GENESIS xxxix. 12.

And he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

We have here, and in the context, an account of that remarkable behaviour of Joseph in the house of Potiphar, which was the occasion both of his great affliction, and also of his high advancement and prosperity in the land of Egypt.

We read in the beginning of the chapter, how Joseph, after he had been so cruelly treated by his brethren, and sold into Egypt for a slave, was advanced in the house of Potiphar, who had bought him. Joseph was one that feared God, and therefore God was with him; and so influenced the heart of Potiphar his master, that instead of keeping him as a mere slave, to which purpose he was sold, he made him his steward and overseer over his house, and all that he had was put into his hands; in so much, that we are told, ver. 6. “that he left all that he had in his hand; and he knew not ought that he had, save the bread which he did eat.”?While Joseph was in these prosperous circumstances, he met with a great temptation in his master’s house. We are told that, he being a goodly person and well favoured, his mistress cast her eyes upon and lusted after him, and used all her art to tempt him to commit uncleanness with her.

Concerning this temptation, and his behaviour under it, many things are worthy to be noted. Particularly

We may observe, how great the temptation was, that he was under. It is to be considered, that Joseph was now in his youth; a season of life, when persons are most liable to be overcome by temptations of this nature. And he was in a state of unexpected prosperity in Potiphar’s house; which has a tendency to lift persons up, especially young ones, whereby commonly they more easily fall before temptations.

And then, the superiority of the person that laid the temptation before him, rendered it much the greater. She was his mistress, and he a servant under her. And the manner of her tempting him. She did not only carry herself so towards Joseph, as to give him cause to suspect that he might be admitted to such criminal converse with her; but she directly proposed it to him; plainly manifesting her disposition to it. So that here was no such thing as suspicion of her unwillingness to deter him, but a manifestation of her desire to entice him to it. Yea, she appeared greatly engaged in the matter. And there was not only her desire manifested to entice him, but her authority over him to enforce the temptation. She was his mistress, and he might well imagine, that if he utterly refused a compliance, he should incur her displeasure; and she, being his master’s wife, had power to do much to his disadvantage, and to render his circumstances more uncomfortable in the family.

And the temptation was the greater, in that she did not only tempt him once, but frequently, day by day, verse 10. And at last became more violent with him. She caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me.

His behaviour was very remarkable under these temptations. He absolutely refused any compliance with them: he made no reply that manifested as though the temptation had gained at all upon him; so much as to hesitate about it, or at all deliberate upon it. He complied in no degree, either to the gross act she proposed, or any thing tending towards it, or that should at all be gratifying to her wicked inclination. And he persisted resolute and unshaken under her continual solicitations, ver. 10. “And it came to pass as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.” He, to his utmost, avoided so much as being where she was. And the motives and principles, from which he acted, manifested by his reply to her solicitations, are remarkable.—He first sets before her, how injuriously he should act against his master, if he should comply with her proposal: 225225    Gen. xxxix. 8, 9. “Behold, my master—hath committed all that he hath to my hand; there is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me, but thee, because thou are his wife.” But he then proceeded to inform her of that, which, above all things, deterred him from a compliance, viz. that it would be great wickedness, and sin against God.— 226226    Gen. xxxix. 9. “How shall I do this, and sin against God?” He would not do any such thing, as he would not injure his master; but that which influenced more than all on this occasion, was the fear of sinning against God. On this account he persisted in his resolution to the last.

In the text we have an account of his behaviour under the last and greatest temptation that he had from her. This temptation was great, as it was at a time when there was nobody in the house but he and his mistress, ver. 11. there was an opportunity to commit the fact with the greatest secrecy. And at this time it seems that she was more violent than ever before. She caught him by the garment, &c. She laid hold on him, as though she were resolute to attain her purpose of him.

Under these circumstances he not only refused her, but fled from her, as he would have done from one that was going to assassinate him; he escaped, as for his life. He not only would not be guilty of such a fact, but neither would he by any means be in the house with her, where he should be in the way of her temptation.—This behaviour of Joseph is doubtless recorded for the instruction of all. Therefore from the words I shall observe, that it is our duty, not only to avoid those things that are themselves sinful, but also, as far as may be, those things that lead and expose to sin.

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