Potiphar’s Wife – 10 Points for Bible Study 06/06/2015

Genesis 39

  1. The wife of a prosperous and influential Egyptian, she was unfaithful and vindictive, ready to lie in order to protect herself and ruin an innocent man.
  2. She caught Joseph by the cloak and directed him to come to bed with her. Joseph left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. She told Potiphar that Joseph (a Hebrew slave) came to make sport of her. Potiphar took Joseph and put him in prison.
  3. Potiphar’s wife likely led a life of relative ease and prosperity.
  4. She had no children. She was rich, bored and idle. She had no purpose. She did not seem to love her husband.
  5. She was in constant contact with Joseph, because he ran the household.
  6. She became infatuated with Joseph because of their constant interfacing and his successful running of the household.
  7. She took her revenge on Joseph, for refusing her advances toward him, by accusing him of rape.
  8. She seemed to have been a lonely and bored woman, thrown into the company of an attractive man.
  9. She decided that a male slave should be available to her as the master’s wife, if she wished for him to be available. By Egyptian culture, slaves were available to their masters. By the Israelites’ Moral Code, sex with boys was forbidden. The Hebrew way of thinking was that a woman was the exclusive sexual property of her husband.
  10. She blamed her husband for the bringing of trouble into their home, in the form of a      foreign slave.

Genesis 39:2, 4, 6 – 8, 11 – 12, 16 – 20

39:2  The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  [Though Joseph’s situation changed drastically, God’s relationship to him remained the same.]  [“The Lord was with Joseph” this fact is mentioned several times here]

39:4  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.

39:6 – 8  So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food that he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

(NIV footnote 39:6-7) “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.  [left in Joseph’s care everything he had.]  As Laban had entrusted his flock to Jacob’s care.  Joseph had full responsibility for the welfare of Potiphar’s house, as later he would have full responsibility in prison and later still in all Egypt.  Always this Israelite came to hold the welfare of his “world” in his hands – but always by the blessing and overruling of God, never by his own wits, as his father Jacob had so long attempted.  In the role that he played in Israel’s history and in the manner in which he lived it, Joseph was a true representative of Israel.  [took notice of.]  Looked with desire at.  The phrase is used in the same sense in Akkadian in Section 25 of the code of Hammurapi.”

39:11 – 12  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.

39:16 – 20  She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home.  Then she told him this story.  “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me.  But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger.  Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, {21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the warden.}  [39:20  place where the king’s prisoners were confined.  Though understandably angry, Potiphar put Joseph in the “house of the captain of the guard” – certainly not the worst prison available.]

1. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan 2008 Edition (All scriptures)

2. Women of the Bible, 52 Bible Studies for Individuals and Groups, Jean E Syswerda, Zondervan, 1999, pg. 221.

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