Community Group Study “Genesis: In Potiphar’s House”
Read Genesis 39:1-23
How one reacts to suffering shows a great deal about who they are. When we last saw Joseph he was ambushed by his brothers and thrown into a pit waiting out his fate. The brothers debated on whether they should just outright kill him or make some money by selling him to slave traders. This action was motivated by hatred and jealousy. They resented their dad’s favoritism for Joseph which was displayed in Joseph’s “coat of many colors” and his apparent role of “snitch” since he was asked by his father to report back on the behavior of the brothers. The brothers also hated Joseph for his God given dreams. Joseph had dreams where he was ruling over his brothers and father. We see throughout the story that God gave him these dreams to help him endure the road ahead and to teach Joseph about his providence, however the brothers hated him for it. When the brothers see Joseph approaching them, they say “here comes that dreamer”…
Joseph is sold into slavery to a wealth Egyptian who was named Potiphar and he was an officer of Pharaoh and was the captain of the guard (Genesis 39:1). These become important details as the story moves forward since they will influence what kind of prison Joseph gets sent to and how God will work out his plan to move Joseph into a place of power.
We see an example of a faithful response to suffering in the story of Joseph. Instead of being filled with self-pity, Joseph maintains a faithfulness to God that is remarkable. He continued to serve God in his situation and God blessed him throughout his time in Potiphar’s house. Genesis 39 also has a symmetry to it to show us that even as Joseph suffers again, he has the same response when thrown into prison. The chapter begins with listing out how God was with Joseph and as it ends with how God was with Joseph even in prison.
God was “with Joseph”. Joseph became really successful in the home of Potiphar. The scripture tells us that he succeeded in all that he did because of the Lord’s favor and that he was put in charge of Potiphar’s home. Genesis 39:6 emphasizes that Joseph had the complete trust of Potiphar. It was a really good situation for a slave in the ancient world and Potiphar likewise benefited from he arrangement. As a modern day Christian, this is an interesting passage to explore what it could look like for a Christian to bless their work place and strive to honor God even through the hard realities they’ve faced. God was with Joseph and blessed him; and in response Joseph worked hard, succeeded and had the trust of his boss. The whole place thrived as Joseph sought to honor God in his suffering.
There was just one problem, apparently Joseph was really attractive. Genesis 39:6 uses the words “he was handsome in form and appearance” which are the same words used for Joseph’s mother Rachel in Genesis 29:17. Joseph’s form and appearance caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife who propositioned him to “lie with her” day after day. Joseph refused on the basis of both the trust he had with Potiphar and because of how great of a sin it would be against God (Genesis 39:9). Potiphar’s wife persisted and day after day tried to find an opportunity and one day the entire house was empty and she caught ahold of Joseph, presumably on his outer garment, like a coat (which should sound familiar for us based on past events in Joseph’s life!). As Joseph ran away from the home, his garment was left behind and quickly becomes evidence that identifies him. It is interesting to pause here and note the contrast to Judah from the previous chapter who left behind identifying objects after sleeping with Tamar. Joseph here chooses the righteous things, leaves behind an identifying object and suffers for it. Potiphar’s wife formulated a plan to get back at Joseph and waited with the garment until Potiphar came home. She accused Joseph of trying to rape her, and just like that Joseph faces another huge trial. In situations like this, the one with the most power usually has the loudest voice and Joseph finds himself descending the path of humility and brokenness as he gets sentenced to prison.
Even as Joseph is humbled by God, we need to recognize and remember that God is still with him. Notice what kind of prison he is sent to in verse 20! Joseph finds himself in the king’s prison, God will later use this to give him access to people who are around Pharaoh in a way that he would not have had if he got sent to a regular prison. Likewise, God is still with Joseph and we see almost the same exact pattern of blessing that we saw in Potiphar’s house take place in this new location. Joseph had God’s presence and steadfast love, he is put in charge of the prisoners, he is successful and had the trust of the guards. God finds a way to bless Joseph in whatever situation he finds himself in. Joseph remains faithful to God in his suffering and God is faithful to him.
Followers of Jesus have a similar promise of God’s steadfast love and presence in every aspect of their life. God has shown us his great love in Jesus and has given his people his presence in the Holy Spirit. Pray that God will use your situation to honor him and that you will recognize that God is faithful in your suffering and pray for God’s grace to respond faithfully to him.
Main idea: Faithfulness to God comes with a real cost in the life of Joseph, but God remained faithful to Joseph in his sufferings and was with him. Likewise, being obedient to God will not always result in “worldly good”, but God is steadfast his love and faithful to his people.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 39:1-23
Take some time as a group to describe Joseph’s faith in God based on the events of this passage. How does Joseph respond to the difficult circumstances in his life? What has happened previously in his life to enable him to endure?
This text of scripture shows us how God was with Joseph. Read Genesis 39:2-6 and Genesis 39:19-23. How are these passages similar? What is God trying to show us about the nature of his presence and his steadfast love?
How does this passage help us understand the resources God has given us to resist sin and potential temptation? Read passages like Romans 6:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 10:12-14. What resources does God give followers of Jesus to resist sin? Are there worldly consequences for resisting sin? How helps motivate believers to resist sin and embrace those consequences?