But Joseph’s faith and integrity were to be tested by fiery trials. His master’s wife endeavored to entice the young man to transgress the law of God. Heretofore he had remained untainted by the corruption teeming in that heathen land; but this temptation, so sudden, so strong, so seductive—how should it be met? – Patriarchs and Prophets, p 217.
For being a slave, and in a land far away from home, Joseph was doing well in Egypt. You could say that his career had started well, and he had climbed to the top of the local career ladder. Potiphar’s estate was a pretty good-sized ladder. It seems that Joseph’s life had settled down somewhat. He was working. He had not given in to the idol worship, and had the support and friendship of his master. Things were going well. The situation Joseph found himself in next ranks as one of the great stories of the Bible, right up there with anything Moses, Daniel, or David experienced.
Genesis 39:6 – Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.
The Bible mentions in several places the attractiveness of several women. In fact, all the women in his direct ancestry were distinguished for their beauty, so attractiveness ran in the family. (Not all notable women in the Bible are pointed out as beautiful. The Scriptures say nothing about Ruth’s looks).
Well, his attractiveness caught the eye of his master’s wife, and the desire was so strong that she overtly tried to make something happen.
Genesis 39:7 – And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
Wow, tough situation. So many guys put a lot of effort into catching some girl’s attention, and here she was trying to catch his! That would have been enough for so many people. I don’t know if Joseph saw it coming. He wasn’t naive, he probably had. His blood could run as hot as the rest of ours. In that moment, I feel that it suddenly went cold.
Can you imagine the perspective of the angels? The state of humanity was in chaos. Civilizations were trying to rebuild in the aftermath of the flood, but nature was in turmoil with alternating hot and cold cycles. A few civilizations were growing, but most of the land was up for grabs to whomever had the most force. And most of these post-flood people had already let go of the worship of the true God. While there were true believers around, one family carried the torch of true worship for the rest of the world. Joseph was the brightest light in the most important family facing essentially the toughest temptation across the ages. The angels didn’t know how he would choose. This was make or break, and knowing where the story goes, not just for family of the truth-bearers, but for the nation of Egypt and the surrounding countries as well.
Joseph knew well what would be the consequence of resistance. On the one hand were concealment, favor, and rewards; on the other, disgrace, imprisonment, perhaps death. His whole future life depended upon the decision of the moment. Would principle triumph? Would Joseph still be true to God? With inexpressible anxiety, angels looked upon the scene. – Patriarchs and Prophets, p 217
His first response was to stay faithful. He gave two reasons: how could he betray his master, and how could he sin against God? Principle won out over passion. Ultimately, it is an instance that shows that self-control is a better revealer of masculinity than indulgence of his desires.
I used to think that the story ended here, at this moment, but it didn’t.
Genesis 39:10 – So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.
This wasn’t just a one time thing. She went after him again and again hoping that her persistence would wear him down. Why not? She was the mistress, the one in charge. Couldn’t she tell him what to do? Also, what guy could continue to pass up a non-ending offer for free sex?
This speaks to our day is such poignant way. Our world is so sexually charged. TV and video content is filled with sexual content and references. There is sexually suggestive link-bait after nearly every article on the Internet. Not to mention that porn on the web is so easy to get to that one doesn’t even really have to try. This is even beyond living in a society whose morals have been so eroded that, it is nothing anymore for couples to live together before marriage. Sexuality is no longer sacred.
Joseph shows that it is possible to resist a constant stream of sexual temptation, and to build a strong character. If he could do it, we too can live faithfully.
I’m grateful for his faithfulness as he resisted Potiphar’s wife.