[b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph", Patriarchal Successions, and Akhenaten
JimStinehart at aol.com
JimStinehart at aol.com
Tue Jan 8 09:55:03 EST 2008
In my prior post, we noted that the following three peculiar rules determine
all three Patriarchal successions in the Patriarchal narratives:
1. The winning son is never his father’s firstborn son.
2. The winning son is never his father’s favorite son.
3. The winning son’s birth mother is always the original main wife #1 of his
Those three peculiar, prominent characteristics distinguish the winning sons
-- Isaac, Jacob and Judah -- from the sons who failed to win the grand prize:
Ishmael, Esau and Joseph.
Is that a big clue as to the historical time period of the Patriarchal
narratives? What ruler in secular history, who was important to the early Hebrews,
exemplifies those three peculiar characteristics? It is obviously Akhenaten,
Egypt’s only monotheistic pharaoh.
Akhenaten and Succession Issues
The same three odd rules that govern the three Patriarchal successions of the
new monotheists in the Patriarchal narratives also govern both of the two
successions of the first historical monotheists in secular history, in the
mid-14th century BCE.
Akhenaten himself meets all three of the above tests. Akhenaten was not his
father’s firstborn son (Thutmose was). Akhenaten was not his father’s
favorite son (Thutmose was). Akhenaten’s famous father, Amenhotep III, who in his
later year began to lean a bit toward semi-monotheism, showered public honors
in an unprecedented way upon his beloved firstborn son, Thutmose. Meanwhile,
Akhenaten was essentially invisible as long as his favored older brother was
living. Akhenaten’s birth mother was his father’s original main wife #1 (Queen
Tiye). In secular history, the actual reason why Tuthmose (the firstborn,
favorite son) did not become pharaoh was because of Tuthmose’s untimely early
death. But Akhenaten liked to think that Akhenaten was the right choice to be
named pharaoh in any event. After Tuthmose’s death, Amenhotep III then thought
long and hard about naming a favorite manly son of his by a harem wife as his
successor (instead of Akhenaten, the odd if brainy son whom Amenhotep III
never much liked). But that would have violated item #3 above, and eventually
Amenhotep III abandoned that idea, largely out of loyalty to his beloved
original main wife #1, Queen Tiye (who was probably the birth mother of three sons:
certainly Tuthmose and Akhenaten, and probably Smenkhkare as well, as her
youngest, lame son).
When it came time for Akhenaten to choose his own successor, Akhenaten ended
up following those same three strange rules, though with a slight twist.
Akhenaten had no sons of his own, so Akhenaten’s selection boiled down to picking
among his father’s male descendants. Akhenaten chose his unimpressive younger
full-brother, Smenkhkare, over good-looking young Tut, who was probably both
Akhenaten’s half-brother and Akhenaten’s nephew. (Tut’s birth parents were
likely Akhenaten’s father and Akhenaten’s full-sister, Sitamen.) Winning
candidate Smenkhkare meets all three tests, as Smenkhkare was not his father’s
firstborn son, was no one’s favorite son, and his birth mother was the original
main wife #1 of the prior pharaoh. Young Tut, by contrast, was much more
likable than Smenkhkare, but his fatal flaw was that his birth mother was not any
pharaoh’s original main wife #1. (As it turned out, Smenkhkare died after less
than a year in office, at which point Tut came to power as Tutankhaten, which
name was soon changed to Tutankhamen: “King Tut”.)
The same three odd rules govern all five successions of the early
monotheists: both the three Patriarchal successions in the Patriarchal narratives, and
the two successions involving Egypt’s only monotheistic pharaoh, Akhenaten.
One of the keys to understanding these three odd rules of monotheistic
succession lies in analyzing the explicit puns on the name “Joseph”. If we can
understand the explicit puns on the names of Jacob’s sons, and if we take them
seriously, we can understand the Patriarchal narratives. Rachel named her
firstborn son “Joseph”, meaning “gathered, added”, because she desperately wanted
her husband Jacob to view Joseph as simply having been “added” to the “
gathering” of Jacob’s sons by his main wives Leah and Rachel, as if such two wives
were a single main wife #1: Leah-Rachel. As such, Joseph would be viewed as
being just “another son”, that is, the 7th son of Leah-Rachel, who would be
viewed as being, collectively, Jacob’s one and only main wife #1. Rachel knew
that that creative and desperate gambit was the only chance that her beloved
son Joseph had to be named the leader of the next generation of the new
monotheists. Because if Joseph were viewed as having as his birth mother a woman
who was not his father’s original main wife #1, then just like Ishmael and
Akhenaten’s manly half-brothers, Joseph would stand no chance of being named the
leader of the next generation of the new monotheists.
Rachel knew that, Leah knew that, and eventually Jacob figured it out, too.
They all knew what principles had guided first Abraham, and then Isaac, in
selecting the Patriarch’s proper successor. Jacob ends up abiding by these
identical three principles in picking Judah over Joseph to be Jacob’s successor.
Rachel’s brilliant attempt to try to shoehorn Joseph in as being the auspicious
7th son of Leah-Rachel did not work. Jacob insisted on doing as his father
and grandfather had done before him: pick as his successor a son who was not
his firstborn son, who was not his favorite son, and who, critically, had as
his birth mother the reigning Patriarch’s original main wife #1. Akhenaten’s
father had made the same decision, and Akhenaten himself would end up making
that same decision as well. Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Akhenaten and Smenkhkare
(Akhenaten’s immediate, though short-lived, successor): all five successor
monotheistic leaders were a younger son, not their father’s favorite son, whose birth
mother was the original main wife #1 of the prior leader. It’s the same
peculiar pattern five times over.
This is not mid-1st millennium BCE fiction, as the 19th century Documentary
Hypothesis would have it. If we are brave enough to look at the historical
discoveries concerning the mid-14th century BCE that have been made over the last
100 years, instead of living eternally in the year 1889, then we will see the
beautiful historical match between the world of the Patriarchal narratives
and the world of the mid-14th century BCE. The first Hebrew and his kinsmen
lived in a rough world. They desperately needed Akhenaten’s help to avoid being
wiped out by the expansionist-minded Hittites, who according to Amarna Letter
#170 had 90,000 battle-tested troops in the Bekka Valley in eastern Lebanon,
just north of Canaan proper, seemingly poised to invade Canaan at any moment.
No matter how much modern Western scholars love to hate Akhenaten, the brute
fact of the matter is that that Egyptian, from Africa, is the one who prevented
the dreaded Hittites from wiping out the first Hebrews. The first Hebrews
did not need Akhenaten’s religious advice, but they desperately needed Egypt’s
military muscle. It’s all right there in the received text of the last 40
chapters of Genesis, if we only have eyes to see.
If we can understand the name “Joseph”, we can understand the Patriarchal
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