(Calvin, Genesis 2. part 17)

eyes, that they which are really in one way may diverge in two 
directions. Probably it was a place whence Tamer might be seen, to which 
some by-way was near, where Judah might turn, so that he should not be 
guilty of fornication, in a public way, under the eyes of all. When it 
is said she veiled her face, we hence infer that the license of 
fornication was not so unbridled as that which, at this day, prevails in 
many places. For she dressed herself after the manner of harlots, that 
Judah might suspect nothing. And the Lord has caused this sense of shame 
to remain engraved on the hearts of those who live wickedly, that they 
may be witnesses to themselves of their own vileness. For if men could 
wash out the stains from their sins, we know that they would do so most 
willingly. Whence it follows, that while they flee from the light, they 
are affected with horror against their will, that their conscience may 
anticipate the judgment of God. By degrees, indeed, the greater part 
have so far exceeded all measure in stupor and impudence, that they are 
less careful to hide their faults; yet God has never suffered the sense 
of nature to be so entirely extinguished, by the brutal intemperance of 
those who desire to sin with impunity, but that their own obscenity 
shall compel even the most wicked to be ashamed. Base was therefore the 
impudence of that cynic philosopher, who, being catched in vice, boasted 
of planting a person. In short, the veil of Tamer shows that fornication 
was not only a base and filthy thing in the sight of God and the angels; 
but that it has always been condemned, even by those who have practiced 
  15. "When Judah saw her." It was a great disgrace to Judah that he 
hastily desired intercourse with an unknown woman. He was now old; and 
therefore age alone, even in a lascivious man, ought to have restrained 
the fervor of intemperance. He sees the woman at a distance, and it is 
not possible that he should have been captivated by her beauty. The lust 
kindles him as a stallion neighs when it smells a mare. Hence we gather, 
that the fear of God, or a regard to justice and prosperity, cannot have 
flourished greatly in the heart of one who thus eagerly breaks forth to 
the indulgence of his passions. He is therefore set before us as an 
example, that we may learn how easily the lust of the flesh would break 
forth, unless the Lord should restrain it; and thus, conscious of our 
infirmity, let us desire from the Lord, a spirit of continence and 
moderation. But lest the same security should steal over us, which 
caused Judah to precipitate himself into fornication; let us mark, that 
the dishonor which Judah sustained in consequence of his incest, was a 
punishment divinely inflicted upon him. Who then will indulge in a crime 
which he sees, by this dreadful kind of vengeance, to be so very hateful 
to God? 
  16. "What wilt thou give me," &c. Tamar did not wish to make a gain by 
the prostitution of her person, but to have a certain pledge, in order 
that she might boast of the revenge taken for the injury she had 
received: and indeed there is no doubt that God blinded Judah, as he 
deserved; for how did it happen that he did not know the voice of his 
daughter-in-law, with which he had been long familiar? Besides, if a 
pledge must be given for the promised kid, what folly to deliver up his 
ring to a harlot? I pass over the absurdity of his giving a double 
pledge. It appears, therefore, that he was then bereft of all judgment; 
and for no other cause are these things written by Moses, than to teach 
us that his miserable mind was darkened by the just judgment of God, 
because, by heaping sin upon sin, he had quenched the light of the 
  20. "And Judah sent the kid." He sends by the hand of a friend, that 
he may not reveal his ignominy to a stranger. This is also the reason 
why he does not dare to complain of the lost pledges, lest he should 
expose himself to ridicule. For I do not approve the sense given, by 
some, to the words, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed, as if 
Judah would excuse himself, as having fulfilled the promise he had 
given. Another meaning is far more suitable; namely, that Judah would 
rather lose the ring, than, by spreading the matter further, give 
occasion to the speeches of the vulgar; because lighter is the loss of 
money than of character. He might also fear being exposed to ridicule 
for having been so credulous. But he was chiefly afraid of the disgrace 
arising from his fornication. Here we see that men who are not governed 
by the Spirit of God are always more solicitous about the opinion of the 
world than about the judgment of God. For why, when the lust of the 
flesh excited him, did it not come into his mind, "Behold now I shall 
become vile in the sight of God and of angels?" Why, at least, after his 
lust has cooled, does he not blush at the secret knowledge of his sin? 
