Potiphar (or Potifar) (Hebrew Name 2 |hebrew1=פּוֹטִיפַר |hebrew2=פּוֹטִיפָר |stan1=Potifar |tiber1=Pôṭîp̄ar |tiber2=Pôṭîp̄ār ; Egyptian origin: "unicode|p-di-p-rʿ" ; "he whom Ra gave.") is a character in the Book of Genesis's story of Joseph.

Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, is taken to Egypt where he is sold to Potiphar as a household slave. Potiphar makes Joseph the head of his household, but Potiphar's wife, angered when Joseph resists her attempts to seduce him, accuses him falsely of attempting to rape her. Potiphar casts Joseph into prison, where he comes to the notice of Pharaoh through his ability to interpret the dreams of other prisoners.

According to the Biblical scholarship, the story of Potiphar and his wife derives from the Yahwist source, and stands in the same place that the stories of the butler and the baker and Pharaoh's dreams stand in the Elohist text. By casting Joseph as a victim of seduction and of false witness, the text suits the Yahwist's purpose of denigrating Joseph, the Yahwist being a southern writer and Joseph a northern hero.

The Elohist's Potiphar (given as "Potipherah") is a priest of On, whose daughter Joseph marries.

Potiphar's wife is not named in either the Yahwist or Elohist stories. The mediaeval Sefer HaYashar, a commentary on the Torah, gives it as Zuleika, as does the Persian poem called Yusuf and Zulaikha (from Jami's "Haft Awrang" ("Seven thrones")). For more on the nameless in the Holy Bible, please see List of names for the Biblical nameless.

Historical evidence

There is little mention in Egyptian history or archaeology of this person, making it difficult to place him or Joseph accurately to a particular pharaoh or time period.

According to the documentary hypothesis, the story of Potiphar's wife derives from the Jahwist source, and stands in the same place that the stories of the butler and the baker and Pharaoh's dreams stand in the Elohist text. Casting Joseph as a victim of seduction, and of false witness, the text suits the Jahwist's purpose of denigrating Joseph, the Jahwist being a southern writer, and Joseph being a northern hero. This may also be the reason for the description of Potiphar as a eunuch (saris), with a sexually dissatisfied wife. It has been argued that the term saris may also refer to any royal official (particularly a military official). However, it was certainly possible for a eunuch to have a wife.

The Elohist tradition still makes mention of a man named Potiphar (corrupted as Potipherah), but in that tradition, Potiphar is simply a priest of On, whose daughter Joseph marries. It is possible that the northern view of Potiphar, the view the Elohist records, is where the Jahwist derived the name and motif of the sexual connection with Joseph.

Some others have speculated that the Egyptian " p3 di p3 r` " simply indicates a native Egyptian and not a personal name at all, since the personal name Potiphar is not present in Egyptian records until well into the New Kingdom, whereas the Joseph story occurs in the Middle Kingdom, according to those scholars. However, other evidenceFact|date=March 2008 points to the Joseph story happening in the New Kingdom, with one candidate for Joseph as Yuya. Also, Manetho recorded a vizier's, possibly Yuya's, name as "Osarseph", meaning vizier Seph. Potiphar may have been just a given name by the biblical author(s) and/or editor(s). The name Potiphar may also derive from the Egyptian words "p3 ty pr r'" meaning "one with the knowledge of the temple of Ra", or "he who has the knowledge of the temple of Ra", support for those who support the Yuya-Joseph theory, in accordance with the vizier Rekhmire's name, a candidate for Potiphar, meaning "scholar of Ra" or "he who has learned from Ra".

Cultural references

*In "The Divine Comedy", Dante sees the shade of Potiphar's wife in the eighth circle of Hell. She does not speak, but Dante is told by another spirit that, along with other perjurers, she is condemned to suffer a burning fever for all eternity.
*In the John Sayles film "Matewan", Will Oldham plays a young minister boy who preaches the story of Potiphar to his small town.
*In Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat", Potiphar is featured as a tycoon of ancient Egypt and his wife is portrayed as a man eater. Both feature in the song "Potiphar".

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • POTIPHAR — (Heb. פּוֹטִיפַר), Egyptian royal official who purchased joseph (Gen. 37:36; 39:1). His wife attempted unsuccessfully to seduce Joseph and then brought false charges against him, as a result of which Potiphar had him incarcerated. The name… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Potiphar — ou Putiphar (de l égyptien ancien p3 Htp r  : l offrande à Rê) Potiphar,: Pétéphrès ; en égyptien, ce serait Pétiphra, c est à dire : consacré à Phra, ou Ra, le dieu du soleil, qu on adorait surtout à On, ou Héliopolis. On a… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Potiphar — Potiphar, Verschnittener u. Oberster der Leibwache des Königs (Misphragneutosis) von Ägypten, zugleich Aufseher der Gefängnisse, an welchen Joseph als Sklav verkauft wurde. Seine Frau wollte Joseph verführen, u. da dieser ihr nicht zu Willen war …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Potĭphar — (»dem Ra, d. h. dem Sonnengott, ergeben«), nach der biblischen Erzählung (1. Mos. 39) Pharaos Hofbeamter, Oberster der Leibwache. Sein Weib suchte den Joseph zu verführen …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Potiphar — Potĭphar (»dem [Sonnengott] Ra geweiht«), Name sowohl des ägypt. Herrn des Joseph (1 Mos. 39) wie auch von Josephs Schwiegervater (1 Mos. 41,45) …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • POTIPHAR — Iosephi Patriarchae Dominus, Πετεφρὴς Iosepho dicitur …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Potiphar — Joseph und die Frau des Potiphar, Kupferstich nach einem Gemälde von Carlo Cignani Potiphar (auch Potifar) war der biblische Name eines hohen Beamten eines altägyptischen Königs (Pharao) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Potiphar — A high official of Pharaoh (Gen. 39:1). The patriarch Joseph prospered in Egypt and was promoted in the household of Potiphar. Potiphar s wife accused Joseph of sexual harassment and he was temporarily imprisoned (Gen. 39:6–20) …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Potiphar — noun /ˈpɒt.ɪ.fɑː,ˈpɒt.ɪ.fə,ˈpɑ.tə.fɚ/ An Egyptian and captain of the guard under Pharaoh. And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmaelites,… …   Wiktionary

  • Potiphar —    Dedicated to Ra; i.e., to the sun god, the Egyptian to whom the Ishmaelites sold Joseph (Gen. 39:1). He was captain of the guard , i.e., chief, probably, of the state police, who, while they formed part of the Egyptian army, were also largely… …   Easton's Bible Dictionary

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