These are the generations of Jacob. And the generations of Jacob start with Jacob because he is the dad. But then there is Reuben the first born. And Simeon the second born. And Levi the third born. And Judah the fourth born. And Dan the fifth born. And Naphtali the sixth born. And Gad the seventh born. And Asher the eighth born. And Issachar the ninth born. And Zebulun the tenth born. And Dinah the only daughter. Then Joseph the eleventh born. And Benjamin the twelfth born. These are the generations of Jacob.
But the word these does not refer to Jacob and his thirteen kids. No, instead the word these refers to the ending of Genesis, all fourteen chapters. These fourteen chapters are primarily about two of Jacob’s thirteen kids. Is this sounding familiar? Is this sounding like something you have heard before? It should and it is because Genesis 39 sounds like Genesis 38.
Asking Rather Big Questions
The final fourteen chapters of Genesis are about two of Jacob’s sons; Joseph and Judah. One of these fourteen chapters is about Judah – Genesis 38. This leaves thirteen remaining chapters about Joseph beginning with Genesis 37 and picking up again with Genesis 39. But sandwiched in between is Genesis 38. And we have asked a rather big question. What does Judah have to do with Joseph? The answer is astounding: a lot. But that was Genesis 38 and this is Genesis 39. And so we are asking another rather big question: What does Joseph have to do with Judah? The answer is astounding: a lot.
Now watch this; listen to how Genesis 39 begins. “Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.” The struggle for me all week, each day, was this verse. What is its point? It is because it sounds so much like Genesis 37:36. “Meanwhile the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.” So notice, there is Genesis 37:36 and then Genesis 38 and then Genesis 39:1 which sounds so much like Genesis 37:36. Why is that? Genesis 38 is about Judah and Judah is responsible for Joseph being brought down to Egypt (cf. Genesis 37:26-27). This, in part, answered the rather big question, what does Judah have to do with Joseph?
But what does Joseph have to do with Judah? Joseph and Judah are brothers; sons of Jacob. Genesis 38 is about Judah and Tamar or a son of Jacob and another man’s wife. Genesis 39 is about Joseph and Potiphar’s wife or a son of Jacob and another man’s wife. This has led to another rather big question: What if Genesis 38 and Genesis 39 have something to do with the very same thing?
And He Had No Concern About Anything
Genesis 39 may be divided in two parts. Part one is Joseph in the house (Genesis 39:1-18). Part 2 is Joseph in the prison (Genesis 39:19-23). And, again, there is something so similar! Whether in the house or in the prison Joseph found favor (Genesis 39:4; 21). In the house he found favor in the sight of Potiphar. In the prison he found favor in the sight of the warden. And in both parts the end result was that neither Potiphar nor the warden had a concern about anything! But why?
We must keep something in mind; whether it was in the house or in the prison neither place was the ideal or desired place to be! Why was Joseph in the house? It was because he was sold into slavery and therefore a slave. Why was Joseph in prison? He was falsely accused and arrested and placed into prison and therefore a prisoner. So keep in mind, part of Genesis 39 is what to do when we find ourselves in less than ideal places in life. And this happens or will happen or has happened to each one of us. We each have moments or seasons in our lives that are less than ideal. So what are we to do? Do not turn to Facebook or to Twitter or to… Listen carefully. Whether in the house or in the prison, Joseph opened his mouth just one time (Genesis 39:8-9). It was thirty-five words, but it was all he ever said.
But what really has captured my attention is that both Potiphar and the warden had no concerns about anything and it was not until Joseph showed up. Both Potiphar and the warden placed all their concerns into the hands of Joseph. Why? Genesis 39:6 makes me laugh. Potiphar so trusted Joseph that day after day his number one question was, what is for dinner? What was it about Joseph?
All Eyes on Joseph
Sight is rather important to this chapter. “His master saw that the Lord was with him.” “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (39:3; 21). But there is Potiphar’s wife and she too saw Joseph. Listen to verse six. This is all so important. Joseph found favor in the eyes of Potiphar. Joseph found favor in the eyes of the prison warden. And let me say this, that whether in the house or in the prison, no matter the circumstance, Joseph did all things well. His circumstance did not dictate his attitude. He did what was right. He was faithful. He was found faithful. And listen to Genesis 39:5. “From the time that he made him overseer,” in other words, Joseph got a promotion but the circumstance was still less than ideal, “in his house and over all that he had the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house.” Pause there. Joseph did all things well. His circumstance did not dictate his attitude. He did what was right. He was faithful. He was found faithful. And God blessed…not Joseph, but the Egyptian and the Egyptian’s house. We can rightly assume the same thing about the prison. Joseph did all things well. His circumstance did not dictate his attitude. He did what was right. He was faithful. He was found faithful. And God blessed…not Joseph, but the prison and the keeper of the prison. Just think on that for a while. It was less than an ideal circumstance, the circumstance does not change for Joseph, but God blessed everyone around Joseph “for Joseph’s sake.”
