Joseph in Potiphar’s Household

Nov 29, 2015

וְיוֹסֵף הוּרַד מִצְרָיְמָה וַיִּקְנֵהוּ פּוֹטִיפַר סְרִיס פַּרְעֹה שַׂר הַטַּבָּחִים אִישׁ מִצְרִי מִיַּד הַיִּשְׁמְעֵאלִים אֲשֶׁר הוֹרִדֻהוּ שָׁמָּה׃

When Yosef was taken down to Egypt, a certain Egyptian, Potiphar, a courtier of Pharaoh and his chief steward, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him there.

v'-yo-SAYF hu-RAD mitz-RA-y'-mah va-yik-NAY-hu po-tee-FAR s'-REES par-OH SAR ha-ta-ba-KHEEM EESH mitz-REE mi-YAD ha-yish-m'-ay-LEEM a-SHER ho-ri-DU-hu SHA-mah

Genesis 39:1

אֵין שַׂר בֵּית־הַסֹּהַר רֹאֶה אֶת־כָּל־מְאוּמָה בְּיָדוֹ בַּאֲשֶׁר יְהֹוָה אִתּוֹ וַאֲשֶׁר־הוּא עֹשֶׂה יְהֹוָה מַצְלִיחַ׃

The chief jailer did not supervise anything that was in Yosef's charge, because Hashem was with him, and whatever he did Hashem made successful.

Genesis 39:23

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?

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