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Genesis 39

39
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt.#tn 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. An Egyptian named Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard,#sn Captain of the guard. See the note on this phrase in Gen 37:36. purchased him from#tn Heb “from the hand of.” the Ishmaelites who had brought him there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph. He was successful#tn 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). and lived#tn Heb “and he was.” 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.#tn The Hebrew text adds “in his hand,” a phrase not included in the translation for stylistic reasons. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal attendant.#sn 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. Potiphar appointed Joseph#tn Heb “him”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity. overseer of his household and put him in charge#tn Heb “put into his hand.” of everything he owned. 5 From the time#tn Heb “and it was from then.” Potiphar#tn Heb “he”; the referent (Potiphar) has been specified in the translation for clarity. appointed him over his household and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed#sn 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). the Egyptian’s household for Joseph’s sake. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that he had, both#tn Heb “in the house and in the field.” The word “both” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. in his house and in his fields.#sn 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. 6 So Potiphar#tn Heb “he”; the referent (Potiphar) has been specified in the translation for clarity. left#sn 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. everything he had in Joseph’s care;#tn Heb “hand.” This is a metonymy for being under the control or care of Joseph. he gave no thought#tn Heb “did not know.” to anything except the food he ate.#sn The expression except the food he ate probably refers to Potiphar’s private affairs and should not be limited literally to what he ate.
Now Joseph was well built and good-looking.#tn Heb “handsome of form and handsome of appearance.” The same Hebrew expressions were used in Gen 29:17 for Rachel. 7 Soon after these things, his master’s wife took notice of#tn Heb “she lifted up her eyes toward,” an expression that emphasizes her deliberate and careful scrutiny of him. Joseph and said, “Have sex with me.”#tn Heb “lie with me.” Here the expression “lie with” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.sn 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. 8 But he refused, saying#tn Heb “and he said.” to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not give any thought#tn Heb “know.” to his household with me here,#tn The word “here” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. and everything that he owns he has put into my care.#tn Heb “hand.” This is a metonymy for being under the control or care of Joseph. 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 do#tn The nuance of potential imperfect fits this context. such a great evil and sin against God?” 10 Even though she continued to speak#tn 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. to Joseph day after day, he did not respond#tn Heb “listen to.” to her invitation to have sex with her.#tn Heb “to lie beside her to be with her.” Here the expression “to lie beside” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.
11 One day#tn Heb “and it was about this day.” he went into the house to do his work when none of the household servants#tn Heb “the men of the house.” 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 ran#tn Heb “he fled and he went out.” The construction emphasizes the point that Joseph got out of there quickly. outside.#sn For discussion of this episode, see A. M. Honeyman, “The Occasion of Joseph’s Temptation,” VT 2 (1952): 85-87. 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 brought#tn 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). in a Hebrew man#sn A Hebrew man. Potiphar’s wife raises the ethnic issue when talking to her servants about what their boss had done. to us to humiliate us.#tn 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. He tried to have sex with me,#tn Heb “he came to me to lie with me.” Here the expression “lie with” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse. but I screamed loudly.#tn Heb “and I cried out with a loud voice.” 15 When he heard me raise#tn Heb “that I raised.” 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:#tn Heb “and she spoke to him according to these words, saying.” “That Hebrew slave#sn That Hebrew slave. Now, when speaking to her husband, Potiphar’s wife refers to Joseph as a Hebrew slave, a very demeaning description. you brought to us tried to humiliate me,#tn 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. 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,#tn Heb “and when his master heard the words of his wife which she spoke to him, saying.” “This is the way#tn Heb “according to these words.” your slave treated me,”#tn Heb “did to me.” he became furious.#tn Heb “his anger burned.” 20 Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison,#tn Heb “the house of roundness,” suggesting that the prison might have been a fortress or citadel. the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So he was there in the prison.#sn 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.
21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness.#tn Heb “and he extended to him loyal love.” He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden.#tn Or “the chief jailer” (also in the following verses). 22 The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care. He was in charge of whatever they were doing.#tn 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. 23 The warden did not concern himself#tn Heb “was not looking at anything.” with anything that was in Joseph’s#tn Heb “his”; the referent (Joseph) has been specified in the translation for clarity. care because the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful.
39
1After Joseph had been taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelites, Potiphar an Egyptian, one of Pharaoh’s officials and the manager of his household, bought him from them.
2-6As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him. He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master. His master recognized that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did. He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide. He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian—all because of Joseph. The blessing of God spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day.
6-7Joseph was a strikingly handsome man. As time went on, his master’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, “Sleep with me.”
8-9He wouldn’t do it. He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here—he’s put me in charge of everything he owns. He treats me as an equal. The only thing he hasn’t turned over to me is you. You’re his wife, after all! How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”
10She pestered him day after day after day, but he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her.
11-15On one of these days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there. She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!” He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house. When she realized that he had left his coat in her hand and run outside, she called to her house servants: “Look—this Hebrew shows up and before you know it he’s trying to seduce us. He tried to make love to me but I yelled as loud as I could. With all my yelling and screaming, he left his coat beside me here and ran outside.”
16-18She kept his coat right there until his master came home. She told him the same story. She said, “The Hebrew slave, the one you brought to us, came after me and tried to use me for his plaything. When I yelled and screamed, he left his coat with me and ran outside.”
19-23When his master heard his wife’s story, telling him, “These are the things your slave did to me,” he was furious. Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the jail where the king’s prisoners were locked up. But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners—he ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.