I mentioned to someone a vort I once heard pointing out a difficulty in the story of Potiphar's wife. Why did Potiphar not have Yosef killed, which would be the expected punishment for attacking the wife of a high-level government minister?

The answer is that Potiphar noticed that his wife had ripped the back of Yosef's garment, which would seem to indicate that Yosef was trying to get away from the wife, not trying to attack her. For this reason (and also because he knew Yosef's character) Potiphar did not believe his wife's story.

However Potiphar was not prepared to exonerate Yosef, as that would amount to publicly exposing his wife as a liar, so he had Yosef put in prison instead.

I was asked for a source for this but don't remember any. What is the source?

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    mentioned here without source books.google.com/…
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 2:36
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    and here, interestingly enough al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir (Translated by William Brinner) (1987). The History of al-Tabari Vol. 2: Prophets and Patriarchs. SUNY. pp. 157–158. from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_in_Islam look for footnote 36 in the text
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 2:38
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    Most of the references I found were to the Quran.
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 2:56
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    I'm almost positive it is brought in The Midrash Says, you can look there for the source. Also, it brings that Potiphar's wife used egg whites to simulate Semen, but they tested it by bringing it close to a fire and it got harder instead of softer.
    – Menachem
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 3:44
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    related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/65965/…
    – Loewian
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 6:13

2 Answers 2


Bamidbar Rabba 87 9 here has Potiphar telling Yosef he does not believe his wife's story and knows Yosef is innocent. But he was compelled to lock Yosef up so as to stop people from saying that the children of Potiphar were illegitimate.

  • Can you take a photo of the text and post it? Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:07
  • Theres a link for you. Sorry, they only have hebrew for that chapter.
    – user6591
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:13
  • How does this answer the question?
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:38
  • @Baby Seal this sourced from a medrash (as per OP comment) where Potiphar is found not believing his wife. While many of the other details are not here, I'm quite sure that portion is not directly from a medrash.
    – user6591
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:44
  • But the question wants a source for him not believing his wife for the specific reason mentioned. I think the question is too specific, (and that your answer is good), but as it stands, it doesn't answer the question. I will comment above.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 18:48

Rabbi Sorotzkin in Oznayim Latorah Vayeishev 39:12 cites Moshav Zekeinim on Vayigash and says that Potiphar gave Yosef's cloak (that his wife had grabbed) to the investigating priests. The said that if Yosef had attacked her it would be ripped in front. If it was ripped from behind, he was running away from her and she had grabbed it (meaning he was innocent.

They determined that she had grabbed it from behind, based on the position of the rips (as you state in the question). Rabbi Sorotzkin states that the priests added that Yosef should be transferred to the prison to save her reputation.

I verified the commentary in Oznayim Latorah (39:12) when I went to shul on the first night of Chanukah. I have not found the Moshav Zekeinim on Vayigash to put that in as a quote.

I did find a referece

Why did Yosef not take the priests’ land in return for food

Yosef rewarded them for their defending him when Potifar was going to kill him, by proving that Yosef had run away from Potifar’s wife (Targum Yonatan)


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