Jealousy is one of the sins most destructive to human relationships, and this certainly proved true with Joseph and his brothers. Enraged that their father favored Joseph over them and that Joseph had dreams that predicted he would supplant them, the brothers sold him to slave traders who took him to Egypt, where Potiphar, an officer of the pharaoh, purchased him for service (Gen. 37).
The life of Joseph was one of many ups and downs, and even though his sale into slavery was certainly a low point for him, things began to improve after he joined the household of Potiphar. We see in today’s passage that Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s eyes and was elevated to a high position in the household, overseeing all that his master owned. The Lord even blessed the house of Potiphar for Joseph’s sake, sustaining the son of Jacob in his exile (39:1–6a).
Despite this favor, life must have been difficult for Joseph in Potiphar’s service. After all, he was a young single man far away from his home. His family had basically forsaken him, and he missed the company of at least his father, if not also his brothers, despite their malice (see 45:1–15). All this would make the best of us vulnerable and apt to compromise our integrity, and Joseph had a perfect opportunity to abandon the narrow path when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. Yet unlike the prodigal son, who embraced riotous living when outside his own country, Joseph steadfastly refused the adulterous woman’s charms (39:6b–10; Luke 15:11–32).
What kept Joseph from violating his master’s trust? In the first place, we can attribute his strength to the grace of God. All of us, whether Christian or not, can say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” We are not as depraved as we could be, thanks be to the Lord and His restraining hand. Second, Joseph had a deep loyalty to Potiphar that kept him from betraying his master (Gen. 39:8–9a). Most important, however, was Joseph’s desire to please his covenant Lord. He knew that to sleep with Potiphar’s wife would be a great sin, and he steadfastly refused to give into temptation (v. 9b).
Eventually, Joseph’s devotion to God would lead to great suffering (vv. 11–23). The same can be true for us as well; nevertheless, we must always remain committed to what our Creator has said is right.