Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt.1 An Egyptian named Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard,2 purchased him from3 the Ishmaelites who had brought him there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph. He was successful4 and lived5 in the household of his Egyptian master. 3 His master observed that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he was doing successful.6 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal attendant.7 Potiphar appointed Joseph8 overseer of his household and put him in charge9 of everything he owned. 5 From the time10 Potiphar11 appointed him over his household and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed12 the Egyptian’s household for Joseph’s sake. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that he had, both13 in his house and in his fields.14 6 So Potiphar15 left16 everything he had in Joseph’s care;17 he gave no thought18 to anything except the food he ate.19

Now Joseph was well built and good-looking.20 7 Soon after these things, his master’s wife took notice of21 Joseph and said, “Have sex with me.”22 8 But he refused, saying23 to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not give any thought24 to his household with me here,25 and everything that he owns he has put into my care.26 9 There is no one greater in this household than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you because you are his wife. So how could I do27 such a great evil and sin against God? 10 Even though she continued to speak28 to Joseph day after day, he did not respond29 to her invitation to have sex with her.30

11 One day31 he went into the house to do his work when none of the household servants32 were there in the house. 12 She grabbed him by his outer garment, saying, “Have sex with me!” But he left his outer garment in her hand and ran33 outside.34 13 When she saw that he had left his outer garment in her hand and had run outside, 14 she called for her household servants and said to them, “See, my husband brought35 in a Hebrew man36 to us to humiliate us.37 He tried to have sex with me,38 but I screamed loudly.39 15 When he heard me raise40 my voice and scream, he left his outer garment beside me and ran outside.”

16 So she laid his outer garment beside her until his master came home. 17 This is what she said to him:41 “That Hebrew slave42 you brought to us tried to humiliate me,43 18 but when I raised my voice and screamed, he left his outer garment and ran outside.”

19 When his master heard his wife say,44This is the way45 your slave treated me,”46 he became furious.47 20 Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison,48 the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So he was there in the prison.49

21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness.50 He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden.51 22 The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care. He was in charge of whatever they were doing.52 23 The warden did not concern himself53 with anything that was in Joseph’s54 care because the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful.

139:1tn The disjunctive clause resumes the earlier narrative pertaining to Joseph by recapitulating the event described in 37:36. The perfect verbal form is given a past perfect translation to restore the sequence of the narrative for the reader. 239:1sn Captain of the guard. See the note on this phrase in Gen 37:36. 339:1tn Heb “from the hand of.” 439:2tn Heb “and he was a prosperous man.” This does not mean that Joseph became wealthy, but that he was successful in what he was doing, or making progress in his situation (see 24:21). 539:2tn Heb “and he was.” 639:3tn The Hebrew text adds “in his hand,” a phrase not included in the translation for stylistic reasons. 739:4sn The Hebrew verb translated became his personal attendant refers to higher domestic service, usually along the lines of a personal attendant. Here Joseph is made the household steward, a position well-attested in Egyptian literature. 839:4tn Heb “him”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 939:4tn Heb “put into his hand.” 1039:5tn Heb “and it was from then.” 1139:5tn Heb “he”; the referent (Potiphar) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 1239:5sn The Hebrew word translated blessed carries the idea of enrichment, prosperity, success. It is the way believers describe success at the hand of God. The text illustrates the promise made to Abraham that whoever blesses his descendants will be blessed (Gen 12:1-3). 1339:5tn Heb “in the house and in the field.” The word “both” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. 1439:5sn The passage gives us a good picture of Joseph as a young man who was responsible and faithful, both to his master and to his God. This happened within a very short time of his being sold into Egypt. It undermines the view that Joseph was a liar, a tattletale, and an arrogant adolescent. 1539:6tn Heb “he”; the referent (Potiphar) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 1639:6sn The Hebrew verb translated left indicates he relinquished the care of it to Joseph. This is stronger than what was said earlier. Apparently Potiphar had come to trust Joseph so much that he knew it was in better care with Joseph than with anyone else. 1739:6tn Heb “hand.” This is a metonymy for being under the control or care of Joseph. 1839:6tn Heb “did not know.” 1939:6sn The expression except the food he ate probably refers to Potiphar’s private affairs and should not be limited literally to what he ate. 2039:6tn Heb “handsome of form and handsome of appearance.” The same Hebrew expressions were used in Gen 29:17 for Rachel. 2139:7tn Heb “she lifted up her eyes toward,” an expression that emphasizes her deliberate and careful scrutiny of him. 2239:7tn Heb “lie with me.” Here the expression “lie with” is a euphemism for sexual The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife has long been connected with the wisdom warnings about the strange woman who tries to seduce the young man with her boldness and directness (see Prov 5-7, especially 7:6-27). This is part of the literary background of the story of Joseph that gives it a wisdom flavor. See G. von Rad, God at Work in Israel, 19-35; and G. W. Coats, “The Joseph Story and Ancient Wisdom: A Reappraisal,” CBQ 35 (1973): 285-97. 2339:8tn Heb “and he said.” 2439:8tn Heb “know.” 2539:8tn The word “here” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. 2639:8tn Heb “hand.” This is a metonymy for being under the control or care of Joseph. 2739:9tn The nuance of potential imperfect fits this context. 2839:10tn The verse begins with the temporal indicator, followed by the infinitive construct with the preposition כְּ (kÿ). This clause could therefore be taken as temporal. 2939:10tn Heb “listen to.” 3039:10tn Heb “to lie beside her to be with her.” Here the expression “to lie beside” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. 3139:11tn Heb “and it was about this day.” 3239:11tn Heb “the men of the house.” 3339:12tn Heb “he fled and he went out.” The construction emphasizes the point that Joseph got out of there quickly. 3439:12sn For discussion of this episode, see A. M. Honeyman, “The Occasion of Joseph’s Temptation,” VT 2 (1952): 85-87. 3539:14tn The verb has no expressed subject, and so it could be treated as a passive (“a Hebrew man was brought in”; cf. NIV). But it is clear from the context that her husband brought Joseph into the household, so Potiphar is the apparent referent here. Thus the translation supplies “my husband” as the referent of the unspecified pronominal subject of the verb (cf. NEB, NRSV). 3639:14sn A Hebrew man. Potiphar’s wife raises the ethnic issue when talking to her servants about what their boss had done. 3739:14tn Heb “to make fun of us.” The verb translated “to humiliate us” here means to hold something up for ridicule, or to toy with something harmfully. Attempted rape would be such an activity, for it would hold the victim in contempt. 3839:14tn Heb “he came to me to lie with me.” Here the expression “lie with” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. 3939:14tn Heb “and I cried out with a loud voice.” 4039:15tn Heb “that I raised.” 4139:17tn Heb “and she spoke to him according to these words, saying.” 4239:17sn That Hebrew slave. Now, when speaking to her husband, Potiphar’s wife refers to Joseph as a Hebrew slave, a very demeaning description. 4339:17tn Heb “came to me to make fun of me.” The statement needs no explanation because of the connotations of “came to me” and “to make fun of me.” See the note on the expression “humiliate us” in v. 14. 4439:19tn Heb “and when his master heard the words of his wife which she spoke to him, saying.” 4539:19tn Heb “according to these words.” 4639:19tn Heb “did to me.” 4739:19tn Heb “his anger burned.” 4839:20tn Heb “the house of roundness,” suggesting that the prison might have been a fortress or citadel. 4939:20sn The story of Joseph is filled with cycles and repetition: He has two dreams (chap. 37), he interprets two dreams in prison (chap. 40) and the two dreams of Pharaoh (chap. 41), his brothers make two trips to see him (chaps. 42-43), and here, for the second time (see 37:24), he is imprisoned for no good reason, with only his coat being used as evidence. For further discussion see H. Jacobsen, “A Legal Note on Potiphar’s Wife,” HTR 69 (1976): 177. 5039:21tn Heb “and he extended to him loyal love.” 5139:21tn Or “the chief jailer” (also in the following verses). 5239:22tn Heb “all which they were doing there, he was doing.” This probably means that Joseph was in charge of everything that went on in the prison. 5339:23tn Heb “was not looking at anything.” 5439:23tn Heb “his”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity.