Joseph Resists Potiphar’s Wife (Week 11, Part 4/7) Genesis 37–41 | Mar 7 – Mar 13 – powered by Happy Scribe
If you could do something wrong and no other person would ever know about it, would you do it? That’s the dilemma raised in the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39. From the last point we left Joseph in the story, he’s made a startling recovery. After being sold into slavery by his brothers, he was purchased by a wealthy and powerful Egyptian named Potiphar. Joseph was such an excellent servant that when we rejoin him in the record, it informs us that Potiphar had made Joseph Overseer to his entire house and that all he had was put into his hand.
But just when it looks like Joseph’s luck is beginning to change, another complication comes along. The record says that Joseph was well favored and his master’s wife took a liking to him. She tried to seduce Joseph, telling him to lie with her. Now, we don’t know very much about the context of this story. In fact, we never even learned the name of Potiphar’s wife.
But we can speculate that as the headservant and practically the head of the household, it would have been easy for Joseph to have had an affair with his master’s wife. No one would have found out, and Joseph probably wouldn’t have had any trouble covering things up. However, for Joseph, there were larger concerns than just getting caught. He responds to Potiphar’s wife by telling her, There is none greater in this house than I. Neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife.
How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? Joseph knew that not getting caught wasn’t the point. He was born of goodly parents who taught him right from wrong. He knew that what Potiphar’s wife was asking was wrong. It was wrong before God, and it was wrong whether or not anyone would ever find out about it.
For Joseph, it was not a question of getting caught. It was a question of doing what was right. Joseph not only resisted Potiphar’s wife on this one occasion, but the record shows that for days afterwards she continued to try to tempt him to sin. Joseph refused to give in to the temptation. The next part of the story brings us to an even more difficult dilemma.
What happens when you do the right thing but then get punished for it? When Potiphar’s wife became upset that Joseph wouldn’t lie with her, she cornered him, stole his garment, and then framed him. She said that he had tried to seduce her and Joseph lost everything all over again. Joseph wound up in prison, losing nearly everything he’d gained. It would be easy to do the right thing if we were always rewarded for it.
But the truth is, many times in our lives we might face adversity or persecution, not because we did anything wrong, but because we were trying to do what was right. It can be unpopular to even bring up a concept like sin in our time. But the fact remains that there is still right and wrong even if choosing the right results in short term losses. There is joy in living a life of integrity. Wickedness never was happiness and living life just based on what you can get away with is an eventual road to unhappiness and ruin.
For Joseph, this wasn’t the end. He’d suffered another setback. But the Lord had bigger plans in mind than just ruling an Egyptian house. Joseph’s integrity in the face of temptation showed the Lord that Joseph was capable of bigger and better things instead of just running a household. Joseph would become the means of saving a nation and eventually his own family.