POTIPHAR, AN EGYPTIAN: He is consistently called an
Egyptian, because at this time the Pharaohs, etc of Egypt were Hyksos, a Semitic
people (cp vv 2,5).
One person being blessed because of the righteousness of
another: In Gen 30:27 Laban says that he was blessed by the Lord for Jacob's
sake. In Gen 26:24 Isaac was blessed for his father Abraham's sake. And of
course those in Christ being blessed with forgiveness of sins and eternal life
due to the righteousness of one -- Jesus Christ (Eph 4:32; 1Jo 2:12;
Joseph was a "goodly person" (AV), given "goodly garment" (Gen
HANDSOME: Cp the beauty of his mother Rachel: Gen
COME TO BED WITH ME: Impl great power to be had ("All
kingdoms of the world": Mat 4).
BUT HE REFUSED: Joseph remained sinless where the elder
bro, Judah (Gen 38), had sinned. In this he typifies Jesus, tempted in all
points like his brethren, yet without sin (Heb 4:15).
"Joseph's chastity was an expression of [his character and
faith, in several ways]:
(a) His compliant spirit for righteousness -- he knew about
suffering and death and forbidden sexual activity; the punishment for pride,
jealousy, and deceit. He knew how not to imitate those that had caused family
dysfunction and pain amongst his own kith and kin. He was sensitive to the
dignity of others in such matters.
(b) His overcoming of the overpowering temptation, like that
of Adam and Eve over the fruit of the tree, to know good and evil.
(c) Potiphar's wife may have seen the seduction of Joseph as
an accustomed thing but Joseph did not see it as a usual practice.
(d) His knowledge of his inferior slave status to Potiphar's
wife, his superior in every way (except in his love for God). He could not have
a relationship with a superior, where he would have to be passive, and do her
bidding, in a master/slave, power situation, not a loving one.
(e) His recognition of his own family's need to keep racially
pure, for he would know of other occasions when the seed line was threatened,
and he would not wish to be party to that.
(f) His knowledge of his father's hatred for the land of
Egypt, in which he found himself -- his father loathed Hagar's land, where they
worshipped the dead, and animals. He knew his father loathed, also, the notion
of market sex, where both boy and girl prostitutes practised freely, and daily,
and where the gods blessed it all. 'He would not go awhoring after the gods of
Baal.' He had seen enough of that in Canaan.
(g) His wish not to shame the father. Even though Joseph had
not contacted his father for so long, his need not to shame him would be a
paramount consideration. Noah's shame by his son, the shame of Lot by his
daughters (to raise up seed), the shaming of Jacob by Reuben, with Jacob's
concubine (Bilhah) were known to him. Nakedness and sex, in their right place,
are innocent and unsuspect, but when they acquire a transferred significance, as
Baal folly, it is sin. So Joseph, knowing that sex has a price tag for the
unmarried, is influenced by what shame he might cause his father, or his God.
(h) His understanding of sin, 'against thee only would I sin.'
Joseph, like David, knew that sin, ultimately, is sin against God, and Joseph's
sense of rightness kept him from sin.
(i) Joseph saw it as a denial of the promises to Abraham.
(j) His knowledge and understanding of the blessings given by
God to the fathers. He knew that with the covenant blessings came
responsibilities as well, that is, to witness about Yahweh to those about him"
Warnings against prostitutes, and immorality: Pro 1:10,
2:10-19; 5:3-8; 6:20-25,29-33; 7:5,25-27; 9:13-18; 22:14; 23:26-28.
There is none greater in his Father's house than
AND SIN AGAINST GOD: This is the proper attitude: Every
sin against any other man is also a sin against God. Paul in 1Co 6:15-20 tells
us that our bodies are not our own, that they are members of Christ and
therefore should not be made the members of a harlot. So even though it is true
that the sin of adultery (or fornication) can affect others as well and one's
self (1Co 6:18), the primary sin is against God Himself, whose we are and to
whom all our honor and allegiance is owed.
"Noble words from a noble son, and noble slave. Words for all
of us in our desires, for none of us is alone, nor different in our desires.
Loyal service to each other is required in all of us, that we may not affront,
and shame the dignity and sensitivity of another with disloyalty, for, in the
end, it is always God that we offend. They were alone in the palace, there would
have been no witness, but Joseph knew he could not hide the deed from God, nor
could he live with it himself... The greatest gift that we can bring to our life
partner, is purity and fidelity, moral and ethical self control. We need to
remember that the persuasion of Mrs Potiphar was all a lie. Yield, or resist, is
the only choice, and to resist, you must flee... You must not be weakened by
your situation. You must not be deceived by persuasion. You must not be gentle
with your emotions. You must not be confused with the immediate results... The
great speech of Joseph should be engraved on our hearts to stiffen our resolve
when temptation calls. Deceptive baits are all around us, and especially for the
favoured young. It was the greatest moment in the life of Joseph, for he turned
all the family dysfunction that had gone before into a muddy backwater. The
stream ahead flowed crystal clear, free and pure, though the way was rough. When
he was stripped of his coat once more, he found again, that he was clothed with
'the heavens' embroidered cloths' (Yeats)... Joseph practised 'safe sex'. The
best safe sex there is. Would that the world would see it that way. We can't
tell our children often enough" (BRus).
