A Kingly Slave
Genesis 39:1-6
And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian…

Scene, Memphis. Splendid architecture, chased in mimic forms of nature, amid feathery palms waving in the breeze. A red quivering heat, like a baker's oven, enswathing field and city. On the horizon gigantic pyramids of stone. Nearer to the eye calm, sleepy sphinxes, guarding the entry to palace and to temple. On the margin of the city an open market, with piles of fruit; bales of merchandise; slaves, for the most part, black as ebony; noisy hucksters; groaning camels. Among the Nubian slaves a fair Syrian youth attracts attention; realizes a high price, and passes into the hands of a pompous potentate. To the careless traffickers Joseph was simply a question of gain or loss — more money or less — an item of evanescent interest. But to Joseph it was a question of joy or ruin — a matter of life or death. An awful reversal this from the sunny atmosphere of home I Had God seen all this wrong-doing of men, and had He allowed it so far to succeed? Could it be that God was on the side of righteousness?


1. Outward circumstance is a trivial thing. "An officer of Pharaoh bought him of the Ishmaelites." It is a frightful degradation to be reduced to a chattel; yet it is only external degradation. But the man need not be degraded. Slavery may give scope for the play of noble principles. Integrity, faithfulness, goodness, piety, love, are untouched, are free to develop.

2. Man's judgment is often in opposition to God's.

3. In the darkest night true piety shines the more brightly. Doubtless, Joseph was "cast down," yet was he "not in despair." Instead of repining, he kept a brave heart. Here in Potiphar's mansion is one doing God's will as angels do it in heaven. There is a noble seraph within this apparent slave.

II. RELIGION BRINGS MEN INTO PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD. "The Lord was with him: the Lord made all that he did to prosper."

1. A good man is a mystery to onlookers. There is something about him which the world cannot understand. He is patient when others fume and fret. He is buoyant when others are submerged. An unseen Anchor hold his barque, let the storm howl as it may.

2. This superior factor in life is conspicuous. "His master saw that the Lord was with him." Such diligence, honesty, thoughtfulness, promptitude, were unusual, unconventional, superhuman. Some men have a trick of concealing their religion. Joseph allowed his light naturally to shine out.

3. God is an active Partner in honest work. The source of Joseph's prosperity is revealed: "The Lord made it to prosper." A merchant in feeble health once accounted for his successful conduct of a gigantic business by saying that God was his acting Partner. This is the fellowship of the Spirit. A true Christian is man plus God.

III. RELIGION MAKES A MAN A MEDIUM OF BLESSING TO OTHERS. "The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake." Potiphar is not even named: Joseph is everything.

1. A good man is the channel of good to others. Here is God's law of mediation. A man prospers in business through the prayers of a pious servant. A father is raised up from a bed of fever for the sake of a child. A husband is saved from moral wreck by the faith and love of a wife. The God-fearing are the salt of the earth. For Joseph's sake, the fields of Potiphar are fruitful.

2. Real prosperity embraces all the interests of mankind. "The blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house and in the field." The beneficent effect of religion is commensurate with man. It blesses domestic life, agriculture, commerce, politics, literature. It enhances all human joy; it soothes all human sorrow. It kindles a lamp in the darkness of the grave. It fills the heart with an immortal hope.

(J. Dickerson Davies, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Joseph was brought down to Egypt. Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites that had brought him down there.

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