King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Genesis 39

Joseph preferred by Potiphar. (1-6) Joseph resists temptation. (7-12) Joseph is falsely accused by his mistress. (13-18) He is cast into prison, God is with him there. (19-23)

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Joseph preferred by Potiphar

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Joseph resists temptation

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.

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;

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?

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.

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.

Joseph is falsely accused by his mistress

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:

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.

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

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:

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

He is cast into prison, God is with him there

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Ismaelites. They are called Madianites. C. xxxvii. 36. H.

Ver. 6. Bread. A proverbial expression, to shew how entirely he reposed in Joseph’s fidelity and prudence. M. — He was so rich, that he knew not the extent of his wealth. So Petronius says, Nescit quid habeat, adeo Zaplutus est. It may also be understood as a commendation of Joseph’s disinterestedness.

Ver. 7. Many days. About 10 years; as Joseph was 30, three years after this. C.

Ver. 9. His wife, and such things as could not be touched without sin; such as his daughter, if the woman, whom Joseph afterwards married, was the daughter of this man. C. xli. 45. — My God, Elohim; which might also be understood of his lord and master. The sin against the latter would be resented by God, who is offended by every transgression. H.

Ver. 10. Both the woman was importunate, &c. Heb. does not express this so fully. D.

Ver. 12. Out. He could easily have wrested it from her. But he would not do any thing that might seem disrespectful, nor claim what her impure hands had touched. M.

Ver. 16. A proof of her fidelity, or an argument to gain credit, argumentum fidei. Ch. — Love neglected, turns to fury. She wishes to take away Joseph’s life, according to the laws of Egypt against adulterers. Diodorus says Sesostris burnt some women taken in the crime; and we must attribute it to divine Providence, that the enraged husband did not inflict instant death upon his slave. Perhaps he did not altogether believe him guilty. H.

Ver. 17. Thou hast, &c. As if her husband were guilty of an indiscretion. M.

Ver. 19. Too much. The proof was of an ambiguous nature. But Putiphar perhaps thought it unbecoming to distrust his wife, or to interrogate his slave. H.

Ver. 21. Keeper. Pererius thinks this was the same Putiphar, who, recognizing the innocence of Joseph, allows him every indulgence in prison; but does not liberate him, for fear of the dishonour and resentment of his wife. C. — He had before put him in irons. Ps. civ. 18. Wis. x. 13. Joseph here exercises at once the four cardinal virtues. Prudence, in keeping out of the company of his mistress, as the Hebrew express it, v. 10. “He yielded not to lie with her, or to be in her company.” H. — Justice, in regard to his master. Fortitude, in bearing with all sorts of hardships, loss of character, &c. And Temperance, by refusing to gratify the most violent of all passions, at an age when it is the most insidious and ungovernable. This makes the fathers exclaim, We wonder more at the conduct of Joseph, than at the delivery of the three children from the Babylonian furnace. For, like them, Joseph continues unhurt, and more shining, in the midst of the flames. S. Chrys. T. — The stories of Hippolitus, Bellerophon, &c. seem to be copied from this. C.