In the story of Yosef and the wife of Potiphar, the Torah is excessively repetitive, and I'm wondering why. There are also slight deviations, which are noteworthy. I'm specifically interested in the bold parts.

Genesis 39:12

וַתִּתְפְּשֵׂ֧הוּ בְּבִגְד֛וֹ לֵאמֹ֖ר שִׁכְבָ֣ה עִמִּ֑י וַיַּעֲזֹ֤ב בִּגְדוֹ֙ בְּיָדָ֔הּ וַיָּ֖נָס וַיֵּצֵ֥א הַחֽוּצָה׃

she caught hold of him by his garment and said, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand and got away and fled outside.


וַיְהִי֙ כִּרְאוֹתָ֔הּ כִּֽי־עָזַ֥ב בִּגְד֖וֹ בְּיָדָ֑הּ וַיָּ֖נָס הַחֽוּצָה׃

When she saw that he had left it in her hand and had fled outside,


וַיְהִ֣י כְשָׁמְע֔וֹ כִּֽי־הֲרִימֹ֥תִי קוֹלִ֖י וָאֶקְרָ֑א וַיַּעֲזֹ֤ב בִּגְדוֹ֙ אֶצְלִ֔י וַיָּ֖נָס וַיֵּצֵ֥א הַחֽוּצָה

And when he heard me screaming at the top of my voice, he left his garment with me and got away and fled outside.


וַיְהִ֕י כַּהֲרִימִ֥י קוֹלִ֖י וָאֶקְרָ֑א וַיַּעֲזֹ֥ב בִּגְד֛וֹ אֶצְלִ֖י וַיָּ֥נָס הַחֽוּצָה׃

but when I screamed at the top of my voice, he left his garment with me and fled outside.

  • If ויצא means he composed himself at the door and walked out (as opposed to the quick וינס), then it would be reasonable why she didn't see that detail and why she wouldn't invent it for her husband – Double AA Dec 10 '17 at 2:56
  • Do I need to know she didn't notice he composed himself? Also why did she mention ויצא in verse 15 – robev Dec 10 '17 at 3:01
  • The husband would be more offended by his running out disheveled as it embarrasses the family name. The servants would be more incensed if he composed himself first and tried to cover up. It's certainly interesting to see that the wife is playing to her audience. She is trying to get Yosef in trouble. – Double AA Dec 10 '17 at 3:06

Sforno's comments on 39:12-14 directly address this sequence and the shifts in the accounts. Here are the relevant parts, along with the translation of R' Eliyahu Munk in Hachut Hameshulash1:

ויצא החוצה בהיותו חוץ מן החדר יצא לאטו בלתי תנועת ניסה שלא ישאלוהו מה לך כי תנוס ומי רודפך אבל היא שראתה שיצא מן החדר כתנועת ניסה יראה שמא עשה כך חוץ לחדר ושאלוהו והגיד לפיכך:‏

ויצא החוצה, once he had left the room she was in, he walked slowly with his usual gait so as not to arouse curiosity when he would be observed as fleeing. He did not want to have to answer all kinds of questions that would embarrass him or Mrs Potiphar. She, however, having only seen that he fled from the room, was alarmed that he might answer questions directed at him by incriminating her. Therefore,

ותקרא לאנשי ביתה לזכות את עצמה אמנם כאשר ראתה שחוץ לחדר לא רץ וזה ראו גם אנשי ביתה אמרה להם וינס ויצא החוצה כמו שהיה באמת אבל לבעלה שלא ראה הדבר אמרה וינס החוצה להורות שעשה תנועת הניסה גם בחוץ להמלט מאנשי ביתה וזה לאמת ענין השקר שלה:‏

ותקרא לאנשי ביתה, in order to justify her conduct. However, when she saw that Joseph had stopped running after leaving the room where she had waylaid him, and the fact that the people in her house had no reason to question Joseph who was acting perfectly normally, she told those people that Joseph had fled from her room and walked outside, something which actually corresponded to the truth as far as the facts were concerned. (verse 15) However, when relating what had supposedly occurred to her husband who had not been an eye witness to any part of the incident, she described Joseph’s behaviour as a flight not only from her room but also outside of it. (verse 18) In order to make her version of events believable she had to lie so that Joseph would be perceived as having tried to escape from the other members of the household.

1. Presented with CC-BY license by Sefaria

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