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Thread: Potiphar, The Captain of the Guard

  1. #1

    Potiphar, The Captain of the Guard

    In Genesis 39:1 it says that Potiphar is "an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard." Then is 41:12 it says that the young Hebrew in prison is "a servant of the captain of the guard."

    Does this mean that Potiphar was in charge of Pharaoh's prison as captain of the guard? It would certainly suggest a certain understanding of Potiphar's wife if he placed Joseph in prison because of her accusation yet still put him (Joseph) in charge of the prison. Thus Joseph is imprisoned because of his social position rather than because Potiphar believed his own wife. Did he indeed know the true character of the woman to whom he was married?

    I heard the interpretation from a preacher on the radio (don't know which one, for sure, because I missed both the beginning and end of the message) the other day. I've been turning it over in my head since then , but I just don't know that this holds up to a proper biblical hermeneutic.

    What say ye?
    "Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” - Zechariah 3:2

    James Helbert, Wytheville, VA
    Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church, RPCUS / The Edinburgh Inn

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  2. #2
    I expect that the two men (Potiphar and the jailer) are different, otherwise why not keep referring to the man by his name, Potiphar? The designation, "captain of the guard" is probably an office, one that could be held by many different people, albeit in different positions--just as there are many county sheriffs in this country, but they are all "sheriff".
    Rev. Bruce G. Buchanan
    ChainOLakes Presbyterian Church, CentralLake, MI

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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Here are some comments from Matthew Poole (both his Annotations and Synopsis (in bold) -- note: the English translation of Gen. 23-50 of his Synopsis is due to be published very soon, dv):

    [Chapter 37] Verse 36: And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar (Gen. 39:1), an officer (Heb. eunuch: but the word doth signify not only eunuchs, but also chamberlains, courtiers , and officers , Esther 1:10) of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard (Heb. chief of the slaughtermen, or, executioners ; or, chief marshal ).

    [A eunuch, syrIs;] Such he was not properly, for he had a wife,3 and a daughter, who afterwards married Joseph4 (Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations , Estius). But they are called eunuchs who used to be put in charge of duties in the palace (Tirinus); because perhaps most were eunuchs (Estius). Among Easterners, satraps were thus called (Vatablus).

    [Chief of the soldiers, [email protected][email protected] r#oa] Chief of the cooks 5 (Septuagint, Menochius), or, of the butchers (Pagnine, Montanus, Vatablus, Munster, Menochius, Rabbi Salomon in Fagius’ Comparison of the Principal Translations), for he would have been put in charge of the cooks and the slaughterers of cattle (Vatablus). This does not satisfy, for Nebuzaradan is called by this name, 2 Kings 25:8, 11, 20 (Castalio). Others: a prefect , or leader, of soldiers (thus the Chaldean, Arabic, Syriac). Prefect of the bodyguards (de Dieu after Vatablus). This is gathered from chapter 40. See Jeremiah 39:9 (Vatablus). Warden of the royal house , or person (Oleaster); master of the army of that one (Tirinus). Not of the entire army, but of the bodyguards (Vatablus). He was named from slaughtering , perhaps because he inflicted punishments upon criminals (Castalio). Prefect of capital cases (Tigurinus).

    Whose office it was to apprehend and punish criminal persons. See Genesis 40:3; Jeremiah 39:9; Mark 6:27.

    [3] Genesis 39:7.
    [4] See what things are on Genesis 41:45.
    [5] * footnote omitted.
    [Chapter 40] Verse 3: And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound (Gen. 39:20, 23).

    The captain of the guard , to wit, Potiphar, Genesis 37:36, who being informed by his under-keeper of Joseph’s great care and faithfulness, began to have a better opinion of him, though for his own quiet, and his wife’s reputation, he left him still in the prison.

    [Joseph was bound 5] That is, a prisoner; for already his chains were removed (Menochius), and he was put in charge of the prisoners, Genesis 39:22. Therefore, here bound signifies, not in shackles , but only in prison, as in Isaiah 22:31 (Walther).

    Where Joseph was bound; was a prisoner, as that word is used, Isaiah 22:3; for Joseph being now made governor of the prisoners, was doubtless freed from his bonds: or had been bound, and that with irons in a cruel manner, Psalm 105:18.

    * footnote omitted.


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