).
Joseph refused the adulterous advances of Potiphar’s wife because he
recognized that such an act was a “wicked thing” and a “sin against God”
(Gen. 39:9). Joseph also refused to
betray the trust his master had placed in him.
She tried several times to seduce Joseph, but he rejected her advances
and even refused to be with her. One
day, when Joseph came to work in the house of his master, Potiphar’s wife
again tried to seduce him. She
grabbed Joseph by his tunic and invited him to go to bed with her (Gen. 39:12),
but Joseph escaped, leaving his garment behind.
Later that day, when her husband came home, the woman, scorned by
Joseph’s refusal, used the tunic as an evidence to accuse Joseph of rape and
to denounce her husband for bringing a Hebrew slave into the house.
Again, Joseph had to suffer because of
his clothes. As Brueggemann said:
“It is not the first time Joseph has had to function without his royal clothes
(37:23). The clothes do not make his
man. It is the dream that makes this
man and that the woman cannot take from him.”4
episode in Joseph’s life resembles the Egyptian tale “The Story of Two
In the story, two brothers lived together, and the younger worked for the
older. One day when the older
brother was absent from the house, his wife tried to seduce her brother-in-law.
When she failed in her attempt, the woman accused her brother-in-law of
seduction and claimed her innocence. But
the younger brother defended his innocence, and the older brother killed his
wife. Although the stories have some
similarities, one cannot say that one story depends on the other.
The Egyptian story was used for entertainment, while Joseph’s story
teaches high moral values.
placed Joseph in an Egyptian prison where he was a prisoner for several years.
In prison Joseph was blessed by God, and he gained the confidence of the
jailer, who made Joseph responsible for the affairs of the prison.
While Joseph was in prison, tow officers of Pharaoh, the chief baker and
the chief butler, were in prison with him. Each
had a dream, but no one in prison could interpret the dreams.
When Joseph saw that the two men were
dejected, he asked the reason for their sadness.
They told him their dreams; and Joseph offered to interpret the dream
with God’s help, for Joseph told them that the interpretation of dreams
belonged to God (Gen. 40:8). After
the two officials related their dreams to him, Joseph interpreted the dreams.
What Joseph told them became a reality a few days later.
The baker was hanged, and the butler was restored to his position in
years later Pharaoh had two dreams, but no one in the land of Egypt was able to
give the correct interpretation. The
chief butler remembered how Joseph had interpreted correctly his dream, and he
told Pharaoh what had happened to him in prison.
Pharaoh sent for Joseph. After
Joseph made personal preparation to meet Pharaoh, he came and interpreted
Pharaoh’s dreams. In his
interpretation Joseph said that the two dreams had one meaning and one
interpretation: Seven years of plenty would come to Egypt in which there would
be great abundance of crops. After
these seven years of plenty would come seven years of famine in the land.
Joseph advised Pharaoh to name a person capable of organizing a program
to preserve the results of the years of plenty in order to make provisions for
the years of famine. Pharaoh liked
Joseph’s plan, and he became convinced that Joseph would be the best person to
carry it out. Pharaoh then appointed
Joseph to oversee the collection of the harvest, and Joseph was elevated to a
position in which he was second in power over all Egypt.
Joseph was 30 years old at the time of his appointment by Pharaoh.
When Joseph came to power, the Hyksos probably were ruling Egypt.
Hyksos were a Northwest-Semitic people who came to Egypt from Canaan.
They conquered and ruled Egypt for about 150 years, from 1700 to 1550 BC,
when they were expelled by Amosis I. During
this period, the Hyksos appointed several people bearing Semitic names to high
office, and Joseph probably was one of them.6
changed Joseph’s name to Zaphenath-panea, a theophoric name that means “God
speaks and he lives.” He also gave
him Asenath (“the one who belongs to Neith”; Neith was the name of an
Egyptian goddess), daughter of Potiphera the priest of On (Heliopolis) as his
wife. The name Potiphera
is similar to the name Potiphar, but
they are different persons. Potiphera
means “The one who Regave.” Potiphera
was a high priest at the temple of On, a place dedicated to sun worship.
the seven years of plenty came to an end, Joseph became the father of two sons:
Manasseh and Ephraim.
the seven years of famine came, as Joseph had predicted.