But he is secure, if only he can protect himself from public infamy. 
This passage, however, teaches, what I have said before, that 
fornication is condemned by the common sense of men, lest any one should 
seek to excuse himself on the ground of ignorance. 
  24. "And it came to pass about three months after." Tamar might sooner 
have exposed the crime; but she waited till she should be demanded for 
capital punishment; for then she would have stronger ground for 
expostulation. The reason why Judah subjects his daughter-in-law to a 
punishment so severe, was, that he deemed her guilty of adultery: for 
what the Lord afterwards confirmed by his law, appears then to have 
prevailed by custom among men, that a maid, from the time of her 
espousals, should be strictly faithful to her husband. Tamar had married 
into the family of Judah; she was then espoused to his third son. It was 
not therefore simple and common fornication which was the question for 
judgment; but the crime of adultery, which Judah prosecuted in his own 
right, because he had been injured in the person of his son. Now this 
kind of punishment is a proof that adultery has been greatly abhorred in 
all ages. The law of God commands adulterers to be stoned. Before 
punishment was sanctioned by a written law, the adulterous woman was, by 
the consent of all, committed to the flames. This seems to have been 
done by a divine instinct, that, under the direction and authority of 
nature, the sanctity of marriage might be fortified, as by a firm guard: 
and although man is not the lord of his own body, but there is a mutual 
obligation between himself and his wife, yet husbands who have had 
illicit intercourse with unmarried women have not been subject to 
capital punishment; because that punishment was awarded to women, not 
only on account of their immodesty, but also, of the disgrace which the 
woman brings upon her husband, and of the confusion caused by the 
clandestine admixture of seeds. For what else will remain safe in human 
society, if license be given to bring in by stealth the offspring of a 
stranger? To steal a name which may be given to spurious offspring? And 
to transfer to them property taken away from the lawful heirs? It is no 
wonder, then, that formerly the fidelity of marriage was so sternly 
asserted on this point. How much more vile, and how much less excusable, 
is our negligence at this day, which cherishes adulteries, by allowing 
them to pass with impunity. Capital punishment, indeed, is deemed too 
severe for the measure of the offense. Why then do we punish lighter 
faults with greater rigor? Truly, the world was beguiled by the wiles of 
Satan, when it suffered the law, engraven on all by nature, to become 
obsolete. meanwhile, a pretext has been found for this gross madness, in 
that Christ dismissed the adulteress in safety, (John 8: 11,) as if, 
truly, he had undertaken to indict punishment upon thieves, homicides, 
liars, and sorcerers. In vain, therefore, is a rule sought to be 
established by an act of Christ, who purposely abstained from the office 
of an earthly judge. It may however be asked, since Judah, who thus 
boldly usurps the right of the sword, was a private person, and even a 
stranger in the land; whence had he this great liberty to be the arbiter 
of life and death? I answer, that the words ought not to be taken as if 
he would command, on his own authority, his daughter-in-law to be put to 
death, or as if executioners were ready at his nod; but because the 
offense was verified and made known, he, as her accuser, freely 
pronounces concerning the punishment, as if the sentence had already 
been passed by the judges. Indeed I do not doubt that assemblies were 
then wont to be held, in which judgments were passed; and therefore I 
simply explain, that Judah commanded Tamar to be brought forward in 
public; in order that, the cause being tried, she might be punished 
according to custom. But the specification of the punishment is to this 
effect, that the case is one which does not admit of dispute; because 
Tamar is convicted of the crime before she is cited to judgment. 
  26. "And Judah acknowledged them." The open reproach of Tamar 
proceeded from the desire of revenge. She does not seek an interview 
with her father-in-law, for the purpose of appeasing his mind; but, with 
a deliberate contempt of death, she demands him as the companion of her 
doom. That Judah immediately acknowledges his fault, is a proof of his 
honesty; for we see with how many fallacies nearly all are wont to cover 
their sins, until they are dragged to the light, and all means of 
denying their guilt have failed. Here, though no one is present who 
could extort a confession, by force or threats, Judah voluntarily stoops 
to make one, and takes the greater share of the blame to himself. Yet, 
seeing that, in confessing his fault, he is now silent respecting 
punishment; we hence infer, that they who are rigid in censuring others, 
are much more pliant in forgiving themselves. In this, therefore, we 
ought to imitate him; that, without rack or torture, truth should so far 
prevail with us, that we should not be ashamed to confess, before the 
whole world, those sins with which God charges us. But we must avoid his 
partiality; lest, while we are harsh towards others, we should spare 
ourselves. This narrative also teaches us the importance of not 
condemning any one unheard; not only because it is better that the 
innocent should be absolved than that a guilty person should perish, but 
also, because a defense brings many things to light, which sometimes 
render a change in the form of judgment necessary. 
