Genesis 39:1-6


Verse 1, And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

I.    Sold into Egypt.

A.     Joseph could have been sold into any nation, but God intervened for the good of Israel.

B.     This act of buying and selling a "common" slave is the beginning of the destruction of Egypt.

1.       To the Ishmaelites and Midianites, the transaction is simply a matter of making a living.

2.       In a few short years, this slave will be buying and selling Egypt!


II.    Sold to Potiphar.

A.     His name means "who is of the sun", or "a fat bull".

1.       The name reveals that Potiphar was a religious man, according to Egypt.

2.       One commentary stated that Potiphar was a eunuch, though married.  I don't know where that information came from.

B.     He is an officer of Pharaoh, and captain of the guard, and an Egyptian.

1.       God allowed Joseph to be trained in the house of Pharaoh.

2.       Later, He will allow Moses to be trained in the house of one of Pharaoh's officers and guards.

3.       It is very interesting how God always prepares us today for the things He wants us to perform tomorrow.

a.       We should never despair over our circumstances, because God is using those circumstances as a proving ground for greater victories.

b.       Nothing happens by chance, but providence rules over all.

C.     There is no mention of the price paid for Joseph.

1.       If the Ishmeelites were any kind of businessmen, they sold him for more than they bought him.

2.       There is no purpose in us knowing how much Potiphar paid for Joseph.


Verse 2, And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

I.    Notice the three steps in Joseph's life.  This progression will be discussed as the study progresses.

A.     Verse 2 - The LORD was with Joseph.

B.     Verse 3 - His master saw that the LORD was with him.

C.     Verse 4 - Joseph found grace in his sight.  He was first made overseer, then after a period of time when Joseph proved himself, Potiphar left all in his hand.

D.     Note that Joseph could work with many types of people, even though he was a very young man.

1.       In Potiphar's house, he worked with other servants, and with the various businessmen in the area.

2.       In verse 23, Joseph is working with prisoners in prison.

3.       These are two very different groups of people, and the way of dealing with them are vastly different.

4.       If we are going to be successful for God, we must learn how to deal with many different types of people.

E.      It is very important to notice that Joseph's advancement in Egypt was not accomplished overnight.

1.       Gen. 37:2 - Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold in slavery.

2.       Gen. 41:46 - Joseph was 30 years old when he was made second in command in Egypt.

3.       This means Joseph has spent 13 years in Egypt when he is made second in command.

4.       This 13 years can be divided into the time spent in Potiphar's house and the time spent in prison.

a.       It must not be important to know how much time was spent in each place, or God would have told us.

b.       There is really no way to know how much time was spent in each place, so there is really no need to try.

5.       The lesson is:  Do what is before you with all your might, and don't worry about advancement.

a.       Be a good employee, and let God take care of your advancement.

b.       Don't gripe and bellyache about working conditions, but make the best of your situation.


II.    The LORD was with Joseph.

A.     This is the very beginning of all prosperity.

1.       We may think Joseph had special talent to rise to a great position in Egypt.

2.       Rom. 8:31 - If God be for us, who can be against us?

B.     A common misconception about slaves and servants.

1.       Those people who teach and believe that slaves (servants) are always black, or under great torment, are wrong.

2.       In the Bible, servants are sometimes very rich, and have great influence.

3.       The point that is forgotten today is that if the servants are well off the owner will also be well off.

4.       Companies that don't take care of their employees would do well to remember this fact.

5.       Give an example of David Woodall's Roto Rooter Company in Little Rock, AR.  He paid his men well, and he was also well off.

C.     Joseph became personally prosperous.

1.       The movie "Uncle Tom's Cabin" shows Negro slaves being beaten, and hated by their owners.

2.       There is no doubt this was true in some cases, but not in all.

3.       By the way, the Civil War was not over slavery, but "States Rights".  Check that out in history!

D.     The Lord made Joseph prosperous.

1.       Prosperity can be more than wealth, it can also be affluence, or generosity, or nobleness.

2.       God doesn't mind His people being prosperous.

3.       As a matter of fact, prosperity is a blessing from God.

E.      Look at Adam, whom God gave everything.

1.       Noah, who was rich enough to build a gigantic ark, and Abraham, who was very rich.

2.       Some people believe it is better to be poor because our minds won't be so involved with this world.

3.       Well, can't we trust God with our riches while we are diligent to look out for it?

F.      Joseph was called a man even though he was young.

1.       It is not age that makes a male a man, it is the way he conducts himself.

2.       A man can be 12 years old, while a child can be 50 years old.

G.     There is one thing to be found true here.

1.       If God has given a person the ability to be a leader, he will be a leader even if he is a slave.

2.       There are some people who make themselves leaders, then there are those people whom God has made leaders.

3.       Joseph was to be a leader and savior of Israel, therefore God gives him practice in small things that he might learn how to rule justly over others.

