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Matthew 28
posted August 9, 2012

Revelation 13
posted August 16, 2012

Joseph & Potiphar's Wife - October 22, 2006


Genesis Thirty-nine

Sermon of the Week #200642-October 22, 2006

           When Joseph was sold by his brothers for twenty pieces of silver to a band of slave traders going into Egypt, he was purchased by Potiphar the Captain of the guard to Pharaoh. In all this affliction, the Lord was with Joseph and he was a prosperous man. Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and decided to cash in on it, so he advanced Joseph quickly and made him the overseer of everything, his house, his other slaves, the entire works. Everything was going along well for Potiphar at this point. He prospered as never before because the Lord saw to that.

Now the plot thickens. Potiphar’s wife propositioned Joseph. Verse seven of this chapter states it for us, “And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused!” It says, “But he refused, he refused, he refused!”

The same temptation came to Joseph many times for it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, lie by her or to be with her. Today we would call that sexual harassment. Then one day she had her chance; all the servants were off for the day, and Joseph came in to perform his duties, and she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me:” and he left his garment in her hand, and fled and got out.

It is said, “There is no fury like the fury of a woman scorned”, and Joseph was about to find that out. She laid up the garment of Joseph, and when Potiphar came home, she showed him the coat and said, “The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought in unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled him out.”

And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, “After this manner did thy servant unto me,” that his wrath was kindled, and Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison; a place where the king’s prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.

In the world-view of things, what good does it do to live a moral life if this is the way he is rewarded? To the world Joseph looks like a fool; he gave up a good career for the dungeon. However there is another view as to whether he was such a fool or not.

In the book of Psalms, chapter 105 there is a reference to this event, “He sent a man before them, even Joseph who was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance.” Joseph passed the test, and was not a fool after all.

It is not to be thought for a moment’s time that this was an easy test for Joseph when it says, “But he refused!” This would be a great temptation, and the outcome of this ordeal would have far-reaching effects. The destiny of many people hung in the balance. Those words: “But he refused!” are loaded, and heavy with future plans that God had in mind for Joseph. If he had not been faithful, he would never have become the Prime Minister of Egypt. And now here are nine reasons why the temptation was an exceedingly great trial for Joseph.


The first reason this was such a great temptation for Joseph was the fact that he was a young man. In Genesis 37:2 it is mentioned that he was seventeen years old at the time he was sold by his brothers. We might reasonably suppose it might have taken a little time for Joseph to advance to the position of overseer of all the holdings of Potiphar; but in either case, Joseph was still a young man, perhaps in his early twenties. Up to this time he had lived a sheltered life as the favorite son of Jacob his father. And now here on the threshold of manhood, this would be his first experience of this kind. It must have been a great temptation to him when Potiphar’s wife openly and brazenly said, “Lie with me.”

There is no element of modern life that we could have transposed to that period of modern-day pornography, X-rated movies, or what is called peer pressure, which could have made this temptation any greater than what it was. No young man of this day and time was under any greater temptation than Joseph at this moment. When you consider his youth it must have been a great temptation. Hear it again, she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused!


The second reason that it was a great temptation was that Joseph himself was a very desirable young man. Verse six says that he was a godly person and well favored. One version says that he was handsome and well proportioned. Potiphar’s wife must have thought that Joseph was a real hunk. However, Potiphar had recognized the administrative talent of Joseph early when he advanced him to such a high position. He jumped him above all the others, and had made him overseer of everything.

Joseph was a young corporate executive. He was a man marked for greatness; he had a great future. All of these things would have worked on his ego. He would have been tempted to think, “I am a cut above the rest. This might not be right for my brothers, but I am different.” Because of this it must have been a great temptation. Hear it again, “Lie with me.” But he refused!


A third reason this must have been a great temptation was because he was single. He had no girlfriend, no wife, he was unattached. There were no strings to this situation. I am perfectly in the clear. This is Mrs. Potiphar’s problem. It is Captain Potiphar’s problem. If she wants to do something like this, and break her wedding vows that is her business. It is no concern of mine. Because of this it must have been a great temptation when she said. “Lie with me.” But he refused!


The fourth reason that it was such a great temptation was because of the fact that Mrs. Potiphar owned him. He was her slave. She could order him to do whatever she desired. True, she would not want it to be known, but she could make it difficult for him. Who knows, she might have brought pressure to bear on her husband, and had him demoted to the rank of field hand. She could have sent him to pick cotton, or whatever the Egyptians picked. There would be no end of afflictions that she might bring to bear on him for his obstinacy. This would be what modern-day people would call job security; my car payment, insurance premium, a person has to live. Joseph was no doubt aware of all this and it must have entered into his mind. It is the political thing to do. I really can’t afford to resist this woman under the circumstances. Although I wouldn’t do this with anyone else in her case there is no way that I can get out of it. This must have made it a tremendous temptation for Joseph when we hear her say, “Lie with me.” But he refused!


Reason number five is that this temptation was not just a one-time thing. It was not one pass. At the first refusal she might have been too embarrassed to try again, but that was not the case. Verse ten says, “And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her to lie with her or to be with her:”

If it had happened just once we might have understood how under the surprise of the moment and with his inexperience that he might have refused; but it was not a one-time experience, it happened everyday. Everyday she gave a fresh proposition, “Lie with me.” But he refused!

