Joseph in Potiphar’s Household

Genesis 39:1-23

The narrative returns to the story of Joseph, now a servant in the household of Potiphar, a prominent Egyptian. Joseph rises through the ranks in Potiphar’s house, until he is appointed custodian over the whole household.


The Torah relates that Joseph is very attractive, and he catches the attention of Potiphar’s wife. She tries repeatedly to seduce him, but he spurns her efforts. One day, she catches him alone in the house, and grabs at his clothing. He flees her advances, leaving his garment in her hands.


Mrs. Potiphar takes the garment as proof, and runs out to the other servants, claiming that Joseph attacked her and she screamed for help, causing him to flee. She tells her husband a similar lie, and he has Joseph jailed for his supposed betrayal. Like in Potiphar’s house, however, Joseph rises to prominence in jail, as well, and becomes trusted by the warden. Through it all, the Torah tells us, God is with Joseph, helping him succeed and prosper.


Early on, the Torah uses the adjectives “the Egyptian” and “the Ivri” (Hebrew) to describe Potiphar and Joseph respectively, despite the fact that their nationalities by now are well-known. The Israel Bible points out that the Egyptians generally looked down upon the nomadic tribes, such as the Hebrews, yet despite this prejudice, Joseph is very successful, finding favor in the eyes of the Egyptian, Potiphar. This demonstrates the Divine Providence behind Joseph’s success.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Do you think Potiphar really believes his wife? Why or why not?

Comments ( 3 )

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  • Herman Arentsen

    I think that Potiphar did not believe his wife otherwise he should have killed Joseph as a rapist. But he saw the person Joseph had been and the hand of G-d on his life.

  • SueJean Heinz

    I don't believe that Potiphar is unaware of his wife's true nature, nor is he unaware of Yoseph's truthfulness and integrity. He has placed Yoseph in control of his entire household which is clearly a sign of confidence in a very young man from a different culture and background. I don't believe he would have done such a thing if he didn't trust the young man implicitly.
    Unfortunately, he must follow the customs of his position and defend the "appearance" of honor for his wife's sake as that would have also hurt his household. He mitigates the damages somewhat by having Yoseph thrown into prison rather than put him to death, but he doesn't completely abandon the lad as he reappears later on in the story in a very supportive role and helps Yoseph find his way to Pharoah.
    Baruch Hashem.

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