The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


Name of an Egyptian officer. The form "Potiphar" is probably an abbreviation of "Potiphera"; the two are treated as identical in the Septuagint, and are rendered Πετρεφῆς or Πετεφῆς. "Poti-phera" is the Hebrew rendering of the Egyptian "P'-di-p'-R'" = "He whom Ra [i.e., the sun-god] gave." This name has not been found in Egyptian inscriptions; but names of similar form occur as early as the twenty-second dynasty.

Potiphar was the Egyptian officer to whom Joseph was sold (Gen. xxxvii. 36, xxxix. 1). He is described as a "saris" of Pharaoh, and as "captain of the guard" (Hebr. ). The term "saris" is commonly used in the Old Testament of eunuchs; but occasionally it seems to stand in a more general sense for "court official," and sometimes it designates a military officer (II Kings xxv. 19; comp. ib. xviii. 17; Jer. xxxix. 3, 13). The second title, "captain of the guard," is literally "chief of the slaughterers," and is interpreted by some to mean "chief of the cooks" (comp. I Sam. ix. 23, 24, where = "cook"). The former is much the more probable meaning here, and is supported by the closely corresponding title ( ) of one of the high military officers of Nebuchadnezzar (II Kings xxv. 8, 10; comp. Dan. ii. 14). Nothing, however, of this office is definitely known from Egyptian sources.

Poti-pherah was a priest of On (Heliopolis), whose daughter Asenath became the wife of Joseph (Gen. xli. 45, 50; xlvi. 20). See also Joseph.

E. G. H. J. F. McL.
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