Zuleika, the Temptress

I stared at the cloak in my hand, the male scent of its owner still fresh in its weave, and I trembled with the myriad of emotions roiling through my body. Remembering the nosy servants, I straightened my back and pulled my own robe tighter over my chest.

The desire of my flesh had fled while I held fast to his garments. Who was he to say no to me? He is a servant in our house, an Israelite. My husband had given him all of his authoritative power and confidence. Where would he be without Potiphar’s love and trust? Nowhere. He’d be a servant in someone else’s house, tempting someone else’s wife.

Potiphar never stopped talking about Joseph, how efficient and organized he was. He hadn’t been with us long before my husband turned over the reins of his business to the man. Joseph had a lucky aura about him that made people trip over themselves to elevate his status, to reward his loyalty. Maybe it was his Hebrew God blessing him, as he constantly claimed.

Having so much responsibility in our household, Joseph was always on our doorstep. He had almost become part of the family. But his good looks, his charm, and his intelligent mind outshone those of other family members, including my husband’s. Lately, every time that man walked into our house, I desired to be closer to him. I wondered what it would be like to be held in his strong arms.

Today, I finally gave into my urges, using my authority as his master’s wife to invite Joseph into my bedroom and into my heart. But his loyalty, one of his most attractive features, betrayed me. He cited his allegiance to both my husband and his God as reasons for his rejection, pulling away from my touch and breaking my heart.

The hurt had quickly turned to anger. How dare he insult me this way? I am an attractive woman. I wield power over the running of our household. I am ultimately responsible for Potiphar’s success as captain of the king’s guard. Behind every successful man is a strong, supportive woman. I could have been that support system for Joseph too. We would have made quite a team. But no. Joseph thought himself too good for me. Well, he would pay for this humiliation.

I held my breath and strained to listen to the voice in the next room. I’m sure it was my name on their lips, followed by laughter.

“Poor Zuleika, indeed!” was the response. “She ripped his cloak right off his body, and he still ran away!”

The giggles identified the women as some of our young servants. Their disrespect would be dealt with in time.

But my burning face was his fault, not theirs. Joseph would fall for this. Not only was Potiphar captain of the king’s guard, he was also chief executioner. Joseph humiliated the wrong man’s wife.

I called the silly girls into my room and threatened their heads if they didn’t collaborate my story. Then I began to scream. My performance was so convincing that even my two knowing handmaids looked concerned.

By the time the first of our male servants ran into the room, I had tears streaming down my face, adding to the scene.

I held the cloak up high, evidence of foul play. “Look! My husband gave this Hebrew slave all the power, and this is how he thanks us? He came in here to rape me! After I screamed in fear, he ran, leaving his cloak here.”

When I saw doubt cross the first man’s face, I hissed, “There will be a job opening when he’s gone! He must pay for this betrayal.”

The servants gathered around me then and tended to me appropriately. They could do nothing for my bruised ego, however.

When my husband arrived home, I blurted out the story with similar dramatic conviction. His response, on the surface to those watching, looked genuine. He raged and vowed that Joseph would pay dearly for this disloyalty. But I could see the hurt behind his eyes, the suspicion that all was not what it seemed. He knew Joseph well, and he also knew me.

“What have you done?” he hissed when no one was in earshot.

As such, Joseph ended up in prison, and I ended up with an angry husband. There were no winners in this situation.

Aw, but there was a winner! Joseph, the hero of this story, became the world’s most powerful prisoner and later ended up in the palace as the king’s righthand man.

God rewarded Joseph for resisting temptation and remaining faithful to Him. If Zuleika (who is not identified by name in the Bible but in the Koran) was truly trying to seduce Joseph, the scene would likely include sights and actions more lewd than I described here. Sexual temptation can be challenging for any heterosexual male.

However, God promises that we will never be tempted beyond what we can bear. But our hearts have to be committed to the Father, like Joseph’s. 1 Corinthians 10:13 explains:

There’s a lot of evil in the world, and there are many temptations. Satan knows which ones are the hardest for us to resist, and those are the ones he’ll throw at us.

The Lord’s Prayer includes the line “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” While God never tempts us to sin, sometimes He allows us to be tested. But the verses above assure us that, with His strength, we can persevere and overcome such trials without giving in to temptations.

James suggests that we should be grateful for such tests and trials:

If you read the story of Joseph, you realize that he had a lot of growing to do before he reached spiritual maturity. That should give us hope that we will get there too!

Do you ever feel like the situations you face and their invitations to sin are beyond your capability? They may be beyond YOUR capability but not God’s. Put on the armor of God and team up with Him. That’s a force to be reckoned with!

If Joseph could run from temptation, you can do it too.

Father, I pray for Your strength and wisdom. Help me to recognize Satan’s temptations and to resist them. As I spend time with You and claim the promises in Your Word, my capacity to fight off the devil and his tactics grows. Thank You for loving me and watching over me. You are my refuge and strength. Amen.

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