39:1 A certain Egyptian
The verse here labels Potiphar ish mitzree (איש מצרי), ‘an Egyptian,’ in contrast to Yosef, who is called Ha’Ivri (העברי), ‘the Hebrew’ (verse 14). Since we already know the nationalities of these individuals, why are the labels necessary? The Egyptians were known for their arrogance and condescension towards the nomadic tribes. Despite their prejudice, Yosef will rise in rank among them. He will succeed at every task presented to him, and subsequently find favor in the eyes of Potiphar, the Egyptian royal official. Only Divine Providence could bring about the success of a mere “Hebrew,” as the next verse says “Hashem was with Yosef, and he was a successful man.” Yosef demonstrates that when a person puts himself in the hands of God, he can succeed beyond expectation.