• | Chris McCann
  • Audio: Length: 22:51
  • Passages covered: Genesis 39:1-6,20, Genesis 37:28,35-36, Genesis 40:1-2, Exodus 2:14, Isaiah 9:6, 1Kings 1:19.

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Genesis 39 Series, Study 1, Verses 1-6

Good evening, and welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the book of Genesis.  Tonight is study #1 in Genesis 39, and we will be reading Genesis 39:1-6:

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. And JEHOVAH was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that JEHOVAH was with him, and that JEHOVAH made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 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. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that JEHOVAH blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of JEHOVAH was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. 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 will stop reading there.  This is really a continuation of what we were reading back in chapter 37.  Let us go back there to pick up the context for Genesis 39.  Joseph had been sent by his father Jacob to check on his brethren, and they were in Dothan.  He found them in Dothan, and there his brothers hatched a plan out of spite and wickedness to slay their brother, but they threw him alive into a pit, and Rueben thought to come back later and deliver him from the pit.

But while Reuben was away, some Ishmaelite traders came by, and Judah said, “What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites.”  And that is exactly what they did.  We read in Genesis 37:28:

Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

We cannot help but notice that Joseph, a great type of Christ, is being sold for twenty pieces of silver, and in the Gospel accounts it was Judas who betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver.  What ties that together besides the fact that they were both sold is the fact that it was Judah who came up with the idea to sell him to the Ishmaelites.  And “Judas” is the Greek form of the name “Judah,” so God was definitely drawing a parallel to draw our attention to that through this transaction.

Then Rueben returned and found out what they had done, and he rent his clothes.  Then they went back to their father and told him the lie that Joseph had been killed by some evil beast, although they did not say that directly.  Instead they showed Jacob the coat of Joseph, which they had dipped in the blood of an animal.  They did not say it directly, but they were certainly deceptive, and Jacob assumed that Joseph had been killed, and it says in Genesis 37:35-36:

And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.

You can see how this is pretty much what we are reading in Genesis 39:1, so chapter 38 was like a very large parenthetical statement between chapters 37 and 39. 

Going back to Genesis 39:1:

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.

Then we read about how prosperous Joseph was there, and the Lord made a point to tell us that everything he set his hand to was prosperous because God blessed it.  And Potiphar noticed, and he set Joseph over his whole house because he saw that he was doing an excellent job of caring for his household.

But more than that, Potiphar recognized that things were going far better than ever before, and he “put two and two together,” and he was able to recognize that it was because of Joseph, the young man he had just purchased.  And keep in mind that Joseph was only 17 years old when his brothers sold him to the Ishmaelite traders.  Probably only about two weeks had passed since the transaction in chapter 37, and now he was in Egypt, and he was bought by Potiphar. 

His age of 17 is significant because we know, if we look ahead, Joseph will be going to prison from Potiphar’s house.  Then one day he will be lifted up out of prison to appear before a different Pharaoh who will lift him up to second in command over all Egypt, and that will be when Joseph is 30 years old, a period of just 13 years.  It is not too incredible because this is the Bible, and God is a God of design.  We see design in all creation, so we are not surprised to see design in the Scriptures, and we find that design when we compare spiritual with spiritual, and Scripture with Scripture, and we see the incredible harmony in the Bible.  That is what allows us to come to truth as the Holy Spirit teaches.

So God has built into this account of Joseph information that will be significant at the time of the end of the world, our present time.  We will see it when Jacob appears before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh will ask him how old he is, and he will tell him that he is 130 years old.  The number “130” is “10 x 13,” and that happens to be the second year after the seven-year famine had begun, and that allows us to know how old Joseph was at that point.  Joseph was 30 when he came out of prison, and then he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, and he told him there would be seven years of plenty, and there would be seven years of famine.  So after the first seven years, Joseph would be 37, and then after two years Jacob entered into Egypt, and he was 130, and Joseph was 39.  So the number “130” breaks down to “10 x 13,” or the super-fullness, or completion, of God’s plan for the time of the end.  And the number “39” is “3 x 13,” or the purpose of God for the time of the end. 

