On Genesis, Part 51: Redemption and Deliverance


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Genesis 41:14-57

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On Genesis, Part 51: Redemption and Deliverance

We have already discussed the Figures of the Messiah which are evident in the life of Joseph, the accounts of which certainly contain several prophetic types for Christ, and we shall see further examples of that as we proceed through Genesis. But in one significant aspect the life of Joseph is not only a prophetic type for Christ, but also a type, or perhaps a prototype, for the subsequent history of the children of Israel in Egypt. As Joseph went to Egypt against his own will, became a servant, ended up in prison, and was freed and this elevated to an exalted position, so would Israel enter Egypt under constraint and become a nation enslaved and in a sort of prison. But ultimately, like Joseph, the nation had been liberated by Yahweh, and eventually elevated to an exalted position. So in that respect, the life of Joseph in Egypt serves as a prophetic type for the history of Israel in Egypt. Then, as we shall see in subsequent chapters, it shall also further serve as a type for Christ in ways which are far beyond the parallels which we have already observed. So among other things, Joseph shall ultimately serve as a prophetic type for the absolute mercy and salvation which Christ has promised to all of Israel.

Now, as it is described in Genesis chapter 40, Joseph had dreamed dreams, much like the prophet Daniel, and Joseph could also interpret dreams, just like the prophet Daniel. So his discernment which he had exhibited in the interpretations of dreams while in prison would be his introduction to the pharaoh of Egypt, which is where we are presently in Genesis chapter 41. Having successfully interpreted the pharaoh’s dream, Joseph was elevated to a position in his government. Much later, Daniel had apparently earned a reputation for discernment as a young man in Babylon, which is represented in the story of Susanna, and having already been introduced to Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel chapter 1, he later found an audience with the king and interpreted his remarkable dream of the metallic image which represented four great kingdoms, as it is described in Daniel chapter 2. For that Daniel was also rewarded and elevated into the government of his captors. So within the life of Joseph are found patterns which are repeated throughout later Scriptures, and that is one of the wonders of this book which we call the Bible, because once all of these patterns are noticed all we can do is marvel in awe at the wisdom of Yahweh our God, who is the Author of all of these things.

In our last discussion, concerning Genesis chapter 40, we called Joseph The First Prophet, because his interpretations of dreams represented prophecies, and because he himself had asserted that those interpretations had come directly from God, as Daniel had also insisted when he interpreted the dreams of the king of Babylon. The primary function of the Biblical prophets was to speak on behalf of Yahweh God, and here Joseph certainly fulfills that function. Furthermore, Joseph is the first man recorded as having done such a thing in Scripture, at least in those Scriptures which have been preserved for us in what we now call the Bible. Here in Genesis chapter 41, the pharaoh has had a dream which no man in Egypt could interpret, so the butler, a cup-bearer of the pharaoh, had remembered Joseph, after two years, and had recommended him to his master.

According to our chronology, which has been deduced according to the Septuagint manuscripts and all of the statements found in the texts, with a little help from Paul of Tarsus and other Scriptures, the year is 1675 BC, and Joseph is thirty years old, which is stated explicitly at the end of this chapter. As we have already explained when we discussed Joseph in Egypt, Sex, Lies and Prison, the most likely candidate with which to identify this pharaoh is Merneferre Ay, who by some chronologies is said to have ruled Egypt for twenty-three years from about 1695 BC [1], although in the later part of his reign it is plausible that he did not rule over all of Egypt, as the Egyptians were on the verge of losing much of Lower Egypt and the Delta to the invading Hyksos, who were apparently invaders from Canaan, and most likely they were indeed Canaanites. The Canaanite kings of Egypt are identified with the 15th Dynasty and can only tentatively be dated, where they are said by some sources to have ruled from about 1650 BC, and lasted for somewhat longer than a hundred years. [2] By that time Jacob would have been quite aged, as he dies in 1648, and Joseph would have been about 55 years old.

With this background, we shall commence where we had left off with Genesis chapter 41, at the point where the pharaoh had just heard the report about Joseph from his butler, and now the pharaoh responds to the butler’s testimony concerning him:

14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.

