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How Long Was Joseph In Potiphars House? How Long In Prison?

In Genesis 41:46 we learn that Joseph was 30 when he was made overseer to the king of Egypt.  Since he was 17 when he was sold into Egypt, that means he spent 13 years total in Potiphar's house and prison. We know Joseph was in prison at least 2 years because chapter 40 tells us about the servants of the king whose dreams Joseph interpreted.  The first verse of chapter 41 tells us that 2 years passed after that event before the king had the dreams that Joseph was called to interpret.
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So Joseph lived in Potiphar's house 11 years or less and was in prison 2 or more years.  According to the Biblical Timeline Chart, Joseph was born after 1771 BC, which is the year his older brother Levi was born.

There many details available about Joseph. For instance we know

  • Joseph_in_Egypt_sold
  • He was 17 when he was sold into Egypt
  • He was 30 when he was made overseer
  • He was 39 when his brothers first came to Egypt (second year of the famine, or nine years after being made overseer)
  • He was probably 41 or so when the brothers came a second time and Jacob comes to Egypt
  • He was 110 when he died


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87 thoughts on “How Long Was Joseph In Potiphars House? How Long In Prison?

  1. Thank you so much for the info.

    1. I really appreciate the information thank you so much.

    2. Thank you for the info please

  2. Like me,he suffered a lot.but over came through GOD.

      1. Wonderful accurate response to answer

  3. Right from childhood, I’ve been wanting to live my life like Joseph but now like Jesus.

    1. Thank you and this is really helpful

    2. Lord I know the feeling of somewhat being in the exact same story in the bible that was written but the rest is still written until this day .

      1. I heard a sermon this morning involving Joseph and was drawn to the 7 + 7 years. Elohim had control of the weather, so, what was he saying to us through the ages in this pattern? Is it like something that is not necessarily a prophecy but the establishing of a pattern, 7 years of favourable, then 7 years of the opposite. As a result this is one of the website I stumbled across, so I’m the same as you – there’s more to this.

        This guy writes in a repugnant conceited self-congratulatory manner, but it seems he is on to something.

        Digest with care.

        1. That is great, wow, what an amazing God

          1. Joseph story has make many of God’s children to fear God at all levels! I’m to be a child of God

      2. Thank you for this helpful information. Like Joseph, we need to wait on the Lord through thick and thin before we see what He is doing! All things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are the called according to His will!

  4. Joseph overcame all his challenges because his heart was pure and therefore God was with him and anyone with a pure heart shall overcome.

    1. “his heart was pure and therefore God was with him”

      No – his heart was “pure” because God changed it. He was born again. He gives a new heart to those he loves, it’s not that he loves those who make their own hearts pure. All of grace.

      1. During that time they did not have *the Christ* so there was no being “born again”
        They had the Torah just like Jesus and the apostles did because there was no “New Testament” either.
        Ro. 10:9-10 is clear about what it takes to be born again as does John 3:36 (1-36)

        1. Do you assume the people of the old testament- roughly twice the length of time since Christ- were saved by some operation other than Christ? Or that an arbitrary God rules and had them born with no salvation available? The Gift of prophecy is and always was the testimony of Jesus

          1. They were saved by grace through faith. Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness.


        3. Joseph didn’t have even the Torah …

          1. That is correct. This was well before the time of Moses. The family line and their testimonies of God were passed d own by word of mouth. People were trained to repeat the information word for word. Many cultures used this method.

          2. Joseph waited patiently for his dreams to come to pass

        4. Ok. Sort of. But we do know GOD gave KING SAUL ” A change of heart”. And SAUL was king David’s fatherinlaw.

        5. No Joseph had no Torah. That came with Moses’s 450 years later app. Joseph had the law of Godly tradition

          1. Thanks Phillip a very wise answer but don’t
            know if will suffice for themodern day Pharsiees!

        6. Thank you for your message I new Christ die for us
          we being born again this what I was thinking that message repply to me not by mistake but by God thank you

        7. The idea of “Being born again” is a Jewish concept predating Yeshua. Yeshua asked Nicodemus, “ how can you be a teacher in Israel and not know these things.” If Yeshua was the first to teach such a concept, why would He ask Nicodemus such an accusatory question?

