Joseph and the boss’s wife
Cougar to Joseph: “Let’s have sex”1 When Ishmaelite slave traders took Joseph to Egypt they sold him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh who commanded the king’s bodyguards. 2 The LORD himself was taking care of Joseph. It showed. Joseph couldn’t seem to do anything but succeed at everything. He ended up working in the house of his Egyptian slave master. 3 His master noticed that the LORD had given Joseph the gift of success in whatever he did. 4 Potiphar was happy as all get-out about this. He put Joseph in charge of everything he owned. Joseph the slave became master of his master’s estate. 5 From this time on, the LORD seemed to do nothing but bless Potiphar’s household—all because of Joseph. The slave’s success rubbed off on his master. The family prospered and the fields produced. 6 So Potiphar trusted Joseph with all the decisions necessary to keep the household running smoothly. The only thing Potiphar had to decide at home was what he wanted to eat. Joseph was handsome and well-sculpted—sweet candy for the eyes. 7 Potiphar’s wife liked what she saw. She hit on him: “Have sex with me.” 8 Joseph said, “Look, my master doesn’t worry about anything in the running of his household. He put me in charge of everything he owns. 9 I run this place for him. That’s my job—the top job in this household. He has given me access to everything but you, because you are his wife. How could I be so treacherous and commit such a disgusting sin against God?” 10 Day after day she sexually harassed him. He ignored her and refused to have sex with her. 11 One day he went into the house to get some work done. The household staff was gone. 12 Potiphar’s wife grabbed him by his clothes and said, “Have sex with me!” He pulled loose, leaving her holding part of his clothes in her iron grip. He ran outside. 13 When she realized he had run out of the house, and that all she managed to hold onto were some of his clothes, 14 she screamed to call in the household servants. She told them, “Look at this. My husband has brought into our home a Hebrew to treat us like dirt. He came in here to rape me, but I screamed in his face. 15 When he heard my scream, he took off running outside. But he left some of his clothes behind.” 16 She kept the piece of clothing with her until Joseph’s master got home. 17 She told her husband, “That Hebrew slave you brought into our house treated me like dirt and tried to rape me. 18 But I screamed as loud as I could and he ran outside. He left some of his clothes behind.”
Joseph goes to prison19 Potiphar exploded in anger when his wife said, “Your slave did this to me!” 20 Joseph’s master put him in the jail where the king’s prisoners were kept. That’s where Joseph landed. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph there, too. The jailer grew to appreciate Joseph. 22 The jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners. Joseph ran the prison. 23 The jailer didn’t micromanage Joseph at all. He trusted Joseph with everything he asked him to do. Whatever Joseph did, the LORD made sure Joseph did it well.
Potipher may have been the warden of this prison, or responsible for it in some other way. It seems to have been run by someone with the same title he had: commander of the king’s bodyguard (40:3).
The Genesis writer said Joseph as a slave “succeeded at everything” (39:2). But the writer doesn’t give any details. What kind of work do you think Egyptian slaves did, in which Joseph might have excelled?
In all of the Bible only Joseph and his mother Rachel are described with the Hebrew words that amount to “drop-dead gorgeous.” Joseph’s youth and good looks are apparently the reason an Egyptian cougar starts pawing him. If you had to pick the one most important reason Joseph declined her invitation, which of the following would it be?
- His master would find out and kill him.
- It would be committing adultery, a capital offense even among his own people.
- To avoid disrespect and disloyalty to his overly generous master.
- The woman looked like Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith Show.
- He had zero desire to do anything like this with this particular woman. She in no way put the be-bop in his hormones.
Which heavily paraphrased line do you think would have been easier for Potiphar to believe?
- Mrs. Potiphar: “That young and handsome slave with a finely chiseled body wanted me like nobody’s business.”
- Joseph: “The dickens I did.”
“Potiphar exploded in anger when his wife said, ‘Your slave did this to me!’” (39:19). Some Bible experts speculate that Potiphar got mad at his wife instead of Joseph. What do you think about that?
There are different ways of interpreting Potiphar’s title. Potiphar may have been a eunuch and the lead butcher in the palace, or he may have been one of the king’s officers and the captain of the palace guard. Based on what you read in the Genesis story, which translation makes most sense to you?
If Potiphar didn’t believe his wife, as some speculate, why do you think he tossed his best slave in the prison?
LIFE APPLICATION. Confronted with the temptation to do something he knew was wrong, Joseph turned and ran like crazy. What do you think of that strategy for us today?
LIFE APPLICATION. What do you think is a good defense when people accuse us of doing something we didn’t do?