Keith Hunt - Did Joseph Marry an Egyptian? Restitution of All Things

Did Joseph Marry an Eguptian?

An Historical Search


From "Thy Kingdom Come" - February 2012 - a publication by The
Association of the Covenant People, Burnaby, B.C. Canada.


by Pastor  Jory Steven Brooks, CBIA

     Did the patriarch Joseph, son of Jacob, marry an Egyptian?
Are two of the most prominent tribes of Israel, Ephraim and
Manasseh, of Egyptian origin? (Gen. 41:50-52; 46:20) Bible
reference books seem to be divided on this issue. We read this
notation in the "Believers Bible Commentary": "He also gave
Asenath, a Gentile, to be Joseph's wife (Gen. 41:45)." In
contrast, Matthew Poole's Commentary says, "it is not probable
Joseph would have married the daughter of so unchaste a mother...
he hated idolatry, and would never have married the daughter of
an idolatrous priest."
     The importance of this issue is not only because Egypt
prophetically signifies evil (e.g. Rev. 11:8), but also the
important fact that the Bible forbade the Israelites to
intermarry with pagan nations. The Pulpit Commentary explains,
"marriage with idolaters was expressly forbidden by patriarchal
commandment, (Gen.24:3; Gen.28:1) and afterwards by Mosaic
statute (Gen.34:16; Deu.7:3)." Would Joseph, a patriarch,
emblematic father of the faithful and example of righteousness,
have blatantly broken Biblical rules of conduct? Would the Bible
have praised him as one of the splendid examples to follow if he
did? (Heb.11:22)
     For example, we read regarding foreign pagan nations in
Deuteronomy 7:2-3, "And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them
before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them;
thou shalt make no covenant with nor shew mercy unto Neither
shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not
give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy
son." This was patriarchal law.
(Yes, to a point, but other verses in the books of Moses, say God
forbade them to marry pagan people, not on a "race issue" but on
a "religious issue" - as the pagan would turn God's people away
from following the ways of the true God, as we have king Solomon
of Israel doing - see 1 Kings 11:1-9. All verses should be read
in all the Bible to come to the truth of the matter - Keith Hunt)

     Jewish scholarship through the ages has largely denied the
Egyptian racial origin of Asenath, Joseph's wife. Professor V.
Aptowitzer of Hebrew Union College stated, "The disturbing fact
with regard to the wife of Joseph was her descent from Ham." He
further summarized Jewish tradition as teaching that "Asenath,
the wife of Joseph, was actually of the tribe and family of Jacob
and was one of his descendants." (HUCA 1:241-242) This opposition
to Asenath being of Egyptian origin is a racial animosity, not
religious, because it could easily be assumed that Joseph's wife
may have converted to his religion at the time of their marriage.
     The Biblical commands against intermarriage were thus taken
as of a racial nature according to the rabbis.
     The rabbinic opposition to intermarriage extended to Jacob's
son, Judah, as well. Professor Aptowitzer explains, "Many
[Jewish] teachers reproach Judah for having married a Canaanite
woman, cf. [Haggadic passage] Gen. R.85.1.. Jacob commands his
sons as follows, 'None of your sons shall touch my bier, because
you took wives from the daughters of Canaan'." (ibid.)
     Jewish tradition and legends say that Asenath was the
offspring of Jacob's daughter, Dinah, and resulted from Shechem's
seduction related Genesis chapter 34. This teaching is found in
numerous early sources, including the Tractate Soferim,
PseudoJonathan, Midrash Abchir, Samritan Ibrahim, and others.
One early Jewish Haggadic passage, for example, reads, "...she
[Asenath] did not resemble the daughters of the Egyptians in any
respect whatever, but she was like the daughters of the Hebrews
in all respects. She was tall like Sarah, charming like Rebeccah,
and beautiful like Rachel." (ibid. p.264) The rabbis explained
that this similarity to the Hebrews could only be explained if
Asenath was herself of Hebrew descent.
     Of course, we do not wish to imply that Jewish legends are
necessarily accurate or on par with Sacred Scripture. However, it
does show the belief and attitude of leading Jewish scholars over
the centuries, and that there seems to be no question of their
opposition to the idea that Joseph's wife was of the Egyptian