      2. Yes, thanks for clarifying…he was favored son of the father!…sound familiar?!…then in human bondage but always did for God’s glory…then rose to eventually be trusted to rule. Will we eventually trust him as ruler of our lives…as he has the authority of the King himself!

      3. What a long trial Joseph endured. It was bootcamp to prepare him to be a one day ruler of his people, the same that brought us both Torah and Savior. Joseph was chosen to preserve this special people. Trials hurt, but are necessary to shave and carve our souls in readiness of our work on earth.

      4. I agree with this definition that grace is the reason; the grace of God.

      5. There isn’t real support for this idea in the bible or in logic. God has provided the clear means for obtaining grace for grace. He loves every soul and does not act arbitrarily. He beckons and awaits us to act and receive grace for grace. Opportunity is all of grace. Results are all if agency. Joseph made decisions he did not have to make and the results were very different than if he had chosen otherwise. Grace does not abound absent of our exercise of agency. It’s a beautiful plan. Grace imposed without our equal accepting actions line upon line is the doctrine of tyranny and is not Gods.

    2. That’s right I love God so I Love Love Perfect Love

  5. I disagree with your 13 years in Prison. Here’s why, Joseph was 17 when He was sold into slavery. He did not reach Egypt until he was 18. Bibles states that HIs owner prospered while Joseph ran the House which meant he probably spent at least 2 years running the House before he was sent to jail for something He didn’t do. Better to be in jail with the Present of the Lord, than to live in a Palace without the Lord. So Joseph spent roughly 10 years in Prison, not 13. He could not have spent 13, that number is not reasonable, so it’s something less.

    1. Some of these comments are crazy too me people trying to dictate times dates and everything he spent 13 years total.

    2. You may need to read this again. No where in this analysis does it say Joseph was in prison for 13 years.

    3. The author says 13 years in Potiphar’s house and in prison. He includes the prison time in his estimate, not as the overall time.

    4. Brother why are you so fixated on the amount of years he spent? Have you been locked away in the prison system? Have you served an official of the government? Brother, come on man. You weren’t there? Stop hating on thr person who took there time to do the research, which I think was phenomenal by the way, and have an open mind, not just an open heart. Love you Gos bless you. I’m 5 years late on this comment…

      1. Good reply)
        But what a fun discussion! Reveals much!

      2. Ha ha ha am 6yrs late.knowing the time and dates is valuable.. But do you get the message.. It’s all about Jesus.. While you are arguing on minor issue,a world list in sinsvand in Dior need of salvation is perishing.. Look at the street kids…..what do you see?maybe scientists to find cures for incurable disease, doctors, lawyers…but you are busy arguing. Focuses on the Major not the minor… Their blood is in your hands

    5. I do believe they said he was imprisoned for at least two years but In total he was separated from his family at that time for 13 years. You know what is amazing that he trusted God dispite his situation!! He obeyed and never gave up!! Was it easy no but God never said it would be easy or fair. I think he was being made into the man God needed him to become.

      1. Formed by the hardtimes to become what God created him to be in his dreams. Don’t give up on your dreams, it may be your very purpose of being.

  6. To Tom: The writer never said how many years Joseph was in prison. He never asserted that he was there 13 years.

  7. Does it really mater how long he was in prison? He was there for something he didn’t do, 13 years, 13 days or 13 hours, he was in prisoned, BUT overcame because of his faith. Some of us are not in jail, but are in prisoned in our mind, our thought and our emotions. May God give us the peace that passes all understanding.

    Be blessed everyone.