  "She has been more righteous than I." The expression is not strictly 
proper; for he does not simply approve of Tamar's conduct; but speaks 
comparatively, as if he would say, that he had been, unjustly and 
without cause, angry against a woman, by whom he himself might rather 
have been accused. Moreover, by the result, it appears how tardily the 
world proceeds in exacting punishment for crimes, where no private 
person stands forward to avenge his own injury. An atrocious and 
horrible crime had been committed; as long as Judah thought himself 
aggrieved, he pressed on with vehemence, and the door of judgment was 
opened. But now, when the accusation is withdrawn, both escape; though 
certainly it was the duty of all to rise up against them. Moses however 
intimates that Judah was sincerely penitent; because "he knew" his 
daughter-in-law "again no more." He also confirms what I have said 
before, that by nature men are imbued with a great horror of such a 
crime. For whence did it arise, that he abstained from intercourse with 
Tamar, unless he judged naturally, that it was infamous for a 
father-in-law to be connected with his daughter-in-law? Whoever attempts 
to destroy the distinction which nature dictates, between what is base 
and what is honorable, engages, like the giants, in open war with God. 
  27. "Behold twins were in her womb." Although both Judah obtained 
pardon for his error, and Tamar for her wicked contrivance; yet the 
Lord, in order to humble them, caused a prodigy to take place in the 
birth. Something similar had before happened in the case of Jacob and 
Esau, but for a different reason: as we know that prodigies sometimes 
portend good, sometimes evil. Here, however, there is no doubt that the 
twins, in their very birth, bring with them marks of their parents' 
infamy. For it was both profitable to themselves that the memory of 
their shame should be renewed, and it served as a public example, that 
such a crime should be branded with eternal disgrace. There is an 
ambiguity in the meaning of the midwife's words. Some suppose the 
"breaking forth" to apply to the membrane of the womb, which is broken 
when the foetus comes forth. Others more correctly suppose, that the 
midwife wondered how Pharez, having broken through the barrier 
interposed, should have come out first; for his brother, who had 
preceded him, was, as an intervening wall, opposed to him. To some the 
expression appears to be an imprecation; as if it had been said, "Let 
the blame of the rupture be upon thee." But Moses, so far as I can 
judge, intends to point out nothing more, than that a prodigy took place 
at the birth. 
1 And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of 
Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of 
the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. 
2 And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was 
in the house of his master the Egyptian. 
3 And his master saw that the LORD [was] with him, and that the LORD 
made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 
4 And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made 
him overseer over his house, and all [that] he had he put into his hand. 
5 And it came to pass from the time [that] he had made him overseer in 
his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the 
Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was 
upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. 
6 And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he 
had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was [a] goodly 
[person], and well favoured. 
7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast 
her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. 
8 But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master 
wotteth not what [is] with me in the house, and he hath committed all 
that he hath to my hand; 
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? 
10 And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he 
hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, [or] to be with her. 
11 And it came to pass about this time, that [Joseph] went into the 
house to do his business; and [there was] none of the men of the house 
there within. 
12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left 
his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. 
13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her 
hand, and was fled forth, 
14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, 
saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in 
unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: 
15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and 
cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. 
16 And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home. 
17 And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew 
servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: 
18 And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left 
his garment with me, and fled out. 
19 And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, 
which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to 
me; that his wrath was kindled. 
20 And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place 
where the king's prisoners [were] bound: and he was there in the prison. 
21 But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him 
favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 
22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the 
prisoners that [were] in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he 
was the doer [of it]. 
23 The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing [that was] under his 
hand; because the LORD was with him, and [that] which he did, the LORD 
made [it] to prosper. 
