The woman in the Old Testament story of Joseph is Potiphar’s wife, who attempts to seduce Joseph but fails. Therefore, Potiphar’s wife, like women in many ancient texts, is portrayed as a seductress. She is aggressive, domineering, self-serving, and hard-headed—not only with Joseph, but with the other women, whom she considers her rivals and intends to shame. She is referred to not by name, but only as the African wife of Potiphar, and she is portrayed in the story as an evil woman who uses her sexuality as power. The harder she tries to seduce Joseph, however, the stronger he becomes in his resistance.
Though Potiphar’s wife appears to have power, Joseph has more power. Furthermore, the story conveys the idea that women only become powerful by using trickery and deceit. The story also conveys the idea that while women have power in the private sphere (i.e., their sexual power over men), they do not have power in the public sphere, nor can they stand up to men in terms of morality and honor. The story portrays woman as evil, underhanded, vengeful, and deceitful. Thus, according to the story, women cannot be trusted not to lead men into temptation, and they should be regarded with suspicion.