4.       He also learns how fragile leadership is.

5.       People can be for you one day and completely against you the next day.

6.       Joseph learns to trust God, just like we must learn to trust God if he puts us in a place of leadership.

7.       Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar learned the hard way that God sets up kings and takes them down.

8.       So we must learn that God sets us up and He takes us down.

9.       Let us never let leadership go to our heads, believing that we have the ability to lead anybody.

10.   Let us always trust God to give us the strength and ability to lead in His ways.


Verse 3, And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.

I.    The prosperity of Joseph was noticed.

A.     Potiphar wasn't a servant of God, but he saw that it was the Lord that had made Joseph prosperous.

1.       All prosperity is not caused by the LORD.

2.       Satan can also give prosperity.

B.     Potiphar didn't see that the Lord was with Joseph until he saw that he was a prosperous man.

1.       Potiphar was not a spiritual man, but he could see the results of a spiritual presence.

2.       People in this world are not spiritual, but they can see the results of a spiritual presence in our lives.

C.     I think it is very good that Potiphar saw the ability Joseph had didn't come from within Joseph, but that it came from God.

1.       This is very remarkable indeed, when we consider that Potiphar didn't serve God.

2.       Notice that Potiphar evidently knew who God was, even though he didn't serve Him.

3.       Years later, when Potiphar is dead, and Joseph is dead, and all those Egyptians who know Joseph is dead, and Moses comes before Pharaoh, he asks, "Who is God that I should obey Him?"

4.       Time has a way of causing people to forget who God is and what power He has.

5.       Let us be careful lest we also forget who He is, for if we don't know, who will teach our children??


Verse 4, And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

I.    Joseph found grace.

A.     Joseph received what he didn't deserve.

1.       This is the definition of grace.

2.       Joseph wasn't a good manager, God made him to prosper.

B.     Potiphar made Joseph the overseer of his house, but didn't accept God as his Saviour.

1.       There is a great difference in people knowing that we belong to the Lord, and making the Lord their Savior.

2.       The results will be seen in the future when trials and troubles come.

3.       See what happened to Joseph when Potiphar's wife lied about Joseph.

4.       This wouldn't have happened if Potiphar had accepted God along with Joseph.


II.    Potiphar put everything he had in Joseph's hand.

A.     This probably isn't a very good idea.

1.       The owner of the property is the only one that can really look after it.

2.       Most employees are more willing to go home, than to continue working.

B.     Potiphar had a great respect for the work of Joseph.

1.       Potiphar isn't a "Johnny come lately" as far as managing his estate is concerned.

2.       Potiphar is a very important, wealthy, man in Egypt.

3.       His great respect for Joseph's work lets him feel free to trust Joseph with all his earthly possessions.

4.       We really don't know if Joseph told Potiphar why he was a slave, or if Potiphar ever asked.  Anything along this line would be pure conjecture.


Verse 5, And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.

I.    Note the marked increase in Potiphar's house and field.

A.     Potiphar is being blessed because of Joseph.

1.       There is no doubt that Potiphar know all this.

2.       Yet in spite of all these blessings, Potiphar didn't trust Joseph.

3.       In verse 19 and 20, Potiphar put Joseph in prison without hearing whether he was innocent or guilty.

B.     Gen. 30:27 - Laban learned that God blessed his house because of Jacob.

1.       Godly people are a blessing to those around them.

2.       The people of the world may not know this, but it is so.

3.       The only reason God hasn't destroyed this world is because of the Godly people who live in it.

a.       For proof, see Abraham's prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah.

b.       If God could find 10 righteous people, the cities would be spared, but they couldn't be found.


Verse 6, And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

I.    This is usually not a very good idea.

A.     Employees usually do not look after the employers affairs as good as the employers would.

B.     Potiphar didn't leave everything in Joseph's hand as soon as he made him overseer.

1.       There was a trial period where Potiphar watched how Joseph handled various situations.

2.       As times passed, Potiphar gave Joseph more and more responsibility, until finally, Joseph was taking care of everything, and Potiphar was doing something.


II.    Potiphar was a very good manager.

A.     Delegation of authority is a very good idea.

B.     It frees the employer from all the details of everyday business, allowing him the time to enlarge the business, or work on other projects.