And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On…
A question may arise in reference to the complete adoption by Joseph of Egyptian manners. His name is changed. According to the high authority of Brugsch, his new name means "governor of the district of the dwelling-place of the living one," and thus includes as one of its elements the name of an Egyptian god, Ankh, worshipped at Pithom. Other Egyptian scholars, however, render it "storehouse of the house of life." But, in any case, the Egyptian name implies a complete identification with Egypt. His marriage to the daughter of a priest may not have involved adoption into the sacerdotal caste, nor participation in idolatrous worship, but is another mark, at least, of naturalization. It is difficult to recognize a son of Abraham in Pharaoh's minister; and his action sounds unpleasantly like that of the unworthy Englishmen whom one hears of in the Turkish service, with "pasha" at their names. But we may easily exaggerate the extent of Joseph's assimilation, and overrate the sharpness of the separation between that generation of the sons of the promise and the rest of the world. The Pharaoh with whom Joseph had to do was not a full-blooded Egyptian; and his predecessors, at all events, were not orthodox worshippers, according to Egyptian standards. He appears in verse 38 as recognizing one God; and we know that, in the opinion of competent authorities, the religion of Egypt had a monotheistic basis beneath all " the wood, hay, stubble" of legend and animal worship. Possibly we may see in this Hyksos king another instance, like those of Abimeleeh of Gerar and Melchizedek of Salem, which widens our conceptions of the extent of the early faith in one supreme God, and surprises with twinkling light where we had thought darkness reigned; but, whether this be so or no, Joseph did not give up his religion because he became an Egyptian in name, and married an Egyptian wife. The old faith in the Divine promise to his fathers lived on in his heart, and flamed out at last when he "gave commandment concerning his bones." So he teaches us the lesson of willing co-operation, so far as may be, in the charities and duties of life, with those who do not share our faith, and shows us that the firmer our hold of the truth and promise of God, the more safe and obligatory is it to become " all things to all men," that we may by all means help and "save some." No doubt that principle is often abused, and made an excuse for unhallowed mingling with the world; but it is a true principle for all that; and as long as Christian people seek to assimilate themselves to others, and to establish friendly relations for unselfish ends, and not from cowardice or a sneaking wish to be of the world, after all no harm will come of it. "Ye are the salt of the earth." Salt must be rubbed into the substance which it is to preserve from putrefaction. So Christian men are to go among those whom they would save; and remember that a greater than Joseph was called "a Friend of publicans and sinners."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.