    1. It does matter taking interest in knowing some of these details. It cannot be equated to reading into the text neither out of the text. The timelines add value to the wealth of lessons for our applications in our times.
      Its upon such premise that such knowledge conveys invaluable lessons on growing in our abilities/gift/talents even when God’s might be on one’s life. He cherishes the seasons and times in which He allow s us go through preparation. Of course its noteworthy that this is happening within the platform of service of one’s God given abilities.
      NOTWITHSTANDING, the context and setting of drawing in such details should never be ignored.

      In contributing to the discussion I commend the writer for such time taken to research and share this information. I take cognizance of the fact that not all these timelines have not been fully expressed in such scripture. But with the details of 17 years when he is sold, two years revealed when the officials were in prison and dream was pointing to end of 3 years, and ofcourse its mentioned that he was 30 years when he is promoted to such high office.
      These details give room for accuracy or to its closest in any literal conclusions.
      In conclusion, we need to pick principles in scriptures and at the same time learn to interact with the Word of God beyond the surface of its value.
      For this was written within the settings of real society just like ours.

      1. Yes, real. As I try to understand God and suffering I crave details. It helps me understand what God allows, how people respond and try to relate it to my own suffering. These stories of suffering, endurance and redemption, encourage me. Joseph did not know for sure that he would get out of jail. He hung on to a dream and a savior. I have cried out to God “This is not the way it’s supposed to be!” Did Joseph cry the same thing on the way to Egypt? On the way to prison? After being forgotten?
        My favorite part is when he thanks God for blessing him with a family so that he has forgotten the pain of his first family.

        1. Great comment ! I too understand the prison of preparation . It’s been loooong, but suddenly the prison door will open and the hour of release

    2. like many others such as Jonah, job,saul, david Heck even Esther who kept a secret for a number of years they all had one thing they could do while inprisoned…..simply one thing prayer showing god by praying showing the time it took to get a full cup of milk (faith) persay. Some were in prisoned two years some 13. The question is how long will it take you to god

    3. It matters,but it does not bring Jesus on the Scene,that is not a point if focuses.. Salvation is the focus. While you are arguing, a world dying if sin is in Dior need of salvation but you are blocking them because your salvation is not from the heart.ask God to awaken your hearts to hear his word for a revival.. Their blood is Your hands

      1. It is said that God hides things, not from us, but for us. We wants us to seek things out. Proverbs 25:2 “It is the glory of God to hide a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of Kings” By tossing these things back and forth, things are slowly revealed as “men to to and fro” [Daniel 12:4]. They’re not arguing. Isiah 6:9-11 paints a picture of a people having knowledge too early, and discussion is part of unlocking it. Jesus said the same of parables. [ Matthew ]3:10-17 ]

        Do you judge too readily? How do you know that they are not already attending to these things.. of the “world lost in sins and in dire need of salvation.. ” ?

        We’re trying to make every punch count as in 1 Cor 9:26, by discerning the true picture so that we don’t lead them into greater bondage. [ Matt 25:13 ]

  8. Standing before the kings:

    Having spent some 13 years in prison on false charges and being cut off from any fellowship of saints with whom he could confide, Joseph of Egypt was now called for by the King of Egypt. He was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. He had then the opportunity of meeting the Chief of the nation and petition for his life.

    “…I have heard …that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” said Pharaoh.

    Now is opportunity to talk to the King. Now is all chances under heaven! Joseph was now in fronT of the King, being called by him and being questioned by him, and now it was the turn of Joseph to answer:

    “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

    Note the honor Joseph gave to God, note the truth, note the boldness, and note the humility and dignity of this young man standing before the supreme of a nation, unashamed to witness of the Most Supreme he served.

    In the words and interaction that followed which lasted for about 5 minutes, Joseph involved ‘God’ some five times in the conversation. As a result of his such a powerful witness of God, Pharoah himself spoke about ‘God’ twice and ‘agreed’ with Joseph and also with his witness of the ‘God’ that he witnessed about!

    Said Pharaoh, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

    Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.”