It seems that in the Egyptian Old Kingdom, which ended about 400 years before this time, statues and paintings of Egyptian men found in tombs and elsewhere represented many of them as having thin, well-trimmed mustaches, but only sometimes as having had beards. However by the time of the Middle Kingdom, which ended about a hundred years before this time, facial hair had apparently become unfashionable, and perhaps even objectionable. [3] But it is not true that all Egyptians shaved their heads and even their bodies throughout Egyptian history. Monuments depicting commoners and slaves frequently represent them as having had hair. But Egyptian priests shaved their heads and often their bodies, while the noble class shaved their heads or wore their hair short while wearing wigs for formal gatherings and official functions. Any practice beyond these things was probably not universal. But Joseph, being released from prison to go before the pharaoh, had nevertheless maintained the status of a slave, and it is likely that only his face was shaved, and perhaps his hair was cut short but that is not mentioned explicitly here.

15 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it.

A prisoner would not necessarily be told the reason why a king or another official may want to see him, but at this point Joseph must have immediately realized that the butler whose dream he had interpreted two years prior had finally remembered him and informed the pharaoh. It is also likely that the butler is present here with pharaoh, as are others of his servants, which becomes evident later in the chapter. Now Joseph answers:

16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.

Concerning this verse and Joseph’s answer to pharaoh, we shall read a note which is found at this point in the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible which says the following:

The scroll labeled 4QGenj contains the precursor to the following reading found in both the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch texts. Because of the potentially arrogant interpretation of this particular version – it could be read as “Apart from me [Joseph], God will give no answer concerning the welfare of the Pharaoh” – it is possible that a scribe in antiquity removed the second negative to protect the character of Joseph. 4QGenj (with the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch) may, in fact, represent the original version. [4]

The scroll known as 4QGenj is also known as 4Q9. Not all of the Qumran scrolls were created equally. In an abstract of an article titled A New Transcription and Assessment of 4Q9 (4QGenesisj) by Eibert Tigchelaar, an established academic scholar of the Hebrew language and the Dead Sea Scrolls, we read the following:

This article presents a new transcription of 4Q9 on the basis of the new photographs and the identification of four more fragments. The irregular hand and the scribal errors indicate that the scribe was not very skilled. Orthographically and morphologically the text is very close to the Samaritan Pentateuch. [5]

So this one scroll is distinguished by Tigchelaar from the other Dead Sea Scrolls containing copies of Genesis, and those other scrolls do not agree with this one at Genesis 41:16. Yet these Dead Sea Scrolls Bible authors are quick to imagine that it represents the original reading of the passage, and even go so far as to imagine that scribes somehow thought that they had to “protect the character of Joseph”, without offering other possibilities. That is conjecture based on conjecture, but it gets even worse than that, and this represents the poor state of Biblical scholarship today. Looking at the manuscripts which I have available, I cannot find any reason for the references to the Septuagint which were made here in the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible. Evidently, the Septuagint does not contain the reading which they claim that it does in this verse of Genesis.

From the Rahlfs-Hanhart edition of the Septuagint, Genesis 41:16 reads: ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ Ιωσηφ τῷ Φαραω εἶπεν Ἄνευ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἀποκριθήσεται τὸ σωτήριον Φαραω. In his own Septuagint translation, Brenton rendered the Greek of Genesis 41:16 to read as follows: “16 And Joseph answered Pharao and said, Without God an answer of safety shall not be given to Pharao.” The clause in question, ἄνευ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἀποκριθήσεται τὸ σωτήριον Φαραω, is “without God there shall not be a delivering answer for Pharaoh”, and while I might translate it a little differently, that is immaterial, since Brenton’s translation is fair, and from reading the Greek, it is clear that it does not support the claims which were made for this passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible. Neither Rahlfs-Hanhart nor Brenton notice any deviation from the text among the various manuscripts which they had each employed. In the Greek of Brenton’s Septuagint, which is chiefly based on the Codex Vaticanus, this clause is the same as our version from Rahlfs-Hanhart, and it is also the same in the edition of the Septuagint published by Henry Barclay Swete at Cambridge in 1887.

