As depicted in the Book of Genesis 39:1-20, Joseph was a handsome young Israelite. Since his father loved him more, his brothers became jealous and they despised him. One day they kidnapped Joseph and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to Potiphar. Potiphar served as the Commander of the Royal Guards in Pharaoh’s court and was known among his fellows as the Chief Butcher. Potiphar had many slaves. However, by dint of hard work and intelligence, Joseph rose through the ranks of the household slaves, and eventually became the overseer. Under Joseph’s supervision, everything ran smoothly in the house and this made Potiphar happy. Since he was thus left free of responsibility, he felt free to devote himself to his one great passion, food. It is true that everybody has the right to enjoy his or her food and there is no wrong in it. But, in this particular case the implication of the text is different. It means that, Potiphar had no interest in any of the other normal pleasures of life, including sex with his wife.
Within no time, Potiphar’s Egyptian wife, a lonely and sexually unsatisfied bored woman, became attracted by the strongly built handsome Joseph. Under the grip of uncontrollable lust, she tried to seduce him and finally approached Joseph to share the bed with her. But Joseph was a good soul, and he did not take advantage of her indecent offer. He simply refused her proposal, as he felt it amounts to sin against his master and against God.
However, the lady did not give up her idea. She tried to pursue him day after day, while he always refused and tried to avoid her. However, one day, in the absence of others, she grabbed his cloak and pleaded him to make love to her. Finding no other way, Joseph left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. The lady became furious, as she was extremely insulted. When her husband came home, she showed him Joseph’s cloak and reported that his Hebrew slave tried to rape her, but as she screamed for help he left his cloak and escaped. The master believed the story and ordered to put Joseph in prison.
Like many other stories depicted in the Bible, the story of Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, considered by many as unprecedented in its erotic candor, incited the imagination of many old masters.