Joseph and the Wife of Potiphera (8 January, 2015, 17 Tevet, 5775)
Joseph the son of Jacob (Genesis 37) was the favorite son of his father.
Jacob gave Joseph a multi-colored tartan cloak (Hebrew "cotonet pasim", Genesis 37:3).
This type of garment connoted rank similar to the same type to that later worn by Tamar daughter of David and considered a symbol of royalty
The Scottish Tartan Cloak of Joseph
Joseph also dreamt dreams depicting himself as a ruler with the rest of the family bowing down to him. His brothers were jealous and perhaps also fearful of dispossession.
They sold him as a slave to a band of Arab traders going down to Egypt. They then made it seem to their father that a wild beast had devoured him.
In Egypt Joseph was acquired by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard.
His master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hands (Genesis 39:3)
Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking (Genesis 39:3). The Hebrew expression is “Yafeh Toar ve-Yafeh Mareh.” He was beautiful in outline and beautiful in appearance. He looked exceptionally good in every way. Immediately after this we are told.
# And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, 'Lie with me' # (Genesis 39:3).
What can we learn from this?
Based on Midrashim and commentaries the following may be suggested:
Joseph was young, not much more than 17, the son of a wealthy prince (Jacob) from the Land of the Hebrews in Canaan. He looked exceptionally appealing as the Bible emphasizes. He would have been close to the peak of his sexual potency.
He was also something special. Potiphar made him the manager of his household. Later, when in jail the jailkeeper puts him in charge of the place. Then he meets Pharoah and at once is appointed ruler of the land. He exuded something that made people believe in him.
He was the type of person that if he went to work for you, - You would not be afraid of him taking over.
You would be begging him to do so!
The woman did not demand his body straight away. The temptation built up in her and then later she asked for it.
There must have been other females around in the employment of Potiphar, in the field and in the house.
The Egyptians were notoriously promiscuous. Other women would have made themselves available to Joseph and probably had tried to interest him along those lines.
It would have been known that Joseph was not in the game.
This may well have enhanced his desirability.
Joseph was exceptionally attractive and therefore after a time of trying to resist his attraction the wife of Potiphar made her play.
Only because of his out-of-the-ordinary magnetism, his frequent presence in the surroundings, and the possibility of mutual discretion does the woman (after a time) think of giving herself to him.
There is another point:
The wife of Potiphar said, Lie with me.
She would have been risking much by this action.
The chances are that she herself was not unattractive.
The manner of her request indicates self-assuredness emanating from physical presence.
She was not a loose woman but someone of high standards.
She was also someone who if and when making such an offer fully expects any red-blooded male to accept it.
There are not many girls who would feel so certain.
The Midrash says that the wife of Potiphar saw in the stars that her line was destined to conjugate with that of Joseph.
She thought it must be her but in the end it was her daughter, Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, Cohen [priest or offiical ] of On whom Joseph married (Genesis 41:47).
The expression "saw in the stars" does not necessarily mean astrological conjuring but in the language of the time a sense of destination.
The wife of Potiphera felt a connection at the level of the soul with Joseph. This connection existed. Joseph would also have felt it.
She asked him to copulate.
8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, 'Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?'
Joseph explained his reticence as due to not wanting to betray the trust of his master in him.
The act itself he described as a "great wickedness, and sin against God".
BUT if it were not for betrayal of trust would he have considered it anyway?
OR was he saying that:
Even if she said her husband would not mind or that she was an independent entity, a "free spirit", and not obligated, etc, the bottom line is that God forbids intercourse with another mans wife.
He was young, healthy, successful, handsome and knew it and proud of it. He had liked dressing well.
He had been misused, violently handled, cast out and sold into a foreign land, all alone.
Men in such situations often justify giving into temptation.
Joseph did not but is there an indication here that the thought had crossed his mind?
Did it? The Midrash says it did.
Joseph refused to service the lady. But she kept on trying.
And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her (Genesis 39:10).
11 One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house,
12 she caught hold of his garment, saying, 'Lie with me!' But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.
Joseph knew the situation yet he keeps coming back.
Even though he may not have tended to mount the woman he may still, at some level, have enjoyed the circumstance.
What male ego is not flattered by female attention? and vice-versa?
Perhaps he was in doubt?
The female grabs his cloak and he runs out without it, at least half-naked.
Why did he not take the cloak off her by force?
How strong could she have been?
Was he afraid of himself? of giving in?
After that the wife of Potiphar accused Joseph of attempted rape.
He was put in jail.
He was incarcerated. From his place of imprisonment he interpreted the dreams of royal servants and then those of Pharoah who made him effective ruler of the land.
Steven Mathe in an (as yet unpublished article) article points out that Joseph had proved his integrity.
If he was trustworthy in that way he could have been trusted in other matters.
Mathe opines: #Due to the virtue of keeping of the covenant of responsibility with his master, Joseph was catapulted into directing responsible government across the board in Egypt.#
43 He [Pharoah] had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, 'Avrech'. Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt.
The term 'Avrech' is related to the Aramaic 'rica' meaning 'ruler' and the Germanic 'reich' /'rulership' (Rashi). 'Avrech' can connote both 'bow the knee' and 'Father-Ruler' .
The seed of Joseph were to become rulers of the world. The British Empire and US hegemony were to be theirs.
It was not for nothing.