Six Lessons from Joseph’s Slavery

I learned six Lessons from Joseph’s slavery in my church’s Young Adult Bible Study this week.

Joseph’s Brothers Sold Him Into Slavery

So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is there if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother and our flesh.” And his brothers listened. Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.” – Genesis 37:26-28

In Genesis 37, we see Joseph’s brothers hating him for his father’s favor toward him and for his dreams. They wanted to kill him, but decided to sell him into slavery instead. A “lesser of two evils”. This is how Joseph’s story begins.

1. “The LORD was with Joseph.”

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand.” – Genesis 39:1-3, emphasis mine.

His brothers sold him into slavery, his father thought he was dead, everything seems to be going against him. But he wasn’t abandoned. He wasn’t forgotten. God was still watching out for him and blessing him in the midst of trials. He had a plan and purpose for him.

2. God Blesses Faithfulness in Bad Circumstances

The narrative continues, “So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. ” – Genesis 39:4-5

Joseph was faithful to work where God put him. Did he want to be a slave? Probably not. Did he doubt God’s purpose in his slavery? At times, probably. Did he worked diligently where God had placed him anyway? Yes. He didn’t let his bad circumstances become an excuse to not do what God had called him to do.

God blessed that faithfulness by blessing everything Joseph managed. His master noticed this, and put him in charge of everything he had. God continued to bless his master Potiphar “for Joseph’s sake”.

3. Resist Sin to Avoid Offending the Master.

 “And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:4-7-10, emphasis mine.

He was concerned about sinning against his earthly master, but he was even more concerned about sinning against his heavenly Master, the Divine Majesty of Heaven. To lie with Potiphar’s wife would be to be ungrateful, selfish, and perverted. It would be a slap in the face of his master who had put him over all he had.

That would be bad enough, but the offense against God would be much worse. As Piper puts it, “The seriousness of an insult rises with the dignity of the one insulted”. Joseph understood the seriousness of sin. God used that to give him the strength to resist it. We would do well to consider sin the same way.

4. Flee From Sin, Don’t Toy With It.

“So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.” – Genesis 39:10-12

He recognized this was not a time to stand and argue with Potiphar’s wife. Temptation literally had him by the coat. This was not a time to passively resist, he needed to get out of there fast.

Paul Washer says that entertaining temptation is like a child playing with a poisonous snake. It’s all fun and games until the snake bites the child. So it is when we toy with temptation. We toy with the idea of indulging in the sins we like and are shocked when we find we commit what we hate.

If we want to win in our fight with sin, we must fight temptation as Joseph did, with energy and purpose. We need to use God’s word as Jesus did (Matt. 4) and flee from temptation. Don’t try to reason or fight on your own strength, use God’s word. In the fight, know that temptation is not wrong, but giving in is wrong. Fight in God’s strength.

5. Doing what is right does not always look right.

“And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.” – Genesis 39:13-15.

By fleeing from her presence, he put himself in a position to be framed for the very sin he ran from. Sometimes, we must look like we’re doing wrong when we do what is right. I’ve heard it said, “Obey God’s word and let the chips fall where they may”. We trust that God will work everything for good in the end.

6. You May Be Punished for Obeying God

“So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison.” – Genesis 39:19-20

He was framed, he went to prison. Another injustice. Another bad situation. Another situation God uses for good. At every stage, “what man meant for evil, God meant for good”. In this life, we may be persecuted, we may be accused of things we do not commit, but we must remain confident that God will make it right in His final tally.

Should we defend ourselves against false accusations? Of course. Should be faithful where God puts us? Even if we go to prison for something we didn’t do? Of course.

These are hard truths, but hope-giving ones.


What did you learn from the story of Joseph? How can you apply it to your life?



Photo by Cedric Froehlich on Unsplash.


2 responses to “Six Lessons from Joseph’s Slavery”

  1. Wonderful analysis of that passage.
    I especially love Gen 50:20
    “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

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