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 Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. – Genesis 39:1-6 ESV
The story of Joseph is picked back up in chapter 39 after a brief, but sordid look into the domestic difficulties of his brother, Judah. The last thing we were told about Joseph in chapter 37 was that, upon arrival in Egypt, he had been sold to an Egyptian military officer, a captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Chapter 38 reveals that life was going on “as usual” for Joseph’s brothers. They acted as if nothing had ever happened, knowing full well that their younger brother was now most likely a slave in Egypt. But Judah is provided as an example of just what was going on in the lives of Joseph’s brothers while he was suffering the painful outcome of their intense hatred for him. While they had rid themselves of Joseph, their lives were going to be far from easy. And their decision-making capabilities would continue to be far from stellar. Judah ended up marrying a Canaanite woman, with whom he had three sons. Er, the firstborn, would be put to death by God for his wickedness. Onan, Er’s brother, refused to provide his widow with an heir, choosing to “spill his seed on the ground” rather than impregnate her. So God killed him as well. Judah promised Tamar, the widow, that he would give her to his youngest son when he was of age. But Judah never kept his promise. So Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and tricked Judah into having sex with her. The result was a pregnancy and, ultimately, the birth of two twin sons, Perez and Zerah. Judah’s life had been far from a fairy tale after the dreamer was gone. It had turned into a nightmare.
But meanwhile, Joseph had gone from favored son to the life of a slave living in a foreign country, far from home. Yet four times in this chapter, Moses uses the phrase, “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2 ESV). Even though he was many miles from home and had been rejected by his own brothers, Joseph was far from alone. The very One who had given him the dreams was with him and was going to see that those dreams became reality. It is interesting to note that chapter 38 provides a glimpse of Judah, choosing to live outside the will of God by selling his brother into slavery and then marrying a Canaanite, a pagan who did not worship Yahweh. He would suffer greatly for his choices. Yet Joseph, who had been treated unfairly by his brothers and sold into slavery, was well within the will of God and would enjoy His divine favor – even hundreds of miles away from his family and home. Living obediently within the will of God is always the safest place for His children to be. Joseph was going to discover the joy of discovering that God’s presence and blessings are not limited by time or space. Distance is not a difficulty for God. Joseph may have been miles from home, but His God was right beside him.
And God’s presence in Joseph’s life was far more than a warm, fuzzy feeling. It manifested itself in tangible, practical ways. Moses tells us, “the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had” (Genesis 39:3-4 ESV). God’s favor on Joseph showed up in the form of blessings on his life and those blessings flowed out, impacting the lives of all those around Joseph. Potiphar ended up getting far more than he had bargained for when he had purchased Joseph at the slave market. He had bought a slave, but little did he know that what he really got was a servant of God.
The blessing of God on Joseph’s life is an ongoing theme in this story. And it goes all the way back to the original promise that God had made to Abraham when He had called him out of Ur. “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3 ESV). While we know that this promise was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham, it was also partially fulfilled in Joseph. In a real way, Joseph had been cursed by his own brothers. He was a descendant of Abraham and yet had been treated as nothing more than property, sold into slavery for 20 shekels of silver. He had been betrayed by his own, just as Jesus would be centuries later. Judas would be paid 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus to the Jewish religious leaders. And yet, Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers would result in blessings on him and on all those around him. And as we will see as the story unfolds, God was going to utilize the forsaken and forgotten Joseph to fulfill His promise to make of the descendants of Abraham a great nation.
God extended favor to Joseph and Potiphar was a beneficiary of those divine blessings. As a result, he made Joseph the overseer of his entire household. “From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field” (Genesis 39:5 ESV). But where God blesses, the enemy wants to bring destruction. Jesus said of Satan, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10a NLT). Satan is always out to destroy the servants of God. He wants to turn God’s blessings into curses. And Satan will use everything and everyone he can to counter God’s good intentions in the lives of His children. While we live on this earth, we will always find God’s good favor directly opposed by the enemy’s evil intentions. God gave Joseph dreams. Satan gave Joseph’s brothers visions of revenge and retribution. God showed Joseph favor. Satan will use Potiphar’s wife to show Joseph unwanted attention. The hand of God on the life of one of His children will always bring the hatred of the enemy. The favor of God will always solicit the full brunt of Satan’s fury and his spiritual forces. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty power” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).