ESV - 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?
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Despite living before the giving of the Law, Joseph would doubtless have been aware of God's disapproval of adultery from the experiences of his own great-grandfather (Abraham) (Genesis 12:15-20; Genesis 20), and his grandfather (Isaac) (Genesis 26:6-11), in which, because of fear, they had represented their wives as their sisters, with the result that other men had tried to take their wives for themselves, and God had threatened to kill those other men for that reason. In addition, aside from the question of the morality of adultery, sleeping with Potiphar's wife would (as Joseph noted) have been a betrayal of the trust that Potiphar had placed in him, which I think would have been intuitively apparent just as a matter of common human experience, without the necessity of the Law specifically declaring it to be sinful or wicked.
The answer is simple: because Joseph knew adultery was a sin and did not wanted to sin against God's holy Law. Abraham also was fully aware of God's Law before Exodus 20 - "because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (Gen 26:5). Some believe that before Exodus 20, God's people were unaware that polytheism, idolatry, profaning the 7-day Sabbath, lying, murder or fornication was sin - or they had only an anecdotal knowledge of good and evil. The Bible however, tells a different story. In Genesis 4 we read how Abel and Cain both brought offerings to God. Abel was faithful and obeyed God's instructions, while Cain did his own thing and brought fruit. God rejected Cain's offering and full of anger, Cain killed Abel. And God said: "If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Gen 4:7). Bible tells us that sin is transgression of the law (1 John 3:4) and Paul declares that where there is no law there is no sin: "And where there is no law there is no transgression." (Rom 4:15; also see Acts 17:30). God couldn't have hold Cain responsible for murder if there was no law saying, "Thou shalt not murder." Here it’s worth mentioning that what occurred at the very beginning of human history will happen again at the very end. Just before Christ’s return, Satan (the dragon) will wage war with the woman (God’s true and faithful Church), and persecute all who keep God’s holy law: “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17). Just as Solomon said: “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun” Eccl 1:9). Finally, in Exodus 16:22-26 we read how God rain bread from heaven that was to be harvested daily, except for Sabbath: 'Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none” (Ex 16:25, 26). It's obvious that the 4th commandment which starts with the word "Remember" was given before Exodus 20:8 and since the Creation, God's people were fully aware of the Sabbath to the Lord; "So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation" Gen 2:2, 3).
Joseph refused her advances because he knew it was dishonorable to sleep with the wife of his master (who deeply trusted him) and because it was sin—breaking God’s law against adultery and fornication (Gn 39:8-9). —Tim Groves I agree with Tim Maas, that in the book of Genesis, God warned Abimelech, king of Gerar, not to commit adultery with Sarah (Abraham’s wife). “God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife’” (Genesis 20:3). —John Foster --Tim M had said that Joseph had been aware of God's disapproval of adultery from th[is] experience.
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