The famine was over all the land of Egypt and reached even to Canaan.
Because of the famine, Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy food for his
family. As they arrived in Egypt,
they came to Joseph’s house. They
did not recognize Joseph, but Joseph recognized his brothers.
tested his brothers’ character twice to see whether they had changed.
At the end of the brothers’ second journey to Egypt, Joseph made
himself known to them. Joseph
forgave his brothers for the pain and suffering they had caused him.
Joseph’s words to his brothers (Gen. 45:5-8) are important to the
understanding of the focus of the Joseph narratives.
Behind the brothers’ action stood divine Providence (Gen. 45:8; 50:20).
In the study of Joseph’s life, one can see “God’s hand which in all
the confusion of human guilt directs every thing to a gracious gosl.”7
The intention of the brothers was to kill Joseph, but God’s purpose was
to preserve life. God had sent
Joseph to Egypt ahead of his brothers to make preparation to save his people
from the severe famine that would come on the land.
At the same time God used these events to restore Joseph’s relationship
to this brothers. Westermann said:
“It is the same God who saves lives in Pharaoh’s kingdom and heals the
breach in Jacob’s family.”8 The
brothers bowed down before Joseph, thus fulfilling the dreams he had dreamed in
his youth. Joseph sent provisions to
his father, inviting Jacob to come to Egypt and live with him.
Jacob and his family came to Egypt, where Pharaoh received them and
settled them in the land of Goshen.
died in Egypt at the age of 110. His
body was embalmed according to Egyptian tradition, and he was placed in a coffin
in Egypt. After the people of Israel
left Egypt, they carried Joseph’s body with them.
His remains were buried in Shechem (Ex. 13:19; Josh. 24:32).
exodus of Israel from Egypt was celebrated in Israel’s worship as one of the
mighty acts of God on behalf of His people (Ps. 77:15).
The same God who preserved Joseph and delivered him from prison and
placed him over all Egypt was the God who brought the children of Israel out of
Egypt. The faith of the psalmist
never ceases to reflect on this demonstration of God’s great power.
God’s great deliverance of His people from the house of servitude is
the basis of Israel’s declaration of faith, a faith that is often proclaimed
in the hymns of Israel. To Israel
A God Who has pity on those who are
A God Who hears the crying of those who are
A God Who saves His people from great
A God Who remains faithful to His people
Message of Genesis 12—50: From Abraham to Joseph (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159.
Genesis: A Practical Commentary (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 263.
Joseph Son of Jacob,” Interpreter’s
Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 2:983-84.
Genesis (Atlanta: Knox Press, 1982),
abbreviated version of the story see Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1969),
History of Israel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), 60-61.
von Rad, Genesis (Philadelphia:
Westminster Press, 1961), 393.
His Life And Times
By D. Waylon
is professor of Old Testament, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
XCEPT FOR A
BRIEF TIME when he is seen as a brash young man
without tact and spoiled by his father, Joseph is one of the most wholesome
characters in the Old Testament. His
life serves as a positive example in numerous areas.
He made the best of discouraging circumstances; he rejected the advances
of his master’s wife; he saw God’ great purpose being worked out in his own
circumstances. His stories, found in
Genesis 37-50, are some of the most fascinating of any body of literature.
general story of Joseph is well known and, while Joseph is not mentioned in any
known Egyptian inscriptions, a number of parallels can be drawn between
Joseph’s life and stories which survive from ancient Egypt.
Joseph’s seduction is quite similar to the Egyptian “Tale of Two
Brothers,” in which an unsuccessful attempt was made to seduce the younger
brother. Another similarity concerns
the butler. Egyptian records
indicate that the butler’s place was well established in the court.
He acted as a trusted advisor. In
one famous trial the king’s butlers served with other officials as judges.
Thus, when the pharaoh had a dream, we are not surprised that the butler
accompanied the wise men and magicians who were summoned to interpret the dream
and then recommended Joseph as a discerner of dreams.
question of Joseph’s position and duties in Egypt still is a mystery, however.
In what capacity did he serve and what functions did he perform?
position Joseph held apparently was that of prime minister, called vizier in
Egypt. The vizier’s duties
described in Egyptian records correlate amazingly with the stories of Joseph in
the pharaoh, the vizier was the most important man in the government of ancient
Egypt. In the earliest times of
Egyptian monarchy, the pharaoh appointed his son as vizier.
