[b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph"

Isaac Fried if at math.bu.edu
Tue Jan 1 05:16:42 EST 2008


You may be deluding yourself in thinking that the name Joseph is a 
grammatically structured Hebrew word.  It may well be that the initial YO in 
this name is the YA in his father’s name and the YI in his grandfather’s 
name, being all holly names.

The fact that the bible in Genesis 30:23-24 gives two accounts or 
justifications for the name is reason enough for caution.

Isaac Fried, Boston University

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <JimStinehart at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, December 31, 2007 5:14 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph"

> The name “Joseph” has the following odd meaning:  “gathered, added”.  Why
> did his mother Rachel give her firstborn son such an odd name?  Rachel 
> knew
> that her sister Leah had given Leah’s fourth son the magnificent name 
> “Judah”,
> which as previously discussed means “praise YHWH”.  Why didn’t Rachel try 
> to
> come up with an even more magnificent name for Rachel’s own son?
> One of the key issues for us to keep in mind here is to try to figure out 
> why
> Rachel gives her son the odd name “Joseph”, which means “gathered, added”.
> Here is the text where Rachel gives her son the name “Joseph”:
> “And she conceived, and bore a son, and said:  'God hath taken away
> [gathered/)SP] my reproach.'  And she called his name Joseph [YWSP], 
> saying:  'The LORD
> [YHWH] add [YSP] to me another son.'”  Genesis 30: 23-24
> The three key words here, in order of their appearance above, are:
> (1)  aleph samekh peh/)SP = “gather” (or “collect” or “assemble”).
> Occasionally, this word can mean “taken away” or “remove”, in the sense of 
>> gathered and taken away” or “gathered and removed”.  Yet the fundamental 
> meaning is
> “gather”.
> (2)  yod vav samekh peh/YWSP = “Joseph”
> (3)  yod-samekh-peh/YSP = “add”
> All three of these words feature samekh-peh/SP as their last two letters,
> which are true consonants.  Aleph, yod and vav can be vowel-type sounds, 
> and as
> such can be mixed and matched for punning purposes.  Yet having said that, 
> it
> is clear that the last two words are a much closer linguistic match than 
> the
> first word.  The words “Joseph”/YWSP and “add”/YSP are about as close as 
> two
> Hebrew words can be and still have different spellings, with a different 
> number
> of letters.  This suggests that the primary meaning of the name “Joseph” 
> is
> likely “added”.
> Once again, note that the name “Joseph” is an explicit pun on two words, 
> not
> just on one word.  For each name we have looked at -- “Reuben”, “Simeon”, 
>> Levi”, “Judah” and now “Joseph” -- that has been the case.  Each name is a
> pun on at least two words, and is never a simple pun on a single word.
> So the name “Joseph” means “gathered, added”.  Why such a circumspect 
> name?
> What not a glorious name, like “Judah”/”praise YHWH”?
> Is Rachel choosing a carefully designed name here, that is carefully 
> crafted
> to give her blood son Joseph the best shot at being named to be the leader 
> of
> the next generation of monotheists?  Or is Rachel fumbling in the dark,
> choosing an inauspicious name for no apparent reason?
> As we will come to see, “Joseph” is the best name that Rachel could have
> given to her son under the circumstances.  First and foremost, this name 
> was
> cleverly designed by Rachel to give her beloved son a shot at being named 
> the le
> ader of the next generation of the new monotheists.  Rachel well knew the 
> story
> of Ishmael’s sad fate.  Rachel was trying her best to distinguish Rachel’s 
> son
> ’s situation from Ishmael’s situation.  Alas, that would not prove to be
> possible.
> In later posts, we will examine three levels of meaning of “Joseph”, based
> on the two explicit puns on that name in the text.  As always, the first 
> level
> relates to the immediate circumstances of this son’s birth.  The second 
> level
> will then, as has usually been the case before, reflect the most important
> action in this son’s life.  But uniquely with the name “Joseph”, there 
> will be a
> critical third level of meaning:  Rachel’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt 
> to
> distinguish her son’s situation from that of exiled Ishmael.
> If we can understand the name “Joseph”, we can thereby understand much of
> the Patriarchal narratives.
> Jim Stinehart
> Evanston, Illinois
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