1. "And Joseph was brought down." For the purpose of connecting it with 
the remaining part of the history, Moses repeats what he had briefly 
touched upon, that Joseph had been sold to Potiphar the Egyptian: he 
then subjoins that God was with Joseph, so that he prospered in all 
things. For although it often happens that all things proceed with 
wicked men according to their wish, whom God nevertheless does not bless 
with his favour; still the sentiment is true and the expression of it 
proper, that it is never well with men, except so far as the Lord shows 
himself to be gracious to them. For he vouchsafes his blessing, for a 
time, even to reprobates, with whom he is justly angry, in order that he 
may gently invite and even allure them to repentance; and may render 
them more inexcusable, if they remain obstinate; meanwhile, he curses 
their felicity. Therefore, while they think they have reached the height 
of fortune, their prosperity, in which they delighted themselves, is 
turned into ruin. Now whensoever God deprives men of his blessing, 
whether they be strangers or of his own household, they must necessarily 
decline; because no good flows except from Him as the fountain. The 
world indeed forms for itself a goddess of fortune, who whirls round the 
affairs of men; or each man adores his own industry; but Scripture draws 
us away from this depraved imagination, and declares that adversity is a 
sign of God's absence, but prosperity, a sign of his presence. However, 
there is not the least doubt that the peculiar and extraordinary favour 
of God appeared towards Joseph, so that he was plainly known to be 
blessed by God. Moses immediately afterwards adds, that Joseph was in 
the house of his master, to teach us that he was not at once elevated to 
an honorable condition. There was nothing more desirable than liberty; 
but he is reckoned among the slaves, and lives precariously, holding his 
life itself subject to the will of his master. Let us then learn, even 
amidst our sufferings, to perceive the grace of God; and let it suffice 
us, when anything severe is to be endured, to have our cup mingled with 
some portion of sweetness, lest we should be ungrateful to God, who, in 
this manner, declares that he is present with us. 
  3. "And his master saw." Here that which has been lately alluded to 
more clearly appears, that the grace of God shone forth in Joseph, in no 
common or usual manner; since it became thus manifest to a man who was a 
heathen, and, in this respect, blind. How much more base is our 
ingratitude, if we do not refer all our prosperous events to God as 
their author; seeing that Scripture often teaches us, that nothing 
proceeding from men, whether counsels, or labors, or any means which 
they can devise, will profit them, except so far as God gives his 
blessing. And whereas Potiphar, on this account, conceived so much 
greater regard for Joseph, as to set him over his house; we hence 
gather, that heathens may be so affected by religion, as to be 
constrained to ascribe glory to God. However, his ingratitude again 
betrays itself, when he despises that God whose gifts he estimates so 
highly in the person of Joseph. He ought at least to have inquired who 
that God was, that he might conform himself to the worship due to him: 
but he deems it enough, insomuch as he thinks it will be for his private 
advantage, to acknowledge that Joseph was divinely directed, in order 
that he may use his labour with greater profit. 
  "The lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand." This was a 
wonderful method of procedure, that the entire blessing by which the 
Lord was pleased to testify his paternal love towards Joseph, should 
turn to the gain of the Egyptians. For since Joseph neither sowed nor 
reaped for himself, he was not at all enriched by his labour. But in 
this way it was brought about that a proud man, who otherwise might have 
abused him as a vile and sordid slave, should treat him humanely and 
liberally. And the Lord often soothes the wicked by such favors, lest 
when they have suffered any injury, they should turn the fury of their 
indignation against the pious. We here see how abundantly the grace of 
God is poured out upon the faithful, since a portion of his kindness 
flows from them even to the reprobate. We are also taught what an 
advantage it is to receive the elect children of God to our hospitality, 
or to join ourselves to those whom the divine favour thus accompanies, 
that it may diffuse its fragrance to those who are near them. But since 
it would not greatly profit us to be saturated with those temporal 
benefits of God, which suffocate and ruin the reprobate; we ought to 
centre all our wishes on this one point, that God may be propitious to 
us. Far better was it for Joseph that Potiphar's wealth should be 
increased for his sake; than it was for Potiphar to make great gain by 
  6. "And he left all that he had." Joseph reaped this fruit of the 
