A “trophy wife” in our current culture is used as a derogatory or sarcastic term. The dictionary’s definition of this kind of woman is an attractive young woman who is married to an older successful man. This is how we would describe our anonymous woman in this particular story.
In the U.S., we have built television shows around these types of women. One of the first television shows was called, The Real Housewives of Orange County. A plot based around women who have everything their hearts desire, yet by the end of every season, one of these women finds herself in a divorce because she realizes that money can’t buy love. Our anonymous woman in this week’s passage is the wife of Potiphar. The way her life is described in Genesis 39 she would be a candidate for The Real Housewives of Egypt.
This woman is the Egyptian wife of Potiphar, who is a man of power. He is the captain of the guard for Pharaoh. He is well off and has a home that is well established. She would be considered today possibly as a socialite. She really had no responsibilities, not even in her own home. Her claim to fame was that she was the wife of an important and powerful man. Her accomplishments are so minimal, her name is not even mentioned in the passage. In Hebrew tradition, her name is Zuleikha which means fair, brilliant, and lovely and she is considered as a villainous.
Zuleikha was likely a manipulative, spoiled, and deceptive woman who probably got away with murder, in this case a big lie. The scripture doesn’t mention whether or not they had children. It’s likely she didn’t otherwise she wouldn’t have had time to chase after Joseph. Even though Potiphar had given her everything she could ever desire, she wanted more. It could have been she felt neglected by her husband because there were likely many nights she was left alone due to his job and position. She may have felt unloved and this was her way of making her husband jealous.
A lonely married woman can be a ticking time bomb which is what we find in this story. She was probably used to getting attention by everyone. Then when a handsome young man that her husband trusts his household with comes into her life and he doesn’t pay her that same attention, well that’s when bomb goes off. After spending day after day with Joseph, she probably became emotionally attached because she shared her heart with him. We know women are emotional and this can trip us up. Then she gives in to her heart which is lust not love and she tries to seduce him. To her disappointment, he resists. We know when our flesh is told no, our sin nature craves it even more. Then one day, she goes in for the kill, and when she does, it back fires on her and Joseph runs for his life. Unfortunately for him, his robe was left in her hands.
We know that there are always two sides to every story. Surely Potiphar knew that his wife was like this. Scripture says that Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and he was successful (Genesis 39:2). So why then would he have believed his wife when she accused Joseph of raping her? Maybe, he didn’t want the wrath he would have experienced if he didn’t believe her so he threw Joseph under the bus. This accusation that was made against Joseph could have possibly given him a death sentence, especially since Potiphar had such high ranks with Pharaoh. Instead, he was thrown into prison. With the authority Potiphar had, he may have suspected Joseph was innocent and spared his life. On the other hand, Potiphar also may have not wanted to take responsibility of the situation because of his own pride and neglectfulness of her. He couldn’t let people know that he wasn’t taking care of his relationship with her. After all, he was protecting the country in his position as Captain. He couldn’t allow to people think he didn't care for his own wife.
Joseph on the other hand, respected God and his earthly master, which is why never gave in. God had a plan to preserve Joseph until his appointed time. Prison isn’t a comfortable place, but it’s possible God still needed to work on Joseph’s heart. God used Zuleikha’s downfall to keep Joseph safe until it was time for him to fulfill the dream God had given him when he was a teen.
We can learn so much from this story about our lives as a follower of Jesus. God provides us with what we need and still we can have eyes that lust after the world. Proverbs 31:27 describes a woman with godly character. It says, “She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.” (NLT) Zuleikha had someone else watching over what should have been part of her responsibility, her home. When a woman is bored, or anyone for that matter, it can make for some big trouble. When we have nothing to care for, we are susceptible to temptation. God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we are able. He will always make a way of escape, just as He did for Joseph (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even a godly desire, when worshiped, can easily turned into lust. When we pursue the desire instead of God, the Holy Spirit in us may be replaced by sensuality and demonic influence. If we are persistent in going after the desire instead of the desire-giver, we can be lead down the wrong path which can lead to death.
Jesus encountered many heartbroken, unloved women. He understands the heart of a woman and what she really needs. That is love not lust. Beauty, status, success, and things, don’t fill the hole in both the hearts of men and women. Everyone is tempted in this sinful world, but when we keep your eyes on Jesus and the word of God in our heart, we can have authority over any situation or sin.
Zuleikha was left standing with Joseph’s robe that was considered a symbol of authority in her hands. At that moment, there was one of two choices to be made. She could have taken authority over her actions and told the truth. She could have taken responsibility for her life and become known as a woman of noble character. Instead, she accused an innocent man and likely never got what she desired from her husband, love, affection, and attention. God gave us all the love we need through His son, Jesus. It’s in him we are complete, lacking nothing. Therefore, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV)
Resist temptation with authority:
Isaiah 26:3 (NKJV) You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
Luke 10:19 (NLT) Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.
Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV) Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so thou you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
James 4:7 (NKJV) Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Ecclesiastes 7:1a (NLT) A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume.
Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NLT) A wise person chooses the right road; a fool takes the wrong one.
Peter 2:9 (NKJV) then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgement.
Compiled by the R.E.A.L Women Bible Study out of Hills Church of Laguna Hills, CA.