Even the modern New English Translation of the Septuagint has this verse to read: “And Joseph said to Pharaao in reply, ‘Without God the safety of Pharao will not be answered.’” So are all of these translators and editors of Septuagint manuscripts purposely misrepresenting the texts to “protect the character of Joseph”? That is highly unlikely, and especially when many ancient manuscripts are now widely and publicly available in digital form. In fact, they did not remove the negative particle which the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible editors had claimed that they removed.

In fairness, in Tigchelaar’s article on 4QGenesisJ [4Q9] he includes Genesis 41:16 in his list of many verses in this scroll which have textual variants, where he also has a note which suggests that the same reading is found in the Septuagint. [6] But the reading is not found in the Septuagint, in all of the manuscripts of which I am aware or which I can access. The Codex Sinaiticus wants most of Genesis, the Codex Vaticanus is relatively complete, but the section of Genesis in question was damaged and replaced from other sources in the 15th century. Then, as this presentation was being written, the Codex Alexandrinus facsimiles available at the website for the British Library are offline, due to a purported “cyber-attack”, according to a message found there in place of the archive. [7]

Therefore, resorting to reproductions of Origen’s Hexapla, there it is manifest that the only reading which agrees with the claims of these Dead Sea Scrolls scholars is found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament which was made by Aquila of Sinope, a Jew who lived in the first half of the 2nd century AD. Aquila of Sinope may have made a Greek translation of the Old Testament, but it cannot justly be identified with or confused for the Septuagint which preceded him by over four hundred years. Aquila’s version of Genesis 41:16 would indeed translate as it is in the notes of Abegg, Flint and Ulrich. According to the Hexapla, the translation of Aquila of Sinope has the beginning of the clause in question to read: ἄνευ ἐμοῦ θεὸς οὐκ ἀποκριθήσεται τὸ σωτήριον Φαραω or “without me God shall not answer with salvation for Pharaoh.” [8]

Furthermore, there is also an alternate reading of the clause which is attributed in the Hexapla to Symmachus, another 2nd century translator of the Old Testament into Greek who was apparently also a Jew, or perhaps properly, a Judaean, since Eusebius of Caesareia had referred to him as “Symmachus the Ebionite” and therefore he was a Judaean Christian. So in the Hexapla his version of this clause is said to have read: οὐκ ἐγὼ, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ θεὸς τὴν εἰρήνην ἀποκριθήσεται Φαραώ or “not I, but God shall answer peace to Pharaoh” [9], which is nearly similar to the English reading in the King James Version. However if I were translating the Hebrew, I would render it to say “Apart from me, God shall answer with peace [שׁלום, or safety] to Pharaoh.” The difference in the interpretations evident in the version of Symmachus is chiefly in the interpretation of שׁלום or salowm (# 7965), which is a variant spelling of שׁלם or salem, and which is, according to the Brown, Driver Briggs lexicon, completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, or safety, among other related definitions. [10]

The same source, the Hexapla, has the Latin texts employed by Origen to read: Non ego: Deus respondebit quae pertinent ad salutem Pharaonis, which is “Not I: God will answer what concerns the salvation of Pharaoh.” [11] This differs somewhat from the Vulgate, which was not yet translated by Jerome in the time of Origen. However the Douay-Rheims version translated the clause as it is found in the Vulgate to read: “It is not in me: God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” That is also very similar to the reading found in the Orthodox Study Bible, which claims to be based on the Septuagint. [12] There are other ways to explain the differences among these translations and those of the Septuagint, without the claim that any negative particle was purposely omitted.

Here we have presented many witnesses to the reading of the Septuagint as well as other Greek and Latin translations, some of which in turn attest the original Hebrew, and the only translation which supports the claims made by the editors of the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, which also seems to have been echoed by Tigchelaar, whether he has it from them or from some other source, is that which was made by Aquila of Sinope. But they are all wrong for identifying that translation as the Septuagint. Additionally, they should not have piled a layer of conjecture on top of their inaccuracy by claiming that other early scribes had covered for Joseph, because Joseph was arrogant, which is not at all true. This is indeed a case of the blind following the blind, and it illustrates how academics, men with worldly credentials, may easily lead Christians into the proverbial ditch. They follow one another’s mistakes more often than it may even be possible for us to perceive.

