The Curious Relationship of Joseph and Potiphar (Genesis 39:6)

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When we talk about Joseph and Potiphar, we almost immediately jump to a third character: Potiphar’s wife. She is, after all, the one who lusts after Joseph and, when she’s rebuffed, frames him for rape (Genesis 39:7-18).

But take a second and think about just the relationship between Joseph and Potiphar. The first six verses of Genesis 39 lay out an extremely beneficial partnership between the two men: Joseph is blessed by God, Potiphar recognizes God, who then trusts him so much that he doesn’t concern himself with any of the household operations.

That last statement is so interesting to me. Potiphar was so trusting of a slave that he had virtually no idea what happened in his house apart from the food on the table in front of him.

This is not a commentary on slavery as much as it is a reflection of the reality of that time. Slaves were bought; aside from fear, there wasn’t much in the way of loyalty from slave to master. Sure, there was the occasional household where slaves preferred to stay with their masters, but I would argue that was the exception rather than the rule (Exodus 21:1-6)

History is riddled with stories of slave insurrections, slaves killing their masters in the middle of the night, or otherwise conspiring to sever ties — violently, if necessary.

And yet Potiphar is so confident in his relationship with Joseph that he doesn’t have a care in the world. I can barely go to sleep at night without the safety of a security system, much less hand over my entire life to someone who may possibly be waiting for a moment to kill me.

Joseph isn’t a normal slave, though, and Potiphar knows it. He knows that God is with him, and he knows that Joseph’s handling of the household is not just one of efficiency, but of integrity.

Eventually, that integrity will get him into trouble with Potiphar’s wife, but until that point, Potiphar and Joseph have a solid relationship that is built on immense trust.