“And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, ‘See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice.’”
Genesis 39: 13-14
King James Version
“A Woman Spurned”
Mrs. Potiphar’s Revenge
“Revenge, at first though sweet – bitter ere long, back on itself recoils.”
Have I ever taken revenge on someone because they did something to me which I did not like?
How did my behavior make me feel?
“The smallest revenge will poison the soul.”
“Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic as wine it seemed, on swallowing warm and racy; its afterflavor, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned.”
Have you ever eaten something which tasted so good you made a pig of yourself eating it, only later to feel so sick you never again wanted to taste the food you thought you liked. I had this happen to me. I was a little glutton on my mom’s delicious spaghetti. But after eating too much, too fast, that spaghetti took revenge on me and I spent one entire night in the bathroom.
I love the words by famed author, Charlotte Bronté whose quote begins this section of today’s devotional. In her mind, she likened vengeance to poison and what a perfect comparison.
As we found out yesterday, Mrs. Potiphar set her eyes on Joseph. Young and prosperous – successful and sexy – Joseph was her man. At least he was the man of the house, and this appealed to Mrs. Potiphar. Thinking that her elevated status as the “Mistress” of the home gave her authority over Joseph, she no doubt felt that he would succumb to her alluring ways. I even think she may have found Joseph more appealing because he didn’t just fall all over her. We girls have a strange fetish for men we can’t have. Sometimes the harder they are to tame, the more we stalk them. And this is truly the behavior we see present in Mrs. Potiphar. She would not take “no” for an answer.
The way the Bible describes this situation in Genesis 39, Mrs. Potiphar had been rebuffed time and again. So one day, she decided she would trap Joseph. Genesis 39:11 (K.J.V.) says, “And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.”
STOP! (And for those of you who come to the garden regularly, you know when I use the word “STOP” it means we need to take a second look.)
Remember Eve? She was “alone” with a deceptive serpent whom the Bible says “seduced” her. Off by herself, where no one else was watching, she fell! We need to think very clearly about the way the wily serpent still uses “aloneness” to trap us today.
Many years ago, when on a business trip, I was making a “pitch” for a new account for the advertising agency I worked for. After the meeting, I went to the elevator and the head of the organization walked out with me, handed me his home phone number and invited me to his house for dinner. I quickly informed him that I was married and his response was, “No problem. Just leave your husband at home.” Needless to say, I chose not to work with this man whom I later learned made “passes” like this to women all the time. Being alone or feeling lonely – natural feelings we all have experienced in our lives – can be powerful emotions that draw us in the wrong direction. Joyce Oates wrote, “Loneliness is dangerous. It’s bad for you to be lonely, because if aloneness does not lead to God, it leads to the devil. It leads to self.”
Once inside Mrs. Potiphar’s house, it didn’t take Joseph long to recognize that he was alone. And this man of God didn’t stick around to “talk with the serpent.” Instead he “fled, and got him out.” (Genesis 39: 12). Joseph didn’t act like Lot who hesitated before leaving Sodom and in the end had to have angels drag him out. No, the Hebrew translation says Joseph, “took flight like a bird.” He escaped. But the Hebrew word “fled” also means “Lifted up a standard.” Joseph got out of Mrs. Potiphar’s room and would have no part of her deceptive, seductive behavior for he was lifting up the standard of His God.
What an example for you and me as we daily face temptations in our lives. When we come face-to-face with “Mrs. Potiphars” or “Mr. Potiphars” we should not stand around to talk, instead we should leave, flee and escape.
What was Mrs. Potiphar’s response? She took revenge by saying, “If I don’t get him, nobody will!” She accused Joseph, a Hebrew slave, of trying to rape her. This is the bottom line. As some Biblical historians note, if Mr. Potiphar had really, truly believed his wife’s story, Joseph would have been immediately executed. It is very likely, Mr. Potiphar knew his wife, and may have heard rumors about her attempts to “come on” to Joseph. But now with his wife waving Joseph’s garment in her hand and screaming “look what he did to me,” Mr. Potiphar had to save face, so he sent Joseph to the dungeon.
One day you’re the big boy at Mr. Potiphar’s house, the next day you’re in the bottom of the barrel in a prison.
I’m not certain Mr. Potiphar was glad to see Joseph go. What happened, I wonder, to all the blessings Joseph’s upright life had brought to the Potiphar home? How sad that a lonely, seductive woman brought disaster to her own home and into the life of Joseph. Yet, even in a dungeon, God knew where His child was – and at just the right moment, the blessings of God on Joseph’s life again became visible.
“The whole human race loses by every act of personal vengeance.”
“Fix the centre of my heart in Yourself, O Lord, for only thus will I resist temptation and live according to Your will.”
“Stay at the centre of my soul, O God;
be in my longing and my hurting;
be in my hoping and my emptiness;
be in my eyes and lips and heart,
so that my desire to be true to You
and to myself
may prevail over everything else.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus