Genesis 39:1–23: The Lord was with Joseph

by Feb 22, 20210 comments

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The story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38 was a necessary insertion to fill out the entirety of Jacob’s family history (cf. Gen. 37:2). Now that Tamar has given birth to Judah’s sons, though, the narrative returns to focus on Joseph. Indeed, in the first six verses of Genesis 39, Joseph’s name will appear with unusual frequency (vv. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 (x2)) to reestablish “his prominence and centrality in the narrative.”[1] As we previously observed, there are a number of links between Genesis 38 and Genesis 39, so that the narratives are constantly drawing parallels and contrasts between Judah and Joseph. Where Judah failed miserably in his own sexual temptation, now we see Joseph succeeding admirably against repeated sexual temptations—but nevertheless suffering for his innocence. In this chapter, we see that the Lord is with his people, even in their suffering.

[1] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18 – 50, 458.

Discussion Questions

1) How do you evaluate whether the Lord is “with” you? How much does the quality of your circumstances weigh on your determination of the Lord’s presence or absence in your life? What circumstances does Joseph face when we read that the Lord is “with” him (v. 2, 21)? How does the presence of the covenant name Yahweh in this chapter alone within the Joseph narratives underscore this point? How might this change the way we view the Lord’s work within our circumstances?

2) What strategies of temptation does Potiphar’s wife use in her attempt to seduce Joseph? What is the power of her blunt appeal (v. 7)? What is the power of her repeated advances, “day after day” (v. 10)? What is the power of her ambush of Joseph, when no one else is around (v. 11–12)? How should this story prepare and equip us for the temptations that we will face in our lives? To what degree are you vigilant, watching and praying for temptations that will surely come (Matt. 26:41)?

3) What strategies does Joseph use in resisting the temptations of Potiphar’s wife? How does he appeal to his great privileges, and why is this different from the way we usually think of our blessings (v. 8–9; cf. Gen. 3:2–3)? How does he identify God as the the One who would be offended by his sin (v. 9)? How does he flee temptation, even leaving his garment behind, to avoid sin (v. 12)? As you think of the temptations you face, which strategy do you need to incorporate into your life more?

4) How do those around Joseph see the Lord’s presence with Joseph (v. 4, 21)? How does that favor translate into blessings and provision, even in the midst of suffering? What do you make of Calvin’s point that the favor Joseph enjoys during his time in Potiphar’s household, and then again in the prison, gives Joseph “time to breathe” before entering into further suffering? Do you take for granted times of prosperity, or do you see such times as preparations for future trials?