[b-hebrew] Potiphar's Title

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Thu Jul 10 06:14:30 EDT 2003

I note a number of recent queries regarding Joseph's Egyptian title,
translated in some English Bibles as "eunuch."Professor Donald B. Redford, a
prominent Egyptologist, has addressed the situation, apparently unbeknownest
to some members of this list.

Redford :

"On the other hand, some descriptions have direct application to Egypt. The
term "overseers" in Genesis 41:34, the officials whom Joseph advises to
appoint, is an Aramaic title ubiquitious in the Egyptian administration
during the Persian period (525-410 BC). The word _saris_ of Genesis 37:36,
rendered variously "officer" or "eunuch," has long been recognized to a
rendering of _sa resi_, the common Akkadian [Babylonian] title of the
Assyrian administration. Whether in fact it here means "eunuch" is beside
the point. The title seems only to be found in the Persian administration of
Egypt, where it is applied to high-ranking governors (p. 425. cf. Redford,
Joseph Story, 200-201; also Papyrus Rylands IX passim, where the _srs_ is
the term given to the Persian provincial governors. Donald B. Redford.
Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times. Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton
University Press. 1992)

I might add to Professor Redford's observations a bit of my own research on
the Akkadian/Babylonian term _sa resi_; My research has revealed that the
Assyrian king, desirous of maintaining control over the various newly
conquered lands of the Neo-Assyrian empire, made it a policy to appoint as
"Governors" (_sa resi_) over the provinces ONLY EUNUCHS. Why ? Experience
had shown the Assyrian kings, that when men were elevated to the post of
"Governor" they tended to act in a manner undermining Assyrian interests.
That is, these men tended to begin "feathering their own nest," desirous of
creating a "dynasty" to rule over the area FOR THEIR SONS and future
PROGENY. By limiting the "Governorship" to EUNUCHS who could NOT reproduce
themselves, it was hoped that rebelling dynasties would not arise to
"trouble" the Assyrian king !

As regards the Egyptians employing an Assyrian title, _sa resi_, for my
part, I cannot conceive such until after the concept had been introduced to
the Egyptian administration, while under Assyrian rule and domination. When
did Egypt come to ruled by the Assyrians ? The event occurred in the 7th
century BCE, when Esarhaddon successfully conquered Egypt as far as Memphis
ca. 671 BCE, deposing the Kushite pharaoh, Taharqa, sending him packing to
Kush (Nubia). To secure Assyrian "control" in Egypt, Assyrian military
garrisons were established and NEW "Governors" were appointed, who,it was
hoped, would be loyal to Assyria. It would be these NEW "Governors" who
would be the "first" Egyptians to bear the Assyrian title, _sa resi_.

If the preceeding observations are of any merit, and on target, it follows
that the "Joseph Novella" found in Genesis would have been composed sometime
AFTER 671 BCE. This research aligns quite nicely with my archaeological
research (some sites in Genesis being no earlier than 8th/7th century BCE)
on establishing the date for the creation of the Primary History,
Genesis-Kings as ca. 562-560 BCE, the reign of the Babylonian king Evil
Merodach (cf. 2 Kings 25:27).

Regards, Walter

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld, M.A. Ed.

mattfeld12 at charter.net


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