     What do modern scholars have to say? The Israelites dwelled
in Egypt in the region of Goshen, a 900 square mile fertile
irrigated plain on the east bank of the Nile River, about 35
miles from north to south, which according to Bullinger includes
"some of the best land in Egypt." He quotes an early 14th
century, B.C. report that described it as "vineyards, and balsam
plantations, and orchards, and tilled fields, and gardens." The
Israelite sojourn dates to approximately 1700 to 1500 B.C.
(Bishop Ussher dated the Exodus as 1491 B.C.) ... Interestingly,
scholars date the Asiatic/Semitic conquest of Egypt by the
Shepherd Kings to 1750-1550 B.C. (IVP Commentary), or
approximately the same period, leading some to suggest that the
Israelites were a part of the Semitic conquest of Egypt.
Maclaren's Commentary says, "Joseph's sudden promotion
is made the more intelligible by the probability which the study
of Egyptian history has given, that the Pharaoh who made him his
second in command was one of the Hyksos conquerors who dominated
Egypt for a long period. They would have no prejudices against
Joseph on account of his being a foreigner." Furthermore, if the
Israelites remained (and suffered persecution) after the Shepherd
Kings were overthrown and forced to leave Egypt, it would explain
the meaning of the Biblical passage which says, "Now there arose
up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." (Ex.1:8; Acts
7:18) The expulsion of the Hyksos was by native-Egyptian Pharaoh
Ahmose, who had a detrimental attitude toward the Israelites, who
were Semites from Asia like the Hyksos. (Hoffmeier, Israel In
Egypt, p.65ff)
     Also significant is the finding that the Egyptian capital of
the Shepherd Kings, Avaris, was in the region of Goshen where the
Israelites dwelled. Bullinger says that Goshen "stretches from
Zoan to Bubastis (at both of which cities records of the Hyksos
ruler Apepi have been found)." Nearby was Heliopolis, or On, the
city of the Sun God, where Joseph's father-inlaw, Potiphera, was
priest. Were Potiphera and his daughter, Joseph's wife, members
of the Semitic Shepherd Kings?
     The Bible Knowledge Commentary tells us, "Pharaoh gave him
(Joseph] a wife, Asenath, from the priestly family of On (a city
which was a center of sun worship seven miles north of Cairo and
also known as Heliopolis)."
     Keil and Delitzsch adds, "On was the popular name for
Heliopolis ...and according to Cyrill. Alex. and Hos.5:8
signifies the sun ...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.)."
     John Gill's Commentary quotes the early geographer, Strabo,
who 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."

     Who were these Shepherd Kings? The sun god was central to
their worship. Not only did the city name, On, mean "sun," but
Potiphera's name meant, "House of the Sun." Samuel Lysons
revealed that the sun was a mark of Semitic worship. He says,
"Ur, in Chaldea, where Abraham was brought up, we are informed,
was so called from the sun and fire, its representative, which
was there worshipped." (Our British Ancestors, p.104) Lysons
gives a list of place names devoted to the sun god in early
Britain. The ancient writers Herodotus and Strabo spoke of
sunworshippers in early Europe. Strabo wrote, "They consider the
sun to be the only god, and to him they sacrifice horses." (ibid.
     "On" is also known as "Aven", and we see the Israelites in
their disobedience worshipping the sun under this name in Hosea
10:8, "The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be
destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their
altars; and they shall say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the
hills, Fall on us." Matthew Poole says, "On was a famous city of
Egypt, called also Aven, (Eze. 30:17), and afterwards...
Heliopolis, now Damiata."

     The evidence indicates that Egyptian priest Potiphera
and his daughter Asenath, Joseph's wife, were in fact Semitic,
and either Hebrew or of a similar Asiatic-Semitic people known as
the Shepherd Kings. It is instructive to note that the children
of Joseph and Asenath were given Semitic names rather than
Egyptian, as additional evidence of a Semitic relationship.
Finally, it is fascinating that the originally pagan nature of
the Semitic sun god was trans formed into a Messianic prophecy of
the coming of Christ: "But unto you that fear my name shall the
Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye
shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall." (Mal.4:2)
Keil and Delitzsch comment, "By the sun of righteousness the
fathers, from Justin downwards, and nearly all the earlier
commentators understand Christ, who is supposed to be described
as the rising sun, like Jehovah in Psa. 84:12 and Isa. 60:19; and
this view is founded upon a truth, viz., that the coming of
Christ brings justice and salvation." Amen!


Interesting .... and we have to see from the fact Joseph was put
over Egypt, only second behind the king, and so indeed for a
while Egypt would have been serving the ways of the true God
under Joseph, till a king arose who knew not Joseph and the true
God - Exodus 1:8.

Keith Hunt

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