So in spite of the Jewish innovations, it is apparent that here once again, Joseph had exhibited a remarkable degree of humility and piety, traits which were not made evident in the accounts of his early life. Perhaps Moses had purposely written his accounts in a concise manner, excluding petty details, or perhaps Joseph himself had related the matters to his brethren in a manner which avoided elaboration. In any event, the accounts are purposely concise and that must also have been the will of God. Therefore pharaoh may not have conveyed the matter at hand to Joseph with dire immediacy, but the way that it is presented here seems to be indicative of some degree of urgency which he may have had to hear Joseph’s interpretation of his dream. Critics of Scripture often exploit the concise nature of the accounts by using them to attribute motives to men which the texts themselves do not convey. At times they may even take an alternate reading from a defective manuscript and use it to support an agenda, something which certain academics accuse Identity Christians of doing.

Now the pharaoh describes his dream to Joseph:

17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river: 18 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow: 19 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed, such as I never saw in all the land of Egypt for badness: 20 And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: 21 And when they had eaten them up, it could not be known that they had eaten them; but they were still ill favoured, as at the beginning. So I awoke.

The first clause of verse 21 as it is found in Brenton’s translation of the Septuagint actually represents the meaning of the corresponding Hebrew text better than the King James Version and other modern translations, where it has “And they went into their bellies; and it was not perceptible that they had gone into their bellies…” Now, as it was where this dream is first described at the beginning of this chapter, the pharaoh must have fallen asleep once again:

22 And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: 23 And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them: 24 And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: and I told this unto the magicians; but there was none that could declare it to me.

Here there are a few small elaborations which were not mentioned in the first descriptions of this dream, as they are found in the opening verses of this chapter, but they are insignificant and surely they are not dishonest. When, in the flow of a narrative, it is necessary to repeat the description of an account twice in a short space, it is the prerogative of the narrator to leave something out of one description or the other. But on the other hand, it may have been the pharaoh himself who had made a slightly different description the second time he repeated it, which actually lends credibility to the account as a whole. It would be natural to mention a slightly different aspect, or to remember a few small details that one did not recall the first time it was described, and that shows that the account was not taken from a script which had been rehearsed or copied, but was instead derived from an actual memory, which is never completely perfect.

Critics of Scripture use instances such as this in order to discredit witnesses, and one notable example of that is often found in the three descriptions by Paul of Tarsus of his experience on the road to Damascus, where each time he described it, his perspective was slightly different, and he recalled slightly different aspects of the broader account, or he had expressed them with different terms. However those accounts were given over a space of thirty years, so the slightly different versions of the events also further proves their authenticity, rather than discrediting Paul.

Now Joseph was apparently able to interpret the dream immediately, at least as the account is written, and once again he is portrayed as having given the credit to God:

25 And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. 27 And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine.

This is also a parallelism, something which occurs very frequently in Scripture: two consecutive descriptions, whether they consist of entire passages, chapters, or mere phrases, or here, even dreams, which describe the same entity or phenomenon in slightly different ways, so that by two descriptions the nature of what is being described is portrayed in greater detail or with greater clarity.

Now Joseph continues his interpretation of the dream:

28 This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh. 29 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: 30 And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; 31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.

Now Joseph describes the reason for the parallelism:

32 And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.

So Biblical parallelisms are an important feature of Scripture, wherever they are found to occur, because according to the words of Joseph here, they are supplied purposefully, so that we may read two descriptions of the same phenomenon or entity, and upon compounding them we may better understand what is being described. Such parallelisms abound in the prophets, the Revelation, and in the Gospel of Christ, and they are also found here in Genesis. Examples are the oracles against the King of Tyre and the Prince of Tyre in Ezekiel chapters 28 and 29, the prophesied invasions of a future land of Israel in Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, and also elements of Genesis, such as the accounts of the creation of Adam in Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 5, although I am more persuaded that originally they were written as separate scrolls, they nevertheless serve as parallelisms.

Now Joseph offers the pharaoh advice on how to respond to the message which was conveyed in the dream:

33 Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.

Just as the interpretation of the dreams were made under the inspiration of God, this advice must also have been made under the inspiration of God, and Joseph himself could not have foreseen that he himself would be that man which pharaoh would choose. Neither could Joseph, who was a lowly slave and even lowlier as a prisoner, have even ventured to offer counsel to a king, nor would the king be humble and willing to listen, if not for the inspiration of God.