    Jospeh of old stood and witnessed before the king, so did the prohpet Daniel before King Darius who in a lamentable voice cried out, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”; so did the apostle Paul before king Agrippa who openly stated, “Almost you persuade me to be a Christian”.

    So did the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ when stood before Pontius Pilate and witnessed: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.”

    Who so we stand before today? We can ask the Master’s help so that we will stand unashamed! For this is just not a mere boldness, but a sheer love to the One witnessed which is required, so when we witness the One we love, life and persons take the back seat! His love also spreads to and is felt by those we witness to, as it was to King Pharoah, King Darius, King Agrippa, and Governor Pilate!

    1. Good Reply!!!!!!!!!!! Praise God!!!!!!!!!

    2. I agree. Look up 13. Its a number that has the significant meaning as ending a cycle for a new cycle to begin. This 13 year cycle was a great learning time for Joseph. And when it was over he was resurrected to a new man.

    3. This is an awesome comment that truly ministered to my own 13 year trial. Thanks!

    4. Amen!!!

  9. How do we know he was seventeen when Joseph was thrown in pit

    1. Genesis 37:2 states These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.

      This is followed by the gift of the cloak, the dreams of Joseph and finally his being thrown into the pit.

    2. Genesis 37:2 says he was 17 years of age when he tendered sheep with his brothers, when you read forward it states his brothers hated him

  10. Joseph was in the pit for 12 years.
    One for each of the shevitim (for saying evil talk about them, not counting himself or Binyomin, who was not around) + 2 for asking to be remembered. = 12.
    This can be found in a medrish there.

  11. Commentaries can be helpful, but to the word and the testimony! The numbers are doubtful. With travel time and time to establish such a reputation with his master (earthly), it would not be unreasonable to expect about 5 years or even at least 3. Ten often being used for testing.
    I was wondering if the time lapse from famine starting to Jacob going down to Egypt was 3 1/2 years. Presents an interesting picture.

  12. this was realy helpful for my paper

  13. i love this website it helps me all the time

  14. Joseph was young and naive the time he was in Potiphar’s house ..He was around 17 yrs of age ! Now for Potiphar to promote a slave, and make him an overseer of his house, was not in a matter of months ? It was after a long time of observation of who he is ! And that doesn’t happened in just one year !!!
    ( Even Jacob,his father, served 7 years for Rachel,and these 7 years seemed ONLY A FEW DAYS TO HIM because of the love he had for her .. Genesis 29:20 ) And I believe ,Joseph stayed for about 10 years in Potiphar’s house !!
    And Joseph life story was a picture of Our LORD JESUS !
    I believe like THE LORD JESUS was 3 days in the heart of the earth,Joseph as well was 3 years in prison to display GOD’s Glory !

  15. Notwithstanding, 13 days at the sights of God and thirteen years at the sight of men God use Joseph (Lord Jesus) to solve the problem of Egypt. Lord Jesus is example of Joseph. Walk peace..!

  16. Joseph was actually 39 when he made himself known to his brethren because he told them that this is the second year of the famine and 5 more years it will continue.

  17. The bigger picture, God restoring this family with Joseph, Setting the stage for Israel‘s future, and feeding the nations during a famine. I love this verse “Genesis 41:1, “Then it came to pass.” God’s timing and God is in control. “What I know the plans that I have for you says the Lord, Jeremiah 29:11-13

