The Purity of Joseph

Donnie V. Rader
Louisville, Kentucky

The life of Joseph sets many beautiful examples for the people of God to follow. This is obvious from the fact that the story of his life occupies so much space in the book of Genesis. Joseph was a man who overcame. He did not forget God while facing temptation or unpleasant circumstances. Neither was he a man to sink into a pool of self-pity. Rather this great man of God had faith, courage, and determination; he overcame his trials. Let us all take heed to his example.

He Overcame Temptation

Temptation will come. It did to Joseph. As he was assailed with such trials he was victorious. Potiphar's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph and requested that he lay with her. This was nova one-time request, but day after day she continued her plea (Gen. 39:7, 10). It would have been a great temptation had he just been tempted to commit fornication. But the temptation is greater when his woman begged him day after day to be with her. What would you have done under like circumstances? I hope and trust you would react like Joseph, who "refused" and remained pure in the sight of God (Gen. 39:8).

There are a number of things about Joseph's refusal that we must notice.(1)

1. He remembered that his master trusted him. "But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand" (Gen. 39:8). We need constantly to realize that others are trusting us to behave ourselves. Young people, don't forget that while you're out on a date, your parents trust you to behave as a Christian should. Men and women, you too need to realize that while you are at work or home, your mate has faith in you. As Joseph didn't want to do anything that would betray that confidence that Potiphar had in him, so we also ought to conduct ourselves properly so as to fulfill that expectation others have in us.

2. He recalled that such an act was wickedness. Joseph asked the woman, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God" (Gen. 39:9)? No doubt, had he given in, there would have been some pleasure for a season. Far too often it is not until temptation has already overtaken someone that they realize that sin is involved. They let the pleasures of the moment overshadow the real facts. Whether there be enjoyment -or not it is still sin! Oh, how I would that while in time of temptation, men and women would take just a moment to realize that if they yield, it is -a sin against God.

3. He said, "No! " The text says that he "refused" (Gen. 39:8). One of the greatest lessons that parents can teach their children is how to say a simple but often difficult word, "No." Oh yes, if you say "no" your date may never ask you out again. Sure, it may cause hardships at work or school. Because Joseph said "no," Potiphar's wife then lied about what he had done which resulted in his being cast into prison. However it was because he did say "no" that he continued to maintain a right relationship with God, which was far more important than anything he might have gained by yielding to the temptation.

4. He was aware 'of bad situations and how they looked. Joseph told his master's wife, "My master wotteth not what is with me in the house" (Gen. 39:8). As Joseph went into the house, "there was none of the men of the house there within" (Gen. 39:11). Joseph realized that his being in the house alone with this woman was dangerous and would cause others to wonder what was taking place. I am amazed sometimes at how thoughtless some "Christians" are about how some situations look. Though nothing may go on, we can't afford to be careless in matters of this kind. Our reputation is at stake. Too often I see or hear of some secretary going to lunch with some man in the office, of some preacher meeting some lady alone in his study or meet her at some restaurant. How often do parents leave the house for their son or daughter to invite their boyfriend or girlfriend over. Who can't see the danger of such situations?

5. He fled and got away. When the woman caught Joseph by the garment and begged him to lie with her, "he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out" (Gen. 39:12). That means he literally got out of the house. Friend, there may be a time when in great temptation, you may have to literally get out of the house or car and run from the enticement,,and call someone to come and get you. You will be glad you did.

Joseph overcame his temptation. "Though robbed of his coat, he would not be robbed of his character. He could get another coat but not another character."(2)

He Overcame Circumstances

Joseph was ill-treated by many. The circumstances about him were not good. He was hated by his brothers (Gen. 37:4). They wanted to kill him but Reuben said, "Let us not kill him" (Gen. 37:18-22). His brethren took his coat of many colors that he cherished so and cast him into an empty pit (Gen. 37:23-28). He was then sold to a band of Ishmaelites from Gilead for twenty pieces of, silver. Being brought to Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar (Gen. 37:36). How do you suppose a man would feel after such treatment? Would you think he would be tempted to turn from God? Would there not be a little temptation to give up and feel sorry for one's self? But that's not all. After fleeing from his master's wife, he was lied about and cast into pnson for something he hadn't done. After showing kindness to Pharoah's chief butler, he was forgotten (Gen. 40:23).

