When Tempted to Sin

Explore the Bible Series

April 13, 2008


Background Passage: Genesis 39:1-20

Lesson Passage: Genesis 39:1-4; 6b-15, 19-20


Introduction: As Joseph approached young manhood (seventeen years old), he experienced a very difficult set of circumstances.  The Bible tells us that he had two dreams, dreams that offended his family.  As we saw last week, Joseph may have overstepped the boundaries of humility by sharing these dreams with his family, and as a result of this possible indiscretion, the young man deepened the rift that already existed among Jacob’s sons.  Throughout Joseph’s life, Jacob had played favorites with his sons.  Joseph was the eldest son of the beloved Rachel, and this gave Joseph a favored status in the household.  Jacob’s sons hated Joseph. This family animosity reached a climax when Jacob’s sons sold their brother into slavery and told their father that Joseph had died from an attack by a wild animal.


Upon his arrival in Egypt, a military official named Potiphar purchased the young slave.  Initially, Joseph prospered in Potiphar’s service, but Mrs. Potiphar’s lustful advances led to a false accusation of rape.  Joseph soon found himself in prison, and the exalted dreams of the past must have seemed like a cruel mockery. 


I marvel at Joseph’s patience and faith.  All Christians experience times of hardship.  In Joseph’s case, he endured rejection and cruel conspiracy by his brothers (I might add that Joseph’s extended family, Ishmaelite tradesmen, bought and sold him into slavery), the humiliation of slavery, false accusations by an immoral woman, and imprisonment for a crime he did not commit.  Nevertheless, Joseph, according to our text, did not complain, murmur, or grow bitter toward the Lord.  In fact, in each case, he held his composure and continued to wait upon the Lord. As his personal situation spiraled downward, this splendid young man kept doing his best to serve God, in less than ideal situations.


 I have a great deal to learn from Joseph’s maturity as he faced very difficult circumstances. The Psalms affirm, again and again, that God is our buckler and shield.  Martin Luther’s famous hymn claims that God is the believer’s “mighty fortress, a bulwark never failing”.  I’m not sure what all these things mean, but experience teaches that the Scriptures do not intend for these images guarantee that Christians will not experience difficulty.  God did not shield Joseph from fraternal abuse, temptation, or false imprisonment. If we misunderstand and misinterpret these images, we may find bitterness rise in our hearts during times of hardship. May the Lord grant us the wisdom to grow more patient and trusting when life brings us into the valley of he shadow of death.





Lesson Outline:


I.                   Joseph’s Servitude in Potiphar’ Household (vv. 1-6)

A.    Potiphar’s status in Egypt (v. 1): The term “officer” literally means “eunuch”; however, clearly, here it refers to a high-ranking officer in the royal court.  Kidner believes Potiphar served as overseer of the Egyptian prison system.  Apparently, this was a military office in ancient Egypt.  Whatever the case, he held a respected, powerful position and, no doubt, enjoyed a privileged status.  As stated earlier, the Ishmaelites were part of Joseph’s extended family, and this fact must have added insult to injury for poor Joseph as his family sold him to Potiphar.

B.     God’s blessing on Joseph (vv. 2-6): Despite his dismal circumstances, Joseph did his best to serve Potiphar well, and the Lord blessed Joseph’s labors.  Furthermore, Potiphar, a pagan Egyptian, observed the Lord’s blessing on his young servant, and, in time, Potiphar entrusted Joseph with the oversight of the household.  In anticipation of the next portion of the story, Genesis tells us that Joseph was a remarkably handsome man.


II.                Joseph’s Temptation (vv. 7-12)

A.    The nature of Joseph’s temptation

1.      sexual: Apparently, Joseph’s temptress was a woman of beauty and power.  Her aggressive pursuit of the young man must have proved very tempting. This unnamed woman made her intent unmistakably clear, “Lie with me.”

2.      persistent: Verse Ten tells us the woman seduced Joseph, day by day. Her unrelenting pursuit might have caught Joseph in a momentary lapse in moral judgment, and the persistent temptation must have gravely tested his resolve.  Sometimes sin does not assault us in an intense “frontal attack”; instead, it may lay siege to the soul and wear down our resistance to the temptation.  Everyday brought Joseph into the lair of seduction, and it took tremendous resolve to remain chaste.

3.      pride: Joseph’s meteoric rise to prominence might have created a sense of entitlement to indulge this temptation.  He was just a boy, no doubt torn by the tyranny of testosterone, and his rapid rise could have undermined his judgment.

B.     Joseph’s resistance to temptation

1.      responsibility to Potiphar: Joseph maintained a keen awareness of his privileged position in Potiphar’s household, and the young boy did not want to violate his master’s trust (See vv. 8-9).

2.      forceful, verbal rejection of the woman’s advances: Joseph explained, clearly and compellingly, why he could not have  sexual relations.  Often, we remain silent in the face of temptation, and Joseph did not fall into the snare of silence.

3.      flight: On one occasion, Joseph found himself alone in the house with his temptress.  Once again, she compelled him to have sexual relations with her, and, seeing no other means of escape, Joseph fled from the situation.  Perhaps the Apostle Paul had this Old Testament story in mind when he counseled the Corinthians to “flee sexual immorality” (See I Corinthians 6:18).


III.             Joseph’s Imprisonment (vv. 13-23)

A.    False accusation (vv. 13-18): The woman, thwarted in her immoral designs, used Joseph’s garment to make a false accusation against the young man.  At first, she reported the alleged assault to male servants; then, when her husband returned home, she told her lie to him as well.  Attempted rape, by a household servant, would have carried a death sentence; however, after an initial burst of anger, Potiphar placed Joseph in the imperial prison.

B.     The Lord’s continued blessing on Joseph (vv. 19-23): This prison, it appears, housed men who had committed crimes against Pharaoh.  Again, Joseph’s circumstances appear grave, but the Lord blessed his servant, even in this unfortunate situation. Joseph, in a short period of time, became a kind of prison trustee, and he had oversight of all the other inmates.  As we will see next week, these dire circumstances, as difficult as they were for Joseph, merely served as a “passageway” to the royal courts of Egypt for God’s servant.