Potiphar's Wife as one of the Top Ten Bad Women of the Bible
Top Ten: Bad Women
in the Bible, with a case study of Joseph
Bible Top Ten:
paintings of the seduction
Stories of Joseph's parents
Bible People: Jacob
Bible Women: Rachel
Bored, lonely, lascivious
Joseph in the Book of Genesis
The Saga of
Joseph appears in the final chapters of the Book of Genesis.
It is too long to
appear on one page, so here are extracts from various chapters: Genesis
37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50.
37 - Joseph is Sold
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his
brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives,
and he brought their father a bad report about them.
3 Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any of
his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he
made an ornate robe for him.
4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of
them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near
13 and Israel (Jacob) said to Joseph, “As you
know, your brothers are grazing the flocks. Come, I am going to send you
to them.” “Very well,” he replied.
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan.
18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached
them, they plotted to kill him.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.
20 “Come, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these
cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see
what comes of his dreams.”
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands.
“Let’s not take his life,” he said.
22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in
the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to
rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his
robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—
24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was
empty; there was no water in it.
Limestone carving with rider and camel, from the palace of Kapara
at Tell Halaf, 10th century BC
25 As they sat down to eat
their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from
Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they
were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our
brother and cover up his blood?
27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands
on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled
Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to
the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not
there, he tore his clothes.
30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there!
Where can I turn now?”
31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the
robe in the blood.
32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We
found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”
33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some
ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his
son many days.
39 - Joseph and Potiphar's Wife
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one
of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the
Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar
put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care
everything he owned.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome,
7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and
said, “Come to bed with me!”
8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master
does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he
has entrusted to my care.
9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master withheld
nothing from me except you, his wife. How then could I do such a wicked
thing and sin against God?”
10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to
bed with her or even be with her.
11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none
of the household servants was inside.
12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!”
But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run
out of the house,
14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them,
“this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here
to sleep with me, but I screamed.
15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and
ran out of the house.”
16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home.
19 When his master
heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave
treated me,” he burned with anger.
20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where
the king’s prisoners were confined.
41 - the Dream of Pharaoh
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by
2 when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and
they grazed among the reeds.
3 After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the
Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank.
4 And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat
cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
5 He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain,
healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk.
6 After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and
scorched by the east wind.
7 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full
heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
Joseph Interprets Pharaoh's Dream
8 In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the
magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one
could interpret them for him.
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh,
12 A young Hebrew was there (in gaol) with us, a servant of the
captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for
us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream.
13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us”
14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the
dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before
15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can
interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream
you can interpret it.”
16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will
give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
42 - Joseph Tests His Brothers
Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all
its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him
with their faces to the ground.
7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he
pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come
from?” he asked. “From the land
of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”
8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize
tribesmen in a woven tent
14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are
15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives,
you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes
16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will
be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are
telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you
17 And he put them all in custody for three days.
45 - Joseph Reunited with his Brothers
Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and
he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one
with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers.
2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and
Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
9 Joseph said: Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your
son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me;
10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your
children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have.
11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are
still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you
will become destitute.’
12 “You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin,
that it is really I who am speaking to you.
13 Tell my father about all the honor accorded me in Egypt and about
everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.”
14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and
Benjamin embraced him, weeping.
15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.
47 - Egyptians in Servitude
There was no food, however, in the whole region because the famine was
severe; both Egypt and Canaan wasted away because of the famine.
Overseer of Pharaoh's Graneries, by Alma Tadema
Joseph collected all the money that was to be found in Egypt and Canaan in
payment for the grain they were buying, and he brought it to Pharaoh’s
15 When the money of the people of Egypt and Canaan was gone, all
Egypt came to Joseph and said, “Give us food. Why should we die before
your eyes? Our money is all gone.”
16 “Then bring your livestock,” said Joseph. “I will sell you
food in exchange for your livestock, since your money is gone.”
17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and he gave them food
in exchange for their horses, their sheep and goats, their cattle and
donkeys. And he brought them through that year with food in exchange for
all their livestock.
18 When that year was over, they came to him the following year and
said, “We cannot hide from our lord the fact that since our money is
gone and our livestock belongs to you, there is nothing left for our lord
except our bodies and our land.
19 Why should we perish before your eyes—we and our land as well?
Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in
bondage to Pharaoh. Give us seed so that we may live and not die, and that
the land may not become desolate.”
20 So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The
Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too
severe for them. The land became Pharaoh’s,
21 and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt
to the other.
23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your
land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the
24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The
other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for
yourselves and your households and your children.”
Genesis 50 -
the Death of Joseph
Joseph stayed in Egypt, with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred
and ten years
23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the
children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s
24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God
will surely come to your aid and take you up
of this land to the land
he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God
will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from
26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they
embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.