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Genesis 39

39
1 Meanwhile, Joseph was led into Egypt. And Putiphar, a eunuch of Pharaoh, a leader of the army, an Egyptian man, purchased him from the hand of the Ishmaelites, by whom he was brought.
2 And the Lord was with him, and he was a man who prospered in everything that he did. And he lived in the house of his lord,
3 who knew very well that the Lord was with him, and that all the things that were done by him were directed by his hand.
4 And Joseph found favor in the sight of his lord, and he ministered to him. And, having been placed in charge of everything by him, he governed the house that was entrusted to him and all the things that had been delivered to him.
5 And the Lord blessed the house of the Egyptian, because of Joseph, and he multiplied all his substance, as much in the buildings, as in the fields.
6 Neither did he know anything other than the bread that he ate. Now Joseph was beautiful in form, and stately in appearance.
7 And so, after many days, his mistress cast her eyes on Joseph, and she said, "Sleep with me."
8 And without consenting at all to the wicked act, he said to her: "Behold, my lord has delivered all things to me, and he does not know what he has in his own house.
9 Neither is there anything which is not in my power, or that he has not delivered to me, except you, for you are his wife. How then can I do this evil act and sin against my God?"
10 With such words as these, throughout each day, the woman was pestering the young man, and he was refusing the adultery.
11 Then it happened, on a certain day, that Joseph entered the house, and he was doing something, without any witnesses.
12 And she, grasping the hem of his garment, said, "Sleep with me." But he, leaving behind the cloak in her hand, fled and went outside.
13 And when the woman saw the garment in her hands and herself being treated with disrespect,
14 she called to herself the men of her house, and she said to them: "Lo, he has brought in a Hebrew man to abuse us. He entered toward me, in order to join with me; and when I had shouted out,
15 and he had heard my voice, he left behind the cloak that I held, and he fled outside."
16 As a proof, therefore, of her fidelity, she retained the cloak, and she showed it to her husband, when he returned home.
17 And she said: "The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought in to me, approached me to abuse me.
18 And when he had heard me cry out, he left behind the cloak that I held, and he fled outside."
19 His lord, upon hearing these things, and having excessive trust in the words of his mate, was very angry.
20 And he delivered Joseph into prison, where the prisoners of the king were kept, and he was enclosed in that place.
21 But the Lord was with Joseph, and, having mercy on him, he gave him favor in the sight of the leader of the prison,
22 who delivered into his hand all the prisoners who were held in custody. And whatever was done, was under him.
23 Neither did he himself know anything, having entrusted all things to him. For the Lord was with him, and he directed everything that he did.
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.