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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Genesis 39

 

 

Verse 1

Genesis 39:1. And Joseph was brought down into Egypt — The history of Joseph is one of the most remarkable, interesting, and instructive of any contained in the Scriptures or elsewhere. It affords us the clearest evidence of the providence of God conducting all things with amazing and stupendous wisdom, and making them “work together for good to those that love him;” nay, and causing even the wickedness of men to become subservient to the accomplishment of its designs. One design of God, with regard to Joseph, was to raise him to such a degree of greatness and power, as should oblige his brethren to bow down humbly before him: his brethren opposed this, and meant to humble him: but what they did with this view was the first step by which God led him to elevation and glory; and the horrible calumny of his unchaste mistress, which seemed to complete his misfortunes, was the circumstance which advanced him almost to the throne! This may afford us great comfort under all our troubles, as we may from hence be assured that God can make whatever shall be designed against us the means of promoting our happiness.

The Jews have a proverb, If the world did but know the worth of good men, they would hedge them about with pearls. Joseph 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 he was designed for. What God intends men for, he will be sure, some way or other, to qualify them for.


Verse 2

Genesis 39:2. The Lord was with Joseph — Those that can separate us from all our friends cannot deprive us of the gracious presence of our God. When Joseph had none of his relations with him, he had his God with him, even in the house of the Egyptian: Joseph was banished from his father’s house, but the Lord was with him. 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. He was in the house of his master the Egyptian — He did not endeavour, as might have been expected, to effect an escape to his father, but demeaned himself patiently and faithfully in the station into which God’s providence had brought him.


Verse 3

Genesis 39:3. His master saw that the Lord was with him — Many of the heathen acknowledged a supreme God, and his overruling providence in the affairs of men, although they did not glorify him as God, but worshipped the creature with, and more than, the Creator: Potiphar, however, would doubtless learn from Joseph many things concerning the one living and true God; and proving by experience that his affairs prospered, and that Joseph ascribed this prosperity to the especial blessing of Jehovah, he might be inclined to believe that Jehovah blessed him for Joseph’s sake.


Verse 4

Genesis 39:4. He made him overseer over all that he had — Committed all to his care and management. But it may be asked how this could be, since Joseph understood not the Egyptian language? In answer to which it may be observed, that, undoubtedly, as soon as he came thither he would do his utmost to obtain the knowledge of that language, and being a person of good parts, would soon obtain it, especially as there was a great affinity between that language and his own. Besides, it is not to be supposed that Joseph was highly advanced at once, but step by step, and after some considerable time. For, considering Potiphar’s office and station, it is not likely that he would thus prefer Joseph till he had had full evidence of his fidelity, as well as of his ability to manage so great a trust.


Verse 6

Genesis 39:6. He knew not aught he had — Persuaded of Joseph’s faithfulness and diligence, and relying on his care, he took no part in the management of his own affairs, but left them wholly to this young but trusty Hebrew. The servant had all the care and trouble of the estate, and the master only the enjoyment of it. In this Potiphar is an example not to be imitated by any master, unless he could be sure that he had one like Joseph for a servant.


Verse 9

Genesis 39:9. How can I do this great wickedness? — How can I, to whom my master has shown so much kindness, when I was a poor, forlorn stranger from a foreign land, and was offered to him in the capacity of a slave; on whom he has conferred so many, and such great favours, keeping back from my enjoyment no part of his property but thee, because thou art his wife; — how can I be guilty of such ingratitude as thus to wound him in the tenderest part? How can I, in whom he has reposed such confidence, and to whom he has committed so great a trust as to make me steward and governor of all he has, thus shamefully deceive that confidence, and betray that trust? How can I be so unjust to him as to injure him, in a matter which of all others would give him the greatest pain, and rob him of his greatest and most valuable treasure, the affections and honour of his wife, and his own honour involved therein? How can I be so unkind and cruel to thee, as to countenance and entangle thee in so much guilt and wickedness, laying thee open to the daily reproaches of thy own mind, making an eternal breach and separation between thee and thy husband, and rendering thy whole future life a scene of bitterness and distress? How can I expose thee to the displeasure and wrath of the righteous Lawgiver and just Judge of all the earth, who is the everlasting avenger of all such crimes? And how can I, who profess to be a worshipper and servant of Jehovah, the God of truth, justice, and holiness, do any wickedness, especially such great wickedness as that of committing adultery with the wife of my bountiful benefactor and kind master? How can I thus sin, not only against my master, my mistress, myself, my own body and soul, but against God? — 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. They that love God for this reason hate sin.


Verses 10-12

Genesis 39:10-12. She spake to Joseph from day to day — Joseph was single, was in the vigour of youth, was a man of like passions with us, was solicited and importuned to gratify those passions, and that in a way that promised both present pleasure and profit, and by one on whom he was dependant, and whom it was dangerous to provoke; whose frown might be followed by great sufferings, and whose favour might advance and establish his prosperity: opportunity and privacy also were afforded. But Joseph feared God; Joseph believed in a judgment to come. He therefore denied himself, and would not, for the sake of those pleasures of sin which are but for a season, involve himself in the divine wrath, and in certain and lasting misery and ruin. Hence he hearkened not to her, so much as to be with her. Finding her dead to all sense of shame, and deaf to the calls of duty, honour, conscience, and the fear of God, and that she was not to be reclaimed, he avoided her company, being distrustful of himself. For those that would be kept from harm must keep out of harm’s way. And when she laid hold on him, he left his garment in her hand — He would not stay to parley with the temptation, but flew from it with the utmost abhorrence, as one escaping for his life.


Verse 20-21

Genesis 39:20-21. Where the king’s prisoners were bound — Potiphar, it is likely, chose that prison because it was the worst; for there “the irons entered into the soul,” <19A518>Psalms 105:18, but God designed it to pave the way to his enlargement. Our Lord Jesus, like Joseph, was bound, and numbered with transgressors. But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy. No gates nor bars can shut out his gracious presence from his people. God gave him favour in sight of the keeper of the prison — God can raise up friends for his people, even where they little expect them. The keeper saw that God was with him, and that every thing prospered under his hand, and therefore intrusted him with the management of the affairs of the prison.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Genesis 39:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/genesis-39.html. 1857.

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