Friday, December 31, 2010

Pharaoh Makes Joseph Ruler Of Egypt - Genesis 41:40-45

“You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen, and put the gold necklace around his neck. And he had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, “Bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Though I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh named Joseph Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, as his wife. And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.

From the end of Genesis 41:39 where Pharaoh states there is no one in the land as discerning and as wise as Joseph, right through to verse 41 where he announces he has “set (Joseph) over all the land of Egypt”, there is no indication that the Hebrew youth even had a choice or say in the matter. But notice all the perquisites Pharaoh has endowing him with. Every potential CEO in the world would have jumped at them.
He was to be totally in charge of Pharaoh’s own personal household. All the people either of the nation or all those that were of Pharaoh’s kinship or household would also be required to “kiss” (pay homage) Joseph. This practice was first introduced in scripture when Isaac asked Jacob, thinking him to be Esau, to kiss him (Genesis 27:26). The same Hebrew word was repeated in Genesis 29:11 (when Jacob kissed Rachel) as well several other times prior to our current passage in relation to Laban and Jacob.

Furthermore there was to be no one between Pharaoh and Joseph. The former would only be greater as a sovereign on the throne, but not in practice. And to guarantee that statement, Pharaoh took off his ring that contained his seal and when used, served as his sign of authority on any document it was impressed upon with hot wax. This was the first mention of such a ring in scripture.

He gave Joseph a new wardrobe as well as some fine jewelry and assigned him his second most preferred vehicle. Whenever Joseph rode in this chariot, the Egyptian guards would go ahead of him in other vehicles and instruct the people on the roads and elsewhere to “bend the knee” or kneel down to Joseph as his chariot was passing. Clearly, he was established as the second mightiest ruler in Egypt. Joseph was given the right to control all activity in Egypt. Nothing could be done without his permission.
Speaking volumes, Pharaoh gave him a new name, Zaphenath-paneah. In the later Coptic language, the word signifies a “revealer of secrets” or “receiver of revelations concerning secrets”. [Coptic is the later version of the Egyptian language using its own script or alphabet, whereas the original or early Egyptian was based on the Greek alphabet.] In earlier Egyptian, the name given to Joseph is said to have the meaning of “the Savior of the world”. It is possible that Pharaoh now saw Joseph as the ‘savior’ of Egypt, his ‘world’. Many empires referred to their own conquered lands as being ‘the world’ long after this Pharaoh did.

Finally, Pharaoh gives an Egyptian woman to the young Hebrew as his wife. Asenath was the daughter of Potiphera, a priest of On. The name ‘Asenath’ means ‘belonging to the goddess Neith’. According to Wikipedia, in Egyptian mythology, Neith (also known as Nit, Net, and Neit) was an early goddess in the Egyptian pantheon. She was the patron deity of Sais, where her cult was centered in the Western Nile Delta of Egypt and attested as early as the First Dynasty. Asenath’s father was Potiphera. His name meant ‘one who belonged to the sun’ and was given to his parents by the Egyptian sun god himself, Ra. Potiphera was the priest of an ancient Egyptian city called On. The name On meant “strength or vigor”. It was in Lower Egypt, bordering the land of Goshen. It was a center of sun worshiping.

So in this short passage of Scripture we observe the transformation of a young Hebrew man to a full-fledged Egyptian ruler. He gets a new job, new powers, new clothes, new means, new respect, a new name, and a new wife. This was Joseph the dreamer. This was the man that gave all the credit for his life and abilities to God. Now what does he do with all this?

Our text simply says, “And Joseph went forth over the land of Egypt.” Is there a lesson for us here? As always, the answer is ‘yes there is’. No matter who we are, there have been, or will be, times during our life that somehow our circumstances will indeed be transformed. We may complete some education. We may get a promotion or a new job. We may receive an inheritance or get married. We may become a parent. It may be as simple as buying our first new car or home. Something happens that changes the appearance of who we are to others. It also changes our influence and impact on others, whether we recognize or not. Yet up to this point, we know who we were and the One Who helped us get to where we now are. We have always given the credit to God. The question is what happens from this point forward?

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