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Lessons from Living in a Strange Land (Part 2)

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How to Handle Persecution #20 | with Daniel Whyte III

TEXT: Genesis 39:7-23

As we continue our series on persecution, last week we began looking at the life of Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was a Hebrew young man who was taken to live in a foreign, pagan, and hostile land. Not only was Egypt a hostile place for Joseph because it had different customs, a different culture, and a different religion, but Egyptians hated Hebrews because the Hebrews were shepherds, and Egyptians considered shepherding to be one of the most demeaning occupations. In fact, we find out from Joseph’s story that the Egyptians would not even eat at the same table with a Hebrew.

As a young man who was determined to remain faithful to God in such a situation, his story bears lessons for us as Christians who often find ourselves in situations that are not friendly to us or to our faith in Jesus Christ. Last week, we learned from Joseph’s story that when we find ourselves in such a situation, we should first understand that the Lord is with us, and that he will never leave us. Secondly, we should make it our goal to abide in peace with those around us. And, third, we should remain faithful and obedient to God no matter what happens.

In our passage today, we find that Joseph is doing just that when he is met with temptation in the form of Potiphar’s wife. Now, if you remember, Potiphar was an officer in the royal court. He was the captain of the guard — the head of Pharaoh’s “Secret Service”, if you will — and he had bought Joseph to be the manager of his household. The word “officer” in the Hebrew Bible comes from the root word for “castrate” and it is the same word elsewhere translated as “eunuch”. Historians tell us that it was a common practice in the ancient near east for rulers to make their highest officals “eunuchs” so that they would be wholly devoted to their king. So, if Potiphar was indeed a eunuch, and his marriage was merely ceremonial, that may explain why Potiphar’s wife was seeking sexual interaction outside of the bonds of marriage.

Additionally, unlike many other societies of that day, the position of women in Egyptian society is believed to be equal to that of men. We know that there were at least three female Pharaohs and two female regents who took the throne because their sons were too young to reign. The women of ancient Egypt also had a reputation for immorality in the ancient world.

So, Joseph is repeatedly tempted by Potiphar’s wife. Thankfully, Joseph resisted the temptation. When we are in situations that are not friendly to Christian beliefs, we will be tempted to succumb to the standards and practices of the world. But, we see three things from Joseph’s story that will help us resist those temptations.