GENESIS 38 and 39
Jacob’s problems continue today when his son Judah moves away from the family, falls into bad company and then marries a Canaanite woman, with whom he has three sons. This episode probably occurred whilst Joseph was in captivity in Egypt, and the bible contrasts Joseph’s moral integrity with Judah’s distinct lack of it. Er, the firstborn married Tamar and he was so wicked (reason not given) that God put him to death. The custom then was for the childless widow to marry the next brother, Onan, and any resulting child would belong to his dead brother and inherit that estate. Onan was not keen on a divided inheritance and so he used an age-old contraceptive method to avoid Tamar getting pregnant. For such deceit and duplicity, God put him to death also. This left Tamar as a widow again, and so she was promised to the third son, Shelah once he was of marriageable age.
Much later, Judah himself became a widower and began to spend time with prostitutes. His daughter-in-law, Tamar, resentful that she had not been married to Shelah, set a ‘honeytrap’ for Judah and ended up pregnant by him. The babies, Perez and Zerah were the result; Perez became part of the bloodline of King David (much later of course).
Whilst this was all going on, Chapters 39 and 40 refer to Joseph’s adventures in Egypt. If you are interested in further study about Joseph, then download these notes from https://1drv.ms/w/s!AqmXwc9NXEEFh3WU1r6HZAvUDWB7?e=JO0X1W for a more comprehensive summary of this great man. The key theme, repeated many times, is that the Lord was with Joseph and blessed his work and gave him success in everything he did. This resulted in blessing for all those around him too (with the notable exception of Pharaoh’s baker in the prison!). Joseph was put in charge, first, of the household of Potiphar, the captain of the guard; then put in charge of the prison into which he had been incarcerated; then put in charge of all Egypt. All of this was because of God’s favour in his life and Joseph’s own faithfulness towards God in response.
The incident where Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph is in striking comparison to Judah’s rather sordid lifestyle. Joseph quickly realised (and I suspect that Potiphar knew also) that the wife was a serial temptress and that he was in grave danger: if he yielded to her, then he would offend both Potiphar and God, and if he resisted, he would offend her. In the end, he had no choice – he ran! His rejection caused her lust for him quickly to change into hatred and she lied about him to Potiphar. Potiphar knew, deep down, that Joseph was probably innocent (he had perhaps seen this scenario occur with his wife many times before) – or else he would have had Joseph summarily executed – but the accusation was now public and, to save face, with regret he sent his faithful servant to prison.
In God’s purposes, what appeared to be a disaster was actually a steppingstone to a greater salvation – not just for Joseph but for the entire nation of Egypt and the household of Israel. “In all things, God works for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20.)