In Genesis 39, the story of Joseph takes shape as he becomes established in Egypt. In his earlier days, Joseph was self-assured and arrogant as his father’s favourite and evidenced in his brothers’ attitude and actions toward him, he didn’t mind lording it over them. But now we see a subdued Joseph, a man who has been humbled by circumstances, betrayed by his own brothers and sold into slavery.
Potiphar, Pharoah’s commanding officer, held a prominent position of influence in Egypt, the most powerful nation on earth at that time. Joseph procured great wealth for both Potiphar and Pharoah, using God’s wisdom in leadership and business acumen with the traders who flowed in and out of the nation. The Scripture reveals that Potiphar recognized the hand of God on Joseph and he promoted him as overseer of everything he owned. All Potiphar had to worry about was buttering his toast (Genesis 39:6).
It’s funny that often when things are going well in our lives, there’s a sub-plot happening in the background that we don’t have a clue about. From a spiritual standpoint, the enemy of God didn’t like what was happening and searched for a loose nut that he could work with. That happened to be Potiphar’s wife, who remains unnamed in the Bible for good reason.
While Joseph was busy building the kingdom, we see the Bible’s first noted cougar crouching in wait for her prey. Unbeknownst to Joseph, this experienced woman had checked out Joseph’s hotness factor and watched him for quite some time leading up to the attack.
Though Scripture isn’t specific, it looks like a setup when Joseph suddenly finds himself in the house alone with the work of a professional. Because of her outright boldness, it probably wasn’t the first time this desperate housewife had aggressively approached a male servant. Prior to this incident, she demanded Joseph day after day, “Lie with me!” leaving no trace of a doubt about her intentions.
By the grace of God and out of respect for his employer, Joseph deflected and refused temptation over and over again. One thing Potiphar’s wife had going for her was persistence. She knew what she wanted and she did not easily give up. We’re not certain how long this game of cat and mouse went on, but growing impatient, Potiphar’s wife upped the ante. I’m no Columbo, but I believe she premeditated and arranged for every servant to be sent out of the house so she would have no witnesses to her crime. She had nothing to lose. If Joseph gave in and consented to her sexual demands, she was happy. If she didn’t get her way, she would make him pay.
The scene was set and only God knows what that woman was wearing that day to turn up the heat, but Joseph ran out the house so fast, his outer robe was left in her sweaty clutches as she screamed for the guard.
Charles Ryrie’s Study Bible points out that this was the second time Joseph’s garments had been used to fabricate a lie against him. Earlier, his brothers had torn his multi-coloured coat, sprinkled it with goat’s blood and told their aging father Joseph had been killed by a wild animal when in fact, they sold him to passing slave-traders headed for Egypt.
Though Joseph did what was right, he lost his position of influence in Potiphar’s house and ended up in jail. However, we see the plan of God unfold as Joseph is promoted in the prison and eventually to the palace, where he becomes second in command only to Pharoah himself.
Keep in mind that if Joseph had submitted to temptation, he would have placed his destiny at risk. Every step of his rollercoaster ride was ordered of God and when the time came for promotion, Joseph was ready on the inside. God’s purpose was that the trials and temptations would prepare and position Joseph to save His people when famine hit the land. When Joseph finally came face to face with his brothers, he understood his destiny and that what they had meant for evil, God meant for good, that many lives might be saved (Genesis 50:20).
Through patience and promise, his circumstances were used by God to mold, shape and build his character for the position. There is no microwave version. If you want to go up, you must first choose to humble yourself or be humbled. Who or what are you tempted with today? Is giving in worth giving up your destiny?