What does Genesis 39:12 mean?Joseph rose to power and authority within the home of Potiphar, captain of the Egyptian royal guard (Genesis 39:1–6). This, along with his good looks, has attracted the attention of his master's wife, who has persistently tried to seduce him (Genesis 39:7–10). Joseph has refused these advances, making clear that to obey her would be dishonorable to Potiphar and sin against God.
Now, the predatory woman has Joseph trapped. Joseph is working inside the house, and all the other men are gone (Genesis 39:11). Potiphar's wife may have arranged for this; that her husband felt led to point out that she was off limits (Genesis 39:9) suggests her unfaithfulness was known. On purpose or not, she took advantage of the moment. She grabbed hold of Joseph's garment, likely meaning his outer cloak, and demanded he have sex with her.
Joseph's response to this intense situation is often used as the ultimate example of avoiding even the appearance of sin, no matter what (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:22; Jude 1:23). He literally twists out of the cloak so he can leave—not even staying in the house or the compromising position. He did the most honorable thing he could think of, embarrassing though it might have been. He wisely ran away both from temptation and from the appearance of sin. Joseph was deeply committed to protecting the character and reputation he had built with his master, as well as protecting the honor of the God who had blessed him.
Sadly, his moral reaction will be the last straw for this woman he has continually rejected. She will turn from seduction to slander, seeking revenge on the slave who turned her down (Genesis 39:13).