God’s provision in a deep time of trial
The story of Joseph and Asenath
With Peter Veysie
Backgound from Genesis 37 – 41 Pic 1 Joseph and his amazing tech dreamcoat
Jacob has 12 sons which are the twelve tribes of Israel and as we know his name changes to Israel after wrestling with God. The 12 are Reuben, Levi ,Issachar ( I will be sharing on this tribe next week) Simeon ,Judah Zebulun, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali ,Benjamin, Joseph – Manesseh and Ephraim (tribes from the sons of Joseph an extra two but there was no tribe of Joseph).Later only Judah and Benjamin would survive and the other ten are known as the lost ribes of Israel
The brothers are not happy with the fact that Joseph has more favour with Jacob and Joseph sends a bad report to his father about his brothers( not good for sibling rivalry !!!) Gen 37. He gets a robe from his father of many colours ( not quite accurate but rather an ornate cloak full of expensive stones and gold). Joseph shares a dream with his brothers about grain and sheaves of wheat and one rising above the others and another dream about the sun and moon and stars bowing down to him – again not good for sibling rivalry)and so they plot to have him sold off to slavery which includes a lie that he was found dead and that a fierce animal had devoured him. A caravan of Ishmaelites pass by and they sell Joseph to them. He is sent to Egypt and Potiphar employs him and he finds favour with him. Joseph was a handsome lad (17 when he was sold by his brothers) and Potiphar decides to flirt with him and day after day bugs him to sleep with her. He runs away but Potiphar manages to keep his garment and accuses Joseph of adultery !!! He is put in prison but becomes the head of the prisoners. He goes on to interpret the dreams of Pharoah and finds favour with him and rises to become the governor under Pharoah. Joseph interprets one of the dreams that there will be seven years of rich harvest and then seven years of famine.
(Pictures of grain silos and a temple to the Lord prophesied about much later in Isaiah 19:19.
And so we pick up the story (much summarised by the way) where he meets up with Asenath who doesn’t like him initially. Fast forward as Joseph is now 30 years old !!! Genesis 41:25 -57
The Egyptian Asenath & Joseph – the story
Asenath’s and Joseph’s story has three parts:
1. Finding favour even amongst foreigners -Joseph escapes his prison sentence. Pic two facing each other
Wrongly convicted of a crime he did not commit, Joseph lies rotting in prison. But his clever mind and his gift for interpreting dreams stands him in good stead, and he is brought before Pharaoh to interpret a frightening dream.
Joseph was innately sensitive to the minds of other people, and this made him good at interpreting dreams. He would use what he knew of their hopes and fears to explain the dream to them.
This Joseph did when he was in prison. He was so good at it that people began to talk about him and seek out his advice.
Eventually his skill was mentioned in high places, and he was brought before Pharaoh in the hope that he might be able to interpret a rather obscure and worrying dream that was plaguing Pharaoh’s mind.
Joseph brought a fresh perspective. He was able to interpret the dream so successfully that Pharaoh entrusted him with much more than merely interpreting an occasional dream.
His former troubles forgotten, Joseph was taken into Pharaoh’s service, where he became increasingly trusted with running the country.
Right from the start, Joseph did all he could to integrate himself into Egyptian culture (though he drew the line at having sexual intercourse with Potiphar’s adulterous wife).
When he was released from prison, the Bible notes that he was shaved and given a change of clothes before he appeared before Pharaoh.
Why is this important? Because
Hebrews were not clean-shaven; Egyptians shaved their head and face
Hebrews wore home-spun woollen cloth; Egyptians wore linen or cotton wrap-around ‘skirts’
This seemingly unimportant detail contained a message for Diaspora Jews (which is what Joseph was): integrate as far as you can into your host community if you want to succeed.
2. Joseph and Asenath marry and her conversion. Pic three Asenath Pharaoh is so impressed by Joseph’s shrewd intelligence and his spiritual quotient that he allows him to marry Asenath . She was a young woman, a high-born, aristocratic Egyptian woman, the daughter of Potiphera, a priest of On. ‘On’ was another name for Heliopolis, which was the religious centre of Ra, the god representing the sun.So Asenath was brought up in the super-respectable atmosphere of a priest’s household literate and well-educated wise enough to agree to an advantageous if somewhat unexpected marriage.
3. The Grain silos preperation in harvest time for a time of famine.Pic four storage and pic five silos
Pharoah employs him to re-organize grain supplies for Egypt. Joseph is successful and, among other favours. Joseph and his team build enormous storage silos which were master crafted and engineered with technology that is still used to this day. He built a storage house which was like a fortress and people would come from far and wide to buy grain during the famine.
( these have been discovered by Archaeologists thinking that they were tombs initially but now they have uncovevered a secure grain storage system which was the mastermind of Joseph and
3. Asenath has two sons the ongoing destiny of Israel
They will be essential to the Israelites’ later history: Manasseh and Ephraim, who will be the forefathers of two of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Asenath has two important sons: pic six laying on of hands and map
Manasseh ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house’, and
Ephraim ‘God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes’.
Notice that both these names are Joseph’s point of view, not Asenath’s. There can be little doubt of who the dominant partner was in this marriage Asenath had both of these sons during the time when the Egyptian economy was booming: it was ‘a land of plenty’.
But when Manasseh and Ephraim were still quite young, things changed.
The Nile floods were meagre.
Less land was covered with the life-giving silt.
Crops were poor.
It was then that Asenath saw the true measure of her husband. He had been right in his prediction of famine, and wise to store up the country’s resources against future trouble. Because of Joseph’s foresight, the people did not starve, and her position in society was even stronger than before.
Eventually Joseph was joined in Egypt by the whole of his extended family ‘Jacob and all his offspring with him, his sons, and his son’s sons with him, his daughters, and his sons’ daughters; all his offspring he brought with him into Egypt’. What is also profound is because of Joseph’s witness Asenath follows the Lord at great risk knowning that Pharoah is worshipped as a god.
Yoseph and Aenath
For us we need to hopefully learn three things here :
- Even if it seems a bit strange sometimes, we need to recognise that God is busy and can use even foreign things to bring about his plans and purposes in both Pharoah and Asenath we see God’s master plan coming about.
- Grains and silos – preparation in the time of harvest for the time of famine.
- God’s provision for the future in the children and children’s children.