Potiphar, an Egyptian officer, buys Joseph as a slave and notices his exemplary work—as does Potiphar’s wife.
Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.
But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”
She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house.
Ancient Egypt was a land of great contrasts. People were either rich beyond measure or poverty-stricken. There wasn’t much middle ground. Joseph found himself serving Potiphar, an extremely rich officer in Pharaoh’s service. Rich families like Potiphar’s had elaborate homes two or three stories tall with beautiful gardens and balconies. They enjoyed live entertainment at home as they ate delicious fruit from expensive bowls. They surrounded themselves with alabaster vases, paintings, beautiful rugs, and hand-carved chairs. Dinner was served on golden tableware, and the rooms were lighted with gold lampstands. Servants, like Joseph, worked on the first floor, while the family occupied the upper stories.
Potiphar’s wife failed to seduce Joseph, who resisted this temptation by saying it would be a sin against God. Joseph didn’t say, “I’d be hurting you,” or “I’d be sinning against Potiphar,” or “I’d be sinning against myself.” Under pressure, such excuses are easily rationalized away. Remember that sexual sin is not just between two consenting adults. It is an act of disobedience to God.
Joseph avoided Potiphar’s wife as much as possible. He refused her advances and finally ran from her. Sometimes merely trying to avoid temptation is not enough. We must turn and run from it, especially when the temptation seems very strong. What temptation do you need to run from?