Genesis 39-41: What Blessings do you Bring?

One of the dangers that we must be careful of as we have navigated Genesis is that of spiritual slothfuness.  There is no doubt that the book of Genesis emphasizes God’s sovereignty throughout.  I am happy about this because the subject of God’s direct rule over the events of the world is one of my favorite subjects.  When Abraham deceived Pharaoh about Sarah being his wife, God straightened it out.  When Isaac lied about Rebekah being his wife to Abimelech, God straightened it out.  When Jacob lied to deceive Laban about his early departure from Laban’s household, God straightened it out.  We have meditated on story after story about people living recklessly yet eventually getting left off the hook by God.  After reading the patriarchal narrative to this point, one really begins to get the feeling that it our actions and our activities don’t really matter in some regard (obviously our actions do matter as we saw the permanent loss that Reuben, Simeon and Levi experienced because of their particular sins).


As we consider this section of Scripture, we must keep in mind the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12.  The following are the words from God to Abraham on the occasion when God invited the patriarch to step out in faith and follow him:


“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3).


It is with these words that God would use Abraham’s line to change the world.  There are great promises in these verses, yet there is also great responsibility which this passage bears out very clearly.  It is the responsibility of every believer to be a blessing in whatever place in life we may find ourselves.  There are no exceptions to this and it is a responsibility that is given to us as part of our spiritual heritage.  Once again God told Abraham, “you will be a blessing.”  It wasn’t, “you might be a blessing,” or “you may choose to be a blessing,” etc.,  God’s people are to be a blessing and we notice in this text that Joseph was a blessing without equal in his family.


As we left off last time, Joseph was sold into slavery when he was 17 years old.  He was dragged off by some Midianites and eventually landed a great position for a slave.  He became the head of the household of one of Pharaoh’s officials who was named Potiphar.  God blessed everything Joseph did in that household and the text is very clear about the impact that he made in the setting that he was placed,


“The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the LORD was with he and that he LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant.” . . .  So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate” (Genesis 39:2-8).


This text makes it abundantly clear that Joseph, while being blessed by God, also was put to work by his master.  The master made Joseph in charge of his household to such a degree that Potiphar only worried about what he would eat that particular day.  Joseph  served God with his whole heart and God blessed, but Joseph was not the only one blessed here, his master was greatly blessed through him [thus fulfilling the Genesis 12 promise for his life].


Next in the story Joseph suffered through a terrible event of betrayal.  Joseph was a man who really was a blessing and part of being a blessing among others is to demonstrate a life of moral holiness.  Potiphar’s wife had become attracted to Joseph and she tried to tempt him into immorality day after day.  Joseph had no interest in such a relationship fundamentally because he knew that it would be a sin first against God.  One day she caught him by his cloak and tried to pull him into this relationship that he did not want and he fled from her presence.  As the story goes, the woman framed Joseph and she waited until her husband got home to deliver the false report that Joseph attacked her and left his cloak (39:16-18).  While the text says that Potiphar burned with anger at the thought that Joseph attempted this, one wonders if there was some doubt in his mind about Joseph’s guilt in this matter. Obviously she was his wife and had probably exhibited questionable behavior before and Joseph was his servant and had only demonstrated the highest of character qualities.  It is my feeling that Potiphar had some doubts about the accuracy of his wife’s story so he sent him to the royal prison rather than to death as was permissible under law for a crime such as the one Joseph was accused of attempting.


When he went to prison we once again notice the theme of God’s blessing on Joseph’s work recurring at this juncture in the narrative.


“But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him ; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.  So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.  The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:21-23).


We notice from these verses that Joseph, through God enabling power, arose through the ranks of the royal prisoners and eventually began running the prison for the warden. This gives you a picture of several character qualities that Joseph possessed.  A prisoner with this kind of influence could have used it in a selfish way in a prison, but Joseph never took advantage of his authority.  He was absolutely trusted.  While he was in prison he had the kings cup bearer and baker come to him to interpret their dreams.  Joseph interpreted the first as good news and the second as bad news.  Sadly, the cup bearer did not remember Joseph after he was released for two years until pharaoh had two dreams of his own.


These dreams were particularly startling and the Pharaoh did not know what to do with them.  He called out to all the wise men in his empire to come to him and interpret his dream and no one could.  The Egyptians, like the Babylonians would keep huge records of dreams and common interpretations of those dreams.  The dreams that Pharaoh had did not fit any of the patterns in the dream books that his officials had.   It was during this time of searching for a wise man to discern the meaning of the dreams that the cup bearer remembered Joseph in prison.  He mentioned Joseph and in a few minutes removed from prison, Joseph is able to interpret the dreams.  But this is the key; Joseph did not need the aid of books on dreams to interpret the dream. He did not need magic to interpret the dream and he did not need any type of past experience with the content of that dream to understand what it meant. He needed to do only one thing: seek his heavenly father for the meaning.  When asked whether he could give pharaoh the meaning of the dream, Joseph replied with this clear testimony of his faith: “’I cannot do it, ‘ Joseph replied to pharaoh, ‘but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’” (Genesis 41:16) As for the rest of the story, we know the answer – Pharaoh took Joseph’s words to heart, made him the second most powerful man in Egypt and handed the running of the entire kingdom to Joseph at thirty years of age.  In thirteen years Joseph had risen from slave to prime minister because the hand of God was upon him.  But more accurately, God blessed the work of Joseph’s hands.


How about you? How are you using the gifts God has given you to be a blessing for others and for the kingdom of God?  Joseph was available and willing to trust, are you?  If you are, you will begin to see God use you in the most amazing and unexpected of ways.  The message here is that godliness is not an option, it is a responsibility . . . and a blessed one at that.


5 Responses to “Genesis 39-41: What Blessings do you Bring?”

  1. John Says:

    Hmmmm. We should have stored up reserves from our “amber waves of grain”, perhaps. Where will we go to buy grain in this this time of famine?

  2. Bruce Smith Says:

    That’s a good point. It would serve us well to meditate on Joseph’s style of political leadership during these times of financial challenge. Even more still, it is too bad that those who went before did not consider the value of storing up during the boom periods over the last three decades.

  3. smithmother Says:

    Bruce, you made a good point about the Lord fixing up the mistakes of the patriarchs. I spend too much time regreting mistakes I’ve made & errors of judgement. Thanks son. Mom

  4. Tyrone Ferrara Says:

    The title, “What Blessings do you Bring?” is very fitting for Genesis 39-41 and do a very good job at bringing that question into focus.

  5. Bruce Smith Says:

    Thanks Tyrone, your words are very encouaging!

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