Design By Humans

Genesis 39. The Dubious Fruits of God's Favour.

Genesis 39.

1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

Oh good. We are back with Joseph who has just been sold to an Egyptian captain.

2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

A prosperous man? Really? If being a slave of any nature is the LORD's idea of prosperity then there's something wrong here.

3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.

Did his master have a belief in the LORD too?

4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.

So the LORD's favour grants Joseph the job of housekeeper. His power truly know's no bounds.

5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.

Slavery is really OK then? The LORD rewards the slave owner because he favours the slave? I think if I were a slave and had the favour of an all powerful being, I'd expect that being to destroy my owner and set me free, not heap blessings upon him.

6 And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.


7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.

Potiphar's wife tries to seduce Joseph, I say seduce, really she explicitly asks for sex. 

8 But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;

Perhaps if she'd been a bit more subtle he might have gone for it. Either way Joseph sticks with his principles. He is determined to be a good slave. This to me reads something like Stockholm syndrome, Joseph is absolutely dedicated to being subjugated. Is there some link between believing in an all powerful entity and believing that someone else has the right to enslave you and that when they do it is your duty to submit entirely to their will. What exactly legitimizes Potiphar's right to own Joseph? What compels Joseph to afford Potiphar any loyalty?

9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Who is 'God' in this statement? The LORD or Potiphar? It is clear to see how Potiphar might be injured by Joseph getting it on with his wife but what injury would be dealt to the LORD? I suppose there is precedent for the LORD taking revenge on people ploughing other men's wives but in those cases the perpetrator was tricked into it and the LORD acted unjustly. Is Joseph motivated more by fear of the LORD than a sense of moral rectitude?

10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.

Such persistence. Is she not getting any from Potiphar?

11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.


12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

This is the kind of thing that usually only happens in comedy but ok, he gives her the slip by shedding his clothes and running out naked. I'm not certain that this was necessary, surely the best way to avoid putting his penis inside of her would have been to keep his clothes on.

13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,


14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:

Was she still dressed at this point and did anyone hear her cry out? I'm not sure that her story is very believable. 

15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.

Again, did anyone hear this cry?

16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.

Let's see what Potiphar says.

17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:

Is mock the right word? I've never had sex with anyone in order to mock them but I can't rule it out as a motivation for some people I guess.

18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.

Did anyone hear her cry? Why isn't this addressed?

19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.

I'm guessing that since Pitiphar so favours Joseph and has entrusted his entire household to him that even in anger he'll have a reasoned discussion about the whole thing. I'm sure he'll want to hear Joseph's side of the story.

20 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.

What was I thinking? Of course he isn't going to act fairly toward Joseph as despite all of the appearance of trust, Joseph is actually just a slave, a position the LORD is evidently happy with.

21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

No! if the LORD is all powerful and was truly 'with' Joseph, he'd have gotten him a fair trial, Joseph committed no crime. What kind of an all-powerful being lets an innocent man go to prison for committing no crime, especially since the very same lord is capable of killing a man for ejaculating on the floor? Where's the Justice? Where's the consistency, What is this LORD's agenda?

22 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.

So Joseph has a cushy time in prison. So what? He's still in prison for no reason having been property of another human for a number of years. How can anyone claim that this man is in any way blessed by anything?

23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.

I don't know what this author is trying to sell but I'm not buying it.

What have we learned?

Well... Here's a list of things the LORD will allow to happen to a man that he supposedly favours:-

  • He'll let the man's brothers sell him into slavery
  • He'll let the man continue in slavery for years and heap blessings on the slave master.
  • He'll make the man through fear show respect and loyalty to the slave master.
  • He'll allow the man to be accused of something he didn't do and not compell the slave master to give him a fair hearing.
  • He'll allow the man to spend time in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
  • Worst of all, during all of these things he'll somehow convince the man that the LORD is with him and that he is blessed.

What blessing will he bestow upon him next? On to Genesis 40.


  1. Re 9:
    You can see in the Qur'an that Joseph was referring to his "master" and not God in this verse.

    Sura Yusuf (12:23):

    23. And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), she closed the doors and said: "Come on, O you."
    He said: "I seek refuge in Allah (or Allah forbid)! Truly, he (your husband) is my master! He made my stay agreeable! (So I will never betray him).

    1. Thanks for the comment, It is always useful to see the differences between the accounts of the same story from different scriptures.

      Do you know if the Qur'an would contend that having sexual congress with his master's wife would only be an offence to his master and not Allah himself?

  2. No. Offensive for BOTH obviously.
    And regarding a similar subject, according to Islam, a man can have sex with his female slave, but a woman can't have sex with her male slave, even if she owns him.

    1. Thanks for the reply. Given then that Islam says that slavery is OK, do you or Muslims in general also think that slavery is OK, or is this a practice that Muslims would consider archaic? The Jewish and Christian holy books say that slavery is OK but as far as I am aware most believers in those faiths would not agree that it is.

  3. Well, the slavery system is very different in Islam from its equivalent in Christianity. The horrible conditions of Black Slaves in old America for example never happened during the Caliphate. And the main reason is that it was a "reward" system (i.e. The owner repent some of his sins by simply freeing a slave)

    The owner was forced to accept the will of his slave if the slave decided to "buy his freedom" by paying for it (by working on his free time)
    Female slaves were automatically "upgraded" to the level of "a child's mother" when they became pregnant by the owner, and it becomes forbidden for him to sell her during his lifetime, and she becomes automatically free after his death.
    Some of the slaves saw the "freeing" act as a disaster for them! Being forced out of the home they lived their life in, and not being able to "depend" on themselves, so they opted for a system of "MAWLA" which means that the newly freed man can still be close to his former owner but on a different level
    Muslim Slaves were able to exercise their potentials in a way I can't see in any Judeo-Christian based culture. They basically ran the nation for hundreds of years!! (The MAMLUKs era, after the 13th century) (the word Mamluk means "owned")
    Actually I can't be surprised that current Christians are embarrassed by the whole slavery system as the Bible depicts it!

    Since the main source of slaves is war, I can see that if the invaders weren't allowed to take slaves then the act of war will become more horrible that it's already is! (with no motive to spare the losers lives)

    9 The Israelites captured the Midianite women and children and took all the Midianite herds, flocks and goods as plunder. 10 They burned all the towns where the Midianites had settled, as well as all their camps.
    Moses was angry with the officers of the army who returned from the battle.
    15 “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them.

    (("17 Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18 but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."))

    12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves.

    16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.

    But answering your question, is it OK?.. Yes, but it has to be "my version" not the bible's!! (which I believe to be intentionally corrupted BTW, and Moses pbuh never said such a thing as in Num 31:15 I quoted above)


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