divine love and kindness towards him, that he was cheered by some 
alleviation of his servitude, at least, for a short time. But a new 
temptation soon assailed him. For the favour which he had obtained was 
not only annihilated, but became the cause and origin of a harsher 
fortune. Joseph was governor over the whole house of Potiphar. From that 
post of honour he is hurried into prison, in order that he may be soon 
brought forth to the punishment of death. What then could enter into his 
mind, but that he was forsaken and abandoned by God, and was continually 
exposed to new dangers? He might even imagine that God had declared 
himself his enemy. This history, therefore, teaches us that the pious 
have need of peculiar discernment to enable them, with the eyes of 
faith, to consider those benefits of God by which he mitigates the 
severity of their crosses. For when he seems to stretch out his hand to 
them, for the sake of bringing them assistance, the light which had 
shone forth often vanishes in a moment, and denser darkness follows in 
its place. But here it is evident, that the Lord, though he often 
plunges his own people into the waves of adversity, yet does not deceive 
them; seeing that, by sometimes moderating their sufferings, he grants 
them time to breathe. So Joseph, though fallen from his office as 
governor of the house, was yet never deserted; nor had that relaxation 
of his sufferings proved in vain, by which his mind was raised, not to 
pride, but to the patient endurance of a new cross. And truly for this 
end, God meets with us in our difficulties, that then, with collected 
strength, as men refreshed, we may be the better prepared for other 
  "And Joseph was a goodly person, and well-favoured." Whereas elegance 
of form was the occasion of great calamity to holy Joseph, let us learn 
not greatly to desire those graces of person which may conciliate the 
favour of the world; but rather let each be content with his own lot. We 
see to how many dangers they are exposed, who excel in beauty; for it is 
very difficult for such to restrain themselves from all lascivious 
desires. Although in Joseph religion so prevailed that he abhorred all 
impurity; yet Satan contrived a means of destruction for him, from 
another quarter, just as he is accustomed to turn the gifts of God into 
snares whereby to catch souls. Wherefore we must earnestly ask of God, 
that amid so many dangers, he would govern us by his Spirit, and 
preserve those gifts with which he has adorned us, pure from every 
stain. When it is said that Potiphar's wife "cast her eyes upon Joseph," 
the Holy Spirit, by this form of speech, admonishes all women, that if 
they have chastity in their heart, they must guard it by modesty of 
demeanor. For, on this account also, they bear a veil upon their heads, 
that they may restrain themselves from every sinful allurement: not that 
it is wrong for a woman to look at men; but Moses here describes an 
impure and dissolute look. She had often before looked upon Joseph 
without sin: but now, for the first time, she casts her eyes upon him, 
and contemplates his beauty more boldly and wantonly than became a 
modest woman. Thus we see that the eyes were as torches to inflame the 
heart to lust. By which example we are taught that nothing is more easy, 
than for all our senses to infect our minds with depraved desires, 
unless we are very earnestly on our guard. For Satan never ceases 
diligently to suggest those things which may incite us to sin. The 
senses both readily embrace the occasion of sin which is presented to 
them, and also eagerly and quickly convey it to the mind. Wherefore let 
every one endeavor sedulously to govern his eyes, and his ears, and the 
other members of his body, unless he wishes to open so many doors to 
Satan, into the innermost affections of his heart: and especially as the 
sense of the eyes is the most tender, no common care must be used in 
putting them under restraint. 
  7. "Lie with me." Moses only briefly touches upon the chief points, 
and the sum of the things he relates. For there is no doubt that this 
impure woman endeavored, by various arts, to allure the pious youth, and 
that she insinuated herself by indirect blandishments, before she broke 
forth to such a shameless kind of license. But Moses, omitting other 
things, shows that she had been pushed so far by base lust, as not to 
shrink from openly soliciting a connection with Joseph. Now as this 
filthiness is a signal proof that carnal lust acts from blind and 
furious impulses; so, in the person of Joseph, an admirable example of 
fidelity and continence is set before us. His fidelity and integrity 
appear in this, that he acknowledges himself to be the more strictly 
bound, the greater the power with which he is entrusted. Ingenuous and 
courageous men have this property, that the more is confided to them, 
the less they can bear to deceive: but it is a rare virtue for those who 
have the power of doing injury to cultivate honesty gratuitously. 
