At this chapter we return to the story of Joseph. We have him
here, I. A servant, a slave in Potiphar's house (v. 1), and yet there greatly
honoured and favoured, I. By the providence of God, which made him, in effect, a
master (v. 2-6). 2. By the grace of God, which made him more than a conqueror
over a strong temptation to uncleanness (v. 7-12). II. We have him here a
sufferer, falsely accused (v. 13-18), imprisoned (v. 19, 20), and yet his
imprisonment made both honourable and comfortable by the tokens of God's
special presence with him (v. 21-23). And herein Joseph was a type of Christ,
"who took upon him the form of a servant," and yet then did that which
made it evident that "God was with him," who was tempted by Satan, but
overcame the temptation, who was falsely accused and bound, and yet had all
things committed to his hand.
Here is, I. Joseph bought (v. 1), and he that bought him,
whatever he gave for him, had a good bargain of him; it was better than the
merchandise of silver. The Jews have a proverb, "If the world did not know
the worth of good men, they would hedge them about with pearls." He was
sold to an officer of Pharaoh, with whom he might get acquainted with public
persons and public business, and so be fitted for the preferment for which he
was designed. Note, 1. What God intends men for he will be sure, some way or
other, to qualify them for. 2. Providence is to be acknowledged in the disposal
even of poor servants and in their settlements, and therein may perhaps be
working towards something great and important.
II. Joseph blessed, wonderfully blessed, even in the house of
1. God prospered him, v. 2,3. Perhaps the affairs of Potiphar's
family had remarkably gone backward before; but, upon Joseph's coming into it,
a discernible turn was given to them, and the face and posture of them altered
on a sudden. Though, at first, we may suppose that his hand was put to the
meanest services, even in those appeared his ingenuity and industry; a
particular blessing of Heaven attended him, which, as he rose in his employment,
became more and more discernible. Note, (1.) Those that have wisdom and grace
have that which cannot be taken away from them, whatever else they are robbed
of. Joseph's brethren had stripped him of his coat of many colours, but they
could not strip him of his virtue and prudence. (2.) Those that can separate us
from all our friends, yet cannot deprive us of the gracious presence of our God.
When Joseph had none of all his relations with him, he had his God with him,
even in the house of the Egyptian. Joseph was separated from his brethren, but
not from his God; banished from his father's house, but the Lord was with
him, and this comforted him. (3.) It is God's presence with us that makes
all we do prosperous. Those that would prosper must therefore make God their
friend; and those that do prosper must therefore give God the praise.
2. His master preferred him, by degrees made him steward of his
household, v. 4. Note, (1.) Industry and honesty are the surest and safest way
both of rising and thriving: Seest thou a man prudent, and faithful, and diligent
in his business? He shall stand before kings at length, and not always before
mean men. (2.) It is the wisdom of those that are in any sort of authority
to countenance and employ those with whom it appears that the presence of God
is, Ps. 101:6. Potiphar knew what he did when he put all into the hands of
Joseph; for he knew it would prosper better there than in his own hand. (3.) He
that is faithful in a few things stand fair for being made ruler over many
things, Mt. 25:21. Christ goes by this rule with his servants. (4.) It is a
great ease to a master to have those employed under him that are trusty.
Potiphar was so well satisfied with Joseph's conduct that he knew not aught
he had, save the bread which he did eat, v. 6. The servant had all the care
and trouble of the estate; the master had only the enjoyment of it: an example
not to be imitated by any master, unless he could be sure that he had one in all
respects like Joseph for a servant.
3. God favoured his master for his sake (v. 5): He blessed
the Egyptian's house, though he was an Egyptian, a stranger to the true
God, for Joseph's sake; and he himself, like Laban, soon learned it by
experience, ch. 30:27. Note, (1.) Good men are the blessings of the places where
they live; even good servants may be so, though mean, and lightly esteemed. (2.)
The prosperity of the wicked is, one way or other, for the sake of the godly.
Here was a wicked family blessed for the sake of one good servant in it.
Here is, I. A most shameful instance of impudence and immodesty
in Joseph's mistress, the shame and scandal of her sex, perfectly lost to all
virtue and honour, and not to be mentioned, nor thought of, without the utmost
indignation. It was well that she was an Egyptian; for we must have shared in
the confusion if such folly had been found in Israel. Observe,
I. Her sin began in the eye: She cast her eyes upon Joseph
(v. 7), who was a goodly person, and well-favoured, v. 6. Note, (1.)
Remarkable beauty, either of men or women, often proves a dangerous snare both
to themselves and others, which forbids pride in it and commands constant
watchfulness against the temptation that attends it; favour is deceitfuldeceiving.
(2.) We have great need to make a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1), lest the
eye infect the heart. Joseph's mistress had a husband that ought to have been
to her for a covering of the eyes from all others, ch. 20:16.
