Genesis 39:9
There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
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Genesis 39:9. How can I do this great wickedness? — How can I, to whom my master has shown so much kindness, when I was a poor, forlorn stranger from a foreign land, and was offered to him in the capacity of a slave; on whom he has conferred so many, and such great favours, keeping back from my enjoyment no part of his property but thee, because thou art his wife; — how can I be guilty of such ingratitude as thus to wound him in the tenderest part? How can I, in whom he has reposed such confidence, and to whom he has committed so great a trust as to make me steward and governor of all he has, thus shamefully deceive that confidence, and betray that trust? How can I be so unjust to him as to injure him, in a matter which of all others would give him the greatest pain, and rob him of his greatest and most valuable treasure, the affections and honour of his wife, and his own honour involved therein? How can I be so unkind and cruel to thee, as to countenance and entangle thee in so much guilt and wickedness, laying thee open to the daily reproaches of thy own mind, making an eternal breach and separation between thee and thy husband, and rendering thy whole future life a scene of bitterness and distress? How can I expose thee to the displeasure and wrath of the righteous Lawgiver and just Judge of all the earth, who is the everlasting avenger of all such crimes? And how can I, who profess to be a worshipper and servant of Jehovah, the God of truth, justice, and holiness, do any wickedness, especially such great wickedness as that of committing adultery with the wife of my bountiful benefactor and kind master? How can I thus sin, not only against my master, my mistress, myself, my own body and soul, but against God? — 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. They that love God for this reason hate sin.

39:7-12 Beauty either in men or women, often proves a snare both to themselves and others. This forbids pride in it, and requires constant watchfulness against the temptation that attends it. We have great need to make a covenant with our eyes, lest the eyes infect the heart. When lust has got power, decency, and reputation, and conscience, are all sacrificed. Potiphar's wife showed that her heart was fully set to do evil. Satan, when he found he could not overcome Joseph with the troubles and the frowns of the world, for in them he still held fast his principle, assaulted him with pleasures, which have ruined more than the former. But Joseph, by the grace of God, was enabled to resist and overcome this temptation; and his escape was as great an instance of the Divine power, as the deliverance of the three children out of the fiery furnace. This sin was one which might most easily beset him. The tempter was his mistress, one whose favour would help him forward; and it was at his utmost peril if he slighted her, and made her his enemy. The time and place favoured the temptation. To all this was added frequent, constant urging. The almighty grace of God enabled Joseph to overcome this assault of the enemy. He urges what he owed both to God and his master. We are bound in honour, as well as justice and gratitude, not in any thing to wrong those who place trust in us, how secretly soever it may be done. He would not offend his God. Three arguments Joseph urges upon himself. 1. He considers who he was that was tempted. One in covenant with God, who professed religion and relation to him. 2. What the sin was to which he was tempted. Others might look upon it as a small matter; but Joseph did not so think of it. Call sin by its own name, and never lessen it. Let sins of this nature always be looked upon as great wickedness, as exceedingly sinful. 3. Against whom he was tempted to sin, against God. Sin is against God, against his nature and his dominion, against his love and his design. Those that love God, for this reason hate sin. The grace of God enabled Joseph to overcome the temptation, by avoiding the temper. He would not stay to parley with the temptation, but fled from it, as escaping for his life. If we mean not to do iniquity, let us flee as a bird from the snare, and as a roe from the hunter.Joseph resists the daily solicitations of his master's wife to lie with her. "None greater in this house than I." He pleads the unreserved trust his master had reposed in him. He is bound by the law of honor, the law of chastity (this great evil), and the law of piety (sin against God). Joseph uses the common name of God in addressing this Egyptian. He could employ no higher pleas than the above.9. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?—This remonstrance, when all inferior arguments had failed, embodied the true principle of moral purity—a principle always sufficient where it exists, and alone sufficient. No text from Poole on this verse.

There is none greater in this house than I,.... Not any of the servants of the house, he was the chief of them, who had all the rest under him; or rather, "he himself is not greater (q) in this house than I"; that is, his master was not greater than he: he had a greater propriety in the house and the things of it, and he had the original power and authority in it, but had not a greater use of it; Joseph had authority over all the servants, and everything in the house at his command, and the free use of everything his master had, excepting what follows:

neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife; and is a reason not only why his master retained her for his own use, but why he should not touch her, and why she should not solicit him to it:

how then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? the words are emphatic in the original, "this! this wickedness! this great one!" adultery was reckoned a great sin among all nations, and this, had Joseph committed it, would have been greatly aggravated by the favours his master had conferred upon him; and not only a sin against himself, his soul and body, and against his master, but, above all, a sin against God, contrary to his holy nature, revealed will, and righteous law; all which prevailed upon Joseph to refuse the offer made him, which he could not comply with, in honour or with a good conscience.

(q) "non ipse magnus", Montanus; "ne ipse quidem est me major", Junius & Tremellius, Munster, Fagius, Drusius, Mercerus, Cartwright.

There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against {g} God?

(g) The fear of God preserved him against her continual temptations.

9. there is none greater] The margin, he is not, is correct. The rendering of the text is not only less accurate, but far less vigorous. The LXX and Vulg. have similarly missed the meaning.

how then … against God] Observe how, in J, Elohim, not Jehovah, is used of God in a passage where Joseph is speaking to a non-Israelite. Joseph repels the immoral overtures of his master’s wife on the ground, (1) of honour towards the master who trusted him in everything; and (2) of goodness and virtue, the duty of a man living in the presence of God. “This great wickedness”; Joseph takes the simplest line of resisting temptation. The thing is wrong in God’s sight; and that is enough for him. Egyptologists have illustrated this part of Joseph’s story from the ancient Egyptian “Tale of the two brothers” (contained in the d’Orbiney Papyrus, 19th Dynasty), in which the wife of the elder seeks to seduce the honour of the younger. The tale belongs to the Egyptian literature of the 14th cent. b.c.1[56]

[56] See Appendix E.

“Against God”: the consciousness of the personal presence of Jehovah “made all sins to be actions directly done against Him” (Davidson). So the Psalmist, although confessing wrong against his fellow-men, says, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4).

Genesis 39:9Joseph was handsome in form and feature; and Potiphar's wife set her eyes upon the handsome young man, and tried to persuade him to lie with her. But Joseph resisted the adulterous proposal, referring to the unlimited confidence which his master had placed in him. He (Potiphar) was not greater in that house than he, and had given everything over to him except her, because she was his wife. "How could he so abuse this confidence, as to do this great wickedness and sin against God!"
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