  18. Without trying to be accurate but parallel to picture the life of our saviour. Jesus began his ministry in prison ( The prison house of sin) at around 27.or 26 1/2. Joseph began his ministry in prison at the same age. Jesus preached for around 3 1/2 years so Joseph preached for 3 1/2 years in Prison ( interpreting dreams.
    Jesus stood before his Father to save man after leaving this prison at 30. Joseph stood before Pharao to save Egypt at 30. Let the 7 years of plenty be the old testement scriptures that have been stored Up, and the 7 years of famine be the New Testament scriptures eating up the old and never being satisfied. Meaning no end to the need for the word of God. You will also note the parallel of King David’s reign over Judah and then over all Israel with the parallel of Jesus and Joseph.
    David was 30 when he was crowand king over Judah. Jesus was 30 when he was crowned king on the day of Pentecost.Joseph was 30 when crowned king under pharao only, as Jesus was king under God only. King David reigned over all Israel for 33 years. Joseph was 33 years old when all his brothers and his Father Israel with all his step Mothers came to Egypt and bowed to him. ( bowed to his position). Remember his dream included his Father bowing. In Jesus’ case at 33 (even though he no longer aged) his gospel after 3 years of being restricted to the Jews now turned to the rest of the world, the Gentiles.Jesus would now be king over all, after 33 years.
    So All would now bow to Jesus after 33 years. King David reigned over all Israel for 33 years.
    And all ( sun moon and 11 stars came down to Egypt to bow) would now bow to Joseph at his 33rd year. God is telling US something here. NOT THEM. We in this last day. What is he telling us??
    The word is not exhausted. Someone eles will have another angle that the spirit of God will show them to share..Shalom brothers and Sisters.

  19. I would say that Jacob taught his son well regarding his families relationship with GOD. GOD’S PROMISE TO his Great Grandfather Abraham – “And The Scriptures Foretold That GOD Justifies the Gentiles Through Faith (Believing What GOD SAYS), Foretold The Gospel To Abraham: “All the nations will be blessed in you…So also Abraham “believed GOD, And it was Credited To him As Righteousness…. He Redeemed us in order that The Blessing Given To Abraham might (always a choice) come to the Gentiles (anyone not a biological Jew) Through Christ, so that Through Faith we might Receive The Promise Of THE SPIRIT (“GOD IS SPIRIT….… So In Christ you Are All children Of GOD Through Faith, 27for all of you who were Baptized Into Christ Have Clothed yourselves With Christ ( – Christ Is The Provided “Wedding Garment/Robe Of Righteousness” For All who “Believe” What GOD HAS TOLD us About His Son. Humanity Needed A Saviour If Any of us were to go on. For those that “Refuse The Love Of Truth That Would Save them… 2 Thessalonians 2, and are not “In Christ” are under “The Second Death” Penalty, “which Is The Lake of Fire” paying for their own sins until they “Perish” John 3:16). 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are All one in Christ. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs According To The Promise.” Galatians 3.

  20. Did Joseph ever lament during this time?iv never read he ever complained a single day

  21. Jesus brought grace, else to live a life like that is not easy. With wicked foundation in many life we need rugged determination and power if God to succeed. PrauseGid

  22. Part of the timeline indicates that Joseph was born after 1771 BC.
    On the other hand, from I Kings 6:1, the exodus took place 480 years from the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, which would put the exodus at about 1446 BC. Since Israel spent 430 years in Egypt, that suggests they entered Egypt in about 1876 BC, and Joseph preceded Israel by about 20 years putting his arrival in Egypt about 1896 BC which would put his birth about 1913 BC.
    Where am I going wrong on my calculations?

    1. Hello Fred, It has been 4 years since you posted this so I wonder if this post is even going to get to you. I began to wondered about this 400+ years time period when I saw that Levi’s son Kohath was already alive when they came to Egypt. Amram was born in Egypt and married his aunt Jochebed the daughter of Levi. These were the parents of Moses. It didn’t seem possible that this 400+ years could have passed with only these 2 generations. I don’t remember at this time how I came up with my conclusion but I think it was from the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 when he was 75 years old until the Exodus that this 400+ years were accomplished. Acts 7 gives the history of these events in verse 6 it mentions 400 tears and in verse 17 it seems to give the answer. connecting Abraham and the promise to the time of the Exodus. Galatians 3:17,18 also give witness to this time and relates to the promise to Abraham until the giving of the law. And it gives 430 years This is more understandable for the span of 400 years to occur. Something to consider.

