by Diane Hamilton
The environment Potiphar’s wife lived in was thoroughly saturated with idolatry, vice, and revelry, so we’re not surprised when the Bible says she “cast longing eyes on Joseph.” Genesis 39:7. Indeed, the Bible says Joseph was “beautiful in form to look at,” But little else is said about this sexual advance, other than her temptation was sudden, seductive, and very bold: “Lie with me.”
Joseph met this temptation with the Word of God, but she persisted, and “day by day she spoke to him.” We call this sexual harassment—and isn’t this Satan’s usual tactic, to constantly harass?
I’m sure she didn’t limit her enticement to words, either. From Egyptian artwork we see that wealthy women commonly clothed themselves by draping sheer fabric over their bodies. The assaults upon Joseph’s morals were fierce, and Potiphar’s wife used all of her artful, seducing charms. She never chose to receive the light of Heaven through Joseph; instead, she looked upon his purity as a challenge.
When it was obvious he would not yield to temptation, she grabbed him, ripping off his garment as he ran from the room. Her false accusations caused Joseph to be thrown into prison to save the household’s reputation, meanwhile raising her as a model of virtue in her friends’ eyes!
Potiphar would have surely killed him if he’d really believed his wife, but Joseph’s past conduct, modesty, and firm integrity were convincing proof of his innocence. For ten years Joseph had served him faithfully and they’d developed a powerful, trusting relationship—perhaps even a father-son bond. In fact, Potiphar had put him in charge of all his affairs.
The Bible says that Potiphar’s anger was aroused, but it doesn’t say to whom it was directed. Perhaps he was angry at losing Joseph’s management skills—after all, those skills had made him very wealthy. Perhaps he was angry with his wife for bringing this about—and maybe this wasn’t the first time!
There is no more mention of this couple in the Bible, but I like to think that at age 30, when Joseph became second only to the Pharaoh, Potiphar’s heart swelled with pride. He well might have said, “That’s my son! I trained him well, and he’ll do a great job!”
Just as surely, the news of Joseph’s release from prison must have shot fear through Mrs. Potiphar’s heart! Perhaps she felt like the priests and Pharisees who feared Jesus would show up any minute after His resurrection!
This is a vivid reminder of the power women possess. Are we like Potiphar’s wife, an assaulter of morals? Proverbs 7 speaks of a woman who lures men with her attire, kissing them and spreading her bed with Egyptian linens. She entices them with her speech and seduces them with flattering lips. Sounds like a typical TV program, doesn’t it?
Have we become so accustomed to our worldly society that we don’t even notice we sing our Christian music sensually? Have we forgotten that Satan is behind the fashion designers’ efforts to unclothe our bodies as an enticement? When we go to the grocery store, the mall, or any public place, what do we “say” with our non-verbal communication, our dress, or our longing eyes? Do our exposed bodies tempt men? And if we tempt men we don’t know, then what of the men we do know at church, school, or work?
Satan’s desire is to unclothe us—and he proved that in the Garden of Eden! In all cultures, and at all times, we see Satan’s hand at work, undermining our morals through the unveiling of body parts, one piece at a time.
God’s desire is to clothe us in His righteousness. He gives each of us an inner beauty that is more precious than anything we can adorn ourselves with. “Do not let your adornment be merely outward… rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” 1 Peter 3:3–4.