on Genesis 37 :36
Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's - The word סריס saris, translated officer, signifies a eunuch; and lest any person should imagine that because this Potiphar had a wife, therefore it is absurd to suppose him to have been a eunuch, let such persons know that it is not uncommon in the east for eunuchs to have wives, nay, some of them have even a harem or seraglio where they keep many women, though it does not appear that they have any progeny; and probably discontent on this ground might have contributed as much to the unfaithfulness of Potiphar's wife, as that less principled motive through which it is commonly believed she acted.
Captain of the guard - שר הטבחים sar kattabbachim, chief of the butchers; a most appropriate name for the guards of an eastern despot. If a person offend one of the despotic eastern princes, the order to one of the life-guards is, Go and bring me his head; and this command is instantly obeyed, without judge, jury, or any form of law. Potiphar, we may therefore suppose, was captain of those guards whose business it was to take care of the royal person, and execute his sovereign will on all the objects of his displeasure. Reader, if thou hast the happiness to live under the British constitution, be thankful to God. Here, the will, the power, and utmost influence of the king, were he even so disposed, cannot deprive the meanest subject of his property, his liberty, or his life. All the solemn legal forms of justice must be consulted; the culprit, however accused, be heard by himself and his counsel; and in the end twelve honest, impartial men, chosen from among his fellows, shall decide on the validity of the evidence produced by the accuser. For the trial by jury, as well as for innumerable political blessings, may God make the inhabitants of Great Britain thankful!
1. With this chapter the history of Joseph commences, and sets before our eyes such a scene of wonders wrought by Divine Providence in such a variety of surprising instances, as cannot fail to confirm our faith in God, show the propriety of resignation to his will, and confidence in his dispensations, and prove that all things work together for good to them that love him. Joseph has often been considered as a type of Christ, and this subject in the hands of different persons has assumed a great variety of coloring. The following parallels appear the most probable; but I shall not pledge myself for the propriety of any of them: "Jesus Christ, prefigured by Joseph, the beloved of his father, and by him sent to visit his brethren, is the innocent person whom his brethren sold for a few pieces of silver, the bargain proposed by his brother Judah, (Greek Judas), the very namesake of that disciple and brother (for so Christ vouchsafes to call him) who sold his Lord and Master; and who by this means became their Lord and Savior; nay, the Savior of strangers, and of the whole world; which had not happened but for this plot of destroying him, the act of rejecting, and exposing him to sale. In both examples we find the same fortune and the same innocence: Joseph in the prison between two criminals; Jesus on the cross between two thieves. Joseph foretells deliverance to one of his companions and death to the other, from the same omens: of the two thieves, one reviles Christ, and perishes in his crimes; the other believes, and is assured of a speedy entrance into paradise. Joseph requests the person that should be delivered to be mindful of him in his glory; the person saved by Jesus Christ entreats his deliverer to remember him when he came into his kingdom." - See Pascal's Thoughts. Parallels and coincidences of this kind should always be received cautiously, for where the Spirit of God has not marked a direct resemblance, and obviously referred to it as such in some other part of his word, it is bold, if not dangerous, to say "such and such things and persons are types of Christ." We have instances sufficiently numerous, legitimately attested, without having recourse to those which are of dubious import and precarious application. See the observation on Genesis 40. (Genesis 40:23 (note)).
2. Envy has been defined, "pain felt, and malignity conceived, at the sight of excellence or happiness in another." Under this detestable passion did the brethren of Joseph labor; and had not God particularly interposed, it would have destroyed both its subjects and its object, Perhaps there is no vice which so directly filiates itself on Satan, as this does. In opposition to the assertion that we cannot envy that by which we profit, it may be safely replied that we may envy our neighbor's wisdom, though he gives us good counsel; his riches, though he supplies our wants; and his greatness, though he employs it for our protection.
3. How ruinous are family distractions! A house divided against itself cannot stand. Parents should take good heed that their own conduct be not the first and most powerful cause of such dissensions, by exciting envy in some of their children through undue partiality to others; but it is in vain to speak to most parents on the subject; they will give way to foolish predilections, till, in the prevailing distractions of their families, they meet with the punishment of their imprudence, when regrets are vain, and the evil past remedy.
on Genesis 37 :36
on Genesis 37 :36