Welcome back to our new study – Bad Girls of the Bible. Last time we were together, we looked at our first bad girl – Eve, the first woman in the Bible. Eve left quite a mark on humanity, one that has affected every human born since her poor choice in the Garden of Eden. But as we noted when we wrapped up our look at Eve, we read that she gives birth to a son Seth, who stands in the lineage of Christ. Through her offspring, that old serpent will be crushed forever. That’s great news for you and me.
Can we learn from them? Most assuredly.
Can we relate to some of the things they have done? Definitely. So be encouraged as we take a look at another bad girl.
Today, we’ll look at a woman who struggles in a particular area, an area that some women around the world struggle with as well. So let us not throw our stone too far.
In this session, as we did when we studied Eve, we will take some direction from our feature book, “Bad Girls of the Bible,” by Liz Curtis Higgs. Liz is a fabulous and humorous writer, so if you want to join in the discussion, please pick up a copy of her book and follow along.
Let’s get started with our second bad girl – Potiphar’s wife.
Please get your Bible, either paper or electronic and turn to Genesis chapter 39 and read the whole chapter.
What’s our bad girl’s name?
The Bible doesn’t tell us, so we will call her Mrs. P.
Genesis 39:1-5, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was also one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard bought him from the Ishmaelite’s who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 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. From the time he put him in charge of his household and 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.”
If we look at verse 6, we get some more details about Joseph, precisely his physique.
Genesis 39:6, “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome…”
Most of our Bible characters are not described in this fashion, so this is a clue.
Let’s read verse 7, “and after a while, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
Whoa, girl – that’s pretty direct.
Didn’t we just read that the blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had? So why is she doing this?
She took notice after a while, it says. After a while? How long? What was she doing in the meantime? Hold up in her room all alone? Is she pulling weeds outside the palace? Is she looking at stone tablet pics? We don’t know because the Bible doesn’t say.
What’s going on here?
As one author puts it, “Idleness became the soil that nourished her sinful thoughts.”
Potiphar’s wife – even without a name, has become synonymous with lust and sensuality.
Does God know her name? Yes. We don’t know why it wasn’t recorded in the Bible. Commentators figure there are at least a 100 women who remain nameless in the Bible, only described as the “daughter of,” “wife of,” “witch of,” “woman of,” “concubine of,” “widow of,” “nurse of,” “Queen of,” and naturally the “mother of.”
While she was a nameless woman, she was still bad to the bone.
Have we pre-judged her based on what little we know? Some would say yes; others would say no.
What about Joseph?
Surely Joseph knew her name. Joseph was in the palace with her, around her servants, serving her husband, etc. etc. She was no stranger to Joseph.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, who were jealous of him. If you want to get the whole story on what happened, please read Genesis chapter 37. You will learn how Joseph ended up with the Ishmaelites. It wasn’t Joseph’s choice.
Potiphar saw a good deal and saw something in Joseph, and from what we read, Potiphar certainly made the right choice in buying Joseph and bringing him home.
Let’s not forget one crucial detail in this story – God was faithful to Joseph, and Joseph was faithful to God.
How do we know? Let’s keep looking at our story.
Genesis 39:8 “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. 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?”
My footnote says, “All sin is against God first and foremost.”
Did Mrs. P. even care about God? I don’t think she believed in God.
There may have been others before Joseph that said yes, we don’t know, but Joseph was not going to sin against God or betray his master by sleeping with his master’s wife.
We know nothing about her appearance, and it doesn’t matter because Joseph was a standup guy.
What we do read is the following, “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her.”
She didn’t quit, and this leads to a big problem Joseph hadn’t foreseen. She appears to be morally corrupt and persistent.
“One day, he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside.” Genesis 39:11
Oh boy, this is a problem No servants anywhere around. That’s a tad unusual. What’s going on here?
“She caught him by the cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” Genesis 39:12a
Okay, twice now she has demanded that he go to bed with her. This chic doesn’t give up!
“But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” Genesis 39:12b
Great choice, Joe!
