Potiphar's Wife

Like some of the other vixens of the old Testament, Potiphar's wife, whom the Bible never names, lusted after a particular man. The object of her affection was Joseph, son of Jacob. The boy had been sold to Ishmaelite traders after his brothers had stripped him of his coat of many colors and pushed him into a pit. Midianite merchants came upon Joseph, pulled him out of the pit, and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him in their camel caravan to Egypt. There Joseph was again sold, this time to Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of the pharaoh and captain of the guard. Potiphar respected and trusted Joseph and made him the overseer of his palatial home. He placed all of his possessions under Joseph's control; all, that is, except his wife.

Potiphar's wife held a prominent position as the wife of an official of the pharaoh. She was spoiled and a slave to sensual pleasure. She might have secretly deceived her husband with any man in Egypt, but she lusted after Joseph, demanding he give her what she desired. Living as she did in the licentious culture of roman society in Egypt, she apparently was used to getting whatever she wanted. But Joseph was as equally intent on not betraying his master's trust. Joseph kept close to the Lord in his heart and mind, and dared not engage in “this great wickedness, and sin against God” (Genesis 39:9).

…and she said, Lie with me. 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 he hath to my hand; 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… (Genesis 39:7'8)

Perhaps Potiphar's wife did not mind the sting of rejection, because she kept pursuing Joseph; but he kept refusing her advances. Joseph harbored no desire to betray the master who had trusted him, but his spurning of Potiphar's wife only further inflamed her. one day she demanded that he lie with her, and when he refused, she grabbed his tunic. Joseph fled the house in such haste that his garment was ripped from him. The scorned woman's desire turned to hate, and she quickly decided Joseph's ripped tunic was just the thing she needed to get even. She told all of the men of the house that Joseph, “the Hebrew servant,” had raped her (Genesis 39:17). She kept the tunic by her side and waited until her husband returned, then told him the same lie.

Did Potiphar believe his wife or his trustworthy servant?

While Potiphar may have suspected that his wife was faithless, his anger at the thought of her lying with Joseph consumed him. The Bible says that Potiphar took Joseph into the prison where the king's other prisoners were bound.

The jailer was sympathetic and let Joseph have a great deal of freedom within the prison. He could have contact with the other prisoners. There is no biblical record that Joseph ever complained about Potiphar's wife or slandered her in any way. The Bible does reveal that in prison Joseph became the interpreter of dreams. Word of his great spiritual power got around, and eventually Joseph interpreted the pharaoh's dreams. Because Joseph was wise and discreet with the pharaoh, he was put in charge of the pharaoh's palace. The pharaoh so believed in the visionary gifts that God had given Joseph that he said, “Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou…I have set thee over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:40–41).

As for Potiphar's wife, nothing more is revealed about her life after the incident with Joseph. Perhaps she sought to satisfy her carnal cravings with others, or maybe she always longed for Joseph, the one man she couldn't have.

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