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I ask because on the one hand he and some of Pharoh's other servants are described in the Hebrew as סריס, but the translations I've seen are usually in the vein of Lord Servant. For instance, my IDF Tanach lists in it's footnotes סריס as just a synonym for שר. Hirsh does mention in his commentary that this is one meaning of the word, but doesn't use this meaning in his translation.

Translating סריס as Eunuch would seem to explain allot of things. From what I've read it was common in many societies for royal Eunuchs to marry and adopt children. This would maybe explain why Potiphor's wife was so after Joseph. Also, I've heard that Osnat was Jewish. If Potiphor was a Eunuch and she was adopted this would make sense.

Anyways, why doesn't this translation seem to be used, especially as this is the word's literal meaning and it makes good sense in the context of the story.

Edit

I wanted to add one more thing which I think pushes in the direction of Potiphor being a eunuch. As far as I've noticed, all the servants of Pharoh mentioned in the parasha who would have served Pharoh in person such that they might have regular personal contact with him such as Potiphor, the cupbearer and the baker, are all described as both שר and סריס. However the lord of the jail, who would not have direct contact with Pharoh on a regular basis is described only as שר. This would seem to be in line with what we know about ancient practices.

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    You heard correctly about Osnat. She was the daughter of Dina and Shchem and was adopted by Potiphor. Midrash – Yalkut Shimoni 134 – eramm Nov 24 '13 at 14:07
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In Beraishis 41 (45) Osnat is mentioned as the daughter of Potifera. Rashi comments there on the change of name. He says:

Poti-phera: He is Potiphar, but he was called Poti-phera because he became emasculated since he desired Joseph for homosexual relations. — [from Sotah 13b].

So we see that he was not emasculated until he desired Joseph.

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    Is there any further discussion or explanation there? – Robert S. Barnes Nov 24 '13 at 14:49
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    ויקנהו פוטיפר סריס פרעה אמר רב שקנאו לעצמו (בא גבריאל וסירסו) בא גבריאל ופירעו מעיקרא כתיב פוטיפר ולבסוף פוטיפרע: it seems from the gemara that potifar bought Yosef with this in mind. – sam Nov 24 '13 at 16:16
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    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/26134/472 – Monica Cellio Nov 24 '13 at 16:17
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    @MonicaCellio Apparently Onkelos also translates סריס as רבה in addition to translating כהן as רבה. That seems a bit strange to me... – Robert S. Barnes Nov 24 '13 at 22:21
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    @sam Is that from Sotah 13b? – Robert S. Barnes Nov 24 '13 at 22:22
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It would seem that at the time of Yosef's employment Potiphor was NOT a eunich based on the pasuk and Rashi Breshit Chapter 39 Pasuk 19

:וַיְהִי כִשְׁמֹעַ אֲדֹנָיו אֶת דִּבְרֵי אִשְׁתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר דִּבְּרָה אֵלָיו לֵאמֹר כַּדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה עָשָׂה לִי עַבְדֶּךָ וַיִּחַר אַפּוֹ

Now it came about when his master heard his wife's report that she spoke to him, saying, "Your slave did such things to me," that his wrath burned.

Rashi on this Pasuk

ויהי כשמוע אדוניו וגו': בשעת תשמיש אמרה לו כן, וזהו שאמרה כדברים האלה עשה לי עבדך, עניני תשמיש כאלה

Now it came about when his master heard, etc.: During intercourse she told him this, and that is the meaning of“Your slave did such things to me,” [meaning] such acts of intimacy. [From Gen. Rabbah 87:9]

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Let's put aside all the midrashim for a moment.

Pharaoh's officers are described as "sarisim." Ramban says that in fact, we don't know whether that always means "eunuch", or that because so many kings' officers were eunuchs in Biblical times that the Torah uses that word generically for a king's officers.

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    Interesting, but that wouldn't explain why the lord of the prison isn't described this way when the butler, baker and cup bearer are. – Robert S. Barnes Nov 24 '13 at 22:09
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    @RobertS.Barnes perhaps the title was only used for royal officers who actually spent time in the palace? – Shalom Nov 24 '13 at 23:07
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    I was wondering about this exact question! In particular, I was wondering about Yeshayahu's prophesy about Chizkiyahu's sons in 2 Melachim 20:18, which has much more force if it's read "eunuchs" as opposed to "officers". The Ramban you're citing is to the appearance of the word in Bereishit? – Shivaram Lingamneni Nov 25 '13 at 7:23
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The word סריס in this context hardly should be understood as eunuch:

  1. The hebrew term is derived from /sa resi/ a development of the original akkadian expression /sa sarri/ which means 'the king's representative' (Assyrian Dictionary, vol 17, p. 114).

  2. This term had a sense of a high court officer in the second millenium BCE, the time of Joseph, but evolved after to the late period meaning a high court official "eunuch" in the 1st millenium BCE. Therefore, the sense of saris as "eunuch" only occurs in later hebrew literature (such as in specific cases in Daniel and Esther). See Kenneth Kitchen in Ancient Orient and Old Testament, p. 79-80.

  3. There is no conclusive evidence that eunuchs were customary in ancient Egypt (See K. Kitchen above and Gerald E. Kadish, “Eunuchs in Ancient Egypt?,” in Studies in Honor of John A Wilson. (SAOC 35; Chicago: University Press, 1969), 55-67.

Out of curiosity: although the term came to Aramaic as sarisa, castrate (Even Shoshan, vol 4 p. 1847), the targum Onkelos to Breishis 37:36 and 39:1 translates סָרִיס as רַבָּא, meaning "chief", See Jastrow, p. 1438. And also, the equivalent term came to the middle Egyptian as /srs/ meaning (an officer that) take control of (military) corps (see Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, p. 237).

The notion that the word bears an ambiguity arising from its historic development could have motivated the later interpretations for eunuch in Genesis narrative despite the original context of a royal official.

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