Genesis 39:13-23: Pointing the finger.
“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. 17 Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’ 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. But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. 22 So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” NIV
Taking the story at face value, Potiphar’s wife was the only guilty party. But she blamed Joseph. There is also a suggestion that she tried to pin some blame on her husband: ‘’That Hebrew slave you brought us…This is how your slave treated me’’ (17,19). She was distancing herself as much as possible from the mess she had made. It was someone else’s fault!
Don’t you hear echoes of the garden of Eden, where Adam had the audacity to blame God for fixing him up with Eve in the first place: ‘’The woman you put here with me…’’ (Gen.3:12)? You can hear the inference there can’t you? ‘If you hadn’t married me off to Eve in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened!!’
We recognise this all too human trait – fallen humanity that is. It is one of the many faces sin wears: that of the finger pointer. Somebody said the only way sin can leave the human body is through the mouth, as it is confessed to God. So long as we play the blame game we can’t find forgiveness.
It may be that Potiphar did not totally believe his wife. Possibly he had his doubts, because he did not have Joseph executed, which would have been the usual punishment for rape in that culture. Effectively, that was the charge against Joseph – that he attempted it. Instead of incurring the death sentence, he was imprisoned, and later Potiphar gave him responsibilities in the prison (40:4; see 39:1).
Even so, we feel sad, even outraged, at the thought of the injustice to Joseph. But even in jail, God was working for his good (Romans 8:28), and for the blessing of many others. It was like a re-run of what had already happened in Potiphar’s home (2-6). We have a sense that this is not the end of the story, and there are better times to come.
Once again, Joseph reminds us of Jesus – the only truly innocent Victim. For although Joseph was not guilty as charged, he was still a sinful man. But consider Jesus (1 Peter 2:2ff) who ‘’committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’’ Jesus is the supreme example of innocent suffering, but He came through it into glory. Centuries earlier, Joseph travelled a similar path, as we will see.