Yep, let the fireworks begin!
We're kicking off this series with a bad girl -- Potiphar's wife!
Nope, I'm not crazy, just shaking things up a bit. Let's start with reading a passage and then we'll dive in! Ready? Let's read the 39th chapter of Genesis:
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
2 The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Kind of a long passage, but we needed to refresh our memory of the story. Incidentally, did you notice that we don't even know her name? We only know her as "Potiphar's wife"! She seems to be a spoiled woman, the wife of an important and prosperous Egyptian official; she's determined to use her charms to seduce the young slave, Joseph.
Remember how he came to be there? In previous chapters of Genesis, we read of the jealousy of his half-brothers and how they sold him into slavery when a caravan happened through. Surely this was better than murdering him, right? At least, that is what one of them said, as they sold him to the traveling merchants. It was in Egypt that Potiphar bought the young slave and gradually entrusted to him the entire household, for everything that Joseph touched prospered -- the blessing of God was upon him, and Potiphar didn't fail to notice.
So here's Joseph, diligently taking care of his master's household and his business matters. And if we saw the household, we'd probably be pretty impressed. Potiphar's importance and rank would have meant that his home was filled with furniture of ivory, precious woods and ebony. There would have been elegant vases and ornaments on the tables and walls; the walls would probably be painted with colorful murals.
Now, Potiphar's wife led a life of ease and luxury. She was surrounded by prosperity (due in large part to Joseph's diligence) and could have most anything she desired. Until it came to her desire to have Joseph, that is. (Grin) The Scriptures note that Joseph was a good-looking young man, and she just came right out and asked him to share her bed.
I imagine she was completely astonished at his quick rejection! She probably thought that he'd give in because he wanted to remain in his post: higher ranked than the other servants, and serving in a lovely place. Instead, Joseph wanted to remain pure -- he told her he didn't want to disrespect his master, nor did he want to sin against God. And from then on, he tried to avoid her.
But she wasn't finished with Joseph, yet. We'll see the rest of the story tomorrow and see how it can apply to each of us.