Genesis 39:7-23

How to Handle Criticism


Thoughts on the overall subject matter:

I.    When somebody is going to get you, they will.

II.    Fame and position are fleeing.  Those people who put you into a position of leadership will just as quickly take you out of that position of leadership.

A.     Tell the story about the man who married a wife, and loved her so much, he could eat her up: and two weeks later, wished he had!

B.     Many churches readily accept a new pastor, but soon reject his Godly, Biblical leadership because they have not accepted the leadership of Christ.


Verse 7, And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

I.    Verse 6 states that Joseph was a goodly person, and well favored and verse 7 states that Mrs. Potiphar "cast her eyes upon Joseph".

A.     Genesis 29:17 states that Leah was tender eyes; but Rachel was well favored.

1.       This means that Leah was not physically well-proportioned, while Rachel was.

2.       There are a lot of people who are attracted to the opposite sex because of physical attributes, not because of their personality, or desire to obey God.

3.       When the physical attractiveness wears off, the relationship is ended.

4.       Many marriages end up in failure because gratification of the flesh is sought instead of God's will.

B.     Physical beauty has its drawbacks.

1.       If Joseph had been ugly, Mrs. Potiphar would probably have left him alone.

2.       Sometimes beautiful people are accepted because of their beauty, not their qualifications.

3.       Sometimes beautiful people think their beauty makes them better than other less beautiful people.

4.       Beauty contests are bad.

a.       There are beauty contests for babies, adolescents, teenagers, and grown women.

b.       The bathing suit (partial nudity) part of the contests tells what the beauty contests is really all about, unless minds are duped by compromise.


II.    Proverbs 6:26 - An evil woman uses sex to seek for and destroy the precious life in a man.

A.     She doesn't want sex simply for the sake of sex.

1.       She wants sex so she could wreck Joseph's thinking processes, his life, and his heart.

2.       This is exactly what happens today when young people engage in premarital sex.

a.       Their thinking process is warped.

b.       They must accept their sinful act, or reject it.

c.       Most people accept it, thereby rejecting the Bible and Godly values.

d.       Thus their life is destroyed.

B.     Proverbs 7:6-23 - This is the method Mrs. Potiphar used to destroy the life of Joseph.

1.       She was clothed with the attire of a harlot, for she was willing to give her body to someone other than her husband.

2.       She came to Joseph when her husband was away.

3.       She had prepared her bed with adulteries.

C.     Proverbs 9:13-18 - This is a picture of Mrs. Potiphar.

1.       She is a very foolish woman, for she doesn't believe in the consequences of sin.

2.       She sits at her door, waiting for some fool to come by.

3.       She tells them that what she has to offer is better than they can receive from their wives.

4.       She will commit adultery with anybody.

5.       Joseph just happens to be there.

D.     This may have been a singular incident, but I really doubt it.

1.       This woman was probably continuously flirting with sin, and it was well known to everybody who knew anything.

2.       There is little doubt in my mind that everybody knew what kind of woman she was.


Verse 8,9, But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

I.    Joseph tried using logic on Mrs. Potiphar, but this did not work because she approached Joseph by her feelings, not logic or reason.

A.     Joseph considered the authority and responsibility Potiphar had given him as a very great and noble thing.

1.       He didn't want to take advantage of his position or his owner.

2.       He was a very good employee.

3.       This authority and responsibility meant nothing to Mrs. Potiphar.


II.    Joseph was more concerned with sinning against God than anything else.

A.     Proverbs 6:27 - Adultery and fornication is like taking fire into your bosom.

1.       I Cor. 3:16,17 - Our bodies are the temple of God, for the Holy Spirit lives within us.  If we defile the physical body, God will destroy us.

2.       Sexual sins are against the physical body, bringing death and disease.

B.     Sexual sins, like all sins, separate us from God.


Verse 10, And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

I.    The attack upon Joseph did not happen just once, but time after time.

A.     Joseph had opportunity to think about his refusing her, and the physical pleasure the few moments of sin would give him.  He decided more and more that it was not worth it.

B.     Satan can often wear us down by constantly bombarding us with sins.

1.       II Peter 2:7-9 - This is what happened to Lot.

2.       Lot and his family was brought to physical destruction because he remained in evil circumstances that surrounded him.


II.    Proverbs 6:20-24 - These verses were not written yet, but Joseph applied the principles taught here.

A.     Just because God's Word was not completely written, doesn't mean God's Word was not complete in His heart, or in the heart of true believers.

B.     Anybody who truly seeks to follow God will obey the written commandments of God, even if they don't know those commandments are in the Bible.