Perhaps the words of Solomon in Wisdom chapter 9 are appropriate: “13 For what man shall know the counsel of God, or who shall consider what Yahweh desires? 14 For the reasonings of mortals are miserable and our thoughts precarious. 15 For the corruptible body burdens a soul, and the earthy tabernacle weighs down a mind full of thoughts, 16 and with difficulty we portray the things upon the earth, and the things at hand we find with labor, so who has traced out the things in the heavens? 17 And Your counsel, who has known, if You do not give wisdom and send Your Holy Spirit from the heights? 18 And in this manner are made straight the ways of those upon the earth, and men are taught Your acceptable things and with wisdom they are preserved.”

Here Yahweh with His wisdom is redeeming Joseph from slavery and prison, while pharaoh, by accepting this lesson from Joseph, shall also be preserved, along with both Egypt and Israel – even if deliverance may not come without trial. So Joseph continues his advice:

34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. 35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. 36 And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.

On the surface, saving a fifth of the produce during each year of seven years of plenty may not seem sufficient for the people to survive seven years of famine, since if they typically consumed everything they grew, they would only save an amount commensurate with twenty percent of their future requirements for seven additional years. However Egypt was a large exporter of grain, and its trade with surrounding nations is recorded from at least as early as the 2nd Dynasty [13], which is esteemed to have been as early as the 29th century BC. Even if it was actually not quite that early, it is still significantly earlier than the time of Joseph. Later in history, Egypt was a large exporter of grain to Rome and other parts of the Roman Empire. According to one source, “Egypt had grain in plenty, and would eventually become known as 'Rome's breadbasket' during the Roman period” [14], something which is also fully evident in ancient Greek and Roman sources.

So it is evident that ancient Egypt had the capacity to produce grains in amounts many times greater than what it had actually consumed, and other fruits had also been produced in abundance. Saving twenty percent of their grain, perhaps their exports dropped significantly during the seven years, and of course even more significantly during the years of famine, but the people of Egypt would still have more than they required, and it is absolutely plausible that the Egyptians were also able to sell grain to visitors suffering from the coming famine.

37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?

Here we must bear in mind the fact that Laban had only appreciated the God of Jacob so much as he thought that Jacob could be profitable for him, and with this pharaoh the case may not have been any different. A wise man would worship the God of Abraham, but a smart man, not necessarily wise, would at least be able to recognize opportunity when it stared him in the face. Pharaoh had also heard Joseph only on account of the report of his butler, but now he seems to have been even more greatly impressed after speaking to Joseph himself, to the point where he would trust him even with his entire kingdom.

39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: 40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. 41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

Yahweh, by blessing Joseph with his prophetic abilities as well as favor in the eyes of the pharaoh, had redeemed Joseph from both slavery and from prison, and had made him the governor of all Egypt. So with this, pharaoh would be delivered from the famine, and so would Egypt. But more importantly, in the Biblical context, the future children of Israel would also be delivered from the famine. So here is redemption and deliverance not only for Joseph, but deliverance for Egypt and Israel, although it is not yet realized.

42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; 43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.

It is very likely that this ring was a signet ring, much like the one which Judah had given to Tamar, when he thought she was only a random prostitute. So with this signet ring, Joseph would be able even to sign proclamations in the name of the pharaoh.

Joseph also serves as a signal example of how the circumstances of a humble man, even a man imprisoned as a slave, could be changed in a few short minutes so that he may rise to be ruler of a kingdom, and at the rather young age of thirty years. Not even did Job have such rapid changes of fortune than those which Joseph had experienced. He was the favorite of his father’s twelve sons, and in a few hours he became a slave in Egypt. Then as a slave and in prison, thirteen years later, in events which also unfolded over a short time, he became the ruler of Egypt.

44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. 45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

Like Joseph, the chief eunuch of the later king of Babylon had also renamed Daniel, and the practice was evidently a custom in the ancient world. But even Jacob had called his brother Edom, at the time when he had earned the title. So such a naming seems to have been ceremonial, and both pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar had asserted their ultimate control over men whom had gained their trust to the point where they were given high offices and authority. So Daniel was renamed by one of Nebuchadnezzar’s officers as Belteshazzar, and his companions also received new names. Later, Nebuchadnezzar took Mattaniah, the uncle of Jehoiachin the king of Judah, and made him king in his place, renaming him as Zedekiah.

