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How to Keep from Becoming a Potiphar's Wife

Updated: Oct 18, 2019

Her arms rigid, she painted the kohl along the contours of her eyelids and struck the bell alerting a slave – for the third time. Finally hesitant footfalls halted outside her door.

“You rang, madam?”

She didn’t waste a glance on the girl. “Stupid wench. Chamber pot’s full. And I’m still waiting on breakfast.”

The girl scurried to the offending pot, not daring to look at her mistress.

A slammed fist made the girl jump, sloshing filth on her bare feet.

“So where’s my breakfast? The Nile's blinding me with sunlight, I've got a splitting headache, and you’re just now in here?”

The young girl fixed her eyes on the pot. “Everybody’s been so busy this morning…I mean, the gardens were ready, so Captain Potiphar said—”

She waited for the girl to finish, but silence. She shot a glare at the maid, who now stared back. “Since Joseph got sent to the dungeon, it’s hard to get everything done as well as before.”

The master's wife's hand jerked, knocking over the container of liquid kohl onto her clean shift. While the ebony fluid dripped to her manicured feet, the slave skittered out of the room. Smirking.


Potiphar’s wife couldn’t have known she’d go down in history as the woman who framed an innocent man. In her mind, she was probably the gorgeous heroine—who was, unfortunately, married—who longed for the day a dashing young hero would make her feel all the feels.

When her husband had brought Joseph home, she’d been thrilled. This fine young slave would be just the thing to help her feel like the diva she knew she was. As everything he did succeeded, her appreciation had fermented into obsession.

She’d taken every opportunity to come on to him. She’d watch the doors for the times Joseph would come into the house to do his work. Every day her passion had fed itself until dreaming wasn’t enough. She would have him.

Only he wouldn’t.

She was married.

He feared God.

Trembling with passion, she clung to his garment as if she could force him with her wildcat strength. In terror, he ripped himself out of her arms. She watched him flee, her fists curling around the clothes he’d been wearing.

And she started to cry.


It’s so easy to judge a woman like that. Any woman married to a good man who throws herself at someone else and then cries foul, deserves what she gets. And most of us hope what she gets is nice and icky.

Until we live long enough to realize there’s no temptation taken any of us but such as is common to other people.

If anyone can be tempted to be a lying seductress, I can too.

If anyone can disregard her husband and wish for another, you can too.

If anyone can destroy someone’s life out of humiliated indignation, we can too.

I have a theory that every one of us gets tempted in a multitude of ugly ways before we hit 80. Many of these temptations are so ugly we shudder to admit them to ourselves, much less let on to other people that we struggle.

I believe that’s why God put such plain truth stories in Scripture: so we can be warned what will happen if we yield to temptation.

If we let our thankfulness to our own husbands fade, we can become obsessed with another man.

If we become obsessed with another man, we might make a fool of ourselves.

If we make a fool of ourselves, we might try to destroy the person we thought we worshipped.

Seriously. It happens all the time to better women than us.

Does any woman set out to be a Potiphar’s wife? A nameless bad girl who people love to hate?

Nope. But plenty of nice women become notorious because their wild emotions overcame their good sense.

Because they cast their eyes on something other than what was already theirs.

So if we’re tempted to let our wild passions push us over the edge, how can the story of Potiphar’s wife help?

Two Words. Gratitude and Grace.

Before she ever cast her eyes on Joseph, she failed to be thankful for her husband. Her ingratitude left a gaping hole grace could have filled - if she'd thought she needed it.

My Job: Gratitude

When a woman is grateful for her husband just as he is, she's satisfied. When a woman dreams her husband was different, she's hungry. If Potiphar’s wife had been thankful to be wife to the captain of the guard, she’d have been too happy to be hungry for a slave.

If we cast our eyes on our own husbands, and beyond them, to the God who made them, we won't have room in our vision to cast our eyes where they don't belong.

God's Gift: Grace

The story of Joseph bears many resemblances to the story of a man who would come thousands of years later who'd also be sold for silver in the presence of his friends. This man, though, would die, but not for His own sins.

He'd also rise again three days later.

Because of Jesus, the God-man, grace is a gift waiting for any woman who knows she's weak and doesn't want to fall. How do we get that grace? We look for it.

And, according to 1 Peter 1:13, when Jesus Christ is revealed to us, we can smile.

Grace is on the way.

Let's look up and practice gratitude for God and the blessings He's already given us today!

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