Saturday, November 5, 2016

Potiphar's Wife

Women of the Dawn
Potiphar's Wife

Potiphar's Wife (Because thou art his wife)

Key Scripture: Genesis 39

Her Name Means: Potiphar's wife is not named in the Bible.

Her Character: The wife of a prosperous and influential Egyptian, she was unfaithful and vindictive, ready to lie to protect herself and ruin an innocent man.

Her Sorrow: To be rebuffed by a slave.

Pre-Story: This story is more about Joseph then Potiphar's wife. Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite's and sold in the slave market to an officer of Pharaoh, an Egyptian named Potiphar. Potiphar is Joseph's first boss. He's one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard. He can't say enough about Joseph, or give him enough responsibility, practically handing over the keys to the castle. The young slave proved himself to be intelligent and trustworthy.

Her Story: Joseph is an important biblical Hebrew prophet and patriarch. He was connected to the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that of the subsequent liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. His early life tells about a plot by his jealous brothers, who sold him to merchants from a camel caravan traveling to Egypt. Ultimately, he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard; where he later became Potiphar’s personal servant, and subsequently his household’s superintendent. Joseph’s intelligence, work ethics and handsome looks eventually attracted the attention of Potiphar’s rich and bored wife. Which he rejected.

With all the fury of a woman scorned, Potiphar's wife goes about defaming Joseph and accusing him of molesting her. She called out to her servants. Soon all the men came running. “Look!” she said. “My husband has brought this Hebrew slave here to make fools of us! He came into my room to rape me, but I screamed. When he heard, me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me.” (Genesis 39:14-15).  On the false accusations of Potiphar's wife, whose improper advances Joseph had rejected, it stirred her husband’s jealousy and made him throw Joseph in prison unjustly, where he remained for years.

As a mark of his esteem for Joseph, Potiphar merely places him in a (sohar), a prison for high-ranking offenders. There he finds favor with the prison's commander and winds up as the person in charge. It came to the Pharaoh’s notice for his ability to interpret the dreams of other prisoners, which saved Egypt during a subsequent famine. With poetic justice, it is precisely this sorry incident with Potiphar's wife that leads to Joseph's greatness.

Family Connections: Scripture doesn’t tell us her age, her physical description, or her background. We know only that she was married to Potiphar, and she was Egyptian.

Her Place in God's Divine Plan: Like so many other stories about our Women in the Bible, the story of Potiphar's wife is a tragedy. It is a sad example of what happens when a husband or wife allows themselves to "cast their eyes" around. She had numerous occasions to stop and walk away from the mess she had created, but she couldn't. She let her appetites and desires rule her spirit and it resulted in tragedy for Joseph, for her, and for Potiphar. We can learn from her mistakes and be fiercely loyal to our spouse, our heart, mind and our body.

Her Challenges Along the Way: Perhaps Potiphar's wife was not the promiscuous sexual predator that she is often made out to be. Could she have been a bored, lonely rich woman whose life was not everything she had dreamed it would be. Perhaps her marriage with Potiphar was unhappy, perhaps she was far from home and family, perhaps she felt unwanted or undervalued. It just so happened that her eyes fell upon Joseph, young, handsome, talented, honest, smart, loyal, and blessed by the Lord. One can only imagine that she must have compared him to Potiphar and saw in Joseph all the things she felt her marriage and life were lacking.

Lesson We Can Learn from Her Legacy: The promise of God is revealed in this story not so much through Potiphar's wife as through Joseph's situation in this story, it may appear that he is merely a pawn in the intrigue of the household of Potiphar. As before he is rejected and tossed aside by his jealous brothers, however God's continued blessing is on Joseph. Within the context of this story, it may look as if Joseph was lost. But in the context of his life, he is nothing but a winner. Indirectly, through Potiphar's wife and her sexual advances toward Joseph, God reveals His promise to bless those who follow Him with uprightness.

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