But much earlier, even Moses had renamed his own chosen successor, where we read in Numbers chapter 13 that “16 These are the names of the men which Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Oshea the son of Nun Jehoshua [Joshua, or Yahshua].” So Moses renamed Oshea, which means Salvation, to Yahshua, which is Yahweh Saves, and that is also the name given to Yahshua Christ. Yahshua the son of Nun replaced Moses in his temporal office, and Christ replaced Moses figuratively, on a spiritual level, as He became the high priest of a new priesthood, ministering to the children of Israel, as well as Israel’s ultimate Judge.

However Joseph’s name here may actually have been only a title, as the word צפנת פענח or Zaphnath-panach, or perhaps Zapnat-panach (# 6847) which the text seems to indicate where a definition is ventured. But that too is difficult, and perhaps even more so because in the Septuagint the first part of the name is formed from somewhat different sounds, and spelled as Ψονθομφανηχ or Psonthom-phanech, or as it is in the manuscripts of Josephus, Ψονθονφάνηχον or Psonthon-phanechon. It is apparent in the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible that the last portion of this chapter which survived in the scrolls is from verse 44.

The original Strong’s Concordance has no definition for the term. Giving different reasons, Gesenius claims that its Egyptian meaning is either “Salvation” or “Savior of the Age” [15], and Brown, Driver and Briggs define it as “the god speaks and he lives” [16]. While we shouldn’t settle on one or the other without further study, the definition supplied by Gesenius seems to be a fitting title for the duties which Joseph would be assigned.

Now the following verse has been crucial in our development of a chronology for this period, as well as the time when Jacob had left Haran:

46 And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.

As we have already said, by our estimation from the Septuagint text, the year is 1675 BC. Now, as Joseph had implied in his interpretation of the dream where he said in verse 32 that “God will shortly bring it to pass”, the seven years of plenty seem to have started almost immediately:

47 And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls. 48 And he gathered up all the food of the seven years, which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities: the food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same. 49 And Joseph gathered corn as the sand of the sea, very much, until he left numbering; for it was without number.

Here the text supports our assertion that during the years of plenty, Egypt could easily produce many times more food than it would consume, so that saving twenty percent of that each year, the nation could comfortably survive seven years of famine, and also be able to sell off some of the excess grain.

50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him. 51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house.

Following Howard Rand, Clifton Emahiser, from his Watchman’s Teaching Letter # 33 for January 2001 and later, had identified Potipherah and his daughter Asenath as Shemites. While I cannot discount this, I am somewhat skeptical as to how it could possibly be determined. The Egyptian archaeologists who publish studies about discoveries in Egypt confuse all of the Canaanite tribes for Semites, they confuse the Hebrew language as a Semitic language, and the early speakers of Akkadian in Mesopotamia are also confused for Semites. But the truth is that Akkadian was the original language of the Cushites of Mesopotamia, who established that language as the lingua franca of the Near East in the time of their empire, and it retained that status nearly until the time when the Assyrian empire had fallen from power in the late 7th century BC. So, as we have demonstrated in earlier portions of this Genesis Commentary relating to Genesis chapters 10 and 11, the languages spoken by peoples who were for a long time subject to the Akkadian empire, which includes the Assyrians, the Arameans or Syrians, the Hebrews, and most of the Canaanite tribes, as well as the then-future Cushites of Ethiopia, had all spoken dialects of Akkadian. Furthermore, the Cushites and the Canaanites were all of Ham, and cannot ever properly be called Semites. So Akkadian is actually a Hamitic language.

But when reading the archaeology journals, while there are many references to Semites in Egypt, and while Semitic words have been found on scrolls recovered from temples which are esteemed to be from as early as the 24th century BC [17], it is never clear as to whether those Semites were Arameans, or Hebrews, other descendants of Shem who had dwelt in what is now called Arabia, such as the tribes of Joktan or Midian, or whether they were actually Canaanites who also spoke Akkadian dialects. During the time of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, which ended in the 19th century BC, there were many people in Egypt from the land which the Egyptians had called Retjenu, but that encompassed most of the Levant, parts of eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus mountains. [18] This area was populated by Arameans, Hebrews and other Semites as well as Canaanites. Therefore even if it can be established that a Semite could have been a priest of On, it is highly unlikely that the Semite can be precisely identified, not only due to the fault of archaeologists, but also that of the Egyptians who very often only used very general terms to describe the peoples of Asia.

