Genesis 41:45
And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.
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(45) Zaphnath-paaneah.—This word also is Egyptian, and, fortunately, there is no Hebrew word of similar sound to suggest a false meaning. Canon Cook shows that it means “food of life,” or “food of the living.” The LXX. have Psonthom-phanek, which Jerome, on the authority of the Jews in Egypt, translates “saviour of the world.” By “the world,” would be meant the living, as in Canon Cook’s explanation, which, in the sense of “he who feeds the world,” or “the living,” is the best exposition yet given. There is no authority for the supposition that the name means “revealer of secrets.”

Asenath.—Án Egyptian word signifying the “favourite of Neith,” the Egyptian Minerva.

Potipherah.—See Note on Genesis 39:1.

On.—This is also an Egyptian word, signifying the sun, whence in Hebrew the name of this city was Bethshemesh, house of the sun; in Greek, Heliopolis; and in Latin, Oppidum Solls. It was famous for its temple of Ra, the sun, destroyed at an early period by the Persians, but still remarkable for its ruins, among which is an obelisk covered with hieroglyphics of extreme antiquity. Several of the obelisks now at Rome were brought by the emperor Caligula from this spot. It is situated about six miles north-east of Cairo.

A difficulty has been felt by some in a Hebrew shepherd being thus described as marrying the daughter of a priest of the sun; and also that Joseph, a worshipper of the One God, should ally himself with an idolater. But the elevation of a slave to high rank is not an uncommon occurrence in the East, especially as he might be of as good birth and education as his owner, slaves being obtained either by kidnapping, or by war. And a slave so raised to power, would not be likely to oppose his benefactor, nor would even a high priest refuse a daughter to the king’s favourite, especially if, as appears to have been the case, he had first been raised to the priesthood. Joseph too, would rightly regard the whole matter as providential, and though he might not know for what exact purpose, as regards his race, he was thus exalted, there was noble work for him to do in saving Egypt from perishing by famine. The narrative throughout represents him as remaining true to the religion of his family (Genesis 41:51-52; Genesis 42:18; Genesis 43:29; Genesis 45:5; Genesis 45:7-9; Genesis 48:9; Genesis 1:19-20; Genesis 1:24), but probably, on public occasions he would be required to attend at the religious solemnities of the Egyptian gods. We must remember, however, that their worship had not degenerated as yet into the miserable idolatry of later times, and that the Egyptian creed contained much primæval truth, though in a corrupted form. Pharaoh himself, in Genesis 41:38-39, speaks as one that acknowledged a supreme God, and Joseph throughout freely used to him the name of Elohim. As for Asenath, no doubt Joseph would teach her higher views of the Deity, and make her acquainted with the religious hopes and destinies of the Abrahamic race.

The possibility, however, of a foreigner attaining to high rank in Egypt, is demonstrated by the story of Saneha, translated in Records of the Past, vol. vi., pp. 131-150. It belongs to the reign of Amenemha I., a king of the twelfth dynasty, and represents Saneha as entering Egypt in the dress of a herbseller, but in time he marries there the eldest daughter of a local king, has a large landed estate given him, “which abounded in wines more than in water,” and, finally, is sent for by King Amenemha, and raised to such high rank, as to be clad in “garments of kingly attire,” and on his going to the royal palace “the king’s children attend him, proceeding even unto the great gates.” This curious evidence, which is even a little older than the time of Joseph, proves that there is nothing unusual or improbable in his exaltation.