C.     When the Spirit of God leads a child of God, He will always lead according to the Bible.


III.    There were two things Joseph did.

A.     He did not consent to lie with her.

B.     He didn't even want to be around her.

1.       Joseph tried to avoid day by day contact with her.

2.       This is just about all a man can do.

3.       But we must remember that Mrs. Potiphar was trying daily to come into contact with him.


Verse 11, And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.  And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

I.    It might have been, that if enough time has passed by, Potiphar's wife would have given up on Joseph.

A.     Providence so moved that she didn't have time to get interested in somebody else before there was opportunity to seduce Joseph.


II.    There were no men present.

A.     I wonder if there were any women present.

B.     Mrs. Potiphar didn't call the women together to tell them her lie.


III.    Caught him by his garment.

A.     This is nothing more than attempted rape.

B.     If she had used different tactics, she might have overcome Joseph.

1.       Proverbs 7:21 - Note the word "forced".

2.       This verse describes the way a woman rapes a man.

3.       It has absolutely nothing to do with the way a wife makes love to her husband.

C.     God caused Mrs. Potiphar to use the wrong tactics.

1.       Joseph might have fallen into sin if Mrs. Potiphar had used her eyes (Proverbs 6:25) and speech (Proverbs 7:21) instead of her hands.

2.       I Cor. 10:13 - God gave Joseph a way out of the temptation because he had tried to stay away from Mrs. Potiphar and her wickedness.

3.       God will do the same thing for us.

4.       If we will simply obey His commandments and try to stay away from evil, God will open a door at the right time so we will have a way to escape temptations.


Verse 13, And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,

I.    This is the best thing to do when sin rears its ugly head.

A.     It is impossible to "look toward sin" and God at the same time.

1.       We must turn our back on sin in order to face God.

2.       It is impossible to think about sin and practice righteousness at the same time.

3.       We will love either one or the other, but never love both.

B.     Don't think you can engage in sin and still overcome it, for whoever sins is overcome of sin.


II.    Left his garment.

A.     For a discussion of the garments of Joseph see the notes on Genesis 37:33, II., A., B., C., D.

B.     If Joseph hadn't left this garment, there would have been no proof he had even been in the house.

1.       It would have been possible, I suppose, for Mrs. Potiphar to have stolen the garment from Joseph's closet.

2.       There is no record at all that she ever tried to seduce Joseph in his home.


Verse 14, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:  And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.

I.    When somebody is going to get you, they will.

A.     When people tell lies about you, they will tell everybody but you.

B.     There is nothing you can do when people make up their minds to lie about you.

1.       If you try to talk to them, you are in trouble, or if you don't talk to them you are in trouble.

2.       Don't criticize Joseph because he didn't try to straighten the lie out.


II.    She called the men of the house together.

A.     Why didn't she call the women of the house together?

1.       There is no mention of women being in the house in any of these verses.

2.       Her purpose in telling the men was to get them on her side so she could hurt Joseph.

3.       She knew she couldn't procure the help of the women as quickly or as effectually as the men.

B.     Mrs. Potiphar was very crude to mention "the attempted affair" in the presence of these men.

1.       A careful reading will show that these men were not consulted by Potiphar or anybody else.

2.       She reminds me of a woman who is trying to stir up trouble.

3.       She wants these men to be jealous of her.


III.    There is no doubt in my mind that the other servants knew Joseph was innocent, but they didn't say anything.

A.     Their position was in danger because of the VIP who told the lie.

B.     If you have enough pull or can put enough pressure on others, you can get away with almost anything.

C.     A person will lie to cover up evil deeds and thoughts.

1.       If there was nobody in the house when the woman screamed, why did Joseph get afraid and run away?

2.       Notice how noble the woman appears and how terrible Joseph appears. 

3.       If Joseph had approached the woman, her clothes, not Joseph's, would be left behind or torn in some way. 


IV.    She mentioned that Joseph was a Hebrew.

A.     The Hebrews were not a powerful nation yet.

B.     The promise that God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:2,3 is true.

1.       The Bible doesn't record what happened to Potiphar or Mrs. Potiphar.

2.       But we can rest assured they were judged by God.


V.    Mrs. Potiphar blames her husband for Joseph being in the house.

A.     A person who wants to sin will always blame somebody else.

B.     In the Garden of Eden, everybody blamed somebody else for sinning, except the serpent, who didn't get a chance!


VI.    Note the word "mock", and the word "Hebrew", which is used in the explanation to the men of the house and Potiphar.

A.     The word Mrs. Potiphar uses means to laugh outright (in merriment or scorn), to sport, laugh, play make sport.

B.     The word can also mean:

1.       Proverbs 14:9, "Fools make a mock at sin..."  (The meaning is "to make mouths at", "to interpret, or intercede", "scorn", "teacher".  So the words means to change the meaning of what sin is so evil actions will be acceptable.)

