Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Genesis
Book: Genesis
Chapter: 39

Joseph preferred By Potiphar. (1-6) Joseph resists Temptation.
(7-12) Joseph is falsely accused By his mistress. (13-18) He is
cast into Prison, God is with him there. (19-23)

1-6 Our enemies may strip us of outward distinctions and
ornaments; but Wisdom and Grace cannot be taken from us. They
may separate us from friends, relatives, and country; but they
cannot take from us the presence of the Lord. They may shut us
from outward blessings, rob us of liberty, and confine us in
dungeons; but they cannot shut us out from Communion with God,
from the Throne of Grace, or take from us the blessings of
Salvation. Joseph was blessed, wonderfully blessed, even in the
House where he was a Slave. God's presence with us, makes all we
do prosperous. Good men are the blessings of the place where
they live; good servants may be So, though mean and lightly
esteemed. The prosperity of the wicked is, one way or other, for
the sake of the godly. Here was a wicked family blessed for the
sake of one good servant in it.

7-12 Beauty either in men or women, often proves a Snare both
to themselves and others. This forbids pride in it, and requires
constant watchfulness against the Temptation that attends it. We
have great need to make a Covenant with our eyes, lest the eyes
infect the Heart. When Lust has got power, decency, and
reputation, and Conscience, are all sacrificed. Potiphar's Wife
showed that her Heart was fully set to do evil. Satan, when he
found he could not overcome Joseph with the troubles and the
frowns of the world, for in them he still held Fast his
principle, assaulted him with pleasures, which have ruined more
than the former. But Joseph, By the Grace of God, was enabled to
resist and overcome this Temptation; and his escape was as great
an instance of the Divine power, as the deliverance of the three
children out of the fiery Furnace. This Sin was one which might
most easily beset him. The tempter was his mistress, one whose
favour would help him forward; and it was at his utmost peril if
he slighted her, and made her his enemy. The time and place
favoured the Temptation. To all this was added frequent,
constant urging. The almighty Grace of God enabled Joseph to
overcome this assault of the enemy. He urges what he owed both
to God and his master. We are bound in honour, as Well as
Justice and gratitude, not in any thing to wrong those who place
trust in us, how secretly soever it may be done. He would not
offend his God. Three arguments Joseph urges upon himself. 1. He
considers who he was that was tempted. One in Covenant with God,
who professed religion and relation to him. 2. What the Sin was
to which he was tempted. Others might look upon it as a small
matter; but Joseph did not So think of it. Call Sin By its own
name, and never lessen it. Let sins of this nature always be
looked upon as great wickedness, as exceedingly sinful. 3.
Against whom he was tempted to Sin, against God. Sin is against
God, against his nature and his dominion, against his Love and
his design. Those that Love God, for this reason hate Sin. The
Grace of God enabled Joseph to overcome the Temptation, By
avoiding the temper. He would not stay to parley with the
Temptation, but fled from it, as escaping for his Life. If we
mean not to do iniquity, let us flee as a Bird from the Snare,
and as a Roe from the hunter.

13-18 Joseph's mistress, having tried in vain to make him a
guilty Man, endeavoured to be avenged On him. Those that have
broken the bonds of modesty, will never be held By the bonds of
Truth. It is No new thing for the best of men to be falsely
accused of the worst of crimes, By those who themselves are the
worst of criminals. It is Well there is a Day of discovery
coming, in which all shall appear in their true characters.

19-23 Joseph's master believed the accusation. Potiphar, it is
likely, chose that Prison, because it was the worst; but God
designed to open the way to Joseph's honour. Joseph was owned
and righted By his God. He was away from all his friends and
relations; he had none to help or comfort him; but the Lord was
with Joseph, and showed him Mercy. Those that have a good
Conscience in a Prison, have a good God there. God gave him
favour in the sight of the keeper of the Prison; he trusted him
to manage the affairs of the Prison. A good Man will do good
wherever he is, and will be a blessing even in bonds and
banishment. Let us not forget, through Joseph, to look unto
Jesus, who suffered being tempted, yet without Sin; who was
slandered, and persecuted, and imprisoned, but without cause;
who By the Cross ascended to the Throne. May we be enabled to
follow the same path in submitting and in suffering, to the same
place of Glory.