By John A. Smith
Joseph Resists Temptation
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13).
Satan cannot defeat us unless we surrender. This can be easily seen in the life of Joseph. “No temptation could overcome his high-toned morality, no calamity could shake his implicit faith in God. Adversity in its bitterest form did not unduly depress him, and neither did the giddiest height of prosperity generate unseemly pride. In his father’s house he was pampered and fondled; in slavery wantonly and falsely accused; in the palace wielding unlimited power, he was always the same truthful, pure, just, noble-minded, Godfearing man” (W.E. Powers as quoted by C.C. Crawford in Genesis: The Book of Beginnings [Vol. 4], Joplin, MO:College Press, 1971 p. 533).
Joseph Seduced But He Resists
Joseph, sold by his brothers to a group of Midianite traders for 20 pieces of silver, was in turn sold to Potiphar. As captain of the guard, Potiphar was an important officer in Pharaoh’s army. From secular history we learn that Potiphar was also the chief of the executioners. (File that away for now!) As a foreign slave in Potiphar’s house, he no doubt would have been given menial tasks and been kept under close supervision when he first began his service. Whatever he did, regardless of how insignificant it may have been, he did it well. He was cooperative, not rebellious or bitter.
As a slave, Joseph prospered by his God (Gen. 39:1-6). In keeping with the “faithful in a few things; put in charge of many things” principle, Joseph was put in charge of all of Potiphar’s affairs. Joseph would have supervised other servants and employees as well as overseeing finances, business affairs and farms. The only thing withheld was the responsibility for his food. In Egyptian society eating with a foreigner would make one unclean.
Potiphar, although a pagan, saw that Joseph’s God was with him and prospering him. It was clear that Potiphar understood that there was a direct cause/effect relationship between Joseph’s devotion to his God and his success.
Potiphar then began to have some interest in Joseph’s God – perhaps not for the best of reasons, but interest none-the-less.
Propositioned by the Boss’ Wife (Gen. 39:7-10)
Mrs. Potiphar took notice of this well-built, handsome, young hunk (v. 6). He was appealing and offered quite a challenge. Her intentions were clearly sexual. She was bold and forward in asking him to go to bed with her. There was no effort to mask her intentions and desires. If she were so forward in her words, I can only imagine how forward she must have been in her dress and actions. Joseph faced a serious situation. Now, remember that Joseph was a young man with all the passions and desires of youth. Imagine being seduced by an older and prominent woman. I think we can understand how easily Joseph could have been swayed. Yes, Joseph faced a serious situation.
Joseph’s resistance was indeed remarkable. Consider Joseph’s environment: Mrs. Potiphar was his superior. Try to imagine for a moment all the favors Joseph could obtain if he satisfied her fleshly desires. Also, he was surrounded by sexual immorality. Egyptian society was corrupt. Their fascination with sexual immorality makes the immorality of today look like a Sunday afternoon church picnic. Joseph did not have friends who would support him in his noble decision of purity and morality. He was surrounded by filth!
Consider her persistence: day after day she tried to seduce him. This was not a one time seduction. Joseph’s resistance could not be worn down. It seemed that the more persistent she became, the more resistant he became!
Consider also his limited spiritual background: Joseph’s knowledge of God’s law was limited (the Law was some 400 years yet future). If you and I were to find ourselves in Joseph’s sandals, we could call upon a number of wellknown Scriptures which demand sexual purity. We could call to memory the “Ten Commandment Prohibition””Do not commit adultery.” Strength could come from Paul’s admonition to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). But, Joseph did not take advantage of these Scriptures. In fact, he did not have a Bible at all.
What were Joseph’s reasons for resisting Mrs. Potiphar’s advances? First, he would not violate Popiphar’s trust (vv. 8-9). Potiphar had been showing interest in Jehovah and had great respect for Joseph. How would this be affected if Joseph gave in to Mrs. Potiphar’s advances? Potiphar trusted Joseph. In fact Potiphar took no thought for what he had because he knew that it was in good hands. If Joseph decided to give into Mrs. Potiphar’s advances, what would become of this trust? Today someone trusts you. Whether it is your parents, spouse, date, or God, someone trusts you. When trust is broken how is it repaired?
Second, Joseph would not disobey God (v. 9). He valued the approval of God and would not act so as to offend Jehovah. Though he was limited in his knowledge of Jehovah, he had strong moral convictions which he would not violate.
Third, his hormones did not over rule his head and heart. Joseph kept his fleshly desires under control. He had the ability to make choices and exercise self-control. And finally he had a desire for and took advantage of the way of escape provided by the Lord.
Joseph’s resistance brought imprisonment rather than reward (vv. 11-20). To resist and be rewarded is one thing, but to resist and get in trouble is quite another! Had Joseph been thrown into prison for some violation of moral or civil law, this would have been understandable. But, imagine what agony Joseph must have suffered when he knew that he was innocent!
The temptation was sexual, but as is often the case, Satan used other pressures as well. There would have been the fear of rejection and loss of position. Unlike Joseph, many people today yield to temptation, not because they are overwhelmed, but because of the fear of rejection.
Satan cunningly used legitimate desires to entrap Joseph. As we have observed earlier, sexual activity has its proper place. There is nothing wrong with sexual desires. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to like us or desiring to please others. However, Satan tried to get Joseph to satisfy these legitimate desires in some illegitimate ways.
It is when we are most successful, that we are often the most vulnerable. We may be tempted to let down our guard and thus face a devastating blow. Paul warns, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). When successful we are often tempted to become self-reliant, thinking that we are stronger than we are.
We won’t resist unless we have a firm conviction. Verse 8 states that Joseph refused. He said no. He was determined, before he met with the temptation, that he would resist in such situations. He knew the value of a good run. 2 Timothy 2:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:18 admonish us to flee fornication. Sexual temptation grows in intensity the longer that we expose ourselves to it. Therefore, wisdom and prudence would have us run from it.
Resistance becomes much more difficult if we constantly subject ourselves to verbal and visual stimuli. Joseph made every effort to avoid contact with Mrs. Potiphar (v. 10). It’s true that we can’t avoid all tempting situations (to do so we would have to leave the world), but we can control our environment. Consider the wise man’s advice to the young man concerning sexual sin: “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8). I have had the opportunity to talk with a number of young people whose lives have been affected by sexual sin. I have asked each of them how he/she could have avoided the sin of fornication. Several answers have been common to, almost all of them. They mentioned such things as: keep all of your clothes on all of the time, avoid dark places, and avoid being alone for long periods of time. (Think about it for a moment: Where are you most likely to be tempted – in the back seat of a car late at night parked at the end of a lonely country road or on the floor of the family room while Mom and Dad sit on the couch watching TV with you? I don’t think that the point is hard to understand!)
Resistance may cost a price with men, but not with God. Joseph paid a painful price for his purity and morality (2 years in prison). But, when we leave Joseph at the end of Genesis he had risen to the pinnacle of political power in Egypt (see Mk. 10:29-30). People may reject us, scoff at us and tell lies about us, trying to make us look bad. But God will never forget our faithfulness.
Young people remember that all is not lost, even if you do stumble and fall. There is forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 14, pp. 424-425
July 18, 1991