Wherefore Joseph is not undeservedly commended by Moses, for regarding 
the authority with which he was invested by his master, as a bridle to 
restrain him from transgressing the bounds of duty. Besides, he gives 
also a proof of his gratitude, in bringing forward the benefits received 
from his master, as a reason why he should not subject him to any 
disgrace. And truly hence arises at this day such confusion everywhere, 
that men are half brutal, because this sacred bond of mutual society is 
broken. All, indeed, confess, that if they have received any benefit 
from another, they are under obligation to him: one even reproaches 
another for his ingratitude; but there are few who sincerely follow the 
example of Joseph. Lest, however, he should seem to be restrained only 
by a regard to man, he also declares that the act would be offensive to 
God. And, indeed, nothing is more powerful to overcome temptation than 
the fear of God. But he designedly commends the generosity of his 
master, in order that the wicked woman may desist from her abandoned 
purpose. To the same point is the objection which he mentions, "Neither 
has he kept anything back from me but thee, because thou art his wife." 
Why does he say this, except that, by recalling the religious obligation 
of marriage, he may wound the corrupt mind of the woman, and may cure 
her of her insane passion? Therefore he not only strenuously strives to 
liberate himself from her wicked allurements; but, lest her lusts should 
prove indomitable, he proposes to her the best remedy. And we may know 
that the sanctity of marriage is here commended to us in the history of 
Joseph, whereby the Lord would declare himself to be the maintainer of 
matrimonial fidelity, so that none who violate another's bed should 
escape his vengeance. For he is a surety between the man and his wife, 
and requires mutual chastity from each. Whence it follows that, besides 
the injury inflicted upon man, God himself is grievously wronged. 
  10. "As she spake to Joseph day by day." The constancy of Joseph is 
commended; from which it appears that a real fear of God reigned in his 
mind. Whence it came to pass that he not only repelled one attack, but 
stood forth, to the last, the conqueror of all temptations. We know how 
easy it is to fall when Satan tempts us through another: because we seem 
exempt from blame, if he who induces us to commit the crime, bears a 
part of it. Holy Joseph, therefore, must have been endowed with the 
extraordinary power of the Spirit, seeing that he stood invincible to 
the last, against all the allurements of the impious woman. So much the 
more detestable is the wickedness of her, who is neither corrected by 
time, nor restrained by many repulses. When she sees a stranger, and one 
who had been sold as a slave, so discreet and so faithful to his master, 
when she is also sacredly admonished by him not to provoke the anger of 
God, how indomitable is that lust which gives no place to shame. Now, 
because we here see into what evils persons will rush, when regard to 
propriety is extinguished by carnal intemperance, we must entreat the 
Lord that He will not suffer the light of his Spirit to be quenched 
within us. 
  11. "And it came to pass about this time." That is, in the process of 
time, seeing she will not desist from soliciting holy Joseph, it happens 
at length, that she adds force to blandishments. Now, Moses here 
describes the crisis of the combat. Joseph had already exhibited a noble 
and memorable example of constancy; because, as a youth, so often 
tempted, through a constant succession of many days, he had preserved 
the even tenor of his way; and at that age, to which pardon is wont to 
be granted, if it break forth into intemperance, he was more moderate 
than almost any old man. But now when the woman openly raves, and her 
love is turned into fury, the more arduous the contest has become, the 
more worthy of praise is his magnanimity, which remains inflexible 
against this assault. Joseph saw that he must incur the danger of losing 
both his character and his life: he chose to sacrifice his character, 
and was prepared to relinquish life itself, rather than to be guilty of 
such wickedness before God. Seeing the Spirit of God proposes to us such 
an example in a youth, what excuse does he leave for men and women of 
mature age, if they voluntarily precipitate themselves into crime, or 
fall into it by a light temptation? To this, therefore, we must bend all 
our efforts, that regard for God alone, may prevail to subdue all carnal 
affections, and even that we may more highly value a good and upright 
conscience than the plaudits of the whole world. For no one will prove 
that he heartily loves virtue, but he who, being content with God as his 
only witness, does not hesitate to submit to any disgrace, rather than 
decline from the path of duty. And truly, since even among heathens such 
proverbs as these are current, "that conscience is a thousand 
witnesses," and that it is "a most beautiful theatre," we should be 
greatly ashamed of our stupor, unless the tribunal of God stands so 
conspicuously in our view, as to cast all the perverse judgments of the 
world into the shade. Therefore, away with those vain pretexts, "I wish 
to avoid offense," "I am afraid lest men should interpret amiss what I 
have done aright;" because God does not regard himself as being duly 
honored, unless we, ceasing to be anxious about our own reputation, 
follow wheresoever he alone calls us; not that he wishes us simply to be 
indifferent to our own reputation, but because it is an indignity, as 
well as an absurdity, that he should not be preferred to men. Let, then, 
the faithful, as much as in them lies, endeavor to edify their neighbors 
by the example of an upright life; and for this end, let them prudently 
guard against every mark of evil; but if it be necessary to endure the 
infamy of the world, let them through this temptation also, proceed in 
the direction of their divine vocation 
  "He has brought in an Hebrew unto us." Here we see what desperation 
can effect. For the wicked woman breaks forth from love into fury. 