41:33-45 Joseph gave good advice to Pharaoh. Fair warning should always be followed by good counsel. God has in his word told us of a day of trial before us, when we shall need all the grace we can have. Now, therefore, provide accordingly. Pharaoh gave Joseph an honourable testimony. He is a man in whom the spirit of God is; and such men ought to be valued. Pharaoh puts upon Joseph marks of honour. He gave him such a name as spoke the value he had for him, Zaphnath-paaneah, a revealer of secrets. This preferment of Joseph encourages all to trust in God. Some translate Joseph's new name, the saviour of the world. The brightest glories, even of the upper world, are put upon Christ, the highest trust lodged in his hand, and all power given him, both in heaven and earth.Pharaoh approves of his counsel, and selects him as "the discreet and wise man" for carrying it into effect. "In whom is the Spirit of God." He acknowledges the gift that is in Joseph to be from God. "All my people behave" - dispose or order their conduct, a special meaning of this word, which usually signifies to kiss. "His ring." His signet-ring gave Joseph the delegated power of the sovereign, and constituted him his prime minister or grand vizier. "Vestures of fine linen." Egypt was celebrated for its flax, and for the fineness of its textures. The priests were arrayed in official robes of linen, and no man was allowed to enter a temple in a woolen garment (Herodotus ii. 37, 81). "A gold chain about his neck." This was a badge of office worn in Egypt by the judge and the prime minister. It had a similar use in Persia and Babylonia Daniel 5:7. "The second chariot." Egypt was noted for chariots, both for peaceful and for warlike purposes (Herodotus ii. 108). The second in the public procession was assigned to Joseph. "Bow the knee." The various explications of this proclamation agree in denoting a form of obeisance, with which Joseph was to be honored. I am Pharaoh, the king Genesis 12:15. "Without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot." Thou art next to me, and without thee no man shall act or move. "Zaphenath-paneah." Pharaoh designates him the preserver of life, as the interpreter of the dream and the proposer of the plan by which the country was saved from famine. He thus naturalizes him so far as to render his civil status compatible with his official rank. "Asenath." The priests were the highest and most privileged class in Egypt. Intermarriage with this caste at once determined the social position of the wonderous foreigner. His father-in-law was priest of On, a city dedicated to the worship of the sun.

With our Western and modern habit we may at the first glance be surprised to find a stranger of a despised race suddenly elevated to the second place in the kingdom. But in ancient and Eastern governments, which were of a despotic character, such changes, depending on the will of the sovereign, were by no means unusual. Secondly, the conviction that "the Spirit of God was in" the mysterious stranger, was sufficient to overbear all opposing feelings or customs. And, lastly, it was assumed and acted on, as a self-evident fact, that the illustrious stranger could have no possible objection to be incorporated into the most ancient of nations, and allied with its noblest families. We may imagine that Joseph would find an insuperable difficulty in becoming a citizen of Egypt or a son-in-law of the priest of the sun. But we should not forget that the world was yet too young to have arrived at the rigid and sharplydefined systems of polytheism or allotheism to which we are accustomed. Some gray streaks of a pure monotheism, of the knowledge of the one true God, still gleamed across the sky of human memory. Some faint traces of one common brotherhood among mankind still lingered in the recollections of the past. The Pharaoh of Abraham's day feels the power of him whose name is Yahweh Genesis 12:17. Abimelek acknowledges the God of Abraham and Isaac Genesis 20:3-7; Genesis 21:22-23; Genesis 26:28-29. And while Joseph is frank and faithful in acknowledging the true God before the king of Egypt, Pharaoh himself is not slow to recognize the man in whom the Spirit of God is. Having experienced the omniscience and omnipotence of Joseph's God, he was prepared, no doubt, not only himself to offer him such adoration as he was accustomed to pay to his national gods, but also to allow Joseph full liberty to worship the God of his fathers, and to bring up his family in that faith.

Joseph was now in his thirtieth year, and had consequently been thirteen years in Egypt, most part of which interval he had probably spent in prison. This was the age for manly service Numbers 4:3. He immediately enters upon his office.

45. Zaphnath-paaneah—variously interpreted, "revealer of secrets"; "saviour of the land"; and from the hieroglyphics, "a wise man fleeing from pollution"—that is, adultery.

gave him to wife Asenath, the daughter of—His naturalization was completed by this alliance with a family of high distinction. On being founded by an Arab colony, Poti-pherah, like Jethro, priest of Midian, might be a worshipper of the true God; and thus Joseph, a pious man, will be freed from the charge of marrying an idolatress for worldly ends.

On—called Aven (Eze 30:17) and also Beth-shemesh (Jer 43:13). In looking at this profusion of honors heaped suddenly upon Joseph, it cannot be doubted that he would humbly yet thankfully acknowledge the hand of a special Providence in conducting him through all his checkered course to almost royal power; and we, who know more than Joseph did, cannot only see that his advancement was subservient to the most important purposes relative to the Church of God, but learn the great lesson that a Providence directs the minutest events of human life.

Zaphnath-paaneah, i.e. The revealer of secrets, as the Hebrews generally understand it, and with them most others.

Poti-pherah, not that Potiphar, Genesis 39:1; both because he had another title, and dwelt in another place; and because it is not probable Joseph would have married the daughter of so unchaste a mother; but another and a greater person. It is the observation of a late ingenious and learned writer, that among the Egyptians there were three words, or endings of words, near akin, but differing in signification, and in the degree of dignity and authority, to which those names were annexed: Phar, which belonged to inferior officers; and Pherah, which was given to those of greater dignity and power; and Pharaoh, which was appropriated to the king.

