Surprising Lessons From Genesis 39

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The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39 contains some obvious lessons about fidelity in the face of sexual temptation, and there are also some subtler points to be found about the loyal character of God. The story is dramatic: Jacob’s son Joseph is in Egypt, where he is Potiphar’s servant and the most trusted overseer in his household. Potiphar’s wife sees that Joseph “was well-built and handsome, and after a while . . . said, ‘Come to bed with me!'” (Genesis 39:6-7).


Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but he staunchly refuses her advances: “My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Joseph is loyal both to Potiphar and to God. Potiphar’s wife doesn’t give up; she continues to seduce him (verse 10). Note the wise course Joseph takes, choosing not to be alone with Potiphar’s wife if he could help it. The story of Potiphar’s wife is about loyalty as much as it is about resisting temptation. Potiphar’s wife was disloyal to her husband, but Joseph was loyal both to Potiphar and to God. God shows us amazing loyalty and faithfulness. It is part of His character. He is “compassionate and gracious . . . slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Joseph’s desire to be faithful and loyal to Potiphar was in response to God’s faithfulness to Him; Joseph was reflecting God’s character, which is what the godly do. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

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