One of the most “famous” stories in the Bible is that of Joseph. God gave Joseph dreams, showing that his family would one day bow down to him. Then, after hearing these dreams, his brothers later beat him and threw him in a cistern. Instead of letting Joseph die in the cistern, his brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, where he was given rule over the house of his Egyptian master, Potiphar. However, when Potiphar’s wife wanted to sleep with Joseph, he declined and was falsely accused of trying to have sex with Potiphar’s wife, by his wife. Subsequently, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison. 

This is where I’d like to take a moment and examine the text, addressing the question of whether or not Potiphar believed his wive’s account. Let’s start by reviewing Potiphar’s response.

When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. 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 (emphasis added).

Genesis 39:19-21 (NIV)

The key verse out of these three is verse 20, which tells us Joseph was put into the king’s prison. The king’s prison wasn’t cozy place where rich criminals went while awaiting sentencing. It was the place where those who committed capital crimes went. Crimes directly against the king (Pharaoh) and the state. In other words, crimes that the king was aware of. Now, think about it for a moment and imagine yourself as the warden for the king’s prison. How do you treat those who have offended the king? Kindly and with compassion? Will such treatment, when the king finds out about it, please him? I don’t think so. 

Psalm 105 gives us insight into how Joseph was treated when he first got into prison.

And he sent a man before them— Joseph, sold as a slave. They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons.

Psalm 105:17-18 (NIV)

That doesn’t look like a comfortable jail cell to me. Let’s see how Joseph described his prison.

“I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”

Genesis 40:15 (NIV)

The McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia gives this definition of a dungeon. 

Dungeon…a pit, as often rendered; fully…house of the pit…is properly distinguished from the ordinary prison…as being more severe, and usually consisting of a deep cell or cistern.

McClintock & Strong

After Joseph had been in this dungeon for some time, he was joined by two noteworthy prisoners.

Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them (emphasis added).

Genesis 40:2-5 (NIV)

This captain of the guard is none other than Potiphar! Some read this verse and say this is evidence that Potiphar didn’t believe his wife and took it easy on Joseph. However, what I see here is that Joseph regained Potiphar’s respect through his behavior while in prison. Likely, the warden, Potiphar’s subordinate, reported to Potiphar Joseph’s behavior. Indeed, Joseph, while in prison, was once again put in charge.

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 39:22-23 (NIV)

Sugarcoating the story of Joseph and Potiphar only diminishes what God did for Joseph and what he can do for us.

Since Joseph’s story is about persevering and trusting in God in the worst of times, it makes sense that these were the worst of times for Joseph. Thus, it doesn’t make sense that Potiphar didn’t believe his wife when he was first confronted with the news of Joseph’s betrayal. Instead, I see Potiphar enraged at himself and Joseph; for trusting Joseph and Joseph for betraying his trust, which is why he threw him into the worst prison. Furthermore, if we were just reading a made-up story, it would behoove the writer to have the worst happen to Joseph in light of him being innocent and then, in the end, have him be redeemed while those who thought him guilty saw that they were wrong. However, this is a true story by the best author ever written, God. How much better, then, is it for us to know that God can do the same thing for us when we’ve fallen into the worst of times?

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.

References

McClintock, J., & Strong, J. (n.d.). Dungeon from the McClintock and Strong Biblical cyclopedia. McClintock and Strong Biblical Cyclopedia Online. Retrieved January 16, 2023, from https://www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/D/dungeon.html