As the government expanded and became more centralized, the vizier came
increasingly from the nobility or priesthood.
After the time of Joseph, the office of vizier was divided into two
positions. One vizier became
administrator at Memphis over Lower (northern) Egypt while another held sway at
Thebes over Upper (southern) Egypt. This,
no doubt, became necessary because of the complexity of the Egyptian state after
A summary of the duties of the vizier accords well with
Joseph’s responsibilities. Genesis
records the words of Pharaoh to Joseph:
Thou shalt be over my house, and according
unto thy word shall all my people be ruled; only in the throne will I be greater
than thou. And Pharaoh said unto
Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt; And Pharaoh said unto
Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in
all the land of Egypt (Gen. 41:40-44).
vizier served as the chief justice of the state and dispensed justice throughout
the land. He was the most powerful
man in the kingdom under pharaoh. As
state archivist, his office contained all the archives of the government,
including the registry of lands and wills. The
vizier administered the kingdom, receiving daily reports from the treasurer and
reporting directly to the pharaoh each day.
vizier, Joseph knew the pharaoh as well as any non-family member Joseph must
have been the man in the kingdom; all of the daily workings of government hinged
on his capabilities and hard work. Pharaoh
rightly called the vizier “the supporting post of the entire land.”1
With authority delegated to a vizier like Joseph, the pharaoh had the
freedom to move his armies out of Egypt to establish an empire or direct his
energies in other areas.
most favorable time for a foreigner in Egypt occurred during the Hyksos period,
about 1720-1550 BC. The Hyksos—“rulersof
foreign countries” is the meaning of the Egyptian word—were an array of
peoples, including Semites, Hittites, and Hurrians.
In a time of such foreign domination of Egypt, an outsider would have a
greater opportunity to rise to great heights.
In the fourteenth century BC, Akhenation promoted a Semite named Tutu to
a high position of power. Among his
duties were the inspection of public works and the reception of foreign
visitors. Other people of
non-Egyptian descent were given government positions during the second
millennium BC. Thus, nothing
particularly surprising can be found in Joseph’s elevation to power and his
family’s reception in Egypt.
installation as a vizier of Egypt probably followed a customary pattern.
Genesis 41:42-43 records the ceremony:
Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand,
and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and
put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot
which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee; and he made him ruler
over all the land of Egypt.
Rekh-mi-Re, the vizier of Upper
Egypt under the reign of Thutmose (thoot-MOE-suh) III (1490-1436 BC), received a
similar appointment. Rekh-mi-Re
said: “I went forth clad in fine linen. I
reached the doorway of the palace gate. The
courtiers bent their backs, and I found the masters of ceremonies clearing the
The charge to the vizier is as
impressive as the ceremony of installation.
In a charge unexpected in such an age, the pharaoh commanded the vizier
to govern impartially and with kindness and humanity.
it does not mean giving attention (only) to himself and to his officials and
councilors, nor (yet) making [dependents] out of everybody.
[The] abomination of the god is partiality.
This is the instruction, and thus shalt thou act: ‘Thou shalt look upon
him whom thou knowest like him whom thou knowest not, upon him who has access to
thee like him who is far away.’”3
Horemhab (HAHR-im-hab, 1340-1310 BC)
paid special attention to the character of those who would serve in such a high
capacity. He called the two viziers
he appointed “perfect in speech, excellent in good qualities, knowing how to
judge the heart.”4
He attacked bribery as an affront to justice: “Receive not the reward
of another. How shall those like you
judge others while there is one among you committing a crime against justice?”5
The biblical record gives many indications that Joseph’s character
suited the office of vizier. He
appears in the Bible as a strong-willed, dedicated person who cared for the
people around him. He was one who
could sacrifice immediate pleasure for long-term goals.
It was just such a man that the pharaoh wanted to serve over all the
The biblical account of Joseph’s
duties portrays two main areas of concern: (1) He ruled the land as governor
(Gen. 41:44; 42:6); and (2) he was in charge of the royal granary, thus spent
much of his time administering agriculture (Gen. 41:49).
From available Egyptian accounts, we
can ascertain more detailed duties that Joseph had.
