Joseph, in his new life as a slave in Potiphar’s house, was experiencing success. Potiphar quickly recognized Joseph’s many talents and his reliability. God gave Joseph favor in the eyes of his owner, so much so that in a relatively short time, Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household for he recognized that Joseph’s presence was making a significant difference in the very atmosphere of the estate. It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was on all that he owned in the house and in the field. (Gen. 39:5) I doubt that it ever entered Potiphar’s mind that Joseph was a threat to his marriage.
However, Potiphar’s wife had thoughts of her own about this Hebrew slave. The Bible says that Joseph was ‘well-built and handsome’ (Gen. 39:6) She had noticed that. She had more than noticed it. She clearly indulged unclean thoughts in her mind and the more she thought about it, the more her desires grew.
Sin begins in the mind which is why the Scriptures exhort us to be careful how we think. Unchecked thoughts create fantasies and fantasies urge us to action. That’s exactly what happened with Potiphar’s wife. So one day, when she and Joseph happened to be the only ones in the house, she made her move.
It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph and she said, ‘Lie with me’. (Gen. 39:7)
Wow! Talk about being blind-sided! Here was a new kind of trial that Joseph had not faced before. Just when things seemed to be looking up for Joseph, at least as far as his daily life was concerned, out of the blue here comes this seductive woman blatantly inviting him to sin with her.
Some people when tempted to adultery or immorality resist only because of what they stand to lose. That was not Joseph’s situation at all. It would have been so easy for him to get away with it. There was no family around for him to embarrass; he had no reputation to defend. He was a slave, at the very bottom of society. He was in a foreign country with no hope in the natural of ever seeing what good could come out of what had happened to him. And don’t forget: this was a healthy and handsome young man 18 or 19 years old, the age when such temptations are indeed powerful.
But look at his answer to Potiphar’s wife: But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?’ (Gen. 39: 8-9)
Two principles emerge from this part of the story that we dare not miss.
- If you are facing a new trial or temptation that you’ve never faced before, God is paying you a high compliment. It means first of all that you passed the last test with flying colors, because if you didn’t you’d be facing the same old test again and again. If God allows a new kind of testing to come your way, it means He has plans for you. He is preparing you for what is to come. He watches every move we make, every decision to praise Him instead of complaining or grumbling.
- Some commentators have opined that Potiphar was not a good husband and that’s why his wife acted like this. Rubbish! That is sheer speculation. It has become fashionable to blame parents, teachers, background, upbringing and who knows what else for our own sinfulness. No psychological or sociological reason justifies sin. Sin is sin, plain and simple. That’s why Joseph’s answer is so profound and powerful: How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?’
Young as he was, Joseph had it absolutely right! The only thing that will ultimately keep a person from falling into sin is his or her love for God.
When our love for God births a passion within us to avoid any thought, word or deed that would put a wedge between ourselves and Him, that, my friends, and that alone will keep us from sinning, not out of a self-serving or self-protecting motive, but for the right reason: Sin is abhorrent to God. When you love Him with all your heart, soul and strength, what is abhorrent to Him becomes abhorrent to you.
Young Joseph, faced with this new trial, resisted the temptation and soon experienced what Shakespeare would say many years later: ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ Perhaps it was Potiphar’s wife who inspired this comment in Shakespeare’s play!
Are you facing some kind of test or trial that you’ve never faced before? Be encouraged! It means that God isn’t finished with you yet. His plan for your life means He is also the one who prepares you to fulfill that plan. A new kind of test means you passed the last one. That’s good news! As you face your day today, stand tall, head held high, shoulders back and declare with the psalmist: I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. And with Joshua: As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD!