One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 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. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 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. When he heard me scream for help, he ran out of the house.
For context, read all of chapter 39
Last week, we read about how Tamar acted like a prostitute but was called righteous and was honored as a mother in the genealogy of Jesus. Today, we read about Potiphar’s wife. She was also deceitful and tempted a man but she is not honored as being righteous. What’s the difference? Her motive.
Remember that Joseph was in her house because he had been sold into slavery by his own brothers to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. But God did not abandon him while he was in Egypt. He was blessed with great success and Potiphar put him in charge of his entire household. Verses 6 and 7 tell us that Joseph caught Potiphar’s wife’s eye. It says he was “well-built and handsome”. So, she continually badgered him about going to bed with her. What was her motive? Lust. Pure and simple.
To Joseph’s credit, he acted with great integrity and denied her advances several times. In verse 9, he told her, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” He didn’t succumb to sexual temptation as easily as his brother, Judah. He was concerned with obeying God.
But Potiphar’s wife continued to persist until one day, she reached out to grab him. Joseph wisely fled from her. Unfortunately, he left his cloak in her hand giving her all the “proof” she needed. No doubt angry that he continued to spurn her advances, and perhaps even humiliated by the rejection, she seeks revenge by accusing him of trying to rape her. Potiphar throws Joseph in prison even though he is innocent of any crime.
Potiphar’s wife’s actions cannot be justified by any good intention. She saw Joseph, she wanted Joseph, and she tried to take Joseph. Tamar’s motivation was to fulfill her family duty by providing her late husband with an heir.
Contrast the outcomes of the two stories of Potiphar’s wife and Tamar. Potiphar’s wife unjustly destroyed a man’s reputation so that a man who was obedient to the Lord ended up in jail. Tamar’s actions convicted a man who was not seeking to obey the LORD and he ended up being featured in the lineage of the Messiah. When Judah saw what he had driven Tamar to do, he was finally able to see his own sin clearly. We do not know if Judah repented and sought God’s forgiveness after his encounter with Tamar. But in Genesis 44:14-34, we see a changed man in Judah. One who is protective of his family and willing to humbly accept responsibility.
The WORD about women in the story of Potiphar’s wife reminds us women that we can succumb to sexual temptation as easily as any man. We need to take temptation seriously and flee from it. The WORD also shows us how reporting false accusations can destroy a godly man’s life. Sisters, let’s vow to always treat our brothers in Christ with fairness and respect.
How can we flee from sexual temptation in today’s culture? What can we do to show love and respect to our brothers in Christ?
PrayFather, lead me not into temptation. Help me be a woman that honors you. Amen.