2.       Matt. 20:19, Mark 10:34, Luke 14:29 - When Jesus was mocked.  (The meaning is "to jeer at", "to deride".)

C.     Mrs. Potiphar was saying that the Hebrew servant came "to laugh outright" at the morals of the Egyptians.

1.       It is very obvious that the persecution of the Jews has already begun.

2.       It is also very obvious that Mrs. Potiphar's religion is worthless, because she was "laughing outright" at the Hebrew religion.

a.       She is accusing Joseph of what she would do if she had the chance!

b.       Please notice this principle:  What people think others are doing is what they would do if they had the opportunity.


Verse 16-19, And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.  And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:  And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.  And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.

I.    She laid up Joseph's garment as evidence.

A.     Joseph's blood soaked garment was evidence to Israel that Joseph was torn into pieces by wild animals.

B.     Joseph's garment in the hands of Mrs. Potiphar was evidence that Joseph was tried to seduce her.

C.     Neither story was true.

D.     Never fear, for the truth will one day be told.


II.    Some people will more readily believe a lie than the truth.

A.     Proverbs 6:29-35 - Potiphar fulfilled these verses because he thought Joseph was guilty.

1.       He had a very sorry wife, but he was still influenced by her.

2.       There is no doubt that Potiphar was faithful to his stupid wife, and had no thought that she would be unfaithful to him.


III.    Potiphar believed his wife.

A.     He had no "choice" but to believe her.

1.       He would either believe her or Joseph.

2.       There is no record that he ever questioned Joseph.

B.     If he didn't believe his wife, he would have to investigate the incident.

1.       It is true that an investigation would reveal the truth.

2.       What husband would want to believe his wife had attempted to be unfaithful to him?


Verse 20, And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

I.    There is no record that Joseph ever defended himself.

A.     His master never gave him the chance.

1.       Potiphar took his wife's word for everything.

2.       She had already blamed him in front of the other men of the house, so he felt he had no choice.

B.     It is very possible that Joseph didn't know what Mrs. Potiphar had done until he was taken to prison.

1.       There is no record that anybody told Joseph what was going on.

2.       Joseph probably knew something bad was going to happen, but didn't know what or when or how.

C.     What would Joseph had done if he had known the lies Mrs. Potiphar was telling?

1.       He couldn't go to Potiphar, for Joseph would be telling the man his wife was not only a liar, but a cheat.

2.       He couldn't go to any of the men who heard Mrs. Potiphar's story, for they all worked for Potiphar and they would wind up in prison if they stood up for Joseph.

3.       Joseph probably didn't do anything, for there was really nothing he could do.

D.     When someone is going to "get you", they will dig a very "good" pit.

1.       The pit will be dug before you know it is happening.

2.       The person responsible for the pit being dug will have clean hands, but will make sure his helpers (those that do the actual digging) have dirty hands.

3.       The principle is this:

a.       Those with "dirty hands" know they are guilty.

b.       Those with "dirty hands" know their leader is also guilty.

c.       They cannot incriminate their leader without incriminating themselves.

d.       Their only way they can "save face" in the community is to load their guilt on an innocent party.


II.    When you are innocent.

A.     When you are cast out of your position because of evil, don't worry about it.

1.       Know that this has happened because God has something else in mind for you.

2.       We must have the proper attitude about these kinds of incidents because they are "training grounds".

3.       Your entire life will fit together so you will be the person God wants you to be.

B.     When people in authority declare guilt, it doesn't make it so.

1.       Sometimes people in authority mistakenly declare an innocent person guilty.

2.       Sometimes people in authority knowingly declare an innocent person guilty.

3.       I think if Potiphar had wanted the truth, he could have found it out, but he didn't search.


III.    The special prison.

A.     This is the prison where the king's prisoners are kept.

1.       This is necessary so Joseph will be in the position to interpret the butler and baker's dream.

2.       This also shows the "pull" Potiphar had in the government.

B.     Potiphar had such a deep hatred for Joseph that he did as bad as he could to him without killing him, which was against the law.

1.       Proverbs 6:32-35 - There is no limit to the vengeance of a jealous husband.

2.       Bible principles are true for the lost and saved alike.


Verse 21-23, But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.  And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.  The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.

I.    The LORD was with Joseph.

A.     Heb. 13:4-6 - Joseph did not commit adultery.

1.       He remained honorable in the sight of God, even if men didn't believe him.

2.       Joseph will not be judged by God, even if men erroneously judge him.

3.       God will never leave him, not forsake him, even if men forsake him.

4.       Joseph can say the Lord is his helper, even when he is cast out of a position of great importance into the king's prison.

B.     Joseph received mercy.

1.       Joseph didn't deserve mercy, even if we think he did.

2.       Mercy is that which we receive instead of justice.

3.       Joseph didn't earn favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison, God gave it to him.


II.    All of the comments that were made concerning Joseph in Potiphar's house can be said of Joseph in prison.  See the comments on Gen. 39:1-6.