11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’NIV
“She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home” (16).
First of all, this was a moment of opportunity. No other servants were in the house. He and the seductress were quite alone. Who would know? Well, Joseph knew God would. For him that was enough reason to run. ‘The test of true faithfulness and obedience comes when we resist the secret sins that no one else but God will ever know about.’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.187. Someone noted that ‘Character is what you are in the dark’ – when you think nobody else is watching.
This is also an example of fidelity. As someone pointed out, he lost his cloak but kept his character (12). (“Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Joseph put significant distance between himself and the temptation. But doing the right thing is not a guarantee that you’ll have an easy life. So, for Joseph…
…this marked the beginning of a new period of adversity. Tom Hale makes the point that Potiphar’s wife: ‘…accused Joseph of the very thing she had been attempting all along. And this time she had the “proof”; his cloak. This “proof” convinced the other servants and it convinced Potiphar as well, and Joseph was sent to prison. Joseph is the first major biblical figure to become a victim of slander and false witness. Slander itself is often based on truth: “I have Joseph’s cloak.” But its purpose is to defame someone behind his back. The episode provides a warning for us: when we think we’ve seen the “proof” concerning someone’s behaviour, we need to remember Joseph and his cloak.’