LESSON 25 – Joseph & Potiphar – Genesis 39


(You can just read this story to younger children. You don’t need to go into much detail. It’s pretty clear what the wife is asking is wrong. One suggestion from The Greenleaf Guide to OT History, page 27, was that if your children wanted more information was to say, “How would you like it if I starting treating someone other than your mom [or dad] like I was married to them?”

  • 39:1-10. Discuss Joseph’s life in Egypt.  What were Joseph’s duties? How did God prosper both Joseph and Potiphar? (Joseph became the servant of the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. After awhile he became the chief steward over everything Potiphar owned. God caused everything that Joseph did to prosper Potiphar’s home.) The only thing that Potiphar has to worry about everyday is to determine what he’s going to eat!  What problem arose? (Potiphar’s wife noticed that Joseph was young and handsome and she wanted Joseph to love her.) Joseph knew that what Potiphar’s wife was asking was wrong.  Husband and wives are meant for each other and no one else!  On what basis does Joseph tell her no? (vs. He would be sinning against God.)
  • 39:11-23. Potiphar’s wife is angry and plots revenge against Joseph.  When he runs away from her, she tries to constrain him. Then he leaves his coat behind as she is holding on to it.  How does she frame Joseph? (She gets the other servants to lie about him and then shows her husband the cloak. “Seeing is believing”.) What does Potiphar do when he hears the accusations against Joseph? (vs. 19,20. He believes the accusation and is angry against Joseph and orders him to be put in the king’s prison.) It is interesting to note that such a terrible crime was usually given the death penalty.  Potiphar does not have Joseph executed but rather puts him in prison.  It could be likely that Potiphar suspected she was lying – after all, he knew them both very well – but the easiest thing was to comply by having him thrown into prison rather than stand up for Joseph or publicly humiliate himself and his wife.  What happens to Joseph in prison? (vs. 21-23. The Lord shows favor to Joseph again and the head jailer puts Joseph in charge of all of the other prisoners. This may not sound like much, but it was a respected and protected position.)


Joseph’s life so far looks like a script for a TV show entitled, “No Good Deed Shall Go Unpunished”.  He has done nothing wrong but put God first in his life and fear Him rather than men.  Twice he has been unjustly punished with sever consequences.

  • How does Joseph respond? (He continues to follow and trust in the Lord.)
  • How does God show Joseph His love and concern? (He saves his life when his brothers plot to kill him, he is given a good position as a slave and is respected, when in prison God causes the jailer to help him and give him a place of responsibility)  We can say then that Joseph is exactly where God wants him – in an Egyptian prison.  This is a great example of good coming from what seems to be tragedy and the grossest unfairness.  The Lord has a plan that is in no way diminished by the sins done against Joseph. In fact, the Lord is going to use these experiences in Josephs life for his good and the good of two nations!.
  • Discuss with your children how you can prepare for situations that look hopeless or are unfair. What things are causing you pressure right now and how can understanding that God is going to make all things good (Rom. 8:28) help you? We sometimes want to define what is “good” in our lives. Relate to your children a time when things seemed to be completely wrong and how God ultimately turned it for your good.  Or you could even discuss something that you haven’t seen yet and how God will make it turn out right.  Together, in prayer, give that circumstance to the Lord and trust in Him!  Remember the end of the book – Revelation tells us where God is going – it’s not all about right now!

Digging Deeper

    1.  Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife is a great example to all us about how to live a life of sexual purity. It is possible!  You are told in today’s society that you cannot be expected to be celibate or pure before marriage. Your hormones are too powerful. What is the truth? How can Joseph’s experience help you? What does the Bible say about purity? Give at least 5 verses on the importance of this issue. (Try the book of Proverbs!)  How are you doing in this area? What is your plan when you are tempted? – and if you aren’t now, you will be.  Count on it.  What do you believe about printed material and the movies? How can these things affect your stand on sexual purity?  Are you willing to give away any of your sexual purity before marriage? What would be the consequences of such actions?
    2. “The Lord gave Joseph success in whatever he did.” Would most people describe Joseph’s life as successful up to this point? Why or why not? How is God’s definition of success different from yours? In what ways would God see Joseph as successful? Would God say your life was successful? What things need to be in your life for God to see it as successful in His sight? What things that the world deems as success are pulling you away from God? What can you do to be more like Joseph?