Joseph Sold to Potiphar

Genesis 37:36  

Now the Midianites had sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and captain of the guard.

We now are given a brief look at what happened to Joseph shortly after being sold to the Midianite traders. He was transported to Egypt.

It is important that we understand the geographical and historical context. The land of Canaan, where the family of Jacob was residing when they sold Joseph into slavery, was located on a strategic trade route.

Canaan linked the two most commercially developed civilizations of the ancient world—Mesopotamia (Babylon or Sumer) and Egypt. Traders would bring goods west from what is now Iraq to Egypt through the strip of land known as Canaan (and vice versa). Throughout its history, Israel was often caught in the crosshairs of international politics between Egypt and empires to its north and east (for example, the Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians).

This account shows that international slave trade was a vital component of the economy of the ancient world. It would take over 3,000 more years of human history before major nations began to abolish the slave trade. It was not until 1981, nearly 3,700 years after Joseph was sold into slavery, that the small African nation of Mauritania became the last nation to abolish slavery.

Genesis 37:36 begins to show that God’s hand was guiding Joseph’s life—despite the awful circumstances he found himself in. Joseph was sold to a high-ranking official in the Egyptian government named Potiphar. Potiphar was part of the pharaoh’s inner circle and was the “captain of the guard” (commentators identify this more specifically as the chief of executioners).

To learn more about Egypt’s place in the Bible, read our article “Egypt in the Bible.”

Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Judah and Tamar: A Lesson in Hypocrisy.”

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