[b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Wed Jan 16 10:38:33 EST 2008

Jan Hagen:
You wrote:  “Why don't you read YSP as participle, which it is, and read v24 
as a nominal wish sentence?  Rachel wishes another son after Joseph, and not 
him being another son.”
On your theory of the case, then, the name “Joseph” would mean:  “I hope I 
have another son later, in addition to this son”.
That would not be a grand name for Rachel’s firstborn son.  Why wouldn’t 
Rachel’s thoughts at this point, after being barren for almost 7 years, be on her 
infant son whom she has just now borne?  Why would Rachel give her newborn 
infant a name that means that Rachel hopes to bear another son later?
Rachel knows that her sister Leah named her fourth-born son “Judah”, which 
is a magnificent name meaning “praise YHWH”.  Why doesn’t Rachel want to give 
Rachel’s firstborn son a similarly magnificent name?  Why doesn’t Rachel call 
her infant son a name that means, in effect, “finally the right son”, or “
this son will prove to be the best son”, or possibly, “this is the son whom 
YHWH will truly bless”?  Why instead give Joseph a name that refers to Rachel’s 
hope to bear another son later? 

To begin to answer this conundrum, first ask yourself the following question. 
 If you were Rachel, wouldn’t you be worried that your infant son would 
suffer Ishmael’s sad fate?  Jacob’s parents had told Jacob the story of Ishmael, 
and Leah and Rachel would have heard Ishmael’s story from Jacob.  Ishmael’s “
sin” was that his birth mother (Hagar) was not his father’s original main wife 
#1 (who was Sarah).  Isn’t that precisely Joseph’s situation?  Leah married 
Jacob 7 days before Jacob married Rachel.  So Rachel is not Jacob’s original 
main wife #1, even though Rachel is Jacob’s favorite main wife.

Alas, it proved impossible for Joseph to avoid Ishmael’s sad fate.  It is 
really quite striking to compare Ishmael and Joseph:
1.  Each is involuntarily separated from his father’s family at age 9½ 
regular years, in a harsh, unexpected and traumatic fashion.
2.  Each had been his father’s favorite son.
3.  Each lands on his feet and, without any help whatsoever from his absent 
father, does quite well for himself.
4.  Each marries an Egyptian woman.
5.  Each is characterized as being, in effect, a “stallion”.  Genesis 16: 12 
for Isaac;  Genesis 49: 22 for Joseph (although the translation regarding 
Joseph is disputed).
6.  Each shows real class in attending his father’s funeral, even though the 
father had in each case selected a different son, who did not seem to have 
nearly as much individual merit, to be the leader of the next generation of the 
new monotheists.
7.  And, most importantly, the birth mother of each was not the original main 
wife #1 of the son’s father.  That was Ishmael’s critical “flaw”, and that 
was Joseph’s critical “flaw”, too.  Historically, that was also the critical “
flaw” of Akhenaten’s manliest half-brother (which is why Akhenaten was 
selected to be pharaoh), and that was the critical flaw as well of young “Tut”, 
Akhenaten’s good-looking half-brother, whom Akhenaten passed over to pick 
Smenkhkare, Akhenaten’s full-brother whom no one liked, as Akhenaten’s successor to 
be the next monotheistic leader of Egypt.
You see, all five successions of monotheistic leaders were the same, whether 
in the Patriarchal narratives, or in the secular history of the mid-14th 
century BCE.  Each winning son, namely Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Akhenaten, and 
Smenkhkare, shares the same three key characteristics:  (1) each was not his father’s 
firstborn son, (2) each was not his father’s favorite son, and (2) each had as 
his birth mother the original main wife #1 of the prior leader. 
None of this made any sense to J, E, P or D, who were southern Hebrews who 
lived 700 years after the composition of the Patriarchal narratives.  But it 
made perfect sense to the author of the truly ancient Patriarchal narratives, who 
was a northern pre-Hebrew who worked for some years in temporarily 
monotheistic Egypt.  JEPD never came up with names that meant “gathered, added”, nor 
would JEPD have had Rachel refer to her newborn son as being just “another son”
.  But in the secular historical context of the mid-14th century BCE, it all 
makes perfect sense.
Rachel desperately wanted her son Joseph to be considered by Jacob to be Jacob
’s 7th son by Jacob’s main wife #1, Leah-Rachel.  Joseph was to be viewed as 
having simply been “added” to the “gathering” of sons by Leah-Rachel.  
Joseph was to be just “another son” of Leah-Rachel.  That’s why the name “Joseph”
 means “gathered, added”, and why Rachel refers to her beloved newborn son 
as being just “another son”.  Rachel does not give her firstborn son a name 
that means “I hope I have another son later, in addition to this son”.  What 
sense would that make?  No, Rachel is desperately, against the odds, trying to 
position her beloved firstborn son to have a shot at being named the leader of 
the next generation of the new monotheists, which would only be possible if 
Jacob bought into Rachel’s odd, desperate gambit that Joseph should be 
considered to be just “another son” of Leah-Rachel.  That is why Rachel says, upon 
Joseph’s birth:
“And she called his name Joseph, saying:  'The LORD [YHWH] add to me another 
son.'”   Genesis 30: 24
It was a brilliant move on Rachel’s part.  But alas, it didn’t work.  Joseph 
was bound to suffer Ishmael’s sad fate.  That’s just the way things were in 
the historical Patriarchal Age of the mid-14th century BCE.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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