Revisiting The Character of Potiphar’s Wife: A Narrative Criticism of Genesis 39
The character of Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39:6-18 narrative has been interpreted partially and portrayed negatively as an adulterous or immoral woman while Joseph has been described as a righteous hero. This view of Potiphar’s wife could be used to portray women unfairly on sexual matters. However, the other side of both Potiphar’s wife and Joseph has been given less attention by many interpreters. This paper argues that a close reading of Genesis 39: 6-18 narrative creates an in-depth and holistic understanding of the character of Potiphar’s wife who is at the margins of condemnation as an immoral woman, adulterous or a seducer. In attempting to reconstruct socially the image of Potiphar’s wife, this paper used Narrative Criticism approach to exegesis of Genesis 39:6-18 with specific reference to Robert Alter’s Convention of Characterization in revealing the other side of Potiphar’s wife. This paper characterizes Potiphar’s wife as a daring and brave woman. As a woman who had been neglected by her husband (Potiphar), she devised a way to reclaim attention and also to access resources (power) in the household that had been taken away from her. This paper reveals that deceptiveness was not largely a negative characteristic rather a technique used by women such as Potiphar’s wife in the Ancient Near East world to contest the oppressive patriarchal systems. Further, this paper argues that Potiphar’s wife was an honest and trustworthy woman whom her husband could not suspect her testimony against Joseph. Finally, she was just an active accomplice of propagating the garment motif theme in the Jacob’s cycle.
Keywords: Narrative, Narrative Criticism, Characterization, Exegesis, Conventions and Robert Alter Convention of Characterization