Joseph’s Surrounding People: (2) the Chief Cupbearer and the Chief Baker

Joseph was locked in a prison where the king’s prisoners were confined (Gen 39:20). But that prison is also described as “the house of the captain of the guard” (Gen 40:3). These descriptions seem to indicate two different places because the first is an official prison where the chief jailer is in charge of everything, but the second is a personal house (the house of Potiphar, the captain of the guard) where Potiphar manages everything. As mentioned in the previous post, Joseph was not treated as other prisoners in the king’s prison because the chief jailer committed all the prisoners and everything done there to Joseph’s care. However, in the house of the captain of the guard, Potiphar made him serve the cupbearer and the baker.

The Documentary Hypothesis can explain these narrative problems, as I often mentioned in a few posts here, but that is not my main concern in this writing. I will instead talk about Joseph’s surrounding people, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in Gen 40.

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Joseph’s Surrounding People: (1) Potiphar and a Chief Jailer

Joseph’s story starts at Gen 37, but the story of Judah and Tamar abruptly intervenes in Gen 38. So Joseph’s story resumes in ch. 39, where Potiphar purchases Joseph. According to Gen 39:1, Potiphar bought Joseph from Ishmaelites, but Gen 37:36 tells us a different story: it was Midianites who sold Joseph to Potiphar. There can be various ways to explain the discrepancy; traditionally, scholars understand the contradiction based on the documentary hypothesis (search “Joseph’s Story or “documentary hypothesis” in this blog). However, explaining the contradiction is not the concern here; the purpose of the post is, as the title suggests, simply to introduce the people Joseph met in Egypt, first of all, Potiphar and the chief jailer. 

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Tamar and Judah (1)

1. What Happened

In Gen 38, we find an incestuous event between Tamar and Judah. Tamar, the first daughter-in-law of Judah, disguised herself as a prostitute to seduce Judah and had an illegitimate relationship. To modern readers’ eyes, it is hard to believe that such things can really happen to one of the great ancestors of Israel. It is too abominable! If you consider ancient cultures, however, It is possible to happen.

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An Interesting Fact about Isaac’s Death

Isaac’s marriage(40y), birth of children(60y), his last words(100y), his death(180y)

Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst

According to Gen 25:20, Isaac married Rebekah when he was forty years old. Rebekah could not have a baby for quite a long time, but she finally got pregnant. When she bore Esau and Jacob, Isaac was already 60 years old (25:26). When Esau married Judith and Basemath, two Hittite women, Esau was 40 years old, which makes Isaac 100 years old (26:34). That is the end of Genesis chapter 26, and Gen 27 begins with how old and weak Isaac was.

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