[b-hebrew] Potiphar's title

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Thu Jul 10 09:57:23 EDT 2003

Peter Kirk wrote:

"No, Walter, this does not follow. In the Genesis account, it is not
Egyptians calling Potiphar a saris, it is the Hebrew author who is using
a Hebrew word, chosen as the best equivalent in Hebrew for Potiphar's
Egyptian title or rank. So we should look not for when the word might
have come into use in Egyptian, but when it might have come into use in

Dear Peter,

When did Assyria come to dominate the land of Canaan and Israel/Judah,
introducing the Assyrian titularly _sa resi_ to the Hebrew vocabulary ? By
721 BCE Israel is carried off into Exile by the Assyrians and Judah falls to
the Babylonians in 586 BCE. It would appear to me that the 9th-6th centuries
would be the most likely time frame for an Assyrian title for a "governor"
to be introduced into the Hebrew vocabulary.

Professor Redford examined the history of Egyptian names appearing in
Genesis, noting WHEN these names FIRST appeared in Egyptian records. The
viewing audience may have an interest in his observations :

Redford (Emphasis mine, I have added in brackets [...] the dates of the
various dynasties for those in the audience unfamiliar with the eras
involved) :

"Most obvious are the Egyptian personal names, of which four are produced in
passages rather tangential to the main story line (Gen. 39:1, 41:45) :
Saphnathpaneah, Asenath, Potiphar, and Potiperah. The last two being
variants of one name, we are left with three Egyptian names in the story.
Saphnathpaneah is unanimously agreed to be the transliteration of an
Egyptian name-type that means "God N speaks (or spoke) and he lives." The
type BEGINS in the 21st dynasty [ca. 1070-945 BCE], becomes very common in
the ninth through seventh centuries BC, and thereafter peters out, though
sporadic examples survive in Greco-Roman times. Asenath is usually derived
from a name "Belonging-to-Neith," which is specifically attested from
Greco-Roman times, but belongs to a category that BEGINS in the New Kingdom
[1580-1069 BCE] and becomes very common in the first millennium BC. The
interpretation of the consonant cluster N+T as the goddess Neith is,
however, open to question, as it could indicate _nut_, the vocalization of
the Egyptian word for "god"; and "Belonging-to-(the)-goddess" is an attested
personal name in the Late Period. Potiphar and its variant are modeled on a
very common type of name, namely p3-di + god's name, meaning
"He-whom-God-N-gives," these BEGIN at the close of the New Kingdom [ending
1069 BCE], increase in frequency in the 21st [1070-945 BCE] and 22d [945-860
BCE] dynasties, and become very common from the Kushite 25th dynasty
[747-656 BCE] to Greco-Roman times. Thus the mean period when all three
name-types had achieved a maximum popularity vis-a-vis the others can be
said to be the seventh and sixth centuries BC, or the Kushite-Saite
period...We conclude that, on a judicious appraisal of the evidence, the
Biblical Joseph story was a novella created sometime during the seventh or
sixth century BC (the end of the Judaean monarchy or the Exile). (cf.
pp.424, 429. Donald B. Redford. Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times.
Princeton University Press.1992)

Now, there is "caveat" in Redford's above presentation, he has his scholarly
critics ! Professors Kenneth A. Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier, both
Egyptologists, with an interest in correlating the Bible with Egyptian
events, have criticized Redford, for "stacking" the evidence in favor of a
7th-6th century Genesis story. BOTH Kitchen and Hoffmeier are ADAMANT that
the Exodus is in the days of Ramesses II (ca. 1279-1212 BCE), noting the the
Exodus begins at a city in Egypt called Rameses and that it did not exist
before being built by Ramesses II. They consequently argue that the
Pentateuchal narratives preserve information from this era, NOT the 7th-6th
century BCE as maintained by Redford. Interestingly, Redford, although
seeing a Pentateuch created in the Post-exilic era, "outdoes" both Kitchen
and Hoffmeier, claiming that the Exodus is NOT in Rameses days, the Bible is
recalling the Hyksos expulsion of ca. 1560-1540 BCE !!! On another
surprising note, both Kitchen and Hoffmeier noted that the Bible appears to
possess two conflicting dates for the Exodus ! When all the dates are added
up for the reigns of the Judges before Solomon builds the temple, they
arrive at close to 600 years elapsing from the Exodus to Solomon's 4th year
(which aligns with the Hyksos expulsion), but then, surprise of surprises-
both Kitchen and Hoffmeir REJECT both biblical chronologies, 600 and 480
years elapsing between the Exodus and Solomon, claiming that the mention of
the city of Rameses as the starting point of the Exodus means the bible's
chronology is WRONG- the Exodus is a Ramesside event. Thus stands the
situation ! Two prominent Egyptologists, who see themselves as "defenders of
Holy Writ," denying that Writ's chronology, and a critic of Holy Writ,
Redford, arguing for a 7th/6th century Pentaeuch, averring Holy Writ's 600
years elapsing is attested by the Hyksos expulsion. Then we have yet other
scholars, Charles Aling and Alfred Hoerth, averring an Exodus ca. 1446 BCE
(cf. 1 Kings 6:1) is the correct date! Put your nickel and make your choice

Regards, Walter

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld, M.A. Ed.

mattfeld12 at charter.net


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