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Ge 39:1-23. JOSEPH IN POTIPHAR'S HOUSE.
1. Potiphar--This name, Potiphar, signifies one "devoted to the
sun," the local deity of On or Heliopolis, a circumstance which fixes
the place of his residence in the Delta, the district of Egypt
bordering on Canaan.
2. he was in the house of his master--Those slaves who had been war captives were generally sent to labor in the field and subjected to hard treatment under the "stick" of taskmasters. But those who were bought with money were employed in domestic purposes, were kindly treated, and enjoyed as much liberty as the same class does in modern Egypt.
3. his master saw that the Lord was with him--Though changed in condition, Joseph was not changed in spirit; though stripped of the gaudy coat that had adorned his person, he had not lost the moral graces that distinguished his character; though separated from his father on earth, he still lived in communion with his Father in heaven; though in the house of an idolater, he continued a worshipper of the true God.
5. the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake,
&c.--It might be--it probably was--that a special, a miraculous
blessing was poured out on a youth who so faithfully and zealously
served God amid all the disadvantages of his place. But it may be
useful to remark that such a blessing usually follows in the ordinary
course of things; and the most worldly, unprincipled masters always
admire and respect religion in a servant when they see that profession
supported by conscientious principle and a consistent life.
7. his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph--Egyptian women were not kept in the same secluded manner as females are in most Oriental countries now. They were treated in a manner more worthy of a civilized people--in fact, enjoyed much freedom both at home and abroad. Hence Potiphar's wife had constant opportunity of meeting Joseph. But the ancient women of Egypt were very loose in their morals. Intrigues and intemperance were vices very prevalent among them, as the monuments too plainly attest [WILKINSON]. Potiphar's wife was probably not worse than many of the same rank, and her infamous advances made to Joseph arose from her superiority of station.
9. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?--This remonstrance, when all inferior arguments had failed, embodied the true principle of moral purity--a principle always sufficient where it exists, and alone sufficient.
14. Then she called unto the men of her house--Disappointed and
affronted, she vowed revenge and accused Joseph, first to the servants
of the house, and on his return to her lord.
20. Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison--the
roundhouse, from the form of its construction, usually attached to the
dwelling of such an officer as Potiphar. It was partly a subterranean
though the brick-built walls rose considerably above the surface of the
ground, and were surmounted by a vaulted roof somewhat in the form of
an inverted bowl. Into such a dungeon Potiphar, in the first ebullition
of rage, threw Joseph and ordered him to be subjected further to as
great harshness of treatment
as he dared; for the power of masters over their slaves was very
properly restrained by law, and the murder of a slave was a capital
21-23. The Lord . . . gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison, &c.--It is highly probable, from the situation of this prison (Ge 40:3), that the keeper might have been previously acquainted with Joseph and have had access to know his innocence of the crime laid to his charge, as well as with all the high integrity of his character. That may partly account for his showing so much kindness and confidence to his prisoner. But there was a higher influence at work; for "the Lord was with Joseph, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper."