Genesis 39:19
When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is what your slave did to me," he burned with anger.
A Prisoner Kindly TreatedGenesis 39:19-23
Equanimity of CharacterJ. Foster.Genesis 39:19-23
Free Though BoundJ. S. Van Dyke.Genesis 39:19-23
God with His People in TroubleG. Lawson, D. D.Genesis 39:19-23
Integrity Repaid by ConfidenceJ. S. Van Dyke.Genesis 39:19-23
Joseph in PrisonA. H. Currier.Genesis 39:19-23
Joseph in PrisonT. H. Leale.Genesis 39:19-23
Joseph in PrisonHomilistGenesis 39:19-23
Joseph in PrisonC. M. Merry.Genesis 39:19-23
Joseph in PrisonJ. Dickerson Davies, M. A.Genesis 39:19-23
Joseph in PrisonD. C. Hughes, M. A.Genesis 39:19-23
Joseph in PrisonS. Cox, D. D.Genesis 39:19-23
Joseph's Conduct in the DungeonF. W. Robertson, M. A.Genesis 39:19-23
Life in a DungeonJ. Leyburn, D. D.Genesis 39:19-23
Providences of GodH. W. Beecher.Genesis 39:19-23
True ProsperityC. Overton.Genesis 39:19-23
Uses of AdversityDe Imitatione Christi.Genesis 39:19-23
When God Commands the Life All Goes WellOne Thousand New IllustrationsGenesis 39:19-23
The Righteous ManR.A. Redford Genesis 39

These occurrences in the family of Judah would seem

(1) to betoken the retributive judgment of God, and

(2) illustrate his grace. Joseph is lost, and still Divinely protected. Judah is a wanderer from his brethren; a sensual, self-willed, degenerate man; yet it is in the line of this same wanderer that the promised seed shall appear. The whole is a lesson on the evil of separation from the people of God. Luther asks why such things were placed in Scripture, and answers,

(1) That no one should be self-righteous, and

(2) that no one should despair, and

(3) to remind us that Gentiles by natural right are brothers, mother, sisters to our Lord; the word of salvation is a word for the whole world. - R.

But the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
A superior man will manifest his superiority in any situation. In slavery, in prison, in exile, his worth will be disclosed and acknowledged. Joseph was a remarkable example of this. Though a prisoner in name, he soon was the actual warden. I invite attention to some of the lessons taught us by the experience and demeanour of Joseph in prison. Consider —(1) What it is that gives one special power over men. Not great natural gifts merely, or original superiority of mind. Many people who possess these are without much influence. Neither is it the gifts of rank or fortune. Joseph had neither of these to commend him to favour. The Scriptures point to the true cause of his ascendency: "The Lord was with Joseph, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison"; and the latter committed to him the prisoners, "because the Lord was with him, and that which he did the Lord made it to prosper." Since he was a good man, and obviously enjoyed God's favour, he had influence and power over men. Right is mightier than wrong. As one clear, sweet voice singing in tune will bring a whole multitude of discordant voices into harmony with it, because it is right and they are wrong, and concord is superior to discord, so one godly man will prevail over many wicked. Men are always impressed by manifestations of a good conscience. They are persuaded that one who has a conscience void of offence toward God, is more likely to have one void of offence toward men also. His fidelity to his religious convictions wins their confidence. They will honour him, even though he vexes them by his scruples. Nicholas Biddle, we have been told, once had for a private secretary a Christian young man, whom he wished to keep at work on the Sabbath. The secretary objected to working on the Lord's Day. "I shall discharge you," said his employer, "if you do not conform to my wishes." The secretary was poor, and had, moreover, a widowed mother dependent upon him; but rather than violate his conscience by doing what he considered wrong, he gave up his place. A day or two after, Mr. Biddle was in the company of some gentlemen who proposed to start a new bank, and the question was, where should they find a suitable man to be its cashier? "I know of one," said Mr. Biddle; and he recommended to them his late secretary, saying, "He had too much conscience for my work, but none too much for the more responsible office you have." And through his recommendation the place was given to him. In no way can parents do so well for their children, or so certainly insure for them positions of power and influence, as by an early religious training.(2) Joseph's demeanour in prison teaches the duty of patient accommodation to the situation in which God has seemed to place us. Evidently he tried to make the best of his prison life. He does not yield to despair and refuse to see any hope of good. He is cheerful and helpful to all about him, displaying there, in that uncongenial place, the same serenity of mind and the same religious faith as elsewhere. He rested in the Lord, and waited patiently for the manifestation of His will, never fretting over the peculiar hardship of his case, nor complaining because he was the innocent victim of the wicked devices of another. He believed that God would take care of him, and deliver him out of all his troubles. Though he could not see, what we see, that his prison was only a necessary way-station in his path to the lordship of Egypt, yet he knew that God was there, and that where God was it was safe for him to be, and not ill. His faith sustained him.(3) Joseph's life in prison teaches that there is good work to be done everywhere. Joseph discovered new capabilities of service in that dismal office. He shed upon it a humane and softer light. He reformed old abuses and introduced new improvements. He did noble work there, work animated by pity and mercy; such work as we impute to angels in their ministries of compassion among the suffering and wretched. It was work, too, which blessed his soul in the doing of it, and which paved the way to that future greatness to which he was advancing. The same thing may be true of the worst situation in which a man may be placed. He can, if he will, ennoble it by good work; make it bright by deeds of love and mercy; make it a field of great usefulness to others, and tributary to his own subsequent advancement.(4) Joseph's life in prison illustrates how all things work together for good to them that love God. "I have done nothing," he said, "that they should put me into the dungeon." It seemed a hard case. He was there through the slanderous spite of a bad woman. Falsehood and wickedness seemed to have triumphed over truth and innocence. But it was only that the person in whom they were represented might be the more exalted. Joseph's case reveals how God can make everything bend to His purpose.

(A. H. Currier.)



1. He had a present reward (ver. 21).

2. His goodness was made manifest.

(T. H. Leale.)

I. THE TENDERNESS OF HIS SYMPATHY (vers. 6, 7). Suffering is absolutely necessary to capacitate us for sympathy.

II. THE PROFESSION OF HIS INNOCENCE. Of which notice the calmness and simplicity.

III. THE INTEGRITY OF HIS TRUTHFULNESS. Having undertaken the office of interpreter, he fulfilled it faithfully.

(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)


1. Joseph was the subject of cruel envy.

2. Joseph was the subject of the vilest calumny.


1. The approbation of his own conscience.

2. The respect of his circle.

3. The special presence of his God.


1. The evil passions of men.

2. The apparent accidents of life.

3. The mental visions of men.

4. The system of material nature.Lessons:

1. The shortness of our trials compared with our destiny.

2. The unimportance of worldly condition compared with our moral character.

3. Greatness, however depressed and obscured, must rise one day through all obstructions to its rightful sovereignty.


I. THE PRISON. Literally, "the round-house." Probably at first Joseph was confined in a dark and dismal subterranean "inner-prison," where (Psalm 105:18) he was put in irons. A gloomy condition! But this seemingly overwhelming misfortune is but one of the links by which a mysterious but all-wise Providence is to conduct him into ultimately far higher honours and far more important trusts.

II. JOSEPH'S IMPRISONMENT IS WHOLLY WITHOUT CAUSE. He was really suffering for his adherence to the right. He received the reward, which many have done since, of reproach, slander, and every injury, where the highest respect and honour were justly due. Instead of the admiration and lasting gratitude of his master, he was thrust into the prison, and his feet made fast in irons. But in this unwelcome and undeserved experience Joseph was but joining that illustrious company, swelled by subsequent ages to a mighty multitude, who have been made to suffer for well doing, many of whom have had to seal their testimony with their blood. The purest of all was "numbered with the transgressors."

III. How JOSEPH DEPORTED HIMSELF IN PRISON. True to his beautiful antecedents, even in this black midnight he was still his noble self.


1. Let me commend to your prayerful study the beautiful bearing and admirable spirit manifested by this young hero in this trying era in his extraordinary history.

2. Learn from this subject to be faithful under all circumstances, and to endeavour so to deport yourselves as to show forth a blameless and praiseworthy life.

(J. Leyburn, D. D.)

A strange place, we might say, for a saint of God to be in! And yet a place in which the saints of God have often been found; for the world hath frequently misjudged them, deeming ill of whom it should have thought well, and instead of loving them for the example of purity and goodness which they have afforded, has made them the victims of its suspicion and hate. Thus it has come to pass that the excellent of the earth, the men worthy of thrones and palaces, have been ofttimes thrust into dark and noisome dungeons. State records have their stories of illustrious prisoners; and so also have the annals of the Church — and harrowing ones indeed they are. Samson, Micaiah, Jeremiah, John Baptist, Peter, Paul and Silas. And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of others who, in apostolic and post-apostolic times, were "in prisons oft," and would joyfully have been there oftener, for the blessedness that they realized there from the presence of Him who can make of a prison a palace, and change dungeon darkness into heavenly light. We will now, therefore, return to Joseph, to whose imprisonment our text relates — "And he was there in the prison."

I. WHY WAS HE THERE? What crime had he committed? Against whom had he offended? How had he sinned, that he should be found in such a place as this? Listen to the answer, for it is a rare answer. There is not one prisoner of a thousand respecting whom it could be truly given. He had not sinned at all! He had wronged no one l He was guiltless of any crime whatever! Then why was he there? I will give you the answer in a positive form. He was there because he chose to suffer rather than to sin — he preferred shame, and privation, and sorrow, to guilt. He would rather be an inmate of a prison — aye, for life — with a clear conscience, than the dweller in a mansion with an accusing one. Such is the answer to the question, Why was Joseph where we now find him? And it suggests a practical remark of very considerable importance and use, namely, that the highest integrity will not protect a man always from misjudgment and oppression. The very reality of goodness is the pledge that it will be tried, and these sufferings, attendant often — I might say uniformly — on a course of spiritual integrity, are just God's way of trying it. Bear this in mind, dear friends, and you will not then be overwhelmed if, like Joseph, your fidelity to conscience and to God should bring you into circumstances of deepest humiliation and pain.

II. How DID IT FARE WITH HIM THERE? And this is a question which admits, as you will see, of a twofold answer — a sad and a pleasing one. At first it seems to have gone ill enough with this young servant of God "there in the prison." He was made to suffer all the rigours of an Eastern dungeon. We learn from the one-hundred-and-fifth Psalm, that the simple record in Genesis does not tell us all that he underwent; for it is said there that his "feet were hurt with fetters," that "he was laid in iron." Indeed, it was a most trying lot, and must have been hard to bear, despite the consciousness of innocence to console and sustain the mind. And yet there was a necessity for it; a necessity, I mean, in connection with the wonderful drama which Joseph's history was designed to form. Without all this trial and suffering, so undeserved, so apparently mysterious, there would have been wanting what gives the chief interest to the final development, and makes the whole so beautiful a lesson of trust in Providence, and patient waiting for the unfolding of God's ways. And I would say, my brethren, there may be a corresponding necessity in your case for those circumstances in your lot which are most baffling and painful. It is not sent to you out of mere capriciousness on the part of your Heavenly Father; but because it is essential to the working out of His purposes of mercy in relation to you. Just as it was not only part of God's plan that Joseph should be unjustly imprisoned, but also that his sufferings in prison should take, at first, a character of special severity; so everything in the circumstances of His people is equally the result of design, pointing to a future, hidden from them now, but hereafter to unfold itself, and to display to their astonished view wonders of Divine wisdom and faithfulness in the very events of their history which they had deemed the most painful and obscure. But I said that the question as to how it fared with Joseph in prison admits of a twofold answer. What I have just spoken to may be called the sad part of the answer. Let us now look at the more pleasing aspect of it. The severity was probably only temporary. At all events, we soon find the young man enjoying a degree of liberty and consideration that mark a wondrous change in his condition. But there is something more than this. That which the spiritual mind fastens upon here with most eagerness and delight is the statement about God's regard to the suffering prisoner. This it is specially that forms the pleasing part of the answer, as to how it fared with Joseph in prison. Mark what is said at the end of the chapter — "But the Lord was with Joseph," etc. You see that the one idea here is the presence of God with His servant; the favour of God, the prospering blessing of God. The mind of the sacred writer seems to have been full of that. It was in his estimation the grand thing, the salient point in the story — all. Joseph found his prison-life eventually not only not sad, but happy, because God was with him. Joseph won consideration and favour from his gaoler because God was with him. Joseph succeeded so well in every business matter entrusted to him because God was with him. Friendless and alone he could not be in that case. Inwardly cast down for long he could not be in that case. Now, the practical truth I wish to press upon you all here is the supreme value to be attached to the presence and favour of God.

(C. M. Merry.)


1. God is no respecter of places. Men speak with bated breath of prison-houses.

2. A sample of God's faithfulness. Potiphar, from very unworthy reasons, had withheld his favour from Joseph. Very likely many in the mansion had secretly rejoiced in Joseph's fall. "He keepeth covenant for ever."


1. God's best gifts are spiritual. There was no miraculous vindication of Joseph. Yet, though unseen, God was there, with hands full of blessing. Did Joseph retain his hold on God, and often speak to Him in prayer? God nourished that faith. Did Joseph cherish a peaceful assurance, that God would over-rule this disaster for good? Then God was dwelling in him.

2. God gave him mercy, This hardship led Jacob to faithful self-examination.

3. God lightened his burden. The effect of God's presence was twofold, viz., inward and outward. The real worth of Joseph was patent to the governor of the gaol. It was soon felt by warders and prisoners alike that Joseph was an injured man.

4. God made him useful. In that grim gaol his life was not doomed to inglorious idleness. So in the prison Joseph did his very best; nobly exercised his talents; lived as a king: and prepared himself to be ruler of Egypt. There were lessons to be learnt here which he could not learn elsewhere; a good school this.


1. There was prosperity. That is, there was order, peacefulness, good discipline.

2. Knowledge was gained. Joseph learnt how little mischief bad men and bad women can do to a good man.

3. It was a stepping-stone to sovereignty. Very likely the advantage in the formation of Joseph's character was immense. Excrescences were pruned away. Good principles were better rooted. A generous forgetfulness of self was fostered. He was daily growing into a nobler and purer man.

(J. Dickerson Davies, M. A.)


1. By manifestation of personal friendship.(1) "With him," to comfort him in his peculiarly trying position, his character being falsely accused.(2) "With him," to impart strength and skill for the proper discharge of duty.

2. By giving him favour in the eyes of others.(1) By God's interposition, he becomes the warden's favourite.(2) Unbounded trust is, through God's grace, placed in one whose character has been assailed.(3) It is God's prerogative to dispose the hearts of men toward His children (Proverbs 21:1).


1. The tyranny of ancient monarchs.

2. The activity of the mind.(1) While the body sleeps, the mind continues wakeful and full of thought.(2) This mental activity during sleep, which we call dreams, God has frequently used in all ages for providential purposes.


1. A dream from God, like a speech in an unknown tongue, cannot be understood until interpreted by one who knows the language.

2. If a dream is designed to reveal a Divine purpose, that purpose must be distinctly explained by special communication by God.

3. The folly of assuming intelligence enough to interpret dreams without special revelation from God.Lessons:

1. The advantages of true piety in the practical affairs of life.

2. A lesson for resignation under most trying circumstances.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

I. If we take our whole impression of his prison-life from the Book of Genesis, our impression cannot be either accurate or complete. For, though the inspired narrative tells us that Joseph was bound; though it records his earnest entreaty that the cup-bearer, when he was released, would do his utmost to deliver him; though it represents him as speaking with a certain bitterness of having done nothing to deserve that he should be "thrust into this hole"; though, therefore, it implies that Joseph was the victim of a gross injustice, and had a keen sense of the injustice done to him, it nevertheless leaves the impression on our minds that, for a prisoner, his condition was a singularly happy one; that he enjoyed an altogether exceptional freedom, and rose to no small measure of official place and dignity. But, as we learn from a supplementary Scripture, Joseph was by no means of our mind, nor were his circumstances altogether so happy as we have supposed them to be. In Psalm 105:17-19, we read: "He sent a man before them: Joseph was sold for a slave. They tormented his feet with fetters; his soul came into iron, until the time when his word came; the word of the Lord cleared him." The light shed by these words shines into the dark Egyptian dungeon, and enables us to see the prisoner and his condition more distinctly. Honoured and trusted as he was, he was nevertheless "tormented with fetters." He was a prisoner, although a favoured prisoner, and thought more of his captivity than of the favour which softened its rigours. Through long bitter months he bends sad questioning eyes on a heaven no longer flushed wit-h rosy dawns of hope, but dark with the hues of doubt and despair. Yet, as we know, the road to the throne lay through that "hole"; and but for the hateful fetters which tormented him, he would never have worn the signet from Pharaoh's hand, nor the golden chain which Pharaoh flung round his neck. The night in which he sat ushered in a long and brilliant day.

II. Now, the prison experience of Joseph is by no means an exceptional experience. Its value for us lies mainly in the fact that it helps us to understand the common lot of man. It would seem to be a law of the Divine government that in proportion as men are great in capacities for service, they should have their capacities developed by bitter and long-sustained afflictions. We can be patient and hopeful when once we are assured that all our defeats and disappointments, our failures and reverses and broken illusions, are parts of the discipline by which God is training us for the work we long to do, and are qualifying us to enjoy the freedom we crave. If only our character is being moulded and hardened, and its capacities brought out by suffering, then it is not unjust of God to inflict suffering upon us. If we can become perfect only through suffering, shall we not thank Him for the suffering which perfects us? If only as we learn to rule in the prison of deterred opportunities and defeated hopes, we can become fit to rule over the "many cities" of the heavenly kingdom, shall we shrink from the prison which leads to the throne? If the iron must enter our souls that we may be strong amid the flatteries and the adversities of fortune, shall even the fetters which torment us be unwelcome to us?

(S. Cox, D. D.)

Though his body is in fetters, Joseph's pure spirit is still free. The one, man may load with irons; the other, God alone can bind in the prisonhouse of torture. With integrity preserved, the prison may be a palace. With God's favour there may be happiness in a dungeon; without it, wretchedness in a royal court. There may be spiritual liberty while shackles are chafing the weary limbs, there may be the bondage of sin while no visible chains are eating into the quivering flesh. In point of fact, Potiphar's wife was the slave — the slave of sin; Joseph the freeman, the emancipated of the Lord. "He is a freeman whom the truth makes free, all besides are slaves." Many, alas! though their limbs are unshackled, are yet bound captives, to human appearance hopelessly fettered by iniquity. Who is there so lost to honour that he would not prefer Joseph's situation to that of his assailant? purity to impurity? God's favour in a prison, to God's displeasure in the decorated halls of wordly grandeur?

(J. S. Van Dyke.)

Now, do let us all be thoroughly instructed from this, what it is that constitutes true prosperity. It is said of the soldiers of a certain king, in ancient times, that they lost a great battle by mistaking the shadows for the ,persons of their enemies. They discharged their arrows at the empty resemblance, instead of the living and moving ranks of men. How many make a similar mistake with regard to prosperity I They mistake the shadow for the substance; and thus they take a wrong aim. All their energies and all their efforts are directed to something short of the mark. Outward distinctions and outward blessings, considered in themselves, form only the shadow of prosperity. It does not consist in greatness, or grandeur, or riches, or plenty, or ease. These are all sometimes possessed by the wicked; and sometimes they are possessed by those, who, instead of being prosperous, have actually to groan through the very disquietude of their heart. True prosperity is something different to this, and independent of this. It can flourish without such things as these, and make us happy either with or without them. It consists in what Joseph had — the favour, and presence, and blessing of Almighty God, our heavenly Father. This can make us happy in every place, and in every state.

(C. Overton.)

It is good for man suffer the adversity of this earthly life, for it brings him back to the sacred retirement of the heart, where only he finds he is an exile from his native home, and ought not to place his trust in any worldly enjoyment. It is good for him also to meet with contradiction and reproach, and to be evil thought of and evil spoken of, even when his intentions are upright and his actions blameless, for this keeps him humble and is a powerful antidote to the poison of vain glory; and then chiefly it is that we have recourse to the witness within us, which is God, when we are outwardly despised, and held in no degree of esteem and favour among men. Our dependence upon God ought to be so entire and absolute that we should never think it necessary, in any kind of distress, to have recourse to human consolation.

(De Imitatione Christi.)

We are tried by our disappointments, we are tried by our successes. God heaps mercies upon men, and then takes them all away. He blesses, enriches, and establishes men, and then shuts them up, impoverishes, and subverts them. The whole train of the dealings of God with them in respect of the providential ordering of their affairs is either to break the hold of this earth upon the human soul, through its senses and passions, or else to inspire its religious faculties to take hold upon God and eternity. This is the secret of the whole round of unspeakable and so-called mysterious providences of God towards men; unspeakable and mysterious because God is acting in one way and they are acting in another.

(H. W. Beecher.)

It is said that when John Bunyan was in Bedford jail, some of his persecutors in London heard that he was often out of the prison; they sent an officer to talk with the gaoler on the subject, and in order to discover the fact he was to get there in the middle of the night. Bunyan was at home with his family, but so restless that he could not sleep; he therefore acquainted his wife that, though the goaler had given him liberty to stay till the morning, yet, from his uneasiness, he must immediately return. He did so, and the gaoler blamed him for coming at such an unseasonable hour. Early in the morning the messenger came, and interrogating the gaoler, said "Are all the prisoners safe?" "Yes." "Is John Bunyan safe?" "Yes." "Let me see him." He was called, and appeared, and all was well. After the messenger was gone, the goaler, addressing Mr. Bunyan, said, "Well, you may go in and out again just when you think proper, for you know when to return better than I can tell you."

One Thousand New Illustrations.
"In the course of my inspection of the lines that morning, while passing along Culp's Hill, I found the men hard at work entrenching, and in such fine spirits as at once to attract attention. One of them finally dropped his work, and approaching me, inquired if the reports first received were true. On asking what he referred to, he replied that twice word had been passed along the line that General McKeller had been assigned to the command of the army, and the second time it was added that he was on the way to the field, and might soon be expected. He continued, 'The boys are all jubilant over it, for they know that if he takes command, everything will go right.'"

(One Thousand New Illustrations.)

The equanimity which a few persons preserve through the diversities of prosperous and adverse life reminds me of certain aquatic plants which spread their tops on the surface of the water, and with wonderful elasticity keep the surface still if the water swells, or if it falls.

(J. Foster.)

Think not that the presence of God with His people is limited to palaces or to churches. It has been often manifestly seen that He was with them in prisons, in caves or dens, on gibbets, in fiery furnaces. Ask not, why He does not snatch away His people from such dreary places, if He is present with them? Why should you think yourself wiser than God? You know why Christ, though He was the Son of God, did not come down from the cross, that His enemies might believe in Him. The sufferings of Christ were necessary for our salvation. The sufferings of the saints are necessary for their own salvation, though in another sense.

(G. Lawson, D. D.)

Joseph, diligent and trusty, finds friends even in the prison. Integrity invariably secures confidence. The conscientious, the honest, and the truthful commonly find those with whom they deal willing to exhibit the same qualities. On the other hand, the deceitful and the unprincipled are extremely liable to be paid in their own coin. Indeed, so strong is the disposition to judge others by ourselves, that we are tolerably safe in concluding that those who charge the world with want of sympathy are not themselves extremely sympathetic; that those who pronounce mankind unprincipled will bear watching. Since the world is a kind of mirror, we are quite apt to see in others only a reflection of ourselves. Since its polished hardness approaches flintiness, our treatment of the world is liable to be turned back upon ourselves — the force of the rebound as well as its nature being determined by our own conduct. If we love our fellow-men, they will love us; if we hate them, they will hate us; if we aid them, they will aid us; abuse them, and abuse returns, sometimes steeped in the poison of malice. Hence it commonly happens that he who can control himself can usually determine the treatment he is to receive from others. Joseph's kindness secured a return of kindness even from the Egyptian jailer; his integrity was repaid in confidence. He who has the love which our Saviour recommends possesses the means of securing kindness from most persons, and respect from all

(J. S. Van Dyke.).

The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them.
This chapter discovers signs that Joseph was destined to fill an important place in the history of the kingdom of God. This was now the time of his trial and preparation for his great calling as the ruler of the Egyptians, the deliverer of his nation. Some of the indications of his high destiny are these: —

I. THE CONVICTION OF HIS INNOCENCE AND INTEGRITY GAINS GROUND. Joseph was, at first, thrown into a dungeon and laid in irons. Now, this severe discipline is relaxed, and he is appointed to a kind of stewardship over the other prisoners. It is highly probable, that, by this time, Potiphar was convinced of his innocence, though he detained him in custody for prudential reasons. Joseph was everywhere giving the impression of being a good and holy man. The character of Potiphar's wife could not long be concealed; and as it became more and more known, the belief in Joseph's innocence would gain ground.


1. As a saint of God. Mark how Joseph refers to God in every important crisis of his history. When Pharaoh's two officers lamented that there was no interpreter of their dreams, he said, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" He was always true to his religion. Mark his temperateness and forbearance, his calmness and simplicity. He does not speak unkindly of his brethren, he does not even name them, but simply states that he was "stolen out of the land of the Hebrews," and that he had " done nothing" that they should put him " into the dungeon" (ver. 15). Here was the faith and resignation of a saint, whose life was fit to be recorded in the pages of Revelation as an eminent and worthy example to all ages.

2. As a prophet of God. As such he interprets dreams, which are here to be considered as Divine revelations to men of warning, reproof, and teaching (Job 33:14-18).

3. As a kind and just ruler of men. Joseph was clearly a man who was destined to wield a commanding, and even a regal influence over others. He was fitted for this, doubtless, by his intellectual gifts and characteristics, but more especially(1) by his sympathy. "Wherefore look ye so sadly to-day?" he said to his fellow-prisoners, whose dreams suggested the worst forebodings (vers. 6-7). He himself had been in the school of affliction, and he had learned to be tender. Though he had griefs of his own to bear, he felt for others. He cannot be a true ruler of men who has not learned sympathy.(2) By his uprightness. He was firm and faithful, even when he had to tell unpleasant truths (vers. 18-19). Such are the qualities required in a true ruler of men (2 Samuel 23:3-4).

III. HE RETAINS FAITH AND HOPE IN GOD IN THE MIDST OF ALL. HIS ADVERSITIES. God was with him in the prison. Therefore he does not abandon himself to despair, but still trusts and hopes on.

(T. H. Leale.)

I. We cannot but be struck with THE MINUTE PARTICULARITY OF THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD. See at how many critical points Joseph's life touches the lives of others, and is, thereby, carried so much the farther forward towards the attainment by him of the place which God was preparing for him. When I get to a great railway junction, and find trains coming m together from the east, and the north, and the south, just in time to join another that is starting from that point for the west, I should be regarded as a simpleton if I spoke of that as a wonderful coincidence. And yet on the great Railroad of Life, when I come to such a junction and meet there a train that leads me on to some significant sphere of service, I am supposed to be a simpleton if I refer that to the over-ruling providence of God. But I am not a simpleton — I am only reasoning in that department as I would in the domain of literature or daily travelling; and he who repudiates God's providence is the fool, according to that scathing utterance of the Psalmist — "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God."

II. We are reminded by this history also that THE CHARACTER OF THE INDIVIDUAL HAS AS MUCH TO DO WITH WHAT I HAVE CALLED THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PLOT OF HIS LIFE AS THE PLAN OR PURPOSE OF GOD HAS. Providence is not fatalism. Joseph, if he had chosen to act otherwise than he did, might have thrown away all the opportunities which these places of junction in his life afforded him. The men that fail in life do not fail for want of such opportunities as Joseph had, but for want of the character to see these opportunities, and the ability to use them. Keep near to God, therefore, form your character according to His principles, and then, even though you may be in a prison, you will find a way to serve Him, and will feel that somehow you are on the road to your success, and in training for your sphere.

III. We may learn that THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN THEMSELVES UPHELD IN TROUBLE, ARE THE MOST EFFICIENT HELPERS OF OTHERS WHEN THEY ARE IN TRIAL. Young as Joseph was, he had not seen enough sorrow to dispose him to sympathize with others in their affliction. And in the suggestive question which he put to his fellow-prisoners, "do not interpretations belong to God?" he not only expresses his own faith, but in the most delicate and skilful manner indicates to them the source whence alone true consolation comes. More than thirty years ago, just at the beginning of my ministry, I was in the house of a beloved pastor, when he was called to pass through the greatest trial that a man can know, in the death of a truly good and noble wife. Two mornings after, the postman brought in a sheaf of letters. I think there were more than twenty of them, but each was from a brother minister who had been led through the same dark valley, and who was seeking to comfort him with the comfort wherewith himself had been comforted of God. Only a few evenings ago I met a Christian lady, with whom I was comparing notes regarding the experience of the loss of little children, and she said to me, "I never see the death of a little child announced in the newspaper but I have an impulse to write to the parents and speak comfortably to them." Thus we may console ourselves under our own trials with the thought that God is endowing us thereby with the gift of sympathy, and fitting us to become " sons of consolation" to others in affliction. The price is costly, but the learning is precious.

IV. THOSE WHOM WE BENEFIT HAVE OFTEN VERY POOR REMEMBRANCE OF KINDNESS. Men too often write the record of grudges in marble, and of favours in water. Nay, such is the perversity of human nature, that not unfrequently men return evil for the good which has been done them. One spoke to an English statesman of the violent enmity which another evinced towards him. "Yes," was the reply, "and I cannot understand it, for I never did him any kindness that I can remember." The sarcasm was bitter, but there was enough of truth in it to give it point; and every one who seeks to be a helper of others learns, sooner or later, to give over looking for human gratitude, and to think mainly of the Lord Jesus Christ and His appreciation.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

1. Let no circumstances ever tempt the children of God to doubt and question the watchful care and kindness of their heavenly Father's providence. Let them bear in remembrance, that He not only works in His own way, but chooses His own time; and let them rest in the assurance that both His way and His time are always the best. Though He tarry, then, wait for Him. "Fret not thyself in any wise to do evil."

2. The source of true and constant enjoyment of that happiness which all seek and so few find must be within. It lies essentially in a sense of God's love. This is happiness. This will ever he associated with confidence in His wisdom, and faithfulness, and kindness; and consequently with contentment in all conditions. These are sources of joy of which no power can rob us, and which remain ever the same — amidst all changes unchanging.

(R. Wardlaw.)

It may possibly cause momentary surprise, that Joseph, who interpreted others' dreams, was left in ignorance of his own destiny. Is not this, however, the method ordinarily employed to strengthen faith and produce entire reliance upon God? Indeed, was it not communion with God produced by this sense of dependence which enabled him to interpret mysteries, which fitted him for comforting the sorrowing? It not frequently happens that those whose lives are passed in unrelieved sadness — with whom the present is an enigma, the past a memory of grief, the future a cloud of torturing uncertainty — are nevertheless the instruments in God's hand of producing joy in others' hearts. As a block of ice, chiselled into the form of a lens, can be made to concentrate the sun's rays, kindling a flame, so the believer, by gathering the scattered beams of Heaven's love, may pour cheerfulness into others' hearts while his own may remain quite cheerless.

(J. S. Van Dyke.)

Too often it happens to the righteous according to the wish of the wicked. Here we find two men who had sinned against their lord, the king of Egypt, confined in the same prison with Joseph. Yet the same prison is not the same thing to a good and to a bad man. The two offenders trembled in anxious dread of some worse punishment; and the consciousness of their demerit, if they were really guilty, was more painful to them than the irons were to Joseph, although they entered into his soul. Joseph had the testimony of his conscience to cheer him. He not only suffered without cause, but suffered for righteousness' sake, and trusted that God would bring his sufferings to a comfortable conclusion. In the world you may meet with much distress; but keep consciences void of offence towards God and man, and you shall be preserved from the sting and venom of those troubles that Providence allots you. "Let no man suffer as a thief, as an evil-doer, as a busy-body in other men's matters. But if any man suffer as a Christian," or without deserving to suffer, "let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God, who executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed."

(G. Lawson, D. D.)

I. PRISON OCCUPATIONS. The crime is the disgrace, and not the scaffold or the prison. Good men have often been imprisoned, while many wicked have escaped. Yet, notwithstanding the prison, these sufferers are amongst our heroes and martyrs. Milton said, "there shall one day be a resurrection of names and reputations." Bunyan, Baxter, &c., are not honoured the less for the dungeons in which they suffered. Next to escaping the prison, the best thing is, like Joseph, to suffer innocently. Joseph in prison. Suffering often hardens the bad and purifies and manifests the good. Joseph's character could not be hid. Even the keepers saw how different he was from the ordinary criminals committed to their care (see Proverbs 16:21. The prisoner becomes a keeper (so many of the captive Jews, as Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai, were exalted). Is so much trusted as to be freed from supervision (Genesis 38:22-23). God, who was with him in Canaan, is with him in Egypt, and in prison. He does not forsake His friends in distresses brought upon them by their fidelity to Him.

II. PRISON COMPANIONS. The butler and baker, two officers of importance in eastern and ancient courts. Yet even these were not spared by a capricious and absolute monarch. "Oh, how wretched is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours!" In a palace one day, a prison the next. In ancient times a courtier's office was often like the Bridge of Sighs at Venice, "a palace and a prison on each hand." These men may have suffered justly; like the malefacters who were crucified with Jesus (Luke 23:41). The worst punishment of the good is forced fellowship with the wicked. As providence over-ruled the wrath of Joseph's brothers, so now he ever-rules the wrath of Pharaoh. One of these degraded officials shall be the instrument of Joseph's release and exaltation.

III. PRISON DREAMS. That is: the dreams of the butler and baker. The subject was so strange, and the recollection so vivid, that they were troubled. Dreamland, a mysterious region to the ancients. No interpreter of dreams in the prison, they thought. Joseph's inquiry. Be thinks of his own dreams, doubtless, and the transitory trouble they had brought him into. He gives the praise to God, as the true interpreter of dreams. By the help of divine illumination, he reveals the meaning of their dreams. No doubt he saw that God had sent them those dreams for him to interpret; and that his connection with these men would work out the fulfilment of his own dreams. It is certain that what was foretold by their dreams would have occurred even if they had never dreamed at all. Hence, it was clear that there was a purpose in their dreaming, and in their relating their dreams to Joseph. Probably had not Joseph been in prison, they would not have dreamed as they did. Learn:

I. If we suffer, let it be for righteousness' sake.

II. When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies, &c,

(J. C. Gray.)

1. Providence keeps its method in multiplying mercy to His saints in misery.

2. The sins of others God sometimes maketh an occasion of refreshing His own servants.

3. Court officers are very prone to sin, and abuse favours.

4. Kings themselves are not secured from offences by their nearest servants (ver. 1).

5. Kings, offended, are apt to swell in wrath and displeasure.

6. Greatest wrath of kings is apt to rise against officers (ver. 2).

7. The wrath of kings usually causeth the restraint and imprisonment of their criminal subjects.

8. God orders place where the wrath of man imprisons, and that for His own ends.

9. Innocents and malefactors may lie together in the same prison (ver. 3).

10. God inclineth the hearts of chief commanders for imprisonment, more to the innocent than guilty.

11. Innocent prisoners under Providence may have the charge of malefactors.

12. Good souls trusted in any capacity, do execute it faithfully.

13. Set times and seasons of restraint God appoints to His own and others for His own ends.

14. All these Providence orders to be occasions of glorifying His grace in His saints (ver. 4).

(G. Hughes, B. D.)

