Which piece of cloth? as it is preceded by the definite article! The garment which was shown by Potiphar’s wife to Potiphar, as a symbol for Joseph having attempted to outrage the modesty of Potiphar’s wife.
The same garment which was actually the proof of Joseph having fled from his youthful lust (that is, if you believe what is mentioned in Genesis Ch.39 ) became a PROOF of the allegation of Joseph’s attempted, shall we call it RAPE? There is no such thing as “attempt of rape”, at least to the best of my knowledge in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Either it should have been committed for it to be called thus or it isn’t! Rest of all unwelcome tactile sexual advances could be called only an “outrage” of the modesty of a woman. Another fault is that the “outrage the modesty of a woman” presupposes universal modesty in woman – am i sure? Nay.
So the case was decided in favour of the complainant, who had a proof in the garment of Joseph in her hands. THE BIBLE says: POTIPHAR’S WRATH WAS KINDLED! Even assuming that Potiphar had asked for an explanation from Joseph, let us ask ourselves IF JOSEPH COULD HAVE NARRATED THE TRUTH? Had he, then that would have shown his master as an ‘ATTEMPTED CUCKOLD’ and in the eyes of the master and his mistress he would have instead of explaining his innocence would have to ACCUSE his mistress as History’s FIRST ATTEMPTER OF RAPING A MALE, well how can a woman rape a male without him having an erection? So let us call Potiphar’s wife’s offence as ATTEMPT TO DOCK A MALE. That would have had direr consequences – Potiphar would have wanted to “silence” him of the secrets of his wife, who probably had descended to the level of a slave, because of the constant assault on her senses arising out of proximity.
In any case, Potiphar jailed Joseph and ensured that Joseph was sequestered from the wanton ways of his wife. At verse 16 it says: AND SHE LAID UP HIS GARMENT BY HER, UNTIL HIS LORD CAME HOME! King James Version English is amazing! LAID UP instead of ‘kept’ or ‘hid’ the garment – Potiphar’s wife seems to have quite exhilarated about having been at least with the shards of Joseph for a while, instead of having been disgusted with a slave’s garment! Further, it is HIS LORD and not HER HUSBAND or HER LORD!
Thus the piece of cloth served as a proof in her hands not as a remnant of the failed attempt of a faithless wife, but to exonerate herself and to also wreak vengeance ‘on a sow which refused to respect the pearls offered to it in private’.
The problem is that this is an episode narrated in the Bible and as a Christian I have to believe in everything said in the Bible, but when we reconstruct the same episode scene by scene like a script writer of an historical episode, there are different weightages to be apportioned to each piece of evidence, otherwise we would be placing emphasis on where it is not due. But who is to decide on the correctness of ascription of weightage? So that is where LIBERTY comes in and God in his wisdom has given the balance to weigh according to the moral fibre of the man who weighs.
So if we go scene by scene would we have decided in favour of Potiphar’s wife, had we been Potiphar?
Even if Joseph had told the whole truth, as only 3 persons knew the TRUTH, one was Joseph, second Potiphar’s wife and as always, God. Now God cannot be a witness, except when he chooses to be one, in insignificant human disputes! And in this case, the winner who had written this part, was on Joseph’s side, but at that point, it was a wife’s word against a slave’s word. To compound, Potiphar had to rise to defend his honour in which , if Potiphar were to have believed Joseph’s version, that would have been a hara-kiri on his manhood. Naturally Potiphar went with his wife!
PITY, was what was evoked in our hearts, and like as in Job’s case, had the end not compensated for the calamities in the middle, it would have never found a place in the scriptures as a superb morale booster to the endurance in sufferings of the present.
It all boils down to whether the ‘piece of cloth’ serves that day’s POLITICAL PURPOSE. TRUTH dawns much later. Have we taken sides yet? Better not, we have heard only one side of the story – Moses’ recounting of a history which was at least 400 years old. As some wisely say: ANYTHING COULD HAVE HAPPENED.