2. She was daring and shameless in the sin. With an impudent
face, and a harlot's forehead, she said, Lie with me, having already,
by her wanton looks and unchaste desires, committed adultery with him in her
heart. Note, Where the unclean spirit gets possession and dominion in a soul, it
is as with the possessed of the devils (Lu. 8:27, 29), the clothes of modesty
are thrown off and the bands and fetters of shame are broken in pieces. When
lust has got head, it will stick at nothing, blush at nothing; decency, and
reputation, and conscience, are all sacrificed to that Baal-peor. 3. She was
urgent and violent in the temptation. Often she had been denied with the
strongest reasons, and yet as often renewed her vile solicitations. She spoke
to him day by day, v. 10. Now this was, (1.) Great wickedness in her, and
showed her heart fully set to do evil. (2.) A great temptation to Joseph. The
hand of Satan, no doubt, was in it, who, when he found he could not overcome him
with troubles and the frowns of the world (for in them he still held fast his
integrity), assaulted him with soft and charming pleasures, which have ruined
more than the former, and have slain their ten-thousands.
II. Here is a most illustrious instance of virtue and resolved
chastity in Joseph, who, by the grace of God, was enabled to resist and overcome
this temptation; and, all things considered, his escape was, for aught I know,
as great an instance of the divine power as the deliverance of the three
children out of the fiery furnace.
1. The temptation he was assaulted with was very strong. Never
was a more violent onset made upon the fort of chastity than this recorded here.
(1.) The sin he was tempted to was uncleanness, which considering his youth, his
beauty, his single state, and his plentiful living at the table of a ruler, was
a sin which, one would think, might most easily beset him and betray him. (2.)
The tempter was his mistress, a person of quality, whom it was his place to obey
and his interest to oblige, whose favour would contribute more than any thing to
his preferment, and by whose means he might arrive at the highest honours of the
court. On the other hand, it was at his utmost peril if he slighted her, and
made her his enemy. (3.) Opportunity makes a thief, makes an adulterer, and that
favoured the temptation. The tempter was in the house with him; his business led
him to be, without any suspicion, where she was; none of the family were within
(v. 11); there appeared no danger of its being ever discovered, or, if it should
be suspected, his mistress would protect him. (4.) To all this was added
importunity, frequent constant importunity, to such a degree that, at last, she
laid violent hands on him.
2. His resistance of the temptation was very brave, and the
victory truly honourable. The almighty grace of God enabled him to overcome this
assault of the enemy,
(1.) By strength of reason; and wherever right reason may be
heard, religion no doubt will carry the day. He argues from the respect he owed
both to God and his master, v. 8, 9. [1.] He would not wrong his master, nor do
such an irreparable injury to his honour. He considers, and urges, how kind his
master had been to him, what a confidence he had reposed in him, in how many
instances he had befriended him, for which he abhorred the thought of making
such an ungrateful return. Note, We are bound in honour, as well as justice and
gratitude, not in any thing to injure those that have a good opinion of us and
place a trust in us, how secretly soever it may be done. See how he argues (v.
9): "There is none greater in this house than I, therefore I will
not do it." Note, Those that are great, instead of being proud of their
greatness, should use it as an argument against sin. "Is none greater than
I? Then I will scorn to do a wicked thing; it is below me to serve a base lust;
I will not disparage myself so much." [2.] He would not offend his God.
This is the chief argument with which he strengthens his aversion to the sin. How
can I do this? not only, How shall I? or, How dare I? but, How can I? Id
possumus, quod jure possumusWe can do that which we can do lawfully. It
is good to shut out sin with the strongest bar, even that of an impossibility.
He that is born of God cannot sin, 1 Jn. 3:9. Three arguments Joseph urges upon
himself. First, He considers who he was that was tempted. "I;
others may perhaps take their liberty, but I cannot. I that am an
Israelite in covenant with God, that profess religion, and relation to him: it
is next to impossible for me to do so." Secondly, What the sin was
to which he was tempted: This great wickedness. Others might look upon it
as a small matter, a peccadillo, a trick of youth; but Joseph had another idea
of it. In general, when at any time we are tempted to sin, we must consider the
great wickedness there is in it, let sin appear sin (Rom. 7:13), call it by its
own name, and never go about to lessen it. Particularly let the sin of
uncleanness always be looked upon as great wickedness, as an exceedingly sinful
sin, that wars against the soul as much as any other. Thirdly, Against
whom he was tempted to sinagainst God; not only, "How shall I do
it, and sin against my master, my mistress, myself, my own body and soul; but
against God?" Note, Gracious souls look upon this as the worst thing in sin
that it is against God, against his nature and his dominion, against his love
and his design. Those that love God do for this reason hate sin.
(2.) By stedfastness of resolution. The grace of God enabled him
to overcome the temptation by avoiding the tempter. [1.] He hearkened not to
her, so much as to be with her, v. 10. Note, Those that would be kept from
harm must keep themselves out of harm's way. Avoid it, pass not by it.
Nay, [2.] When she laid hold of him, he left his garment in her hand, v.
12. He would not stay so much as to parley with the temptation, but flew out
from it with the utmost abhorrence; he left his garment, as one escaping for his
life. Note, It is better to lose a good coat than a good conscience.
Joseph's mistress, having tried in vain to make him a
criminal, now endeavours to represent him as one; so to be revenged on him for
his virtue. Now was her love turned into the utmost rage and malice, and she
pretends she cannot endure the sight of him whom awhile ago she could not endure
out of her sight. Chaste and holy love will continue, though slighted; but
sinful love, like Amnon's to Tamar, is easily changed into sinful hatred. 1.
She accused him to his fellow servants (v. 13-15) and gave him a bad name
among them. Probably they envied him his interest in their master's favour,
and his authority in the house; and perhaps found themselves aggrieved sometimes
by his fidelity, which prevented their purloining; and therefore they were glad
to hear any thing that might tend to his disgrace, and, if there was room for
it, incensed their mistress yet more against him. Observe, When she speaks of
her husband, she does not call him her husband, or her lord, but only he;
for she had forgotten the covenant of her God, that was between them. Thus the
adulteress (Prov. 7:19) calls her husband the good man. Note, Innocence
itself cannot secure a man's reputation. Not every one that keeps a good
conscience can keep a good name. 2. She accused him to his master, who had power
in his hand to punish him, which his fellow servants had not, v. 17, 18.
Observe, (1.) What an improbable story she tells, producing his garment as an
evidence that he had offered violence to her, which was a plain indication that
she had offered violence to him. Note, Those that have broken the bonds of
modesty will never be held by the bonds of truth. No marvel that she who had
impudence enough to say, Lie with me, had front enough to say, "He
would have lien with me." Had the lie been told to conceal her own crime it
would have been bad enough, yet, in some degree, excusable; but it was told to
be revenged upon his virtue, a most malicious lie. And yet, (2.) She manages it
so as to incense her husband against him, reflecting upon him for bringing this
Hebrew servant among them, perhaps at first against her mind, because he was a
Hebrew. Note, It is no new thing for the best of men to be falsely accused of
the worst of crimes by those who themselves are the worst of criminals. As this
matter was represented, one would have thought chaste Joseph a very bad man and
his wanton mistress a virtuous woman; it is well that there is a day of
discovery coming, in which all shall appear in their true characters. This was
not the first time that Joseph's coat was made use of as a false witness
concerning him; his father had been deceived by it before, now his master.
Here is, 1. Joseph wronged by his master. He believed the
accusation, and either Joseph durst not make his defence by telling the truth,
as it would reflect too much upon his mistress, or his master would not hear it,
or would not believe it, and there is no remedy, he is condemned to perpetual
imprisonment, v. 19, 20. God restrained his wrath, else he had put him to death;
and that wrath which imprisoned him God made to turn to his praise, in order to
which Providence so disposed that he should be shut up among the king's
prisoners, the state-prisoners. Potiphar, it is likely, chose that prison
because it was the worst; for there the iron entered into the soul (Ps. 105:18),
but God designed to pave the way to his enlargement. He was committed to the
king's prison, that he might thence be preferred to the king's person. Note,
Many an action of false imprisonment will, in the great day, be found to lie
against the enemies and persecutors of God's people. Our Lord Jesus, like
Joseph here, was bound, and numbered with the transgressors. 2. Joseph owned and
righted by his God, who is, and will be, the just and powerful patron of
oppressed innocence. Joseph was at a distance from all his friends and
relations, had not them with him to comfort him, or to minister to him, or to
mediate for him; but the Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, v.
21. Note, (1.) God despises not his prisoners, Ps. 69:33. No gates nor bars can
shut out his gracious presence from his people; for he has promised that he will
never leave them. (2.) Those that have a good conscience in a prison have a good
God there. Integrity and uprightness qualify us for the divine favour, wherever
we are. Joseph is not long a prisoner before he becomes a little ruler even in
the prison, which is to be attributed, under God, [1.] To the keeper's favour.
God gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. Note, God
can raise up friends for his people even where they little expect to find them,
and can make them to be pitied even of those that carry them captive, Ps.
106:46. [2.] To Joseph's fitness for business. The keeper saw that God was
with him, and that every thing prospered under his hand; and therefore entrusted
him with the management of the affairs of the prison, v. 22, 23. Note, Wisdom
and virtue will shine in the narrowest spheres. A good man will do good wherever
he is, and will be a blessing even in bonds and banishment; for the Spirit of
the Lord is not bound nor banished, witness St. Paul, Phil. 1:12, 13.