Day 17

Potiphar’s Wife

Genesis 39:1-23, Proverbs 24:15-16, Ephesians 5:1-4, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

BY Sharon Hodde Miller

One of the hardest and most helpless feelings in the world is when another person deals carelessly with our reputations. Maybe it is an anonymous person online who publicly questions our motives. Maybe it is a commenter who glimpses one photo of our lives and makes assumptions about our parenting. Maybe it is a friend who is angry with us and then vents to our mutual friends. Maybe it is an ex-boyfriend, or an ex-husband, who is sharing a very different version of the break-up than the one we know to be true.

Whenever we experience slander, unfair criticism, or unfounded accusations, it can feel as though our hard-earned reputations are being dismantled brick by brick. Everything we worked for, the integrity we established over the course of years, suddenly seems fragile and vulnerable, all because of the untested words of a gossiper.

Joseph knew this helplessness well. He was a humble man of exceptional character, who spent his life climbing out of a pit, working his way up, making connections, and earning a good name, only to have it all undone by the wicked whim of a powerful woman. At least, that is how it must have seemed at the time. But that is not how Joseph’s story ended. In actuality, what determined the outcome of Joseph’s story was not power, but character.

As we now know, Joseph’s life did not end with this accusation. It seems that almost immediately, Potiphar distrusts his wife’s account. We know this because the punishment for Joseph’s supposed crime should be death, but instead, Potiphar only imprisons him. He is, in essence, not giving Joseph what he deserves. What this tells us is that Joseph’s character is influencing the outcome, and it would continue to do so for years.

In the chapters that follow, Joseph’s character opens doors for him. He gains favor with those in authority over him, until he eventually receives authority himself. Joseph is forever remembered as a noble man and a great leader; Potiphar’s wife, on the other hand, is only remembered for one of the worst decisions of her life. We don’t even know her name.

It is difficult to be on the receiving end of slander or a false accusation, but this story comforts us with this truth: your character is louder than you think. Character always reveals who you really are, and no amount of power, lies, or manipulation can hide it. This is a comfort for those of us who choose the way of holiness, but it is also a warning for when we don’t.

The sin of Potiphar’s wife was not simply lust, but the abuse of power, and none of us is immune to it. Our need for control—even when it is directed toward good and noble purposes—can lead us to compromise our integrity. “The ends justify the means,” we reason. But this is not the logic of godly character. Instead, we follow a Savior who chose to be falsely accused rather than exert His will by force.

Post Comments (38)

38 thoughts on "Potiphar’s Wife"

  1. Megan Lavaux says:

    joseph obeyed God to his core and told Potiphar’s wife that. but sometimes obedience comes with uncomfortable consequences and results. like a false accusation and going to jail again. but the Lord remained with Joseph because of his obedience and constant pursuit of God, it paid off despite the slander and consequence joseph experienced. obedience isn’t always flattering, joseph knows that. but it IS so rewarding and worth it.

  2. Debbie Leonard says:

    Thank you for your words; though I’m not so sure Joseph was a “humble man”; as I’ve studied the story of Joseph over the years I believe Joseph was prideful but knew his success was because God was with him. So many good truths in these scriptures.

  3. Danya says:

    @ Susan Crosby. God will use you mightily in your family

    Be strong and of good courage He will see you through to the end.

  4. Taryn Wells says:

    Thank you for sharing!! I needed this today because I thought the same as you—I related more to Potiphar’s wife and you put it into words perfectly!

  5. Emma Sherrow says:

    We follow a God that pursues justice but not a God of fairness. Nothing about Jesus dying on the cross was fair to Him. But God’s just wrath toward the sinfulness of man had to be satisfied and Christ took that. So often we see the people of the church judged by standards of the Bible and we fail time and time again. According to all logic we should be punished and the people that make the big mistakes shouldn’t be leading our churches but thank God for the sacrifice of Jesus. That amazing grace that forgives us even for our worst. Our sins don’t disqualify us from fellowship with Him and we can be forgiven. We should extend that same grace toward others. And yes accountability in the church is important but even more important is the heart for Jesus of His people even the ones with maybe not the best reputation. God used Joseph in prison. He can use us even in the depths of our valleys to glorify Him.

  6. Sally Huster says:

    I certainly understand the point in this story of the saying that “character speaks louder than words”, and find comfort in that to a degree as a family that has had our lives blown up before our eyes due to evil slander. However I was a little disappointed that it was sort of left there. It’s is so easy to forget the truth of the gospel and slip into moralism. The truth of the gospel tells me that I am far worse than I dare imagine…and more loved than I ever imagined. Moralism is me trying to earn God’s favor (and others’ favor, heck my own favor) based on my works. I know this to be true of myself as a recovering moralist. I cannot stand on my “good character.” Freedom and peace comes knowing that I am clothed only in the character of Christ. I know this but forget it all the time.

  7. Susan Crosby says:

    Several years ago my oldest son got married. It was the beginning of the end of his relationship to our entire family. Many family members and friends don’t hesitate to slander him and especially his wife. I have refrained from doing so because…well to be honest only because of who God is can I even do this own my own…and the hope that one day there will be reconciliation between the families. False accusations amid wrong perceptions divided a loving family and for some it may be broken forever but God is always near to the broken-hearted and with Him we find hope.

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