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Genesis 39:7-20

39:7 Soon after these things, his master’s wife took notice of 1  Joseph and said, “Have sex with me.” 2  39:8 But he refused, saying 3  to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not give any thought 4  to his household with me here, 5  and everything that he owns he has put into my care. 6  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 7  such a great evil and sin against God?” 39:10 Even though she continued to speak 8  to Joseph day after day, he did not respond 9  to her invitation to have sex with her. 10 

39:11 One day 11  he went into the house to do his work when none of the household servants 12  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 13  outside. 14  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 15  in a Hebrew man 16  to us to humiliate us. 17  He tried to have sex with me, 18  but I screamed loudly. 19  39:15 When he heard me raise 20  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: 21  “That Hebrew slave 22  you brought to us tried to humiliate me, 23  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, 24  “This is the way 25  your slave treated me,” 26  he became furious. 27  39:20 Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison, 28  the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So he was there in the prison. 29 

1 tn Heb “she lifted up her eyes toward,” an expression that emphasizes her deliberate and careful scrutiny of him.

2 tn Heb “lie with me.” Here the expression “lie with” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.

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.

3 tn Heb “and he said.”

4 tn Heb “know.”

5 tn The word “here” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

6 tn Heb “hand.” This is a metonymy for being under the control or care of Joseph.

7 tn The nuance of potential imperfect fits this context.

8 tn The verse begins with the temporal indicator, followed by the infinitive construct with the preposition כְּ (kÿ). This clause could therefore be taken as temporal.

9 tn Heb “listen to.”

10 tn Heb “to lie beside her to be with her.” Here the expression “to lie beside” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.

11 tn Heb “and it was about this day.”

12 tn Heb “the men of the house.”

13 tn Heb “he fled and he went out.” The construction emphasizes the point that Joseph got out of there quickly.

14 sn For discussion of this episode, see A. M. Honeyman, “The Occasion of Joseph’s Temptation,” VT 2 (1952): 85-87.

15 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).

16 sn A Hebrew man. Potiphar’s wife raises the ethnic issue when talking to her servants about what their boss had done.

17 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.

18 tn Heb “he came to me to lie with me.” Here the expression “lie with” is a euphemism for sexual intercourse.

19 tn Heb “and I cried out with a loud voice.”

20 tn Heb “that I raised.”

21 tn Heb “and she spoke to him according to these words, saying.”

22 sn That Hebrew slave. Now, when speaking to her husband, Potiphar’s wife refers to Joseph as a Hebrew slave, a very demeaning description.

23 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.

24 tn Heb “and when his master heard the words of his wife which she spoke to him, saying.”

25 tn Heb “according to these words.”

26 tn Heb “did to me.”

27 tn Heb “his anger burned.”

28 tn Heb “the house of roundness,” suggesting that the prison might have been a fortress or citadel.

29 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.

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