Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 5

Here’s the Explore the Bible Sunday School lesson commentary for May 5, written by Mark Rathel, professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida.

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for May 5


Genesis 39:7–21

The Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde famously said, “I can resist anything except temptation.” The story of Joseph in the Bible provides for contemporary Christians both an example and a methodology for avoiding accusations and sins.

Tempted (7–10)

The verses prior to the focal passage provide important background information to understand our lesson. At this point in his life, Joseph was a slave or servant of Potiphar, who himself was an officer of the Egyptian Pharaoh and the captain of the guards.

God was with Joseph, and he became a successful man as a servant of Potiphar, whose name means “belonging to the sun.” Verse 6 notes the physical appearance of Joseph — “well-built and handsome.” Potiphar’s unnamed wife invited Joseph to have sexual relations with her. Joseph cited three reasons in his negative response to her advances. First, he reminded her of the trust her husband had for Joseph. Second, Joseph knew that sexual relations with Potiphar’s wife would be an “immense evil” and a sin against God. Third, Joseph simply refused.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament words for sin have the connotation of “missing the mark,” an action that is contrary to the will and law of God. Joseph knew that God had a plan for his life and that God had blessed him despite his past follies.

Trapped (11–16)

Obedience to God may be costly. I have known several spiritual leaders who were guilty only of allowing themselves to be in a compromising situation.

Billy Graham and his ministry associates adopted a guideline that became known as “the Billy Graham rule.” They determined to never be alone with a woman other than their wives in any setting in order to protect any member of the team against an accusation.

Here, Potiphar’s wife is the sexual aggressor, even commanding the servant Joseph to have sexual relations with her.

The narrative twice highlights the screams of Potiphar’s wife as her protest of innocence. In her efforts to provide evidence of her false claim that Joseph was inappropriate, she kept Joseph’s garment that he had left when trying to run away from her.

Perhaps this was the same robe that his father, Israel, had given him and that had caused friction with his brothers (37:3–4). Verse 10 notes the continual faithfulness of Joseph despite Potiphar’s wife’s daily temptations; Joseph matched her daily temptations with daily refusals. Potiphar’s wife did not weaken Joseph’s resolve to choose the right actions.

Trustworthy (17–21)

Although Joseph was faithful to God, he suffered because of his commitment. Twice, Joseph was the victim of a false report and imprisonment. First, after selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites, the brothers reported to their father that a vicious animal had attacked and killed Joseph. Not only was Joseph a victim of his brothers, but he became a victim of Potiphar when he placed Joseph in prison.

Despite his difficult circumstances, God blessed Joseph. The prison warden gave Joseph the responsibility of “everything that was done there” (v. 22).

The Egyptian warden observed that God was the reason for Joseph’s success. What type of witness would Joseph be if he had complained rather than being trustworthy and faithful?

By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida

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