[b-hebrew] Portrait of Joseph in Chapter 40 of Genesis

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Mar 22 10:23:01 EDT 2012

Portrait of Joseph in Chapter 40 of Genesis
Joseph is portrayed in chapter 40 of Genesis as being an assistant to the 
Captain of the Guards, with Joseph playing a role in uncovering a plot 
against Pharaoh.  Pharaoh finds out about the role Joseph had played 2 years 
later.  If the Patriarchal narratives are accurate history, then one might expect 
Pharaoh to have commissioned a portrait of two members of his security 
detail who had helped uncover a plot against Pharaoh.  In Genesis, we are told 
only of Joseph, an “Asiatic”/Hebrew, but if I understand what historical 
time period is involved here, that pharaoh is well known to have had Nubian 
bodyguards.  So Pharaoh may have commissioned a magnificent portrait of two 
members of his security team who helped uncover a plot against him:  a Nubian 
(about whom the Bible is silent), and Joseph -- the Joseph of chapter 40 of 
This was before Joseph adopts Egyptian dress at Genesis 41: 42, so Joseph 
would be portrayed as wearing classic Hebrew/Canaanite clothing.  Without 
getting into a complicated discussion of ages, it may be implied that the 
historical Joseph was age 28 years in chapter 40 of Genesis.  Joseph at that time 
would have had a full beard.
Now picture in your mind’s eye what Joseph in chapter 40 of Genesis would 
look like:  age 28 years, with a full beard, and wearing Hebrew/Canaanite 
clothing akin to the “coat of many colors”.  That’s exactly how Joseph is 
portrayed in a magnificent cane head commissioned by Pharaoh in Joseph’s honor, 
Unfortunately, Howard Carter, who found this magnificent object in Tut’s 
tomb, mistakenly thought that the figures represent “an Asiatic and an African
captive with feet tied together”:
But that is not the case.  The cane’s grip goes around the figures’ 
ankles, but that grip cannot represent binding, for two reasons.  First, the grip 
is extremely thick and wide, whereas binding in Egyptian New Kingdom 
iconography is always portrayed as being done with very thin rope.  Secondly, 
binding figures only by the ankles would be ridiculous, because the person could 
simply bend down and untie the binding!
The key is that the elbows of these figures are not bound.  Egyptian 
iconography virtually always portrays bound captives as having their elbows bound, 
forcing the captives’ arms to be in an unnatural position that immobilizes 
their arms.  You can see that such is not the case here.  Moreover, this is 
indirectly confirmed by the fact that after the death of the Pharaoh who 
commissioned this fine portrait, Tut later modified this cane head slightly, in 
order to make it, retroactively, fit into standard Egyptian iconography 
that showed Asiatics and Nubians as bound captives.  Carter writes:  “Arms of 
captives had originally been tied with linen threads.”  So after the fact, 
after the Pharaoh of chapter 41 of Genesis died, Tut modified this cane head 
by having linen threads added which, retroactively, showed these figures as 
being bound.  
Everyone has missed the great historical significance of this magnificent 
portrait of Joseph in chapter 40 of Genesis, because they have passively 
adopted Howard Carter’s mistaken view that the grip of the cane somehow 
represents a binding of captives.  It doesn’t.  Rather, this Hebrew and this Nubian 
are shown in a very positive light, not being bound at all, and rather being 
honored as having helped Pharaoh escape some nefarious plot by the “Baker”
.  [For the historical basis of the Baker’s treasonous act against Pharaoh, 
see the third to the last word at Genesis 40: 16 and give that Hebrew word 
its normal meaning, instead of the ultra-fanciful array of meanings that have 
been dreamed up for that word by creative translators who want to hide the 
historical nature of the Baker’s treason, and who thereby unwittingly hide 
why it was that Joseph knew from the Baker’s dream that the Baker would be 
duly impaled 3 days hence.  The normal meaning of that Hebrew word, as the 
basis for an historically treasonous act, makes sense  o-n-l-y  in the reign of 
the Pharaoh who preceded King Tut.]
No matter how much people may dislike this historical pharaoh, the fact of 
the matter is that he commissioned a magnificent portrait of Joseph in 
chapter 40 of Genesis.  It’s been sitting there for years on the second floor of 
the Cairo Museum.  Instead of being written off as just one more in the 
dozens [if not hundreds] of Egyptian artifacts that show Asiatics and Nubians as 
being bound captives, we should recognize this magnificent object for what 
it is:  a superb, proud portrait of Joseph in chapter 40 of Genesis, looking 
exactly like a Hebrew Patriarch straight out of Hollywood central casting.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

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