YOSEF IN TRAINING Gen 39
CONTEXT: Following the side story of Tamar in ch. 38, the Yosef narrative resumes with a small difference: here Yishm’elim (Ishmaelites) bring him down to Mitsrayim (Egypt), instead of Midyanim (Midianites) as in 37:36.
The words v. 6, describing Yosef’s looks, a beauty in shape, a beauty in appearance, are the same used to describe his mother, Rachel, 29:19.
GLOSSARY: Eunuch, (v.1) saris, סָרִיס, is the Hebrew cognate, or translation, of the Akkadian title of office: ša rēši, “the one of the (king’s) head.” The position was some sort of courtier and the usage points to eunuch. Tanach translators tend to render “officer,” unless there is clear reference to emasculation as in Isaiah 56:3, or in connection with harem keepers as in Book of Esther. Assyriologist and Biblical Scholar Hayim Tadmor argues convincingly that the title referred to eunuchs in early Akkadian writings and biblical usage likely means the same.
(“Was the Biblical sārîs a Eunuch?” in Solving Riddles and Untying Knots, Eisenbrauns, 1995, pp.317-325.) Potifar being a eunuch would certainly make sense in the present story.
Ivri, עִבְרִי, vs. 14, 17, commonly rendered “Hebrew,” is mostly an outsider’s term for B’neyYisrael, the insider term. The root, a-b-r, עבר, means “cross over,” referring to people who crossed over a river to get here.
Roundhouse, beyt hasohar, הַסֹהַר בּית, occurs only in the Genesis Yosef stories. Sohar, סֹהַר, signifying “round” has come to mean “jail/prison” in modern Hebrew.
1Yosef was brought down to Mitsrayim. Potifar–eunuch of Paroh, chief slaughterer, Mitsri man–bought him from the hand of the Yishm’elim who had brought him there.
2Yahh was with Yosef and he was a successful man. He was at the house of his lord, the Mitsri. 3His lord saw that Yahh was with him, bringing success to his hand in everything he did. 4Yosef found favor in his eyes and ministered to him. Potifar appointed him over his household, and all that he had he gave into his hand. 5It happened, subsequent to his appointing him in the house and all he had, that Yahh blessed the house of the Mitsri on account of Yosef. Yahh’s blessing was on all he had in the house and in the field. 6Apart from the bread he ate, Potifar left everything he had in Yosef’s hand, not knowing anything along with him.
Yosef was a beauty in shape, a beauty in appearance. 7It happened, after these things, that his lord’s woman lifted her eyes towards Yosef. “Lie with me,” she said.
8He refused, and said to her, “After all, my lord does not know, along with me, what is what in the house. Everything he has he has given into my hand. -9In this house he is no greater than I. He has not withheld from me anything but you, you being his woman. How can I do this great evil? I would be sinning against God.”
10It happened, with her speaking to Yosef daily, that he did not listen to her to lie by her, to be with her. 11Then it happened on such a day as this, that he came to the house to do his work and none of the men of the house were there. 12She grabbed him by his clothing to say, “Lie with me!” He left his clothing in her hand and fled. He went outdoors. 13When she saw that he had left his clothing in her hand and had fled outdoors, 14she called the men of the house and said to them, “See! He brought us an Ivri man to sport with us. He came to me to lie together but I cried aloud. 15When he heard my loud voice he left his clothing with me he fled and went outdoors.”
16She laid his clothing with herself till his lord’s coming home 17and spoke to him about these things. “He came to me! The Ivri slave that you brought us, to sport with me. 18Then when I lifted my voice and cried out he left his clothing with me and fled outdoors.”
19It happened, when his lord heard the words his woman spoke to him, “such things your slave did to me,” that his anger burned. 20Yosef’s lord took him and gave him into the roundhouse, the place where the king’s prisoners were imprisoned.
So it was there in the roundhouse 21that Yahh was with Yosef. He extended lovingkindness to him. He gave Yosef’s grace into the eyes of the roundhouse chief.
©Rabbi David L. Kline http://good-to-be-a-jew.blogspot.com/