[b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Jan 4 09:43:47 EST 2008


Here is the third level of meaning of the name “Joseph”.  As always, the 
name “Joseph” means what it is explicitly stated to mean at Genesis 30: 23-24:  “
gathered, added”.
 
3.  Level #3:  Rachel’s Brilliant Attempt to Portray Her Firstborn Son as 
Being the 7th Son of Leah-Rachel
 
We must now come to grips with Rachel’s odd comment at Genesis 30: 24:
 
“And she called his name Joseph [YWSP], saying:  'The LORD [YHWH] add [YSP] 
to me another son.'”
 
Rachel here is trying to present Joseph as being just “another son”.  If 
Leah and Rachel were considered, collectively, to be Jacob’s main wife #1, and if 
only their blood sons were considered to be in the running to be named the 
leader of the next generation of the monotheists, then Rachel’s firstborn son 
would be the auspicious 7th son of Leah-Rachel.  Leah had borne 6 sons prior to 
Joseph’s birth.  (Each of Leah’s female servant, and Rachel’s female servant, 
had born 2 sons as well.  Joseph was Jacob’s 11th son, but the four sons 
borne by the female servants probably were not legitimate candidates to become the 
leader of the next generation of the Hebrews.)  By looking only at blood sons 
of Leah and Rachel, Joseph is the auspicious 7th son (of Leah-Rachel).
 
Rachel desperately wanted Jacob to view himself as having only one main wife 
#1, who was Leah-Rachel, with the two sisters being considered for this 
purpose to be a single main wife #1.  Why?  Why was that such a critical matter?
 
Rachel knew the sad story of Ishmael well.  Ishmael’s only real “sin” was 
that his mother, Hagar, was not his father’s main wife #1.  Rachel certainly had 
more status than Hagar, so perhaps there was some hope here.  Yet Rachel was 
not Jacob’s main wife #1, even though Jacob loved Rachel more than Jacob loved 
Leah.  You see, Jacob had married Leah 7 days before he married Rachel.  That 
meant that Leah, not Rachel, was Jacob’s main wife #1.
 
In the two preceding Patriarchal successions, the winning candidate was 
always a blood son of the old Patriarch’s main wife #1.  Isaac beat out Ishmael in 
large part because Isaac’s birth mother was Abraham’s main wife #1, Sarah, 
whereas that was not the case for Ishmael.  That issue was moot in the contest 
between Esau and Jacob, because they were twins, each of whose mother was Isaac’
s main wife #1.  But here in the third (and last) Patriarchal succession, 
Rachel terribly feared that this issue would come back into play and doom her son’
s chances.  If Jacob viewed Joseph as being the firstborn son of Jacob’s main 
wife #2, then Joseph would be in terrible danger of being in Ishmael’s 
situation:  he cannot win, because his birth mother is not his father’s main wife #1.
 
Rachel neatly tries to circumvent this problem by calling her firstborn son “
gathered, added”.  If one “gathered” together all blood sons borne by 
Leah-Rachel, and “added” Joseph to that gathering, then Joseph would be viewed as 
being the auspicious 7th son of Leah-Rachel.  That was Rachel’s master plan.  
That was why Rachel brilliantly chose that odd name “Joseph”, which is not an 
impressive name at all, but rather means “gathered, added”.  Now Rachel’s 
seemingly odd statement at Genesis 30: 24 makes perfect sense, as Rachel 
desperately tries to position her beloved son Joseph as being just “another son”.
 
*       *       *
 
We are now in position to understand all three of the Patriarchal 
successions.  The same rigid rules govern all three Patriarchal successions.  Rachel knew 
all those rules, all too well.  She tried, but failed, to circumvent those 
rules by calling her son “Joseph”.
 
What were those precise rules that govern all three Patriarchal successions?  
And equally importantly, why did those particular, odd rules apply?  What 
powerful ruler would be pleased to see those particular, peculiar rules of 
succession be set forth in the Patriarchal narratives as the proper rules of 
succession for the new monotheists?
 
We are starting to get close to the heart and soul of the Patriarchal 
narratives here.
 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois




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