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The Story of Joseph in the Bible

Joseph in Egyptian clothes..
Joseph sacrificed immediate gratification for something far more valuable.

Most Christians are familiar with the story of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. They envied him because of his self-aggrandizing dreams and the favor he received from their father Jacob, the most visual example of which was his coat of many colors. In Egypt, Joseph gained favor with a captain of the guard named Potiphar due to his excellent service. However, one day Potiphar’s wife–who was likely beautiful given Potiphar’s high-ranking status–attempted to seduce him day after day. After his repeat refusal, she accused him of sexual assault, and he was thrown into prison. The fact that he was imprisoned and not executed is probably evidence that Potiphar didn’t believe his wife, but felt compelled to take some action. In prison, Joseph continued to experience favor for years until he was promoted by Pharaoh to second-in-command for his miraculous ability to interpret dreams. Joseph leveraged this position to feed his family during 7 years of famine.

The story of Joseph is a powerful illustration of the necessity to flee sexual temptation. Had he given in, he may have been executed by Potiphar and certainly would have lost favor with God. His destiny would never have been the same, and neither would his family’s. Joseph was willing to pay a price for sexual integrity, while many of us routinely pay a price to sacrifice it. The next time we feel tempted, let’s ask ourselves, “What would Joseph do?” Stories like these were written down for this exact purpose.

Genesis 39:

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”

As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.

For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.

An intellectually curious millennial passionate about seeing people make healthy, informed choices about the moral direction of their lives. When I’m not reading or writing, I enjoy hiking, web-making, learning foreign languages, and watching live sports. Alumnus of Georgetown University (B.S.) and The Ohio State University (M.A.).


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