Priest, or prince, as the word signifies, Exodus 18:1 2 Samuel 8:18 20:26, and elsewhere. This sense is the more probable, both from Joseph’s high quality, and from his holy disposition, whereby he hated idolatry, and would never have married the daughter of an idolatrous priest.

On was a famous city of Egypt, called also Aven, Ezekiel 30:17, and afterwards, as some think, Heliopolis, now Damiata. See Jeremiah 43:13.

Joseph went out over all the land, upon his employment, and to execute the king’s command, and his own counsel.

And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah,.... Which, according to the paraphrase of Onkelos, signifies one to whom hidden things are revealed; or, as Jonathan, a revealer of secrets; and so most of the Jewish writers explain it; and which seems to be given him from his interpreting Pharaoh's dreams, and revealing what was hereafter to come to pass. The word is only used in this place, at least the latter part of it and Aben Ezra confesses his ignorance of it, whether it is an Egyptian word or not; Kircher (a) most asserts it, and says it signifies a prophet (or foreteller) of future things. Though some think the first part of the name has some respect to the Egyptian idol Baal Zephon, Exodus 14:2, and that, in this new name Pharaoh gave Joseph upon his promotion, he inserted the name of his god, as Nebuchadnezzar, when he gave new names to Daniel and his comparisons, Daniel 1:7,

and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah; not the same with Potiphar, Joseph's master, as Jarchi says, not only their, names differ, but also their offices; nor would Joseph, it is imagined, marry the daughter of such a woman, so wicked as his mistress was, and had so much abused him, and been the cause of all his troubles; nor was this Asenath the daughter of Dinah by Shechem, as some Jewish writers (b) assert, whom Potiphar's wife, having no child, brought up as her own, which is not at all probable; but an Egyptian woman, the daughter of the person before named: who was

priest of On: the same with Aven; See Gill on Ezekiel 30:17; and which in Ptolemy (c) is called Onii, about twenty two miles from Memphis, and said to be the metropolis of the "Heliopolitan home"; and has been since called "Heliopolis", as it is here in the Septuagint version, which signifies the city of the sun, and is the same with Bethshemesh, the house of the sun, Jeremiah 43:13; where, as Herodotus (d) says, the sun was worshipped, and sacrifice offered to it, and the inhabitants of this place are by him said to be the wisest and most rational of the Egyptians (e); here Potipherah, Joseph's father-in-law, was "priest"; and Strabo (f) says, at Heliopolis we saw large houses, in which the priests dwelt; for here especially of old it was said, that this was the habitation of priests, of philosophers, and such as were given to astronomy: the Septuagint version and Josephus (g) call this man Petephre; and an Heathen writer (h), Pentephre, a priest of Heliopolis; which a very learned man (i) says, in the Egyptian tongue, signifies a priest of the sun; and so Philo says (k), that Joseph married the daughter of a famous man in Egypt, who had the priesthood of the sun. But the word may as well be rendered "prince" (l), as it is when there is nothing to determine its sense otherwise, as there is none here; and it is more likely, that Pharaoh should marry his prime minister into the family of one of his princes than of his priests; this seems to be more agreeable to the high rank that Joseph was raised to, as well as more suitable to his character as a worshipper of the true God, who would not choose to marry the daughter of an idolatrous priest: though, according to Diodorus Siculus (m), the Egyptian priests were second to the king in honour and authority, and were always about him, and were of his council; and Aelianus, says (n), that formerly with the Egyptians the judges were priests, and the eldest of them was a prince, and had the power of judging all; and even Sethon, king of Egypt, was a priest of Vulcan: whether this prince or priest was of the king's family, or whether the kings of Egypt had a power to dispose of the daughters of their subjects, especially of their priests or princes when dead, is not certain: perhaps no more, as Bishop Patrick observes, is meant, than that Pharaoh made this match, and which was a mark of great honour and affection to Joseph; and which, if even disagreeable to him, being an idolater, he could not well refuse:

and Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt; either the name and fame of him, as Aben Ezra interprets it, see Matthew 4:24; or rather he himself went forth in all his grandeur before related, and took a tour, throughout the whole land to observe the fruitfulness of it, and make choice of proper places to lay up his intended stores.

(a) Prodrom. Copt. p. 124, &c. (b) Targ. Jon. in loc. Shalshalet Hakabala, fol. 3. 2. Pirke Eliezer, c. 38. (c) Geograph l. 4. c. 5. (d) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 59. 63. (e) Ib. c. 3.((f) Geograph. l. 17. p. 554. (g) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 6. sect. 1.((h) Polyhistor. ex Demetrio apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 21. p. 424. (i) Jablonski de Terra Goshen. Dissert. 8. sect. 4. (k) De Josepho, p. 543. (l) "praesidis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "principis", Pagninus, Vatablus; so the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan. (m) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 66. (n) Var. Hist. l. 14. c. 34.

