Sometimes I’m blown away by the relevance of scripture. Today is one of those days.
The truths I found in these verses can probably be found in the headlines of recent newspapers.
Not that I read newspapers . . . or watch the news. I rarely do. I know some people call that sticking your head in the sand, but I call it keeping my head sane! I figure if it affects me, someone will tell me. And if not, I’d rather keep a more positive outlook on life. And I can’t do that if I watch the news every day. Maybe that’s just me.
I share that because when you read this, you may think I’m trying to make a particular point. Possibly a political point. Or a judicial point. Or even a religious point.
The truth is, I’m not. This post is about what I learned from my study after asking the Holy Spirit to show me the truths in this portion of scripture.
This part of Joseph’s story is found in Genesis 39:11-15. To catch you up in case you’ve missed anything, Joseph has been sold by his brothers and then taken to Egypt where he’s sold again as a slave and ends up being bought by Potiphar, the captain and chief executioner in Pharaoh’s army. Joseph apparently does a great job and wins the trust of Potiphar, because at this point in the story, he’s been put in charge of Potiphar’s entire household.
However, Potiphar’s wife REALLY likes Joseph. Apparently he’s good-looking and she’s been trying to seduce him . . . but to no avail. That catches you up to today’s verses where Joseph finds himself in the house alone with Potiphar’s wife. Here’s what happened.
Genesis 39:11-15 / Amplified Bible (AMP)
11 Then it happened about this time that Joseph went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the men of the house were indoors. 12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me! But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out [of the house].
13 And when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled away, 14 She called to the men of her household and said to them, Behold, he [your master] has brought in a Hebrew to us to mock and insult us; he came in where I was to lie with me, and I screamed at the top of my voice.
15 And when he heard me screaming and crying, he left his garment with me and fled and got out of the house.
Here are the truths I saw:
In order to “sell” a lie, people will sometimes:
(1) Manipulate unusual alliances: Potiphar’s wife and the male household servants make a very strange “team”–notice when she’s talking to them, she says “us”.
(2) Find a common enemy: Potiphar’s wife designated her husband, the servants’ Master, as their common enemy–she says, look what HE’S done to US, and . . .
(3) Play the race card: she calls Joseph “that Hebrew slave”–just to remind them that Joseph was different from the “us” she just created.
3. Application Questions:
When have I ever tried to sell a lie?
What did I do to get people to believe me?
When has someone tried to sell a lie to me?
What tactics did they use?
Potiphar’s wife was vindictive. Joseph had rejected her attempts at seduction on numerous occasions, and now I think she’s just plain mad. He wouldn’t play so she wants him to pay. Holding his cloak in her hand, she realizes she has the perfect opportunity to frame him and make him pay dearly for rejecting her. But she probably knows if she doesn’t do something quickly, it could boil down to “he said, she said.”
I don’t know how that would have turned out for her, but she apparently didn’t trust her odds. So she did what any red-blooded
American Egyptian would do. She went to work fabricating a story and creating the machinery she needed to “sell” it to her husband . . . someone who could DEFINITELY make Joseph pay.
But she needed some allies and they needed an enemy–an “us” versus a “them.” I don’t know why she chose the male servants. Possibly the support of female servants, in that age, would not have carried much weight. Or the females could have known the truth about the situation.
In order to have the male servants as her allies in this fight, she had to find a common enemy. I guess she could have chosen Joseph . . . since he was the one she was accusing of attempted rape. But that still could have ended up being a “he said, they said” scenario that she still could have lost.
So she chose Potiphar as the enemy. She accused him of being the person responsible for what happened because he was the one who brought Joseph into the house in the first place. Then she included her new allies in her argument: YOUR master brought this foreigner in to mock “US” and insult “US”. She includes them with her in the alleged mistreatment. So instead of it being Joseph vs. Potiphar’s wife (which would have been tough enough for Joseph), it’s now Joseph vs. Potiphar’s wife plus all the other male servants . . . people who weren’t even there to know what really happened.
Joseph may have mocked and insulted the other male servants, but I think Potiphar’s wife was just trying to pull them into the fight. Like she did when she talked about how she screamed at the top of her lungs–which she didn’t. But by talking about telling her husband that she screamed, she probably “encouraged” the servants to go along with her story, or else face consequences for not running to her rescue or not staying close enough to the house to even hear her screams.
And she also plays the “race card.” She reminded the other servants that Joseph was a foreigner, different from them, he was “that Hebrew slave.” And “that Hebrew slave” had been promoted above all of them until he was now in complete control of Potiphar’s household . . . including THEM. Joseph–not one of them–had been given that responsibility by her husband, their master.
And now she’s making it look like Joseph has been abusing his power.
I’m not sure the male servants believed her story or if they just felt coerced to go along with it.
I’m not even sure that Potiphar bought her story. But I’m sure he felt he had no other choice but to get Joseph out of the house.
The tactics that Potiphar’s wife used to “sell” her lie to Potiphar are still popular today.
They’re practiced in every area of human life and on every level.
From the playing field to the political arena.
From the corporate world to the church body.
On both sides of the aisle in courtrooms across our country.
And on a daily basis in mainstream media.
Instead of telling the truth and taking responsibility for what’s been done, a lot of people want to save face and “look good” . . . so they do whatever it takes–up to and including framing and punishing innocent people.
And the lies get so elaborate that it has become extremely difficult to discern the truth anymore. But maybe we can take some cues from this ancient story.
Tips for Unmasking a Lie
1. Look for unusual alliances. These can be individuals and/or groups of people who aren’t usually on the same side of issues–possibly very powerful individuals pulling in groups with less power–like Potiphar’s wife and the male servants.
2. Take note of their common enemy. This enemy won’t necessarily have anything to do with the original incident. Instead it’s a way to draw attention away from the real issue, which in this situation was: What really happened between Potiphar’s wife and Joseph?
3. And watch for the race card. It’s been played on every side of every fence and is typically used to incite even more anger against the alleged injustice–when race [in this particular situation] had nothing to do with the original incident, but could potentially help “sell” the lie.
The biggest problem I see today is that even though we realize SOMEONE may be trying to “sell” us a lie, there are so many pots being added to the mix and so much stirring being done, that the truth is all but impossible to find in the resulting smoke.
God help us.