Sharon Wilharm Bible Storyteller

Wicked Women: Potiphar’s Wife

Last week we looked at a unnamed pagan woman attracted to a man of God. This week we look at Potiphar’s wife, another unnamed pagan woman attracted to a man of God, only this woman was already married to the godly man’s boss.

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The Story of Potiphar’s Wife

Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave to Potiphar, Egyptian officer of Pharaoh and caption of the guard. But God was with Joseph, and he prospered in Egypt. Potiphar saw Joseph’s success and promoted him to overseer of his house. All that he had he put under Joseph’s authority. And God blessed Joseph, and he blessed Potiphar’s house because of Joseph. Potiphar left all that he had to Joseph, trusting him to make all decisions except for the bread that he ate.

We’re told that Joseph was handsome in form and appearance, and Potiphar’s wife took notice of him. She looked at him with longing eyes and tried to seduce him.

Joseph resisted her advances. He pointed out his position, that his master, her husband, trusted him with the control of everything in his house. He had access to everything Potiphar had, except for his wife. Joseph wasn’t about to break that trust and do a great wickedness and sin against God.

None of his words mattered to her. Her lust consumed her day after day. The more he resisted, the the greater her attraction.

Then one day as Joseph was tending to his work in the house, and none of the men happened to be inside, she saw her opportunity. She grabbed him by his outer garment, calling for him to lie with her. Instead, he left his garment behind and fled outside.

Finally accepting that her advances were getting her nowhere, she shifted gears and decided if she couldn’t have him, she would make his life miserable. Realizing she was holding his cloak, she called out to the other men of the house telling them that the Hebrew her husband brought into the house was mocking them. She told them that he’d tried to seduce her, but she’d cried out with a loud voice, so he fled, leaving his cloak behind.

She kept the garment until her husband came home and shared the same story with him.

Understandably, this angered Poptiphar. He had no reason to distrust his wife, so he assumed she was telling the truth. He put Joseph in jail. It was the prison where the king’s prisoners were confined.

The story continues with Joseph being blessed by God even in prison, but no more mention is made of Potiphar’s wife.

Her Failure

Like Samson’s wife, Potiphar’s wife was lured by the sight of a good looking man. Only in this case, she was already married. She had a devoted husband. She should have never considered another man. But she did.

Potiphar was a powerful man in the Pharoah’s employ. He was busy away from home so much that he needed someone else to run his household affairs. Potiphar’s wife grew lonely and bored while he was away.

A woman in her position had plenty of opportunities to keep busy and amuse herself, but she fixated on Joseph. Once she set her sights on him, she wouldn’t let go. It didn’t matter to her that she was a married woman. It didn’t matter that Joseph was a young man in the employ of her husband. All she cared about was having her way with him. When he refused, she sought revenge, and got it.

What was she hoping for? She certainly wasn’t looking for a fulfilling relationship. She would have never left her powerful husband for a Hebrew slave.

No, all she was seeking was a temporary escape from her everyday life. She was a bored, probably middle-aged woman in search of excitement. She craved the sensation of enticing a young and handsome man. Perhaps she enjoyed the thrill of the hunt, convinced that eventually she would wear him down and get what she wanted.

When her plans failed, she sought to destroy him to make him pay for his rebuke.

Potiphar’s wife cared nothing about her husband or Joseph. She cared only about herself. She sought temporal worldly pleasures. Had she been successful in her attempts, she would have quickly realized how unsatisfying it was.

Fortunately, God was with Joseph and he protected Joseph from her wiles. Though he was thrown into jail, God never left him. In fact, God used him in prison to put him in an even better position than before.

Your Story

Whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all been like Mrs. Potiphar at some point. No, we may not have tried to seduce a man other than our husband. We may not have sought to send a man to prison. But we’ve all been consumed with something we decided we desperately needed. We’ve all lost sense of reality at times when we allowed ourselves to chase after worldly or temporal pleasures.

May we look to the wisdom of Joseph in this situation. Though he may have been flattered by the attention of Potiphar’s wife, he stood firm. He knew that giving in to the temptation would not be worth it. He knew that pleasing God was more important than worldly pleasures.

Joseph stood firm in his faith. He also set a godly example in the way he handled the situation with Potiphar. He could have told Potiphar the truth. He could have defended himself. It would have been justifiable. But he didn’t. He chose not to because to do so would have cause issues in their marriage. Granted the marriage did have issues, but Joseph didn’t add to them.

Joseph knew he was right in the sight of the Lord. He trusted God to defend him, and when God allowed him to be sent to prison, he trusted God’s wisdom.

When we’re faced with temptation, when we’re unjustly accused, when things to happen to us that are undeserved, it’s easy to get angry and take defense. But if we allow God to control the situation, though it may not make sense to us at the time, he will see it through and use it all for his glory.


Lord God, give us the strength to resist temptations. Protect us by keeping us out of situations where we might fail. Lead us to where we need to be. Forgive us those times we lose sight of our senses and go chasing after worldly pleasures. Open our eyes to those things we’re seeking that are not of you. Help us to always turn to you when we don’t know what to do. We love you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen

Tune in next week when we look at Lot’s wife and daughters.

Potiphar's Wife Bible Study

Bible Study

Scripture Background
Genesis 39

Bible Study Review

  • What was Joseph’s position at Potiphar’s house?
  • What was Joseph’s response to Potiphar’s wife?
  • How did Joseph end up in jail?

Thoughts to Ponder

  • Why did Potiphar’s wife chase after Joseph?
  • How did she handle his rejection?
  • What might have happened had he given in to her?

Personal Reflection

  • Have you ever wanted something you couldn’t have?
  • How do you keep your impulses in check?
  • How are you like Potiphar’s wife?

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