And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.
45. Zaphenath-paneah] An Egyptian name for which the meaning is given by some Egyptologists “God speaks, and He lives,” i.e. De-pnute-ef-ônch. A proper name of this form does not as yet however appear to have been found in the Egyptian inscriptions before the 20th Dynasty, i.e. the 13th century b.c. The LXX endeavoured to transliterate the name by Ψονθομφανήχ. The Vulg. renders salvator mundi; and Jerome records ab Egyptiis didicimus, quod in linguâ eorum resonet salvator mundi.

Josephus (Ant. ii. 91), Targum of Onkelos, and the Syriac rendered the name by “Revealer of Secrets”; and this was very generally accepted in Christian tradition, the derivation being assumed to be from the Hebrew root zâphan, “to conceal.”

Asenath] A proper name, meaning “Belonging to the goddess Neith.”

Poti-phera] As in Genesis 41:50 and Genesis 46:20. This is the same name, spelled fuller, as in Genesis 37:36 (see note), Genesis 39:1, meaning “the gift of the sun-god.” We may compare the Greek name Heliodorus.

priest of On] “On,” known in later times as Heliopolis, was situate about 7 miles N.E. of Cairo; and was the great centre of Egyptian Ra, or Sun, worship. The obelisk still standing at Heliopolis was there in Joseph’s time. By his marriage with Asenath, Joseph became connected with one of the principal Egyptian families. Potiphera, the priest of On, would have been a man of eminence; but should not be confounded with “the captain of the guard” (Genesis 37:36). Late Jewish tradition identified the two names; and asserted that Asenath had reported to her father her mother’s shameless conduct, whereupon he gave Asenath to Joseph as wife, in order that Joseph might be cleared of any shadow of blame. But this is mere romance.

Verse 45. - And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah; - an Egyptian word, of which the most accredited interpretations are χονθομφανήχ (LXX); Salva-tor Mundi (Vulgate); "the Salvation of the World," answering to the Coptic P-sote-m-ph-eneh - P the article, sots salvation, m the sign of the genitive, ph the article, and eneh the world (Furst, Jablonsky, Rosellini, and others); "the Rescuer of the World" (Gesenius); "the Prince of the Life of the World" (Brugsch); "the Food of Life," or "the Food of the Living" (Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary') - and he gave him to wife - cf. the act of Rhamp-sinitus, who gave his daughter in marriage to the son of an architect on account of his cleverness (Herod., 2:121) - Asenath - another Egyptian term, rendered Ἁσενέθ (LXX.), and explained by Egyptologers to mean, "She who is of Neith, i.e. the Minerva of the Egyptians" (Gesenius, Furst), "the Worshipper of Neith" (Jablousky), "the Favorite of Neith" (Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary'), though by some authorities regarded as Hebrew (Pools in Smith's ' Dictionary,' art. Joseph) - the daughter of Potipherah - Potipherah ("devoted to the sun") - Potiphar (vide Genesis 39:1). The name is very common on Egyptian monuments (Hengstenberg's 'Egypt and the Books of Moses,' p. 32) - priest - or prince (Onkelos.), as in 2 Samuel 8:18, where the word כֹּהֵן, as explained by 1 Chronicles 18:17, means a principal minister of State, though the probability is that Poti-pherah belonged to the priestly caste in Egypt - of On - or Heliopolis, Ἡλιούπολις (LXX.), the name on the monuments being ta-Ra or pa-Ra, house of the sun. "The site of Heliopolis is still marked by the massive walls that surround it, and by a granite obelisk bearing the name of Osirtasen I., of the twelfth dynasty, dating about 3900 years ago" (Wilkinson in Rawlinson's 'Herod.,' 2. p. 8). The priests attached to the temple of the sun at Heliopolis enjoyed the reputation of being the most intelligent and cultured historians in Egypt (Herod., 2:3). That a priest's daughter should have married with a foreign shepherd may, have been distasteful to the prejudices of an intolerant priesthood (Bohlen), but in the case of Asenath and Joseph it was recommended by sundry powerful considerations.

1. Though a foreign shepherd, Joseph was a descendant of Abraham, whom a former Pharaoh had recognized and honored as a prince, and ' The Story of Saneha,' a hieratic papyrus belonging to the twelfth dynasty, shows that Eastern foreigners might even become sons-in-law to the most powerful potentates under the ancient empire (vide 'Records of the Past,' vol. 6. pp. 135-150).

