1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful 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 he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favour in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 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. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ 8 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. 9 There is none 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? 10 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. 11 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, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. 13 And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, 14 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. 15 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.’ 16 So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. 17 Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, ‘The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; 18 so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.’ 19 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. 20 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. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He 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 who were in prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph authority, because the Lord was with Him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
As I read this scripture over and over and think about it, I become more fascinated. Genesis 39 isn’t only about examining how Joseph overcame the temptation to sleep with Potiphar’s wife. It also reveals to us the wise ways of a loving God.
Joseph here was in an extremely turbulent time of life – spiritually and emotionally. His life and dreams seemed to be in turmoil. He was rejected and betrayed by his own brothers, and sold into a strange land. I try my best to imagine what it must have been like for a young man in his position. He may have had countless thoughts in his mind – ‘Why am I here?’ ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ ‘Why did God allow this to happen to me?’ He may have – even for a moment – doubted God. I do not know exactly how Joseph felt. However I know that it is very painful to be rejected and hurt by those closest to you, and to suffer an injustice while being innocent. The turmoil in Joseph’s life was enough for him to have said in his heart ‘I don’t care anymore, for God has forsaken me.’ He could have said ‘I will cast off restraint, and follow my own desires.’
I confess that I have felt this way before. A hard blow of life at times is enough to make one feel as if it’s not worth living for Jesus anymore. This in itself is a temptation. Satan, during our tests and trials would have us believe that God has forsaken us. It is in these times that he’ll try to lure us into the trap of sin.
Verse 2 reminds us that the Lord was with Joseph. This is key. In the toughest of circumstances, the Lord’s promise stands – ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ You are never alone. The Lord’s presence made a big difference in Joseph’s life. In his pain and frustration, Joseph by God’s strengthening upheld his integrity, and humbled himself to serve his Egyptian master. This isn’t to be overlooked. He could have had an attitude of resisting to serve, being troublesome to Potiphar. However he served, and the Lord blessed everything he did. Not only that, but God blessed Potiphar for his sake (verse 5). Potiphar in turn made Joseph overseer over all he had! As we humble ourselves to serve those who God has put over us (e.g. at work, church, school, community), we in turn will be entrusted with more authority. This reminds me of Ephesians 6:5-8 which encourages us to serve our employers with sincerity as to the Lord. In a spiritual sense also, we who believe on Christ, receive more authority, as we serve faithfully.
It is at the height of God’s blessing, that temptation comes. Verse 6 sets the stage. Note how verse 7 begins – “…after these things…” What things? The answer is the things taking place in Joseph’s life – the presence of God, His blessings and favour, promotion. It was at this point that Potiphar’s wife lusted after Joseph. Make no mistake. God allowed this test. For it is in times of great blessing in our lives that we can be most complacent and let down our guard. It is often when we are flourishing, whether materially of spiritually, that we are prone to forget how much we need the Lord’s strength, power, wisdom and mercy day by day.
This temptation marked a crossroads in Joseph’s destiny. So it is with us too. Often temptations as great as these, if fallen into, have the potential to destroy our lives. However if overcome, we can gain a victory that propels us into God’s best. Well how did this young man manage to overcome the approaches of this rich, gorgeous woman? Firstly, he spoke to the source of the temptation. Sounds simple? It was by no means easy for Joseph to boldly declare to his boss’ wife that he would not have sex with her. This is worthy of note. He spoke. Proverb 18:21 declares ‘…death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.’ Furthermore Jesus says in Mark 11:23 ‘…whoever says to this mountain ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea’ and does not doubt in his heart will have whatever he says.’ When we speak the word of God over a situation, we will overcome. Is someone trying to lure you? Speak to them – ‘I will not.’ Are your own desires leading you astray? Speak God’s word to yourself! Is satan trying to oppress you? Speak the word of God against him! Speak!
Secondly, Joseph acknowledged the trust put in him by his master. See verse 8. Joseph realised that Potiphar had been good to him to the point that he committed all that he had into Joseph’s care. He knew that sleeping with Potiphar’s wife would be a great betrayal. Likewise, we too must realise that our Heavenly Father has blessed us, and given us His best, by sending Jesus to die for us. Concerning our salvation, 2 Corinthians 4:7 states ‘…we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.’ God has entrusted us with eternal life, and with the responsibility of sharing His Son Jesus Christ with others. What a great tragedy it would be to compromise this for temporary pleasure or gain.
Thirdly, Joseph knew his authority and its boundaries. He had authority over the running of Potiphar’s household, but he was not to touch his wife. This reminds me to Adam and Eve. They had authority to manage all that was in Eden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). We as Christians are given authority, and freedom and responsibility. However we are not to wilfully sin. We must know right from wrong in our walk with Christ. If we don’t, then we will easily be led astray.
Joseph in verse 9 declared that to sleep with Potiphar’s wife would be ‘great wickedness’ and ‘sinning against God.’ At times we often try to excuse our sin by refusing to call it what it really is. Often we are tempted to think ‘well it’s not that bad.’ ‘God will forgive me.’ ‘I am strong enough to resist.’ On and on it goes. If we are going to overcome sin, we must learn to hate and reject it. If we condone it in any way, we will always be willing to indulge – even a little. Ephesians 5:11 says ‘…have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose (rebuke, refute) them.’
Satan is persistent, and Joseph had to endure countless invitations to have sex. However, don’t forget, God was still with him, and he didn’t give in. He was actually very wise, and stayed away from her as much as possible. Proverbs 5:8 says concerning the adulteress (or adulterer if you are a woman being tempted) ‘…remove your way far from her (and every situation that tempts you)…’
The ultimate test came by verses 11 and 12. Not being able to entice Joseph by her words, Potiphar’s wife physically took hold of him at an opportune time, when no one else was around. The temptation was great. I can imagine satan trying to convince Joseph ‘Go on, it’s just you and her, no one else will know!’ I sympathise with Joseph here, because I don’t believe he could have avoided being alone with her in this instance. Nevertheless, we must do our best not to let this happen to us. Joseph in the midst of temptations ran outside. 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 2 Timothy 2:22 exhort us to flee sexual sin, yes run for our lives. If Joseph stood there gazing at her beautiful physique, he may have fallen. Even if he stood there arguing with her, he may have yielded. God knows what He’s talking about when He says ‘run!’ Don’t stand up and try to be brave, just run! By running, you are taking the escape route the Lord has provided (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Joseph overcame, but the ordeal wasn’t over yet. The rest of the chapter tells us that Potiphar’s wife lied, and got Joseph sent to prison. How unfair you may say. ‘He did the right thing, but he ended up in a worse position.’ However verse 21 reminds us ‘…the Lord was with Joseph.’ At times when you overcome your test, to the naked eye, your situation may seem worse. You aren’t always instantly rewarded for doing the right thing. Remember though that God always blesses us for obeying His commandments and doing His will. Joseph was in prison now, but the authority and favour he received from the Lord was never lost. They went with him to prison! Praise God! Verses 22 and 23 tell us that Joseph found favour in the sight of the prison keeper and was given charge of his fellow inmates.
Do you see God’s calling upon this man’s life? Wow! God has a divine purpose for your life and mine too. Often, temptation is a test allowed by God to see if you we ready for the next level of authority, anointing and power in our lives. Let us not allow sin to rob us of a bright present and future in Christ. Do you know where Joseph ultimately ended up? Read the following chapters….I don’t want to spoil it for some of you!!! However we see that all along, everything – even the temptation – was working together for good in his life (Romans 8:28).