Overcome Temptation                      26 OCT 14

GEN 39:3-6 Joseph did not act like a slave. Joseph was doing (Eph 6:5 RSV) "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as to Christ;" long before Paul wrote it. Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs, “The Cosmic Drama”, Waco Word Book, 1971, page 146 “So completely did Potiphar trust Joseph that he concerned himself only with the food he ate. The fact that God prospered Joseph meant that prosperity spread throughout his master’s house.” This does not mean Potiphar had nothing to do. He had his royal duties on which he could focus more time. Potiphar or Potiphera is an Egyptian name meaning “he whom the god Ra has given”.

God was working out the most good he could in the undesirable situation of Joseph being a slave. But as the executive officer, most of the time it was not as one would think of slavery. Except for not being able to quit, Joseph controlled wealth, made decisions affecting this wealth, and managed the entire household of Potiphar. It may be that Joseph went with Potiphar, at times, to Pharaoh’s palace. In the least he would hear about the workings and news in the palace as it affected Potiphar. This would serve him well later when he would be made Regent of Egypt. Dr. Hobbs, page 147 “While we cannot always understand what happens to us, if we trust in the Lord, he will direct our paths in his way. God is the God of history, and not perpetrate men’s evil deeds, he works in the circumstances to guide history toward its intended redemptive goal.” We are not to take the verse to means Joseph was simply filled up with capability by God. Joseph had to have learned a lot being the heir-in-training under his father. He would have worked with the managers of Jacob’s wealth, which would have provided critical training and management knowledge. If Joseph was not capable going into Egypt, God could not have used him like he did. On top of all this, Joseph was one hunk of a guy, being “handsome and good-looking.” Note the Hebrew parallelism used for emphasis.

GEN 39:7 Joseph dealt with temptation and testing according to divine direction (James 4:7). Joseph had a high sense of morality. We have to give Jacob some credit for this, but probably more credit to his mother. Jacob is not a high example of controlling one’s sexual appetite. Since Joseph was so handsome, Potiphar’s wife was probably not the first woman who tried to get close to Joseph. Surely there were prime female slaves in the household.

GEN 39:7-10 Dr. Hobbs, page 147 “Potiphar’s wife sought to seduce Joseph”. He was still a teenager. Dr. Hobbs, page 147 “After all, was he not a slave who should do her binding? Why should a slave care about morality? He was but property in a strange land. Apart from the physical aspect involved, Joseph’s ego was tempted. It would be quite a prize for a slave to be intimate with one of such high standing. Everything in the situation tended toward pulling Joseph down-except his integrity of character and his faith…” in Yahweh. His father and his mother did train him right on this aspect of his life. (Prov 22:6 RSV) "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." People write so much about Jacob but Rachel gets no credit for the spiritual nature of Joseph. This is wrong. (Prov 31:1 RSV) "The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, which his mother taught him:" Proverbs hold that a child is to listen to both parents. Dr. Hobbs, page 147 “Happy is that one whose parents have planted and nourished the quality of character and a faith in God which enable him to make the right choice for himself. Joseph was such a fortunate person. His refusal to be seduced is a classic.” Try as she might, Joseph kept saying “No” is a respect manner. Joseph was honestly concerned about offending Yahweh. Dr. Hobbs, page 148 “Even if his “situation ethics” allowed him to do otherwise, he would not sin against God, for this would be the greatest sin of all (see Ps. 51.4).” There are times when risk cannot be avoided. Dr. Hobbs, page 148 “Potiphar's sensuous wife was persistent. Day after day she offered herself to him, but always he refused. His refusal "to be with her" (Gen. 39:10) suggests that he avoided her when he could. However, his household duties made this altogether im­possible.”

GEN 39:11-12 Did Potiphar neglect his wife? The story does not say so nor is it really implied. What might be implied is that his wife, interestingly unnamed, probably was asserting her rights as a slave owner, to use slaves in a sexual manner just as the husbands could use slaves for sexual purposes. Note the story does not infer that Potiphar did this. Nor does it suggest he neglected his wife. It does suggest that he spent the majority of the day away from his house at work with his royal duties. The story does show that women have sexual desires along with men and some non-Christian women often indulge in sex outside of marriage. A good example of a woman who did not was David’s first wife Michal. When she challenged David for inappropriate public nudity, David withheld sex from her. The Bible never gives any hint that she went to other men for it. David, however, had other wives. Because of David, Michal died barren and childless. (2 Sam 6:23 RSV) "And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death." The Hebrew of (2 Sam 21:8 RSV) that Michal raised the five sons of her sister Merab who was married to Adriel: (2 Sam 21:8 KJV) "But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite:" The NLT and most others puts this verse as 2 Samuel 21:8 (NLT)  But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah. 2 Samuel 21:8 (NLT) “But he gave them Saul’s two sons Armoni and Mephibosheth, whose mother was Rizpah daughter of Aiah. He also gave them the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, the wife of Adriel son of Barzillai from Meholah.”

Dr. Hobbs, page 148 “Finally on an occasion as he went about his work, and when no other slaves were in the house, she sought to force the issue. In so doing she caught him by his garment (39:12). Joseph did the only wise thing under the circumstance—he ran from the house—but he left his garment behind in this wicked woman's grasp.” He had to do so to get away from her. Note the integrity of Joseph. He never complained to Potiphar. Should he have done so?

            So what about us? Another look at Joseph can help us. (James 1:13-15 RSV) "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death." Joseph controlled his desire to have sex with this “sensuous” woman. He was not “lured and enticed by his own desire.” She certainly tried to lure him, but he did not try to lure himself with any form of rationalization that we know about. Certainly a key factor that we have an advantage over Joseph is the Bible. So we can better do (James 1:21-22 RSV) "Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." We do this by (Eph 4:22-24 RSV) "Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."

            Even though Joseph did not have the Bible, he did do what it says in (James 4:7-8 RSV) "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind." Sinning is under our control and not the devil’s control. So reread this story and see how Joseph resisted and drew near. This is how to overcome temptation for both men and women.


Marvin Ganote, Advanced Bible Study Class, Adult Teacher. Lesson at:  or