Whence it clearly appears what brutal impulses lust brings with it, when 
its reins are loosened. Certainly alien Satan has once gained the 
dominion over miserable men, he never ceases to hurry them hither and 
thither, until he drives them headlong by the spirit of giddiness and 
madness. We see, also, how he hardens to obstinacy the reprobate, whom 
he holds fast bound under his power. God, indeed, often inspires the 
wicked with terror, so that they commit their crimes with trembling. And 
it is possible that the signs of a guilty conscience appeared in the 
countenance and in the words of this impure woman: nevertheless, Satan 
confirms her in that degree of hardness, that she boldly adopts the 
design to ruin the holy youth; and, at the moment, contrives the fraud 
by which she may oppress him, though innocent, just as if she had long 
meditated, at leisure, on his destruction. She had before sought 
secrecy, that no witness might be present; now she calls her domestics, 
that, by this kind of prejudging of the case, she may condemn the youth 
before her husband. Besides, she involves her husband in the accusation, 
that she may compel him, by a sense of shame, to punish the guiltless. 
"It is by thy fault, (she says,) that this stranger has been mocking 
me." What other course does she leave open to her husband, than that he 
should hasten, with closed eyes, to avenge her, for the sake of purging 
himself from this charge? Therefore, though all wicked persons are 
fearful, yet they contract such hardness from their stupor, that no fear 
hinders them from rushing obstinately forward into every abyss of 
iniquity, and insolently trampling upon the good and simple. And we must 
obscene this trial of the holy man, in order that we may take care to be 
clothed with that spirit of fortitude, which not even the iron-hardness 
of the wicked shall be able to break. Even this other trial was not a 
light one, that he receives so unworthy a reward of his humanity. He had 
covered the disgrace of the woman in silence, in order that she might 
have had opportunity to repent, if she had been curable; he now sees 
that, by his modesty, he has brought himself into danger of death. We 
learn, by his not sinking under the trial, that it was his sincere 
determination to yield himself freely to the service of God. And we must 
do the same, in order that the ingratitude of men may, by no means, 
cause us to swerve from our duty. 
  19. "When his master heard the words of his wife." Seeing that a 
colour so probable was given to the transaction, there is no wonder that 
jealousy, the motions of which are exceedingly vehement and ardent, 
should so far have prevailed with Potiphar, as to cause him to credit 
the calumnies of his wife. Yet the levity with which he instantly thrust 
a servant, whom he had found prudent and honest, into prison, without 
examining the cause, cannot be excused. He ought certainly to have been 
less under the influence of his wife. And, therefore, he received the 
just reward of his too easy folly, by cherishing with honour, a harlot 
in the place of a wife, and by almost performing the office of a pander. 
This example is useful to all; yet husbands especially are taught that 
they must use prudence, lest they should be carried rashly hither and 
thither, at the will of their wives. And, truly, since we everywhere see 
that they who are too obsequious to their wives are held up to ridicule; 
let us know that the folly of these men is condemned by the just 
judgment of God, so that we may learn to pray for the spirit of gravity 
and moderation. There is no doubt that Moses expressly condemns the 
rashness of Potiphar, in becoming inflamed against Joseph, as soon as he 

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