Joseph was born into a large family (as most in those days were). He was favored of his father, Jacob, because he had been given the birthright. Originally, it was intended for his older brother Reuben, but due to transgression (1 Chr. 5:1-2), it was given to Joseph as he was the firstborn son of Jacob’s second wife; he was next in line for the blessing. Because of being favored, his other brothers despised him. They devised a plan to get rid of him, in which they sold him into Egypt as a slave, and then told their father that he had been killed by “an evil beast.”
In Egypt, Joseph begins as a slave. He is hired by a man named Potiphar, who held a very high position. He was an officer of Pharoah, and captain of the guards.
Over time, we see that because of being favored of the Lord, and also because of his integrity and hard work, he is seen as more than a slave. He holds position in Potiphar’s house. In Genesis 39:2-6 we read:
2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
3 And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.
6 And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
Sin rarely comes immediately. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “I’m going to go commit adultery today!” Of course not. It begins with small thoughts, which then turns to greater thoughts, and then from thoughts, to small actions, and from small actions to great actions!
In verses 7 to 10, we read:
7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
8 But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
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.
Potiphar’s wife begins to build interest in Joseph, and she pursues him saying, “Lie with me.” But Joseph does what is right and in verse 8, “he refused.” And in verse 9 we read the famous words of Joseph saying, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
One thing I think is worth mention is in verse 10 where it reads day by day. As I mentioned before, temptation is not an immediate thing. It’s constant, and it’s repetitive. Constantly, consistently, Joseph refuses to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, because 1) he knows that it’s wrong, 2) he respects Potiphar, 3) he would return to be a slave, and 4) he desires to please God more than to give into his carnal passions.
In verses 11 to 15 we read:
11 And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.
12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,
14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:
15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.
Joseph walks into work one day, and there, as usual, is Potiphar’s wife with her constant invite to “lie with me.” She was finally fed up with it, and grabbed him, but instead, Joseph “fled, and got him out.” Still clinging onto his coat, Potiphar’s wife calls in the guards and says, “Look! That Hebrew tried to sleep with me! I screamed, and when he heard me, he ran away because he was scared.”
The main phrase I’d like to focus on is “fled, and got him out.” Joseph is an incredible example for all of us. I’m sure that Potiphar’s wife was very beautiful. I’m sure that it took everything inside of him not to give into that temptation. But in the heat of the moment, Joseph did what was right and “fled, and got him out.” Do we do this today? Whenever we’re tempted with sin or a wrong choice, do we “flee” from it?
Initially, right after fleeing, Joseph is thrown into prison. You might ask, “Wait…he did what was right, and now he’s going to prison? So why should I choose the right?” Initially, Joseph was in prison. But over time, because he was a righteous man, he gained sight in the eyes of Pharoah. He was then placed to a position higher than that of Potiphar’s, owning a large portion of Egypt.
“When Joseph was in Egypt, what came first in his life—God, his job, or Potiphar’s wife? When she tried to seduce him, he responded by saying, ‘How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’
Joseph was put in prison because he put God first. If we were faced with a similar choice, where would we place our first loyalty? Can we put God ahead of security, peace, passions, wealth, and the honors of men?
When Joseph was forced to choose, he was more anxious to please God than to please his employer’s wife. When we are required to choose, are we more anxious to please God than our boss, our teacher, our neighbor, or our date?” (President Ezra Taft Benson, April 1988, 4).