Joseph not only refused to submit, but the key to his daily refusal is seen in the fact that he would not consent even to be with her. There were no extended conversations when he came into the house; it was strictly a matter of business. He spent no extra time with her. He hearkened not unto her to lie with her or to be with her. To spend time with her would have been as dangerous as an alcoholic saying, “I won’t drink, but I will go to the saloon, and sit there with my friends and drink lemonade.” This would have been a device of the Devil to wear him down. Because of this day-by-day process it must have been an exceedingly great temptation when she said to Joseph. “Lie with me.” But he refused!


The sixth reason this was such a great temptation was because Mrs. Potiphar was not a tramp. She was not a prostitute, or what is called a call girl. She was not a pick-up off the street. She was strictly a high-class gal. She was in the Egyptian upper crust. Her husband was the Captain of the guards to Pharaoh, a member of Pharaohs cabinet. This was strictly high-class stuff. This would play on his ego, plus the fact that there would be very little likelihood of catching AIDS or whatever the current malady there was at that time. On top of this, Mrs. Potiphar would probably keep her mouth shut, and Captain Potiphar would never know. Stir all of this together and it makes for a pretty strong temptation. One wonders how he ever found the strength to resist when she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused!


A seventh reason that it may have been a great temptation was because under the circumstances, he being a slave having no rights, who would blame him for such an act anyway? It wasn’t really his choice. “Mrs. Potiphar seduced him”, people would say, “under the circumstances Joseph is not to be blamed, even though the whole town would have enjoyed talking about it. Even Jacob, his father, would have a hard time thinking evil of his favorite son if he should ever hear. If there would be any blame it would be all the fault of Mrs. Potiphar. This must have entered into his mind also to give the temptation greater force when she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused!


The eighth reason the temptation was one of the greatest temptations was the fact that they were alone. Verse eleven says, “And it came to pass about the time that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.” They were alone. No one else was around. None of the men of the house were within. The butler and the other servants were out. Perhaps Mrs. Potiphar sent them on some errand that would give her plenty of time. The drapes are pulled, and the doors are locked. Nobody is around. Honey Pot is down at the palace guarding the King. Who’s to see? We are all alone.

Verse twelve says, “She caught him by the garment saying, ‘Lie with me,’ and he left his garment in her hand and fled and got him out.” Joseph’s garment was mentioned. Joseph’s coats always got him in trouble. As a boy, Jacob his father had given him a coat of many colors. That coat was taken off him by his brothers and dipped in blood and shown to their father. Here Joseph comes in wearing a fancy Egyptian sports coat, and Mrs. Potiphar ripped it off him. Because of this high-pressure situation it must have been a tremendous temptation when she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused!


The ninth reason that it was such a great temptation was because of Mrs. Potiphar’s looks. Some might say the reason that Joseph was able to resist her was because she was a drag, as some would say, “A real dog.” I saw a movie about forty years ago in which a preacher was giving some good advice to a very attractive young lady. The preacher told her that she would have greater temptations in life than some of her sisters who were protected by the shapes of sows. Did Mrs. Potiphar have the shape of a sow? Was this the reason that Joseph was able to resist her? I think the evidence is to the contrary. It seems that Joseph was attracted to her. Note how it says that he left his garment in her hand and fled. He fled! He fled! He fled! He got out of there as fast as he could. Mrs. Potiphar was no sow, no dog, and no drag. Joseph learned fifteen hundred years earlier the lesson the Apostle Paul would give later on when he said, “Flee fornication.” All of these reasons combine to make this one tremendous temptation. But Joseph did not submit when she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused!


Now in conclusion: How was Joseph able to resist this woman? There are three reasons we find in this chapter. The first reason that gave him help is in the ninth verse where Joseph speaks to Mrs. Potiphar telling her of his position, and how Potiphar trusts him with everything and then he says, “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 can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

Joseph tells Mrs. Potiphar that what she wants to do is a great wickedness. There is no rationalizing the sin, no saying, “This is the in-thing to do; everybody is doing it”, as the television shows are preaching to the American public week after week. Paul tells in First Corinthians 6:9 that the audience today is being deceived, “Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The second reason he found help in this pressure cooker was when he said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” He doesn’t mention the sin against Captain Potiphar, the sin against Mrs. Potiphar, the sin against his own body, the sin against his soul, the sin against his family, all of which was true, but he refers to this as a sin against God.

Many years ago someone wrote a novel called Joseph and His Brothers. In that story when Joseph says, “How can I sin against God?” Potiphar’s wife took off her dress, and threw it over the head of a statue of an Egyptian god, and says, “Now God cannot see.” Joseph replies, “My God sees.” It is much help in overcoming temptation to know that God sees it all. He doesn’t miss a thing. It is helpful to remember we shall all answer to God.

The third thing that helped Joseph is when he says to Potiphar’s wife, “How can I do this great wickedness?” How can I? How can I? How can I? Joseph never forgot who he was. He was the great-grandson of Abraham. He was the grandson of Isaac. His father was Jacob. He was a member of the chosen race. He was special. How can I do this wickedness? He could not forget who he was.

How can I, an elder, do this wickedness? How can I, a deacon in the Church of Christ? How can I, a preacher in the Church of Christ? How can I, a Christian who has been bought with a price, do this great wickedness? Never, never, never forget who you are.

It is well to remember that the fidelity of Joseph set in motion a chain of events that made him, after a few years, the Prime Minister of Pharaoh. Had he not resisted this temptation, God would have to provide some other way to deliver his people from the famine that was to come. Some now will never know what could have been done in their lives if they had only passed the test that came their way. A poet has said, “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, it might have been.”