So we see that from the point that Joseph was carried into Egypt until he was lifted up in exultation was 13 years, calculating from his age of 17 to aged 30.

Again, it says in Genesis 39:1:

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.

This tells us that Potiphar was a very important man, a captain of the guard, an officer under Pharaoh.  He was certainly a powerful man and a man of authority.

The Hebrew word translated as “captain” is also a word translated as “chief.”  It says in Genesis 40:1-2:

And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.

The word “chief” is a translation of the same Hebrew word translated as “captain,” so it was the captain of the butlers and the captain of the bakers.  It is translated as “chief” because when we hear the word “captain” we think of someone that is over authority of an army.

Then it says in Genesis 39:3-4:

And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound. And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.

So we see the same word “captain” that we see in Genesis 39:1.  So Pharaoh put the chief butler and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.  That is telling us that within the house of the captain of the guard was a prison.  We would have to come to that conclusion.  It is not that his house was the prison, but it was a part of his house.  I think we will understand this better once we identify the spiritual meaning of the captain of the guard being Potiphar.

Of course this is God’s book, the Bible, and He speaks in parables, so we will have to learn who Potiphar, the captain of the guard, represents.  But just note that Pharaoh put the chief butler and chief baker in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.  Then it says, “And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.”  It gives us the idea that the relationship between Potiphar and Joseph continued after Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison.  I think that will also become a little more understandable when we see who Potiphar represents.

Again, we are looking at the Hebrew word translated as “captain,” and it is Strong’s #8269, and it is translated as “chief.”  It is also translated as “prince” in Exodus 2, referring to Moses after he tried to break up a fight between two Israelites.  It says in Exodus 2:14:

And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?...

This word translated as “prince” or “captain” is the word used in Isaiah 9 concerning the Messiah, in Isaiah 9:6:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

We could read that, “The Captain of Peace.” 

Another reference is one where it is translated as “captain,” where we can see the authority that this rank gives to a person.  It says in 1Kings 1:19:

And he hath slain oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the sons of the king, and Abiathar the priest, and Joab the captain of the host: but Solomon thy servant hath he not called.

Joab was the captain of the host, and Joab was the General.  He was the captain over the whole army of Israel.

Let us look at one more verse where we will see something else interesting.  It says in Genesis 39:20:

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. But JEHOVAH was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

The word “keeper” is the word for “captain,” so there was another man who was specifically the captain of the prison, but Potiphar was the captain of the guard.  It appears that this special prison is where the king’s prisoners were found.  This was not the common prison, but this was a prison for powerful people, and Potiphar, the captain of the guard, was set over that prison which was joined to his house.  And he turned Joseph over to the “keeper” or “captain” of the prison, so maintaining the prison was his only role.

We will stop here.  It is always good to reread things when we study the Bible, and whenever I start a Bible study, I read the passage again.  And as we go over something, we continue to read that same passage several times, perhaps, and that is good and helpful.  We keep praying for wisdom: “O, Lord, open our understanding, and help us to see what is in view with Joseph being brought down into Egypt.” 

First, Joseph was in Potiphar’s house, the captain of the guard, and then he was thrown into prison.  But we are going to concentrate for the most part on the role of Joseph in Potiphar’s house, and how it goes “all wrong,” despite the fact that Joseph did things in a right way.  He did everything perfectly.  We will find the answer to who-represents-who, spiritually, when we understand Potiphar’s wife and how she acts, and her tempting of Joseph, and her flawed character as an adulterous and deceitful wife.  Through her lies Joseph will finally be thrown into prison, and we will see who Potiphar represents and the spiritual meaning of this chapter. 

We will look at this further in our next Bible study in the book of Genesis.