Ishmaelites, Joseph, Pharaoh, Potiphar
Account, Anger, Angry, Bondman, Burned, Burneth, Heareth, Hearing, Kindled, Manner, Master, Pass, Saying, Servant, Slave, Spake, Spoke, Spoken, Story, Treated, Wife, Wife's, Wrath
1. Joseph is bought by Potiphar, and preferred in the family.
7. He resists temptation by Potiphar's Wife.
13. He is falsely accused by her.
20. He is cast into prison.
21. God is with him there, and he is advanced by the keeper of prison.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Genesis 39:19

     5461   prisoners

Genesis 39:7-20

     5404   masters
     5951   slander

Genesis 39:19-20

     5348   injustice, nature and source
     5501   reward, human
     5568   suffering, causes

Goodness in a Dungeon
'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 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
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

(Preached on the Sunday before the Wedding of the Prince of Wales. March 8th, third Sunday in Lent.) GENESIS xxxix. 9. How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? The story of Joseph is one which will go home to all healthy hearts. Every child can understand, every child can feel with it. It is a story for all men and all times. Even if it had not been true, and not real fact, but a romance of man's invention, it would have been loved and admired by men; far more then, when we know
Charles Kingsley—The Gospel of the Pentateuch

The Complete Surrender.
Genesis 39:1-3.--Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him at the hands of the Ishmaelites, which had brought him down thither. And the Lord 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 the Lord was with him. We have in this passage an object lesson which teaches us what Christ is to us. Note: Joseph was a slave, but God was with him so distinctly
Andrew Murray—The Master's Indwelling

Seventh Sunday after Trinity Exhortation to Resist Sin.
Text: Romans 6, 19-23. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification. 20 For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness. 21 What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22 But now being made free from
Martin Luther—Epistle Sermons, Vol. III

Trials of the Christian
AFFLICTION--ITS NATURE AND BENEFITS. The school of the cross is the school of light; it discovers the world's vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God's mind. Out of dark afflictions comes a spiritual light. In times of affliction, we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God. The end of affliction is the discovery of sin; and of that, to bring us to a Saviour. Doth not God ofttimes even take occasion, by the hardest of things that come upon us, to visit
John Bunyan—The Riches of Bunyan

Thirdly, for Thy Actions.
1. Do no evil, though thou mightest; for God will not suffer the least sin, without bitter repentance, to escape unpunished. Leave not undone any good that thou canst. But do nothing without a calling, nor anything in thy calling, till thou hast first taken counsel at God's word (1 Sam. xxx. 8) of its lawfulness, and pray for his blessings upon thy endeavour; and then do it in the name of God, with cheerfulness of heart, committing the success to him, in whose power it is to bless with his grace
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Mosaic Cosmogony.
ON the revival of science in the 16th century, some of the earliest conclusions at which philosophers arrived were found to be at variance with popular and long-established belief. The Ptolemaic system of astronomy, which had then full possession of the minds of men, contemplated the whole visible universe from the earth as the immovable centre of things. Copernicus changed the point of view, and placing the beholder in the sun, at once reduced the earth to an inconspicuous globule, a merely subordinate
Frederick Temple—Essays and Reviews: The Education of the World

Meditations for Household Piety.
1. If thou be called to the government of a family, thou must not hold it sufficient to serve God and live uprightly in thy own person, unless thou cause all under thy charge to do the same with thee. For the performance of this duty God was so well pleased with Abraham, that he would not hide from him his counsel: "For," saith God, "I know him that he will command his sons and his household after him that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

The Wisdom of God
The next attribute is God's wisdom, which is one of the brightest beams of the Godhead. He is wise in heart.' Job 9:9. The heart is the seat of wisdom. Cor in Hebraeo sumitur pro judicio. Pineda. Among the Hebrews, the heart is put for wisdom.' Let men of understanding tell me:' Job 34:44: in the Hebrew, Let men of heart tell me.' God is wise in heart, that is, he is most wise. God only is wise; he solely and wholly possesses all wisdom; therefore he is called, the only wise God.' I Tim 1:17. All
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Tests of Love to God
LET us test ourselves impartially whether we are in the number of those that love God. For the deciding of this, as our love will be best seen by the fruits of it, I shall lay down fourteen signs, or fruits, of love to God, and it concerns us to search carefully whether any of these fruits grow in our garden. 1. The first fruit of love is the musing of the mind upon God. He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object. He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of
Thomas Watson—A Divine Cordial

Lii. Concerning Hypocrisy, Worldly Anxiety, Watchfulness, and his Approaching Passion.
(Galilee.) ^C Luke XII. 1-59. ^c 1 In the meantime [that is, while these things were occurring in the Pharisee's house], when the many thousands of the multitude were gathered together, insomuch that they trod one upon another [in their eagerness to get near enough to Jesus to see and hear] , he began to say unto his disciples first of all [that is, as the first or most appropriate lesson], Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. [This admonition is the key to the understanding
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Old Testament opens very impressively. In measured and dignified language it introduces the story of Israel's origin and settlement upon the land of Canaan (Gen.--Josh.) by the story of creation, i.-ii. 4a, and thus suggests, at the very beginning, the far-reaching purpose and the world-wide significance of the people and religion of Israel. The narrative has not travelled far till it becomes apparent that its dominant interests are to be religious and moral; for, after a pictorial sketch of
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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