1Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.
2The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.
3His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.
4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.
5From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.
6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.
7And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”
8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge.
9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”
10And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
11But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house,
12she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.
13And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house,
14she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice.
15And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.”
16Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home,
17and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me.
18But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”
19As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled.
20And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.
21But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
22And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.
23The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.
This story has it all. Intrigue, sex, success, deception; they are all here in this fantastic story about Joseph’s first few years as a slave in Egypt. This story is a true testimony to the power of doing whatever the Lord lays before you with excellence – even being a slave. The result of that excellence is that the Lord is recognized as merciful and powerful. The witness of Joseph’s faithfulness is inspirational.
As we look at the details of the story we find that Joseph’s character remains constant. He refuses to sin and bring dishonor to God. When Potiphar’s wife seeks to seduce him we find the perfect role model for what to do when tempted – flee. The New Testament echoes this plan in several places. 1 Corinthians tells us specifically to flee from sexual immorality (6:18) and idolatry (10:14). According James 4:7, the devil actually flees from us if we are submitted to God. In every case, there is that moment before we choose sin that we can still go the other way. That is never easy, but it is possible as we see from Joseph’s example. Keep in mind, this running away from Potiphar’s wife was no small feat. She was most likely very beautiful and well groomed. Joseph was in his late teen/early 20s. I am told that thoughts of sex are the overriding factor for men of that age. For him to run took courage and determination. But, he goes so quickly that he leaves his coat behind, thus giving Potiphar’s wife “evidence” that he attacked her. If you read the text closely, nowhere does it give the impression that the other servants or even her husband actually believed her story. It says that Potiphar’s “anger was kindled” but we don’t know who he was angry with; his wife or Joseph. There are many who have speculated that he didn’t believe a word she said, but his hands were tied. She was his wife and the charge stuck. Joseph lands in prison. Then, he becomes a leader in the prison! Just because other people (first his brothers and now Potiphar’s wife) treat him badly, God stays with him and grants him great success.
God’s ability and desire to bless us is not tied to our circumstance. This is an interesting principle. I recently heard a story of Christians who are being held in Chinese prisons and forced to work in their factories for pennies a day. The story was related to those little Christmas lights we all use on our trees and to decorate for the holidays. There was a movement started to boycott those lights because it was suspected that they were being created by slave laborers. Those Christians were reported to have asked that boycott not happen because they were happy about the work! They claimed it gave them something to do and hours per day to sit together, praying and talking about the Scriptures. That which was seen as cruel and inhuman was actually a blessing to them. They are taking Joseph’s example to heart and living excellently despite their circumstance. Do you suppose Joseph would have rather gone home to his dad? Of course! But since that wasn’t going to happen because that wasn’t God’s plan, Joseph lives for God anyway and blessings abound for both Joseph and those with whom he is working. Next time you think your circumstance just couldn’t result in blessing, wait just a minute and watch what God will do. It will always be something unexpected and praise worthy.