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Violence in the Story of Joseph and His Master’s Wife

Kim, Yoo-ki 1

1서울여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article raises a question whether the advances of Potiphar’s wife to Joseph in Genesis 39 can be termed as a seduction. It aims at defining the interactions between Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in a way that reflects what the narrator thinks Joseph went through in the story. We begin by investigating the means of participant reference. We examine how Joseph, Potiphar, and his wife are referred to in the story. Then, we compare some expressions of Genesis 39 with those of 2 Samuel 13, the story of Tamar and Ammon. We also look into the story in Proverbs 7 that deals with the seduction of a young man by a married woman, to take a glimpse of what constitutes a seduction in the ancient world. Joseph is often mentioned by name by the narrator but in direct discourse his master’s wife refers to him with derogatory expressions. Potiphar is mentioned by name only once at the beginning of the story and afterwards referred to as Joseph’s master. His wife’s name never appears, while she is referred to as “his master’s wife”. The comparison of this story with the story of Tamar and Amnon shows that both Joseph and Tamar are portrayed as “beautiful” and that their counterparts order them to “lie with me” after seizing them while they themselves resist the violence with reasonable responses. The images of a seductive woman and a young man in the story of Proverbs 7 are also at odds with those of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph, respectively. The means of participant reference in the story portray Joseph as a powerless slave to his master. The words and actions of Potiphar’s wife are shown to be as violent as those of Amnon. Potiphar’s wife was certainly not a seductive woman the story in Proverbs 7 describes, while Joseph was not seduced but harassed by his master’s wife.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.