As for On, it is commonly identified with Heliopolis, as it also is in the Septuagint, and it was also evidently called Bethshemesh in later Scriptures, such as in Jeremiah chapter 43 where we read: “12 And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captives: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace. 13 He shall break also the images of Bethshemesh, that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.” The word Heliopolis is actually a Greek phrase which means “city of the sun”, and the word Bethshemesh is a Hebrew phrase which means “house of the sun”. Again speaking of ancient Egypt, On is called און or Aven (# 206) in Ezekiel chapter 30. Here the Hebrew word is the same word (# 204), but the King James Version is never consistent in its representations of names.

Many years ago, in his Watchman’s Teaching Letter #40 for August of 2001, Clifton Emahiser published a brief letter which I had written to him explaining that “Concerning Beth-Shemesh, ... ‘Shemesh’, I am convinced is surely a double entendre. For the word means ‘sun’ in Hebrew, obvious from the Greek translation ‘Heliopolis’ which means ‘city (polis) of the sun (helios)’, but also, and just as well in palaeo-Hebrew, it means ‘people of Shem.’ For the people of Shem are the ‘light of the world’ (Matt. 5:14), and just like the ancient Pharaohs, Yahshua is represented as the source of light, Rev. 21:23; John 1:4-9; 8:12; Rev. 22:16.” [At that early time, Clifton had only referred to me as “one of my proofreaders”.] So the identification of this priest of On with Semites from Syria is certainly inviting, but it cannot be asserted with any certainty.

The site of On, or Heliopolis, is mentioned in some of the earliest Egyptian creation myths. Of one such text containing such myths, we read in the introduction to its translation: “The text was carved inside the pyramids of Mer-ne-Re and Pepi II (Nefer-ka-Re) of the Sixth Dynasty (24th century B.C.), from which the following translation is made. Parts of the text were popular in later times, to promote the immortality of individuals.” Then, in a footnote for that paragraph, we read: “The god of Heliopolis was compounded of two phases of the sun, Atum and Kheprer (later Atum and Re). The sanctuary at Heliopolis had a stone of sacred recognition. Associated with this stone was a bird, which was much later to be taken as the phoenix. This part of the texts is full of plays on words, such as weben "arise," and ben-bird, etc.” In the inscription itself, the “Great Ennead” or nine gods of the ancient Egyptians, including the recognizable ones such as Osiris, Isis and Seth, were all said to dwell in Heliopolis. [19]

According to Gesenius, the name פוטי פרע or Potiphera (# 6319) is said by Gesenius to be an Egyptian phrase meaning “who belongs to the sun”, or the idol Re. [20] The name is very similar in form and in meaning to Potiphar, Joseph’s master when he first arrived in Egypt, but that does not mean that they are the same man. Likewise, אסנת or Asenath (# 621) means “she who is of Neith”, the Egyptian idol. [21] Both of these names are decidedly Egyptian. But Neith, who is said to have been a goddess, or idol, of warriors and wisdom, certainly seems to be akin to the Phoenician Anath and the Athenian Athena, both of whom were warrior goddesses.

52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

The name מנשׁה or Manasseh (# 4519 ) is a phrase which is defined by Strong’s as “causing to forget”, which is suggested in the text, as is the definition of אפרים or Ephraim, which is said to mean “double fruit”, where the plural of the word אפרתה or ephrathah (# 672), which means fruitfulness, is interpreted as a dual form.

53 And the seven years of plenteousness, that was in the land of Egypt, were ended.

So it seems that Ephraim and Manasseh were both born at least three or four years before Jacob would come to Egypt. Jacob, having lived seventeen years in Egypt, the boys were at least twenty years old at the time when he had blessed them, shortly before his death, and very likely even older than that. If Asenath had her first child after a year, then Manasseh could be as old as twenty-six years and Ephraim could be as twenty-five when they were blessed.

