Parashat Vayeishev Part 6
Bereishit 39:07 – 39:23
As was noted previously, Joseph was young and quite good looking. One woman who was very attracted to Joseph was Potiphar’s wife.
Now Potiphar had entrusted everything to Joseph. His household. The fields. All were under Joseph’s authority. Only one thing Potiphar did not entrust to Joseph. His wife.
When only Joseph and Potiphar’s wife were in the house, Potiphar’s wife asked Joseph to lie with her. Joseph refused.
This must have created a big dilemma for Joseph. He had to refuse the advances of the king’s wife, without insulting her.
As Joseph explained to Potiphar’s wife, after he had gained Potiphar’s trust to the extent that he, Joseph, had custody over everything in the household, it would be very untrustworthy for Joseph to turn his back on Potiphar by taking the one thing he was not entrusted with. In addition, it would be a sin against God.
This little conversation did not just happen one time. Day after day, Potiphar’s wife tried to coax Joseph into lying with her. And day after day, Joseph refused.
Potiphar’s Wife Sets Joseph Up
One day, Potiphar’s wife was determined to lie with Joseph. Potiphar was away. Joseph came into the house, as usual, to do his work. No other man of the household was in the house, hence, there were no male witnesses to what happened.
Potiphar’s wife became more aggressive in her attempts to get Joseph into her bed. She grabbed at his garment to pull him to her. Joseph, in deference to his master’s wife, refrained from any show of anger, and simply slipped out of the garment and walked away.
Potiphar’s wife was left holding the garment in her hands. She believed that Joseph, like any other man, would go out, stripped of his robe, to show other men what his master’s wife was doing behind her husband’s back – that she had taken the garment off of him.
Potiphar’s wife screamed and ran out quickly, still screaming, with Joseph’s tunic in her hand. She wanted to get to witnesses before Joseph. She called out to the men who were outside and showed them Joseph’s garment and said, “Look! Joseph tried to have his way with me, and he took off his robe. I screamed, and he ran away, leaving his garment behind.”
Joseph Goes To Prison
That was the story Potiphar’s wife told her husband when he came home. There was nothing Joseph could do. It would be highly improper to contradict the wife of his master. Potiphar was also in a bind. Joseph had brought such prosperity to Potiphar. Secretly, he doubted his wife’s story, but he was bound to act upon her words. Joseph had to go to prison.
In a rare show of respect, Potiphar, himself, escorted Joseph to prison, and introduced him to the warden.
The prison warden was quickly impressed with the charismatic Joseph. As Potiphar had done, the warden came to trust Joseph completely. He placed all other inmates in Joseph’s custody. That made the warden’s job easier, for he never had to keep an eye on Joseph.
For us, this was another twist in the grand scheme of things that would lead to some of the greatest events in history.