39:1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt. 1 An Egyptian named Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh and the captain of the guard, 2 purchased him from 3 the Ishmaelites who had brought him there. 39:2 The Lord was with Joseph. He was successful 4 and lived 5 in the household of his Egyptian master. 39:3 His master observed that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he was doing successful. 6 39:4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal attendant. 7 Potiphar appointed Joseph 8 overseer of his household and put him in charge 9 of everything he owned. 39:5 From the time 10 Potiphar 11 appointed him over his household and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed 12 the Egyptian’s household for Joseph’s sake. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that he had, both 13 in his house and in his fields. 14 39:6 So Potiphar 15 left 16 everything he had in Joseph’s care; 17 he gave no thought 18 to anything except the food he ate. 19
Now Joseph was well built and good-looking. 20 39:7 Soon after these things, his master’s wife took notice of 21 Joseph and said, “Have sex with me.” 22 39:8 But he refused, saying 23 to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not give any thought 24 to his household with me here, 25 and everything that he owns he has put into my care. 26 39:9 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 27 such a great evil and sin against God?” 39:10 Even though she continued to speak 28 to Joseph day after day, he did not respond 29 to her invitation to have sex with her. 30
39:11 One day 31 he went into the house to do his work when none of the household servants 32 were there in the house. 39:12 She grabbed him by his outer garment, saying, “Have sex with me!” But he left his outer garment in her hand and ran 33 outside. 34 39:13 When she saw that he had left his outer garment in her hand and had run outside, 39:14 she called for her household servants and said to them, “See, my husband brought 35 in a Hebrew man 36 to us to humiliate us. 37 He tried to have sex with me, 38 but I screamed loudly. 39 39:15 When he heard me raise 40 my voice and scream, he left his outer garment beside me and ran outside.”
39:16 So she laid his outer garment beside her until his master came home. 39:17 This is what she said to him: 41 “That Hebrew slave 42 you brought to us tried to humiliate me, 43 39:18 but when I raised my voice and screamed, he left his outer garment and ran outside.”
39:19 When his master heard his wife say, 44 “This is the way 45 your slave treated me,” 46 he became furious. 47 39:20 Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison, 48 the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So he was there in the prison. 49
39:21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness. 50 He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden. 51 39:22 The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care. He was in charge of whatever they were doing. 52 39:23 The warden did not concern himself 53 with anything that was in Joseph’s 54 care because the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful.
[39:1] 1 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.
[39:4] 7 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.
[39:5] 12 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).
[39:5] 14 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.
[39:6] 16 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.
[39:7] 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.
[39:14] 35 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).
[39:14] 37 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.
[39:17] 43 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.
[39:20] 49 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.