[b-hebrew] Gen. 39:1 Potiphar's title

Peter Kirk peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com
Thu Jul 10 05:22:41 EDT 2003

On 09/07/2003 22:18, Dave Washburn wrote:

>I took a peek at Holladay's lexicon under the Hebrew term, SRYS, and it says 
>"eunuch."  It does raise an interesting question: if that's what the term 
>always means, why does this particular eunuch have a wife in the first place?
I remember learning that this was a word whose meaning changed from 
earlier to later Hebrew, from simply "official" to "eunuch". This is 
partly confirmed by the entry for sārîs in TWOT:

The noun, meaning "(court) official," has its origin in the Akkadian 
title ša rēši (šarri) "the one of the (king's) head." The meaning 
"eunuch" arose with the practice of utilizing castrated men in key 
positions in the various nations of the ancient near east (e.g. in 
Persia, Est 2:3ff.; 4:4f.)

The Hebrew word is clearly related to the name of the Akkadian royal 
official (II Kgs 18:17). Accordingly, sārîs is not to be translated 
"eunuch" unless context or other evidence demands it. Thus, since 
thorough study fails to uncover conclusive evidence for the employment 
of eunuchs as officials in ancient Egypt, the reason why the Egyptian 
officers in the Joseph narrative were called by this term is probably 
that in all three cases (Gen 37:36; 39:1; 40:2, 7) these men were 
special officials of Pharaoh. ...

/*Bibliography*/:  TDNT, II, pp. 766-67.

Peter Kirk
peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list