#32 Bad girl: Potiphar’s wife
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
I want to look at a nasty, vindictive woman, Potiphar’s wife, who could not handle rejection. I expect she was attractive and quite used to seducing willing young men, especially if Potiphar was a eunuch (as some commentators suggest) and their marriage was purely ceremonial.
At 17, Joseph was unfairly sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He ended up in Egypt as a servant for 11 years to Potiphar, the captain of the guard, the head of Pharaoh’s personal security force. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, but Joseph, being sensitive to the social and theological implications, fled and ran. She unfairly accused him of attempting to rape her and he was put into prison for 2 years. When Joseph was 30 he was promoted as 2IC in Egypt.
The narrative around Potiphar’s wife points out that God-disapproved sexual attraction between non-consenting or even consenting people is not OK.
Potiphar’s wife had thrown herself upon Joseph so intensely that she managed to wrest his garment off him and as she did so, begged him, “Lie with me.” He didn’t hesitate but fled away semi-naked because Joseph was loyal both to Potiphar and to God.
Look at what Joseph said. He reminded her that she belonged to Potiphar, who trusted him, and then he added, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”. He didn’t stay there for a second considering his options. As Paul warns us: “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body” (1 Cor. 6:18).
Solomon tells us that only a fool would loiter near the residence of a brazen woman (Prov. 7:8) and listen to her tantalising words. “So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap” (Prov. 7:21-22). The fool who entangles himself with an unlawful sexual union has a high price to pay.
What lessons there are in this incident about loyalty! Potiphar’s wife was disloyal to her husband but Joseph was loyal to both Potiphar and God. God is ever loyal to us, and faithful, even when we sin against Him. God told Moses, “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6).
Knowing that God is unendingly loyal to us and has promised to save us, is the reason why we are loyal to God in our sexual behaviour. Even when we are unfairly treated, God will remain loyal to us. “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”(Heb. 13:5).
*NLT used throughout.