Genesis 39:11-20 Before God uses a person, He assesses not his abilities, but his integrity
Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside. 12 She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside. 13 When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed. 15 When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside.” 16 So she left his garment beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she spoke to him with these words, “The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me; 18 and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.” 19 Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me,” his anger burned. 20 So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.
Joseph’s efforts in resisting the woman’s advances brought him humiliation before men, but elevation before God. Joseph chose the narrow path of humiliation for he has determined that it is better to suffer for doing what is right. A true son whom God uses is one by virtue of his unwavering integrity towards God and men. Thus, before God uses a person, He assesses not his abilities, but his integrity.
She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!”
When the woman realised that her tactics were ineffective with Joseph, she began to lose patience. One fateful day, when no one was around in the house, the woman seized the occasion and grabbed Joseph’s garment. “Grab” implies that the woman was in fact using physical force to rape Joseph. It is probable that a tussle occured where Joseph managed to wriggle free and fled leaving her holding his garment. Her masculine tendencies is mind boggling as much as it is unique in scripture. Normally, a man uses force to violate a woman while a woman employs seductive words.
See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us.
Joseph’s escape brought unintended complications which she was determined to put to rest. Joseph’s garment appears as credible evidence against him because it is hard to argue how a woman who being weaker is able to pull the garments off a man. By playing the victim, she elicited sympathy from the men of the household. She cleverly identified herself with the slaves by accusing her husband for bringing Joseph into the household to insult them. When her husband returned, she insinuated that Joseph in attempting to rape her had disrobed. And at the sound of her screams he fled while leaving his garment beside her. Although she put the full blame on Joseph, she implicitly accused her husband for acquiring a sexual menace deliberately to harass her, ”The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us… this is what your slave did to me.” Potiphar’s household was so steep in manipulation and deception, a fair trial for Joseph is almost impossible.
So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail.
The woman’s account proved effective in turning her husband against his trusted aid landing him in prison. However, the punishment was unexpected because convicted rapists of those days were executed even as free citizens. And Joseph, as a slave would certainly not escape the deathly retribution. Joseph’s reprieve from the death penalty was possibly attributed to a degree of doubt that Potiphar cast over his wife’s account; he knows her character too well.
Before God uses a person, He assesses not his abilities, but his integrity
Joseph, though a slave was not enslaved by deceit and darkness. In contrast, Potiphar and his wife being imperial subjects were slaves of deceit, infidelity and manipulation. A son is evident not by his material possessions, social status, or abilities. But a true son is one by virtue of his unwavering integrity towards God and fellow men.
Joseph was well aware of the dangers should he miscalculate his response towards the woman’s advances. He must not alienate the woman or her husband since slaves have little chance of getting a fair trial. At the back of it, he had to contend with his own desire for sexual gratification. Three options are open to him:
A. Concede to her demands. In so doing, he does not alienate the woman while taking the pressure off him. As exposure brings no benefit to either party, each can be relied upon to keep their affair secret. Anyway, what is a little fling between two consenting adults!
B. Keep resisting the woman’s advances and ignore her mixed signals of threats and endearments. However, with the woman showing no signs of backing off but has instead become increasingly unpredictable, it inevitably presents a time bomb.
C. Tell Potiphar everything what her wife has been doing. This is a mindlessly risky proposition; should he fail, it will be tantamount to sabotaging their marriage. Even if Potiphar believes him, for the sake of his marriage, he might still sacrifice Joseph for his wife.
Option A may seem like a no brainer for most, but Joseph, being a man of integrity will have none of it. Since option C is outright suicide, option B seems to be the right path. By choosing to do what is right despite obvious threats to his life, Joseph has proven to be a true son. Here, he refused to betray his master’s trust, he refused to bring sin into their marriage, and most importantly, he refused to sin against God. Proverbs says,
Many will say they are loyal friends,
but who can find one who is truly reliable?
The godly walk with integrity;
blessed are their children who follow them. Proverbs 20:6-7
What happened is in fact a test meant to reveal who Joseph really is. When God assesses a person, He test not his ability, but his integrity. Integrity is the bedrock on which God’s kingdom and ministry stand. We also learn that whenever there are no viable options out of a fix, choose to do what is right. And all will be fine.
Are you accustomed to looking for practical solutions as opposed to doing what is right? Although both are not mutually exclusive, it is wise to do what is right even if it meant an immediate loss. God sees your integrity and will bless you greatly. The apostle Peter said,
Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 1 Peter 3:16-17
Joseph did what is right and suffered for it. But he has in return gotten God’s favour which later gave him tremendous advantage in the royal palace. As God blesses Joseph for his life of integrity, God will likewise bless you if you will do the same. Do not flout laws or participate in the evil activities of others lest you be numbered with them. But ask God for wisdom who will give it liberally so that we may prosper without resorting to lawlessness. The apostle James said,
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8
God reveals His wisdom without ambiguity to those who are determined to obey Him despite losses. Therefore, before a man receives divine wisdom, he must first resolve to love God above self.
Dear Lord, I am resolved to walk in your ways even though it may lead to losses. Strengthen my heart to love your truth and to be victorious in all my dealings. Bless the works of my hands so that I may be blessing to others. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.