Joseph Bears Witness

“Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. ‘For,’ he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The name of the second he called Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction’” (Gen. 41:51–52).  

- Genesis 41:46-57

Part of Joseph’s promotion to vizier, or prime minister, over Egypt, was his marriage to Asenath, “the daughter of Potiphera priest of On” (Gen. 41:45). Potiphera’s family led the worship of the sun-god Ra, an important deity in Joseph’s day, and was therefore greatly esteemed. Pharaoh joined Joseph to this family in order to establish Joseph as a ruler in the eyes of the people. The name Asenath means “she who belongs to Neith” (an Egyptian goddess).

Success can often be a curse. For example, Gideon and Solomon were led astray after their status rose (Judg. 8:22–28; 1 Kings 11). Yet Joseph remained faithful to the Lord. True, he married into a pagan family, a practice God forbids in Scripture. Yet it may be the Lord used this marriage to convert Joseph’s wife to the worship of Himself. Though far from conclusive, Philo, a Jewish philosopher who lived in Egypt during the first century a.d., mentions a story in which Asenath turns to God.

Even if this information is merely a legend, there is clear biblical evidence that Joseph maintained a strong witness to the one, true God. Today’s passage narrates the birth of his sons Manasseh and Ephraim, and their names prove Joseph’s continued awareness of the Lord’s presence with him in the land of the Nile (Gen. 41:50–52). Any time Jacob’s son would have to explain the names of his boys to the Egyptians, he could testify to the Almighty. Notably, the name Ephraim connects Joseph to God’s promise to make Abraham fruitful (12:1–3). In Egypt his great-grandson Joseph was increased. This was especially meaningful to Moses’ original audience, the Israelite slaves in Egypt. If God blessed Abraham’s son Joseph in the land of “affliction” (41:52), these slaves could be confident He would prosper them in the very same land since they were also sons of the patriarch.
Joseph also bore witness to the Lord through his work ethic. He is able to gather up a tremendous store of grain (vv. 46–49) that is later used to fight the hunger of “all the earth” (vv. 53–57). Through Joseph, God blessed the world, thereby confirming His word to Abraham’s family (12:3) and His sovereign trustworthiness.

Coram Deo

Especially in the United States, many people aspire to be the “self-made man.” Yet we who serve Christ know that there is no such thing. God, in his sovereignty, is the one who dictates what makes a man. And a man, in His eyes, is he who loves the Lord with all his heart and loves his neighbor as himself (Mark 12:28–34). We must remember that it is God our king who “preserves all who love him” and destroys all the wicked (Ps. 145:14, 20).

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 32:1–3
Isa. 43:10–13
Acts 6:8–7:60
Rev. 1:1–3

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