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Potiphar was the Egyptian "captain of the guard" to whom the Israelite patriarch Joseph (see Children of Jacob) was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers (Genesis 37:1-36). Joseph's fortunes in Egypt went from extreme to extreme, and back again. He entered Egypt as a slave, became a leading servant in his master Potiphar's household, was sent to prison on a false charge made against him by Potiphar's unfaithful wife, and later became the pharaoh's right hand man, thereby outranking his owner Potiphar.


Egyptians Although they prospered greatly as free aliens in The Land Of Goshen in the time between (Exodus 1:6), the first Israelite entered Egypt as a slave, and they were again slaves by the time of the Exodus 400 years later:

"And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites [see Ishmael], and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. Then there passed by Midianites [see Midian] merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt ... And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard." (Genesis 37:26-28,36 KJV)

With the help of The Lord (it was, after all, The Lord who arranged for the Israelites to enter Egypt, and to become slaves there - as He proclaimed to Abraham long before i.e. "And He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance" Genesis 15:13-14 KJV), Joseph soon rose to a high position in Potiphar's household:

"And The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that The Lord was with him, and that The Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of The Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field. And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured." (Genesis 39:2-6 KJV)

Joseph soon found himself back in chains; this time it was due to false accusations made by Potiphar's lustful wife who Joseph refused who commit adultery with because he knew that it would be a sin i.e. "how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9 KJV, see also The Ten Commandments Before Sinai?):

"And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"

"And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her. And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out."

"And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home. And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled. And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison." (Genesis 39:7-20 KJV)

The Lord again helped Joseph however. After interpretting Pharaoh's dream of a coming famine (Genesis 41:1-57), Joseph was not only released from prison, but made second in command of all Egypt, in effect the Prime Minister of Egypt - thereby actually outranking Potiphar, his former owner. No doubt Joseph's great political power thereafter caused Potiphar's wife more than a few sleepless nights, not for the harlot's usual reason, but out of worry of what Joseph then had the power to do to her for her lies that sent him to prison for over 2 years before his release. The Scriptures do not record what, if anything, Joseph did. Neither Potiphar, nor his unnamed wife, are mentioned again.

Fact Finder: (a) Did Joseph know that the Exodus would happen, hundreds of years before it did? (b) After Joseph died, he was buried in Egypt. Did he nevertheless take part in the Israelite exodus 4 centuries later?
(a) Genesis 50:24-25 (b) Exodus 13:19

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