But there was Potiphar’s wife and Joseph caught her eye. Joseph was handsome and perhaps beyond handsome. Both he and his mother Rachel are the only people in Genesis called beautiful such as this (cf. 29:17). And after a time, Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me’” (39:7). Just listen to verse eight. “But he refused.” Notice the word refused. It has the connotation to reject something because it was distasteful and not only that, but Joseph maintained this kind of refusal. It is not that he found Potiphar’s wife distasteful. It was the sin. This was another man’s wife. How do we know that this was sin or that Joseph thought it sin and distasteful? Listen to part of his maintained refusal. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9b). There is the rather biggest question of all. Joseph’s refusal is thirty-five words long; the only record of Joseph opening his mouth in the entire chapter. And he calls sin for what it is: sin.
Why did Joseph maintain this refusal? Listen to verse ten. “And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.” This temptation, this proposal was daily. Where was Joseph to turn? He was stuck. But day after day he just said no, and if not to her directly, it was to himself. See 1 Corinthians 10:13-14.
Joseph Then Runs Like the Wind
But one day it was not just another day. It felt like another day. It felt like another day in a less than ideal circumstance until temptation had its hands around Joseph’s collar, literally. Potiphar’s wife could not take it anymore and she caught him by his garment. The word caught can mean to seize or to seize by violence. And she spoke. “Lie with me.” Notice what Joseph does. There is no verbal refusal. Instead, Joseph runs like the wind and her grip was so tight on him, Joseph’s garment was ripped right from him (39:12).
‘Flee’ is a strong word. The Bible does not tell you to amble, meander, lope, or trot from your sin. It tells you to flee. Fleeing involves effort. It involves straining. It involves speed. You flee when you need to find and experience safety from a threat—a threat like a bear. You flee when it is too dangerous to remain where you are, when standing still would put you in mortal peril. So, I am wondering, how do I flee from sin?
This, Genesis 39, is a particular sin, a sexual sin. But the Bible also tells us that each of us struggles with sin (Colossians 3:5). Each of us struggle with certain sins. Let’s call these certain sins the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1). Regardless, we are called to fight sin. So, I am wondering, how do I fight sin?
Joseph will be falsely accused. Potiphar’s wife had Joseph’s garment in his hand. She cries out for help and declares that she was the victim, that she was sexually assaulted by that “Hebrew” (39:14, 17). Her husband’s anger was kindled. He rightly could have put Joseph to death, instead he put him in prison. So, why did he not put Joseph to death, a non-Egyptian? Did he have some doubts?
But this all sounds so similar to Genesis 38. Genesis 38 is about a son of Jacob and another man’s wife. And the heart of it was sin, a sexual sin. Judah said yes to the temptation. And when we say yes to temptation, yes to sin there remains the offer of grace and mercy and forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:9). So, Genesis 38 helps us in what to do after we have said yes to sin. Genesis 39 though tells us to fight and flee from sin. Even in fighting and fleeing from sin, Joseph will still end up in a less than ideal circumstance. But regardless, it is better to fight and flee. So, how do I fight and flee from sin?
But the Lord was with Joseph
Four times in this chapter; twice when Joseph was in the house and twice when Joseph was in the prison; we are told that the Lord was with Joseph. The third time is my favorite though. “But the Lord was with Joseph.” Buts “are small hinges on which great truth swings. Always ponder when you are given a hinge.” How do I fight and flee from sin? Think back to Joseph’s refusal of Potiphar’s wife. “By giving the proposition its right name of wickedness he made truth his ally, and by relating all to God he rooted his loyalty to his master deep enough to hold.” Joseph made truth his ally and related all to God. So, again, how do I fight and flee from sin?
God’s Word. See 2 Peter 1:3-4; 9-11.
God’s People. See Hebrews 3:13-14.
God Himself. This is so incredible. Four times we are told that the Lord was with Joseph. And each time the divine name Lord is in all capital letters – YHWH. Now get ready. Listen to Matthew 1:21. This the Christmas message. “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” So, how do I fight and flee from sin? It is not without knowing Jesus! The name Jesus literally means “YHWH saves,” or “YHWH is salvation.” And what does Jesus do? He saves his people from their sins. And who was with Joseph in the house and in the prison? But there is more. Four times we are told that the Lord was with Joseph. Listen to Matthew 1:23. This is the Christmas message. Speaking of Jesus, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” And what does Immanuel mean? “God with us.” Who is Jesus? He is YHWH, the Lord who is with me! So, who do I fight and flee from sin? It is not without Jesus! Be reminded of Matthew 28:20. For those who know Jesus, “Behold, I am with you always, to the very end.” (cf. John 14:23; 2 Corinthians 4:7-11; 14-16).
 Derek Kidner, Genesis, page 201.