How would you have reacted under like circumstances? Would you have forgotten God and turned to a life of sin? Would you have cried about how bad the world was treating you? Or would you like Joseph overcome by a faith in God? Paul said, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). We as Christians will face trying and difficult times. We will be ill-treated by our brethren as well as the world. There will be times that it seems that everything is against us. Yet, we like Joseph must overcome.

"There was not anything he could do about his circumstances, but he could do something about himself."(3) Though a stranger in a foreign land, rejected by his own brothers, yet he refuses to turn to a life of carnality.

1. He remained humble and patient. The trials that he faced would produce even more patience. James said, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience" (Jas. 1:2-3). Paul also said that we glory in tribulations knowing that the same worketh patience, and patience, experience (approval). That is, when we come patiently through the trials of life, we stand approved of God (Rom. 5:3-4).

2. He returned goodfor evil. He didn't treat his brethren the same or worse than they had done to him. He spoke kindly to his brothers that had treated him so badly. When they came to buy corn, he returned their money (Gen. 45:24). Joseph nourished his father and his brethren (Gen. 47:12). We too must learn to return good for evil. Paul said, "Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19). Paul goes on in the context to say we are to destroy our enemies. Yes, whip our foes. But how? Do so with kindness. "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:20-21). When you make a friend out of your enemies, you have destroyed your enemies. They are now your friends.

3. Joseph maintained purity of life though he lived in a corrupt nation. He refused to let evil influences about him overtake him. We can be deceived into thinking that association with evil will have no effect on us. However, Paul warns that it can (1 Cor. 15:33). Jesus prayed for His disciples as they would be living in a corrupt world saying, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil" (John 17:15). They would be kept from that evil by an adherence to the truth of God (John 17:17).

4. Joseph recognized that God was with him during all his trials and tribulations. "And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man ... the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand" (Gen. 39:2-3, 21). He told his brethren, "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life" (Gen. 45:5). Later he said, "ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good . . ." (Gen. 50:20). "This is not to say that Joseph thought that Jehovah approved that which his brethen did, or the motive, which prompted their action; but rather that God was able to overrule that which, they did to his glory and the good of the family of Jacob."(4) As Joseph remained content with his circumstances, realizing that God was with him, he too should be content recognizing that God has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5). And "if God be for us, who can be against us" (Rom. 8:31)? Hence the people of God need to remember that God can overrule anything in their life, great or small, to their ultimate good.

5. He didn't sink into a pool of self-pity. One thing this man of God didn't do is fret and worry about how badly life had treated him. He could have very easily just given up and thought that neither God nor anyone else cared about him. But rather than feeling sorry for himself, Joseph overlooked the bad circumstances and counted his many blessings. Paul urges that we should not be careful (anxious) about our lives but rather center our minds upon things that are good, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:6-8).

Yes Joseph overcame. He overcame temptation and his circumstances. Obvious from this is the fact that one can remain faithful in the worst of situations. Since God doesn't require the impossible, it can, be done.


1. Some of the points in this section were taken from an excellent outline by Hiram Hutto, Preach The Word (Guardian of Truth Foundation: 198 1), pp. 27-30.

2. Franklin Camp, Old Truths In New Robes (Roberts and Son Publication, Birmingham, AL: 1970), p. 174.

3. Ibid, p. 173.

4. Guy N. Woods, Annual Lesson Commentary 1959 (Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, TN, 1958), p.. 270.

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 17, pp. 517-518
September 1, 1983