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Biblical People

Biblical People: The Wife of Potiphar

Through a series of events outside of his control, Joseph becomes a slave owned by Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, who is captain of the guard. Joseph proves himself to the captain, who eventually puts his entire estate under his slave’s care. Potiphar’s household prospers because of Joseph’s diligent work.

Joseph’s a good-looking guy, and Potiphar’s wife notices. We don’t know if her husband ignores her, if she’s bored, or if she’s simply promiscuous, but she pursues Joseph. She tries to seduce him. He resists. He explains why he won’t sleep with her, but she ignores his words, focusing only on her desire for his body.

This goes on day after day. 

Joseph does his best to stay away from her. But one day as he goes about his work, she realizes no one else is around. She becomes aggressive, grabbing him and drawing him toward her. He pulls away, leaving his jacket in her hands as he flees.

Failing to satisfy her desires, her lust turns to revenge. She calls in her servants, spinning lies about Joseph, of how he went after her, of how she screamed for help, and of how he fled. She holds up his jacket as proof. When Potiphar gets home, she repeats her lies to him. In a rage, he throws Joseph in prison, where he languishes for years.

Potiphar’s wife is an unfaithful spouse and an immoral woman who makes no effort to control her sexual desires. And when she can’t seduce Joseph or even force him to sleep with her, she uses her position to destroy him.

How far are we willing to go to get what we want, even when it’s wrong? How low will we stoop to hurt those who get in our way? 

[Discover more about Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:1–20.]


Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and numerous books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.