[b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jan 2 10:32:08 EST 2008

There are three levels of meaning of the name “Joseph”.  In all three 
levels, the name “Joseph” means what it is explicitly stated to mean at Genesis 30: 
23-24:  “gathered, added”.
1.  Level #1:  Immediate Circumstances of This Son’s Birth
The name Joseph means that YHWH has “gathered”, or “taken away”, Rachel’s 
reproach for her 6+ years of barrenness, by “adding” another son for Jacob 
(which in fact is Rachel’s first son).
Note how very awkwardly the second sentence in this text reads in English.  
What is going on here?
“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
How is it that Rachel is seeing YHWH “adding” to Rachel “another son”.  
This is Rachel’s first son.  Why is she calling her only son “another son”?  Why 
isn’t she, on the contrary, choosing a name that calls attention to the fact 
that this son is very different from all of Jacob’s other sons, being Jacob’s 
one and only son (to this point) by Jacob’s favorite main wife, Rachel?  
Certainly no one is surprised when Jacob’s only son (to that point) by Jacob’s 
favorite main wife quickly becomes Jacob’s favorite son.  Only to precious 
Joseph will Jacob give the coat of many colors.  Why isn’t Rachel emphasizing that? 
 Why is Rachel doing the exact opposite of that, in calling her only son “
another son”, with the primary meaning of his name being “added”, meaning that 
one more son has been “added” to Jacob’s already large stock of sons?
An ultra literal translation of Genesis 30: 24 is:  “Added YHWH to me son 
another”.  In English, the word “another” must precede the word “son”, giving 
us the following literal translation:  “Added YHWH to me another son.”  Why 
the peculiar reference to “another son”?  Gesenius says that this Hebrew word “
another” especially means:  one that follows a first or second, etc.  Why is 
Rachel choosing such a circumspect name for her son?  Why does Rachel seem to 
be saying, and emphasizing, that Joseph should be viewed as being just “another 
If we can figure out why Rachel shrewdly names her beloved firstborn son “
Joseph”, we will understand much of the mindset of the Patriarchal narratives.  
You see, Rachel has figured out what’s going on.  So has Leah.  Though Jacob 
seems a bit slow on the upbeat for years, eventually Jacob figures out what’s 
going on as well.  Can we?  A key clue here is the odd name “Joseph”.
If we can understand the explicit puns on the names of Jacob’s sons, we can 
understand the Patriarchal narratives. 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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