DAY AFTER DAY: An ongoing temptation.
Vv 11,12: "Even when 'Mrs Potiphar's' scheming mind organised
well arranged circumstances to fulfil her lusts, Joseph still maintained his
faithfulness. As he put it so well in v 9, 'How can I do this great wickedness,
and sin against God?' Whilst the committing of this sin would have been a sin
against his own body (1Co 6:18), and a trespass against Potiphar himself, Joseph
rightly estimates that ultimately such action is a 'sin against God', as indeed,
all transgression is (Num 32:23). Because of his faithfulness, and trust in the
Almighty, Joseph remained a 'eunuch for the kingdom of heaven's sake' (Mat
19:12) -- and was ultimately elevated to being co-ruler of the then known world
(Gen 41:39-45). God will reward the faithfulness of all HIS servants with
elevated positions in the coming Kingdom of Glory (Mat 25:34)" (CY).
BUT HE LEFT HIS CLOAK IN HER HAND AND RAN OUT OF THE
HOUSE: "In contending with certain sins there remains no mode of victory but
by flight... He who would be safe from acts of evil must haste away from
occasions of it. A covenant must be made with our eyes not even to look upon the
cause of temptation, for such sins only need a spark to begin with and a blaze
follows in an instant. Who would wantonly enter the leper's prison and sleep
amid its horrible corruption? He only who desires to be leprous himself would
thus court contagion. If the mariner knew how to avoid a storm, he would do
anything rather than run the risk of weathering it. Cautious pilots have no
desire to try how near the quicksand they can sail, or how often they may touch
a rock without springing a leak; their aim is to keep as nearly as possible in
the midst of a safe channel. This day I may be exposed to great peril; let me
have the serpent's wisdom to keep out of it and avoid it. The wings of a dove
may be of more use to me today than the jaws of a lion. It is true I may be an
apparent loser by declining evil company, but I had better leave my cloak than
lose my character; it is not needful that I should be rich, but it is imperative
upon me to be pure. No ties of friendship, no chains of beauty, no flashings of
talent, no shafts of ridicule must turn me from the wise resolve to flee from
"Perhaps she thought his reluctance was caused by his slave
position, and that she must make the first move, and the second, and so keep up
the intensity. (Her sin was the bait, and his would have been the bite, but she
baited and baited and baited, and he did not bite). He fled, fled the bait.
'Run, is the message of the Bible'... The Spirit of God forcefully commands
'Flee'. In circumstances like this, there is nothing else to do; 'you cannot
yield to sensuality if you flee from it' " (BRus).
"Flee fornication": 1Co 6:18.
Potiphar's wife, an Egyptian, was naturally resentful of any
Semite -- esp during this time of Hyksos rule. Passion (esp illicit passion) so
quickly turns to hatred, as in Amnon with Tamar (2Sa 13:15).
"Potiphar's wife was a woman scorned. She tempted, he
resisted. Now a fury worse than hell overtook her. She caught his cloak. She
used the cloak to accuse him. She waited for Potiphar, and with the cloak as
evidence. She told him of the wicked slave who had betrayed his trust. She told
him of her strength in resisting him. She painted the picture black. She blamed
Potiphar for buying a foreign slave and putting all the women at risk"
Like a sheep before her shearers, Joseph does not open his
mouth in his own defense.
JOSEPH'S MASTER TOOK HIM AND PUT HIM IN PRISON: But he
did not order his execution, as might have been expected, showing he did not
fully believe his wife's allegations. (Notice her attitude toward her husband:
one of bitterness, hatred, resentment: v 14.) Typ Jesus at his trial -- believed
to be innocent by Pilate: "What evil has this just person done?": Mat 27:23,24.
"Potiphar did what he had to do, but not one whit more. Women
were so powerful in Egypt... so much so, that Potiphar had to accept her story,
for he may not have wished to offend her. The punishment could, and should have
been much worse, but Potiphar's love for his hard working slave, together with a
tiny doubt led him to send Joseph to his prison. We can imagine what that tiny
doubt might be. But matrimonial peace was high on Potiphar's agenda"
JOSEPH WAS THERE IN PRISON: "Dylan Thomas mourns that
'Tomorrow weeps in a blind cage', for 'dark is a long way.' So it seemed to
Joseph, as he went down the second time to the prison and the pit. As well, we
might feel in the darkness, that so much more is required of us, than we are
prepared to give, but for Joseph, that thought probably never entered his
head... At the foot of Joseph's height he dwelt once more, he was down, down
again' he knows his valleys, and his depths; but he does not know how high the
mountain peak will be, when at last he approaches it. We do know. 'Soon, Joseph,
soon', is the voice in the wind, the message from God, as He whispers in
Joseph's ear. 'Be patient; I am ever near.' It is the still small voice of God.
Soon it will be like a thunder clap, and the lightning of His voice shall light
his way around Egypt - but not yet, not yet, and Joseph doesn't know when, or
what, that 'yet' will be" (BRus).
God was the true "prison warden"! Often the godliness of one
man has a profound impact on nonbelievers: Mat 5:14-16; 1Pe 2:11,12; 3:1,2.
Consider Daniel and his 3 companions with their Babylonian captors.
Typ: Into the hands of Christ are committed all