2. Though a foreign shepherd, Joseph was at this time grand vizier of the realm, with absolute control of the lives and fortunes of its people (vide ver. 44).

3. Though a foreign shepherd, he was obviously a favorite of Pharaoh, who, besides being monarch of the realm, was the recognized head of the priestly caste, over whom, therefore, he exercised more than a merely external authority.

4. Though a foreign shepherd Joseph had become a naturalized Egyptian, as may be gathered from Genesis 43:32. And,

5. Though a foreign shepherd, he was circumcised, which, if this rite was already observed in Egypt, and did not originate with Joseph, would certainly not prove a bar to the contemplated alliance (vide Canon Cook in 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 1. p. 480; Kurst, 'Hist. of Old Covenant,' § 88; Hengstenberg, 'Egypt and the Books of Moses,' pp. 32-35). As to the probability of Joseph consenting to become son-in-law to a heathen priest, it may suffice to remember that though marriage with idolaters was expressly forbidden by patriarchal commandment (Genesis 24:3; Genesis 28:1), and afterwards by Mosaic statute (Genesis 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3), it was sometimes contracted for what seemed a perfectly adequate reason, viz., the furtherance of the Divine purposes concerning Israel, and apparently too with the Divine sanction (cf. the cases of Moses, Exodus 2:21, and Esther, Esther 2:16); that Joseph may have deemed the religion of Egypt, especially in its early symbolical forms, as perfectly compatible with a pure monotheistic worship, or, if he judged it idolatrous, he may both have secured for himself complete toleration and have felt himself strong enough to resist its seductions; that Asenath may have adopted her husband's faith, though on this, of course, nothing can be affirmed; and lastly, that the narrator of this history pronounces no judgment on the moral quality of Joseph's conduct in consenting to this alliance, which, though overruled for good, may have been, considered in itself, a sin. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt in the discharge of his vice-regal duties.

CHAPTER 41:46-57 Genesis 41:45But in order that Joseph might be perfectly naturalized, the king gave him an Egyptian name, Zaphnath-Paaneah, and married him to Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, the priest at On. The name Zaphnath-Paaneah (a form adapted to the Hebrew, for Ψονθομφανήχ lxx; according to a Greek scholium, σωτὴρ κόσμον, "salvator mundi" (Jerome), answers to the Coptic P-sote-m-ph-eneh, - P the article, sote salvation, m the sign of the genitive, ph the article, and eneh the world (lit., aetas, seculum); or perhaps more correctly, according to Rosellini and more recent Egyptologists, to the Coptic P-sont-em-ph-anh, i.e., sustentator vitae, support or sustainer of life, with reference to the call entrusted to him by God.

(Note: Luther in his version, "privy councillor," follows the rabbinical explanation, which was already to be found in Josephus (Ant. ii. 6, 1): κρυπτῶν εὑρετής, from צפנת equals צפנות occulta, and פענח revelator.)

Asenath, Ἀσενέθ (lxx), possibly connected with the name Neith, the Egyptian Pallas. Poti-Phera, Πετεφρῆ (lxx), a Coptic name signifying ille qui solis est, consecrated to the sun (φρη with the aspirated article signifies the sun in Memphitic). On was the popular name for Heliopolis (Ἡλιούπολις, lxx), and according to Cyrill. Alex. and Hosea 5:8 signifies the sun; whilst the name upon the monuments is ta-R or pa-R, house of the sun (Brugsch, Reisebericht, p. 50). From a very early date there was a celebrated temple of the sun here, with a learned priesthood, which held the first place among the priests' colleges of Egypt (Herod. 2, 3; Hengst. pp. 32ff.). This promotion of Joseph, from the position of a Hebrew slave pining in prison to the highest post of honour in the Egyptian kingdom, is perfectly conceivable, on the one hand, from the great importance attached in ancient times to the interpretation of dreams and to all occult science, especially among the Egyptians, and on the other hand, from the despotic form of government in the East; but the miraculous power of God is to be seen in the fact, that God endowed Joseph with the gift of infallible interpretation, and so ordered the circumstances that this gift opened the way for him to occupy that position in which he became the preserver, not of Egypt alone, but of his own family also. And the same hand of God, by which he had been so highly exalted after deep degradation, preserved him in his lofty post of honour from sinking into the heathenism of Egypt; although, by his alliance with the daughter of a priest of the sun, the most distinguished caste in the land, he had fully entered into the national associations and customs of the land.

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