[b-hebrew] The Name "Joseph"

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Fri Jan 18 17:58:06 EST 2008

Jan Hagen:
Let me address your various points in a different order.
1.  You wrote:  “But getting back to the Hebrew text to get the grammar 
analysed before the interpretation. For me the sentence Rachel is saying
 יסף יהוה לי בן אחר 
 looks like a nounclause ( the way it is vocalized be the Masoretes). Do you, 
 and the others, agree?  If so I'd translate it as "YHWH is adding (for) me 
another son".  I'm not yet that experienced with the grammar, so please bear 
with me taking
 small steps.”
(a)  I am not qualified to analyze fine points of Hebrew grammar.  I will let 
the experts on the b-Hebrew list do that.
(b)  I myself have no problem at all with your proposed translation: "YHWH is 
adding (for) me another son".  I would not see that as a reference to 
Benjamin, though, or as a reference to Rachel hoping that she will bear another son 
in the future.  No, Rachel is thinking about her precious newborn son at this 
moment:  Joseph.
Rachel desperately wants Jacob to view Joseph as being “another son”, that 
is, another son of Leah-Rachel as Jacob’s one and only main wife #1.  What 
Rachel does not want is for Jacob to view Joseph as being the firstborn son of 
Jacob’s main wife #2, Rachel.  Because if Jacob views Joseph in that way (which 
is in fact what ultimately turns out to be the case), then no matter how much 
Jacob favors Joseph, Joseph will end up having Ishmael’s sad fate.  Each of 
Joseph and Ishmael is a Patriarch’s favorite son by the Patriarch’s main wife 
#2.  Each of Joseph and Ishmael is involuntarily separated from his father’s 
family at the age of 9½ regular years, marries an Egyptian woman, and has no 
realistic chance of being named the leader of the next generation of the new 
2.  You wrote:  “Why would a great sounding name further Joseph’s future?”
It worked wonders for Judah.  Judah is the one and only son of Jacob who has 
a grand name.  “Judah” means “praise YHWH”.  That’s a great name.  And Judah 
ends up being the winner.
3.  You wrote:  “If indeed this was her thought it proved not that helpful, 
as you mentioned. Jacob loved Rachel and I guess that's the reason he Joseph 
was his favourite son and not because his well chosen name.”
Yes, Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, so it is no surprise that Rachel’s 
son Joseph became Jacob’s favorite son.  After Jacob’s disappearance and 
presumed death, Rachel’s other son, Benjamin, became Jacob’s favorite son.  Unlike 
Joseph, Benjamin had little personal merit.  So you are right that the 
favoritism toward first Joseph, and then Benjamin, is primarily reflecting the fact 
that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.
But note that Jacob’s love for Rachel, and Jacob’s love for Joseph, turned 
out not to be a critical factor.  Each Patriarch is a younger son whose 
marriage to a firstborn daughter produces the next leader of the new monotheists.  
Nefertiti was a firstborn daughter, and Akhenaten’s successor, Smenkhkare, 
married Akhenaten’s firstborn daughter.  Note how the pattern is the same, whether 
in the well-documented secular history of the mid-14th century BCE or in the 
Patriarchal narratives.  The winning candidate is not a firstborn son, is not 
his father’s favorite son, does have as his birth mother the original main wife 
#1 of the prior leader, does marry a firstborn daughter, and, in every case, 
has a very pushy mother.  All these objective facts are the same.
J, E, P and D knew nothing, and cared less, about such things.  The 
Patriarchal narratives were composed by a northern pre-Hebrew in the mid-14th century 
BCE, not by one or more southern Hebrews in the mid-1st millennium BCE. 
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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