  23. Hi this is such an interesting discussion, the reason I looked it up was because ABBA has me in a time of transition or wilderness as some call it. And it struck me that 40 is the number of transition in the Bible. so I wondered was Joseph in the jail for 40 months, as Moses was up Mount Sinai for 40 days x 2, the children of Israel were in the desert for 40 years and Yeshua was in the wilderness for 40 days, also others Elijah. A transition period between something old and the new thing ABBA is doing.

  24. Joseph trust that God is a liar he believes in the dreams God gave to him, then he got a revelation that God is for him no against him, that after all he went through he never said to God why this happened to me, instead he knew that things don’t happen to him but happens for him as possible he read that all things working together for good for those who loves God, the circumstances in our life are not accidental but has purpose, as many hav heard if someone throws me orange I will make a lemonade if rocks I will built a castle, His plans are not to harm you but to prosper you.

    1. Yes he had faith, but if he was troubled, God would have comforted Joseph with impressions of “peace”, “I am with you,” and “trust me” etc, plus he said “God can interpret the dream” so he KNEW God was with him.

    2. I assume autocorrect got in the way of your thumbs on your phone. *”Joseph trusted God isn’t a liar, he believes in the dreams God gave to him. Then he got a revelation that God is for him not against him …”

      People please take care to review what you are submitting, hasty replies indicate either a proud or argumentative spirit.

  25. All of you are funny. Thank you. Thank you God for being you and thank you for Joseph. Amen and Amen.
    (I don’t know how many years late I am…)

  26. From the History of Joseph I can see clearly the God’s plan about the people who called by Him. To feed the Jacob’s family in the time of famine God send Joseph to the Egypt before 13 years. Problems may come today but the solution set before the years. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

  27. One good reason why one would want to know the exact years of Joseph’s life and the years before and after is to understand the chronological timeline of the bible. Everyone agrees to the successive years up to the time of Jacob, although the birth date of Abraham is disputed. Another disputed hick-up that casts doubt on successive years being counted, is how long the Israelites spent in Egypt. Genesis 15:13-14, Exodus 12:40-41 and Galatians 3:16-17 needs to be reconciled. God put the number of years for this and that into the bible for a reason. Anyway, without boring those who are not interested in all this, it is interesting to note that the only son of Jacob (12 tribes) who has number of years ascribed to them, is Joseph. Happy studies :)))

    1. Hello Cornel, It has been more than 2 years since you posted this so I wonder if this post is even going to get to you. But I thought you might be interested in this post Which I replied to a different person on this forum. I began to wondered about this 400+ years time period when I saw that Levi’s son Kohath was already alive when they came to Egypt. Amram was born in Egypt and married his aunt Jochebed the daughter of Levi. These were the parents of Moses. It didn’t seem possible that this 400+ years could have passed with only these 2 generations. I don’t remember at this time how I came up with my conclusion but I think it was from the call of Abraham in Genesis 12 when he was 75 years old until the Exodus that this 400+ years were accomplished. Acts 7 gives the history of these events in verse 6 it mentions 400 tears and in verse 17 it seems to give the answer. connecting Abraham and the promise to the time of the Exodus. Galatians 3:17,18 also give witness to this time and relates to the promise to Abraham until the giving of the law. And it gives 430 years This is more understandable for the span of 400 years to occur. Something to consider.

  28. one important fact never mentioned — Hebrew mindset. your king for several years and a potion of a year. then a new king takes the throne the same year – that partial year is counted as a year for both kings, it is not 2.5 years for king A and 7 1/2 years for king B – but rather king A 3 years and king B 8 years. Gentile chronology often forgets this fact and here you have both Hebrew and Gentile calculations mingled — since none of us were there it is really difficult to be exact but the fact of the matter is G-D kept HIS promise to father Abraham

  29. Joseph was 39 when he revealed himself to his brothers, not 41. Gn 45:6 shows it.

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