Potiphar’s Wife

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This week’s reading brought me to Potiphar’s wife. Her husband was Captain of the Guard. As such he would be responsible for protecting the body of the pharaoh and empowered to kill, imprison or enslave anyone who might be a threat to Pharaoh. She would have been very aware of her husband’s status, because his status defined hers. The power he wielded established their social standing as a couple and hers as a woman and wife.

We see that she was used to getting what she wanted in the affair with Joseph. She was not a woman to take no for an answer and she was going to get Joseph into bed whatever it took. When she realized this was not going to happen and it appeared her husband might find out she accused Joseph so he was imprisoned. At this point, so far as she knows, the situation is under control.

Imagine her surprise when not many years later this young man, brought from prison, is elevated to be second only to “the Son of Ra.” Her husband would now be responsible to Joseph and responsible to guard his person as well. When we read that they placed Joseph in a chariot and had those before him bow, we overlook that it would have been Potiphar’s men who would have gone before and commanded the people to bow.

This woman whose husband gave her great social elevation suddenly finds the slave she mistreated elevated above her husband and as a result elevated above her. She must have understood the power that Joseph now wielded. One wonders if she feared retribution from Joseph. Would he have her husband executed or imprisoned? Would he seize their property? Would she be publicly exposed?

Fortunately, he was a man of God, who saw God at work in the background. This makes it easier to put up with mistreatment and injustice. When we are in bad times, the knowledge that God is in control and working his will and plan in our lives makes it possible to hold on and to keep moving forward without getting bitter or seeking revenge.

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