54 And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.

Surely Yahweh had once again made the labors of Joseph profitable, as He had done for him when he worked for Potiphar, and when he had served as a steward for the warden of the prison. Yet even the names of Joseph’s sons seem to reflect the promises of the Kingdom of God, where there is a hope that Yahweh forgets the sins of the children of Israel, and makes them doubly fruitful.

55 And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. 56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. 57 And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

Here it seems, since there is no mention in the text of Joseph’s having paid for the food which he stored, that it was taken as a tax on the people during the seven years of plenty, and now he is selling it back to them. This may seem unfair, and even oppressive, but if Joseph had not stored the grain and kept it under guard, at the expense of the pharaoh, then the people would have no food at all, and if it were given away, it would not last for seven years. So from that overall and objective perspective, if that is indeed what Joseph had done, it is nevertheless a fair and honest bargain for all parties involved.

For now, this concludes our commentary on Genesis chapter 41. But surely, when we resume – if Yahweh God is willing – we shall certainly have more to discuss concerning Joseph in Egypt.

Footnotes

1 Merneferre Ay, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merneferre_Ay, Wikipedia, accessed March 21st, 2024.

2 Fifteenth Dynasty of Egypt, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifteenth_Dynasty_of_Egypt, accessed March 21st, 2024.

3 Facial Hair (specifically beards) in Ancient Egypt, Tour Egypt, https://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/beards.htm, accessed March 22nd, 2024.

4 The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint and Eugene Ulrich, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., first edition, 1999, p. 17.

5 A New Transcription and Assessment of 4Q9 (4QGenesisj) Manuscript, Scribe, and Text, Eibert Tigchelaar, Brill, October, 2022, https://brill.com/view/journals/dsd/30/1/article-p62_3.xml, accessed March 21st, 2024. (For a freely available copy of the article see https://lirias.kuleuven.be/retrieve/710436.)

6 ibid., p. 4.

7 British Library, https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/FullDisplay.aspx?ref=Royal_MS_1_D_VIII, attempted access on March 22nd, 2024.

8 Origenis Hexaplorum, Fridericus Field, AA. M., Volume I, Clarendon Press, 1875, p. 58.

9 ibid.

10 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, 2021, p. 1022.

11 Origenis Hexaplorum, p. 58.

12 The Orthodox Study Bible, Fr. Jack Norman Sparks, project director, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2008, p. 52.

13 Ancient Egyptian Trade, World Civilization, a website of the State University of New York, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/suny-hccc-worldcivilization/chapter/ancient-egyptian-trade/, accessed March 22nd, 2024.

14 Trade in Ancient Egypt, World history Encyclopedia, https://www.worldhistory.org/article/1079/trade-in-ancient-egypt, accessed March 22nd, 2024.

15 Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Baker Books, 1979, pp. 716-717.

16 The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, p. 861.

17 Asiatics in Middle Kingdom Egypt: Perceptions and Reality, Bloomsbury Egyptology, Phyllis Saretta, 2016, https://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2016/2016.08.21/, accessed March 22nd, 2024.

18 Retjenu, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retjenu, accessed March 22nd, 2024.

19 Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament 3rd edition, James Pritchard, editor, 1969, Harvard University Press, p. 3.

20 Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, p. 668.

21 ibid., pp. 66-67.

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Comments

Codex Alexandrinus on Genesis 41:15-16

I could not quite locate this text in time for the podcast, but the Codex Alexandrinus also supports the fact that the reading in the Septuagint is not what the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible had claimed. They should retract their lies.

Message to Eibert Tigchelaar regarding the LXX and 4Q9

This morning I sent a message to Eibert Tigchelaar concerning his reference to the Septuagint in relation to 4Q9 (4QGenj):

Sir, In a recent paper you indicated that the Septuagint is in agreement with the reading of 4Q9 at Genesis 41:16. But that is not so, unless there is some manuscript of the LXX of which I am unaware. Abegg, Flint and Ulrich made the same assertion, and I will message them if I find them. I can send the details to an email address if you would want to see them. As it is in the Hexapla edition of Fridericus Field, only the reading of Aquila of Sinope agrees with 4Q9 at that point in Genesis.

Click the cropped image below for the full-size screenshot.