Devotionals Archive

Daybreak: Genesis 39:1-23

Sep 25, 2021

“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.” (Genesis 39:20)

For as long as I can remember, my aunt, who is now in her nineties, has done needlework. Embroidery and counted cross-stitch were two of her favorite activities until failing eyesight made such projects impossible. In fact, I have a bookmark that was one of her last embroidery projects. It is a quote from Psalm 119 embellished with flowers — but you would never know that by looking at the underside of the project. On the back of my bookmark, the threads cross over each other with seemingly no order or purpose. That is true of many types of hand-created needlework. Often the most beautiful work has the most knots and crossed threads on the underside. 

Sometimes life is like a piece of needlework. While God is creating a beautiful picture, we see only the underside — the crossed threads, knots, and apparently random bits of color and pattern. God has a special plan that He is working out from His divine perspective, but very possibly it makes no sense to us.

At the time of the focus verse, Joseph could have felt that way. He had faced many perplexing obstacles during the preceding years, and he might have been tempted to think God had forgotten him. Sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused by the wife of a man he had served faithfully, and being put in prison — none of these events seemed to be comprehensible from a human standpoint. But in all of these circumstances, God was there, keeping watch over Joseph. He was allowing and orchestrating the events that were to prepare His young servant to fulfill God’s own plan. What may have appeared to be “knots” and “crossed threads” to Joseph were, in reality, God’s training for Joseph to assume a position of honor and usefulness. 

God has promised that if we serve Him, all the events in our lives will work out for good. During a trial we may not be able to see anything beneficial at all, but those times are when we exercise faith. As we look at examples such as Joseph, we can be encouraged that God is in control and that He has a definite purpose for us. As we trust that life’s circumstances are working out God’s special plan, we can be assured it will all be for His glory if we remain faithful.


Today’s text begins the account of Joseph in Egypt. This chapter tells how he was sold to Potiphar, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and put into prison. 

Joseph was purchased by Potiphar, who was “captain of the guard” (verse 1). Potiphar was a military chief or possibly the leader in charge of executions. He was an Egyptian aristocrat who had a high position in that society and favor in Pharaoh’s court. Potiphar observed Joseph’s conduct and character and promoted him. God’s blessing was on Potiphar’s household because of Joseph.

Rich families in Egypt during this era enjoyed many luxuries. Often their homes had two or three stories, expensive furnishings, balconies, and lovely gardens. They ate delicacies from dishes of gold. Frequently the first floor was for the servants, and the wealthy family used the upper portion of the house. 

The affluent women of Egypt had a great deal of freedom and were often loose morally. The actions of Potiphar’s wife may not have been unusual for a woman of her social status. Joseph’s resistance was based on two convictions, which he verbalized to the woman: he was grateful and loyal to his master who had treated him well, and, more importantly, what she asked would be a sin against God. 

Angry at being thwarted, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph, and Potiphar put him in prison. The wealthy often had prisons in or near their palaces. However, Joseph was incarcerated where government prisoners were held. Since the crimes of these men were state offenses, it is thought that extra security and punishment may have been inflicted. Joseph had his feet put in fetters (see Psalm 105:18). However, God’s blessing was upon Joseph in the prison. God caused the keeper of the prison to respect him and put him in a position of authority. Like Potiphar, the warden turned everything over to Joseph, and he was put in charge of all the other prisoners.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The early history of the chosen race 
      D.   Joseph 
            5.   Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt 
                  a.   As a servant (39:1-18)
                        (1)   The trust of Potiphar (39:1-6)
                        (2)   The temptation of Potiphar’s wife (39:7-18)
                  b.   As a prisoner 
                        (1)   The imprisonment (39:19-23)

A Closer Look

  1. What did Joseph do when faced with temptation?
  2. How did God turn Joseph’s situation around when he was in prison?
  3. What can we learn from Joseph’s response to temptation?


Are you in the middle of an incomprehensible circumstance? Remember that God has a plan in mind. If you trust in Him, He will work out every aspect of your life for His glory. 

Reference Materials