A high officer of Pharaoh, who purchased Joseph of the Midianites, and made him master of his house, but afterwards imprisoned him on a false charge. He is supposed by some to have been the same "captain of the guard" who promoted Joseph in prison, Ge 37:36; 39:23.
dedicated to Ra; i.e., to the sun-god, the Egyptian to whom the Ishmaelites sold Joseph (Ge 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 employed in civil duties (Ge 37:36; marg., "chief of the executioners"). Joseph, though a foreigner, gradually gained his confidence, and became overseer over all his possessions. Believing the false accusation which his profligate wife brought against Joseph, Potiphar cast him into prison, where he remained for some years. (See Joseph.)
From Egyptian Pa-ti, "the given" or devoted to Par or Phar, the (royal) house or palace. "An officer (chamberlain) of Pharaoh, chief of the executioners," i.e. captain of the bodyguard (KJV), who executed the king's sentences (Ge 37:36; 39:1; 2Ki 25:8; Jer 39:9; 52:12). The prison in which he confined Joseph was an apartment arched, vaulted, and rounded (ha-sohar) for strength (called a "dungeon," Ge 40:15), in the house of the chief of the executioners (Ge 40:3).
Joseph's feet at first "they afflicted with fetters, the iron entered into has soul" (Ps 105:17-18); but Jehovah gave him favor in the sight of "the keeper of the prison," probably distinct from Potiphar. There seems little ground for thinking that Potiphar was succeeded by another "chief of the executioners," "the keeper of the prison" was entrusted by Potiphar with Joseph. Potiphar scarcely believed his lustful wife's story, or he would have killed Joseph at once; but instead he put him in severe imprisonment at first, then with Potiphar's connivance the prison keeper put the same confidence in Joseph as Potiphar himself had put in him when he was free. Egyptian monuments, in harmony with Scripture, represent rich men's stewards, as Joseph, carefully registering all the produce of the garden and field, and storing it up. (See JOSEPH.)
Ge 39, a high Egyptian official in the story of Joseph. The name is perhaps a deformation of Potiphera (wh. see) or an unsuccessful attempt to form an Egyptian name on the same lines. Potiphar seems to be entitled 'chief cook' (English Version 'captain of the guard'), and likewise saris, 'eunuch' of Pharaoh. But the former title 'cook' may be only a mark of high rank; persons described as royal tasters in the New Kingdom were leaders of expeditions, investigators of criminal cases, judges in the most important trials, etc.; as yet, too, there is little indication that eunuchs were employed in Egypt even at a later period: so this also was but an honorific official title; the Hebrew word saris is actually found attached to the names of Persian officers in Egypt. Joseph was sold to Potiphar, on whose wife's accusation he was cast into the king's prison (in Potiphar's own house), to which Pharaoh afterwards committed his chief butler and chief baker. The office thus held by Potiphar cannot yet be precisely identified in Egyptian documents. In the passage Ge 41:45 and the repeated description of Joseph's wife, the forms of the names and the title of the priest are much more precisely Egyptian.
F. Ll. Griffith.
an Egyptian name, also written Potipherah, signifies belonging to the sun. Potiphar. with whom the history of Joseph is connected is described as an officer of Pharaoh chief of the executioners, an Egyptian."
comp. Gene 37:36 (B.C. 1728.) He appears to have been a wealthy man.
The view we have of Potiphar's household is exactly in accordance with the representations on the monuments. When Joseph was accused, his master contented himself with casting him into prison.
After this we hear no more of Potiphar. [JOSEPH]