The chief concern of the vizier may have been to dispense justice over
all the land. Each day, Joseph had
an audience with those seeking redress of some grievance.
Every morning people crowded to the hall of the vizier, the senior court
in the land, to be heard.
The courtroom setting must have been
impressive. When Rekh-mi-Re was
vizier, he sat “upon a judgment-chair,
with a matting on the floor, a matting
over him, a cushion under his back and a cushion under his feet, a [cape]
upon him, [and] a scepter at his hand.”6
In front of the vizier were forty leather straps or thongs which were the
symbol of his disciplinary authority. The
number of men around the vizier was impressive as well.
He sat with “the Chiefs of Southern
Tens on two sides in front of him, the Overseer of the Cabinet on his right
hand, the Supervisor of Clients on his left hand, and the Scribe of the Vizier
As chief judge, Joseph had to be
able to dispense justice according to fairness, custom, and precedent.
No codified law from this period in Egypt has been found.
Thus, wisdom in making crucial decisions played an important part in
Joseph’s life. Determining the
mind of the pharaoh was necessary since the vizier was pharaoh’s mouthpiece.
Even with his enormous power, the vizier recognized that he was subject
to pharaoh. Pharaoh expected the
vizier to give every man his due in accord with his previous instructions.
Thutmose III charged his vizier: “Would that thou mightiest act in
conformance with what I may say!”8
Matters of great significance for the nation were taken to the monarch.
One such example is the death penalty, which could be handed down only by
In the Joseph stories in Genesis,
the greatest emphasis is given to his supervision of the granaries.
During the seven plenteous years Joseph bought grain and dispensed it
during the seven lean years. But
Joseph’s tasks were more burdensome than this.
He supervised the cutting of trees, checked the water supply, sent out
the men to plow at harvest time, and received census reports of cattle.9
He heard each territorial dispute within two months, or in the case of
his own city, within three days.
In addition to the granary, Joseph
probably supervised the royal treasurer. Each
morning the chief treasure reported to Joseph.
Only after his report was made did Joseph give authority to open the
offices and carry out the business of the state.
collected by the vizier as well. The
tomb of Rekh-mi-Re depicts the vizier receiving dues from lower officials the
tribute from Asiatic vassal-princes and Nubian chiefs.10 A long
list of officials and their dues also has been found in the tomb of Rekh-mi-Re.
As royal archivist all
administrative documents required his seal and no document could be consulted
without his permission. In later
times viziers performed such tasks as helping end workers’ strikes and
settling disputes among local officials.
Genesis 41-40 says that Joseph was
over pharaoh’s house. This
probably included the local palace as well as the entire land.
Being over the house of pharaoh meant that he recruited the staff of the
royal household and dispatched all palace messengers.
In addition, he arranged the king’s travels and hired the royal
Joseph’s day-to-day activities
must have been quite demanding. The
statement in Genesis 42:6 that Joseph was ruler (governor) over the land fits
all the extra-biblical evidence concerning the work of the vizier.
As vizier he consulted daily with the pharaoh, the royal treasurer, and
other lesser officials. He conducted
daily hearings in his judgment hall and attended to the administrative affairs
of the land.
Concerning the duties of the various
viziers, Breasted stated that “it must have been this office which the Hebrew
narrator had in mind as that to which Joseph was appointed.”11
Without a man of such tremendous energy and insight, many people would
have suffered even more tragically during years of famine and want.
Joseph himself stated well the truth of the providence of God: “And as
for you (his brothers), ye thought evil against me, but
God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people
alive” (Gen. 50:20).
Wilson, The Burden of Egypt (Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951), p.
Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. 1969),
Breasted, A History of Egypt (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1909), p. 405.
Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 213.
Ibid., pp. 213-14.
Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, vol. 2 (Chicago: The Univ. of Chicago
Press, 1906), pp. 278-80.
Ibid., pp. 294-95.
Breasted, A History of Egypt, p.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234;
What Is The Answer
To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (10/26/14)
(Two-part question) (1.) In what Psalm
did King David refer to the tribe of Judah as his (2.) what?
Answer next week: (1.) Where? (2.) What?
The answer to last
week’s trivia question : What is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer? (10/12/14) Answer: Everything God created; 1 Tim. 4:4-5.