Mrs. P. was bad to the bone indeed. She didn’t care about Joseph, his God, or his morals. She wanted what she wanted, and from what we have read, it wasn’t an onetime thing. I liken it to a lion circling their prey.
Admittedly, we don’t know her heart or her history. We don’t know if she was ruled by her lust or lonely to the core. We don’t know what her relationship was like with Mr. P. We don’t know where Mr. P. was while this is happening. We can assume that Joseph has not told his master about the wife’s advances. Perhaps he was hoping she would get tired of rejection and move on.
However, we read that it wasn’t the case. This time she grabbed for his cloak. With no servants in the house, it would seem she was lurking around, waiting for him to come in and tend to his daily chores. After all, she did know his schedule.
Many men and women have left evidence of indiscretions, but poor Joseph was trying to do his job. When he tried to flee from her advance, the poor guy lost his garment. Joseph took off running. I believe he did the right thing in God’s eyes. Joseph ultimately resisted the temptation that tried him every day.
But our story doesn’t end here.
Genesis 39:13, “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 left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
Did anyone hear her scream? I didn’t hear anything.
Oh, girl – add lying to the list.
One has to wonder if the servants believed her. What did they know about Potphar’s wife?
Had someone on staff found themselves in the same predicament? Did they feel sorry for Joseph? We don’t know how the servants respond.
Either way, she has his cloak. This is not good for Joseph.
Genesis 39:16, “She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home.”
One commentator says, “How quickly the heat of her passion hardened into hatred.” They say a woman scorned.
Proverbs 7:16-20, “I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home: he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.”
And folks say the Bible is outdated.
We don’t know if the woman here is Potiphar’s wife. It doesn’t matter because neither situation honors the Lord.
When Mr. P. got home, she proceeded with her plan to throw Joseph under the bus. She succeeds in getting him kicked out of the palace and thrown into jail.
One must understand that adultery in those days was a severe offense, which usually resulted in death.
Mr. P. could have had Joseph killed, but he chose to throw him in jail. One could presume many reasons for this, but remember what we read in verses 2 -6 about how the Lord was with Joseph.
The innocent man was hauled off to jail while the guilty woman, Potiphar’s wife walked free. Mrs. P. managed to commit several sins without blushing or repenting.
Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devised wicked schemes,
Feet that are quick to rush into evil,
A false witness who pours out lies,
And a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”
Liz gives us four takeaways/lessons from our reading on Potiphar’s wife:
1) We have to stay on our toes – We never know when temptation will arrive on our doorstep. We can’t assume that because we are happily married or content in our singleness that a cute delivery guy or carpenter with six-pack abs can’t possibly shift our imaginations into overdrive. It happens to women every day, even those who say they believe in God. Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
2) It’s smart to surround ourselves with support – Our bad girl sent the servants away. When we are meeting with a male coworker, leave the office door open. Take the kids with you when you have to chat with that sexy carpenter dude. Make sure you are appropriately dressed and not flaunting things like you’re advertising fruit in a grocery aisle. Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” And the enemy does have schemes. Ask Eve, the first woman.
3) Let’s seek our lover before, not after – Find your husband or significant other and wrap your arms around him, whisper in his ear, have eyes for him only. We never read that Potiphar’s wife longed for or desired her husband. Genesis 3:16, “Your desire will be for your husband.”
4) When we stumble, confession beats a cover-up – It’s effortless to blame someone else for our sins. “It’s their fault; they made me do it. They tempted me with their physique.” Potiphar may not have seen through his wife’s lies, but the Lord we love looks straight into our hearts. Instead of trying to blame someone else or cover it up, confess, and repent. That’s what the Lord desires from you and me. Besides, we’re not hiding anything from the Lord anyway.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s lesson on Potiphar’s wife.
Was there anything in the story you could relate to?
Have you experienced something similar, and if so, what did you do about it?
If you found yourself in Mrs. P.’s shoes, have you confessed and repented to the Lord? If not, why not?
1 John 1:8-9, “if we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
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