a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife


Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2The L ord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3His master saw that the L ord was with him, and that the L ord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; 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 L ord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the L ord was on all that he had, in house and field. 6So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. 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, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. 9He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 10And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. 11One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, 12she caught hold of his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. 13When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14she called out to the members of her household and said to them, “See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; 15and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” 16Then she kept 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 insult me; 18but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.”

19 When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, “This is the way your servant treated me,” he became enraged. 20And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. 21But the L ord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. 22The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the L ord was with him; and whatever he did, the L ord made it prosper.

11. And it came to pass about this time. That is, in the process of time, seeing she will not desist from soliciting holy Joseph, it happens at length, that she adds force to blandishments. Now, Moses here describes the crisis147147     Epitasis, Greek ἐπίτασις the point in a play wherein the plot thickens. — Ed of the combat. Joseph had already exhibited a noble and memorable example of constancy; because, as a youth, so often tempted, through a constant succession of many days, he had preserved the even tenor of his way; and at that age, to which pardon is wont to be granted, if it break forth into intemperance, he was more moderate than almost any old man. But now when the woman openly raves, and her love is turned into fury, the more arduous the contest has become, the more worthy of praise is his magnanimity, which remains inflexible against this assault. Joseph saw that he must incur the danger of losing both his character and his life: he chose to sacrifice his character, and was prepared to relinquish life itself, rather than to be guilty of such wickedness before God. Seeing the Spirit of God proposes to us such an example in a youth, what excuse does he leave for men and women of mature age, if they voluntarily precipitate themselves into crime, or fall into it by a light temptation? To this, therefore, we must bend all our efforts, that regard for God alone, may prevail to subdue all carnal affections, and even that we may more highly value a good and upright conscience than the plaudits of the whole world. For no one will prove that he heartily loves virtue, but he who, being content with God as his only witness, does not hesitate to submit to any disgrace, rather than decline from the path of duty. And truly, since even among heathens such proverbs as these are current, “that conscience is a thousand witnesses,” and that it is “a most beautiful theater,” we should be greatly ashamed of our stupor, unless the tribunal of God stands so conspicuously in our view, as to cast all the perverse judgments of the world into the shade. Therefore, away with those vain pretexts, “I wish to avoid offense,” “I am afraid lest men should interpret amiss what I have done aright;” because God does not regard himself as being duly honored, unless we, ceasing to be anxious about our own reputation, follow wheresoever he alone calls us; not that he wishes us simply to be indifferent to our own reputation, but because it is an indignity, as well as an absurdity, that he should not be preferred to men. Let, then, the faithful, as much as in them lies, endeavor to edify their neighbors by the example of an upright life; and for this end, let them prudently guard against every mark of evil; but if it be necessary to endure the infamy of the world, let them through this temptation also, proceed in the direction of their divine vocation.

He hath brought in an Hebrew unto us. Here we see what desperation can effect. For the wicked woman breaks forth from love into fury. Whence it clearly appears what brutal impulses lust brings with it, when its reins are loosened. Certainly alien Satan has once gained the dominion over miserable men, he never ceases to hurry them hither and thither, until he drives them headlong by the spirit of giddiness and madness. We see, also, how he hardens to obstinacy the reprobate, whom he holds fast bound under his power. God, indeed, often inspires the wicked with terror, so that they commit their crimes with trembling. And it is possible that the signs of a guilty conscience appeared in the countenance and in the words of this impure woman: nevertheless, Satan confirms her in that degree of hardness, that she boldly adopts the design to ruin the holy youth; and, at the moment, contrives the fraud by which she may oppress him, though innocent, just as if she had long meditated, at leisure, on his destruction. She had before sought secrecy, that no witness might be present; now she calls her domestics, that, by this kind of prejudging of the case, she may condemn the youth before her husband. Besides, she involves her husband in the accusation, that she may compel him, by a sense of shame, to punish the guiltless. “It is by thy fault, (she says,) that this stranger has been mocking me.” What other course does she leave open to her husband, than that he should hasten, with closed eyes, to avenge her, for the sake of purging himself from this charge? Therefore, though all wicked persons are fearful, yet they contract such hardness from their stupor, that no fear hinders them from rushing obstinately forward into every abyss of iniquity, and insolently trampling upon the good and simple. And we must obscene this trial of the holy man, in order that we may take care to be clothed with that spirit of fortitude, which not even the iron-hardness of the wicked shall be able to break. Even this other trial was not a light one, that he receives so unworthy a reward of his humanity. He had covered the disgrace of the woman in silence, in order that she might have had opportunity to repent, if she had been curable; he now sees that, by his modesty, he has brought himself into danger of death. We learn, by his not sinking under the trial, that it was his sincere determination to yield himself freely to the service of God. And we must do the same, in order that the ingratitude of men may, by no means, cause us to swerve from our duty.

VIEWNAME is study