|Bible Story: Joseph Tempted by Potiphar's Wife
Based on Genesis 39
Retold by Paul Katula
The man who bought Joseph as a slave was named Potiphar, who was very rich and also very kind. Joseph had a feeling that God was taking good care of him as soon as he met Potiphar.
Because of Potiphar's kindness, he didn't make Joseph haul bricks out to the pyramids. Instead, he had Joseph work in his home. Joseph worked very hard for Potiphar, looking for things around the house that needed to be done and then doing them on time and with good skill.
Joseph had always been known as a competent and capable worker. He also had a gift from God, which was interpreting dreams and seeing the future.
In Potiphar's house, Joseph was first in charge of keeping the house clean, but he was promoted after a short time to oversee work in the fields and make sure meals were prepared properly. Soon, Potiphar put his "slave" in charge of everything he owned. All Potiphar had to do for himself was tell Joseph what he wanted to eat for dinner each night.
Joseph Grows Up
Joseph became a slave to Potiphar as a boy, but eventually he became a man, and that only made his on-the-job performance better. Throughout his life, people have admired him for his good skills and resented him (a little) for the good favor God had shown him. They were envious of Joseph in a way, but Joseph was also a good leader, and that made their envy subside.
One day, Potiphar's wife, who was one of those people who had always admired Joseph, looked out her window and thought how handsome he was. "My husband has gone fishing for a few days, so maybe I can get Joseph to come to bed with me. Potiphar will never find out," she thought to herself.
Joseph came into her bedroom, and she propositioned him: "Come to bed with me, Joseph. You're so good-looking and strong," she said. "Come kiss me."
The adult Joseph knew that many men would like to do what Potiphar's wife was asking him to do, but he didn't love her that way. Also, Joseph knew that Potiphar had trusted him with a great deal of responsibility. He knew God would not be very happy if he betrayed that trust and slept with Potiphar's wife while he was away on a fishing trip.
"You are very beautiful," he told her gently. "But it wouldn't be right for me to come to bed with you. Potiphar has been very good to me, and he has basically given me everything that is his in this house. Except for you, of course, because you are his wife, so he has not given you to me."
How Dare a Slave Turn This Down
Potiphar's wife was very hurt. She thought, "How can a slave of my husband turn down any request from me?"
She tried to force Joseph to kiss her. He just pushed her away and began to run away from her, as fast as he could. She grabbed his cloak as he was trying to get away. She tore off a piece in her hands.
Potiphar Believes His Wife
When Potiphar returned from his fishing trip, his wife showed him the cloak. "Joseph attacked me!" she told him, lying through her teeth. "And you thought you could trust him! Now can you see what kind of man he really is?"
Potiphar believed his wife and ordered his guards to take Joseph to a prison. "And throw away the key!" he yelled as the guards dragged Joseph off to the dungeons.
In prison, Joseph was treated kindly, because the chief jailer saw that the Lord was with him and guided everything he did. Therefore, the jailer never fought or abused Joseph in any way. Yes, he was still in prison, but he was treated with kindness and dignity.
Do you know someone who does a good job on everything without even trying very hard? Maybe this is a person, like Joseph, that God has favored. In Genesis 39:5, it says, "From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field." That means that God also caused a blessing to come to everyone that Joseph came into contact with. That's why Potiphar's wife wanted him so bad (not to mention, he was handsome and strong and had other qualities that women like as well).
Do good things always seem to come to people like Joseph and all their friends? How does that make you feel? If you're like those around Joseph, you have mixed feelings about that. Sometimes, you might envy the person that God has taken such good care of. You might want what they have. On the other hand, you might try to become their friend by impressing them, like Potiphar's wife did in the story: she tried to impress Joseph with her beauty. Would their "love" have been a "friendship" based on false pretenses, or a "friendship" with someone she truly admired? You decide.
The real moral in the story is that the promise Joseph made (to his master, which is just a synonym for God in most of the Genesis stories) was more important to him than going to bed with a beautiful woman. He decided to honor the promise he had made, rather than receive instant gratification by sleeping with Potiphar's wife. It's not that he didn't want to do it, either. Scripture is unclear about what was in Joseph's heart or what his desires toward the woman might have been. It must have been pretty tempting, though.
Joseph's response, however, is typical of what a righteous man would have done. He loved God too much to break his promise. God is very much present in Joseph's life. He made the decision to reject Potiphar's wife because he knew God was present, and he didn't want to make God mad. But with some people, it is hard to see God at work. How do you show others that God is working in your life?
Finally, take a look at people whose lives always seem to work out. Do their lives work out because God favors them? Or, do they just work hard to see that their circumstances are always favorable?