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

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Thu Mar 22 16:43:17 EDT 2012

Prof. Yigal Levin:
You wrote:  “And, I wonder, what any of it has to do with Hebrew.”
If the pharaoh who commissioned that magnificent portrait of what looks 
like a Hebrew Patriarch was the Pharaoh of chapter 41 of Genesis, and if the 
exact time period is Year 13 (for reasons noted below), then we would for the 
first time be able to understand the perfectly good Hebrew word which is the 
third from the last word at Genesis 40: 16.  A willingness to consider the 
ordinary meaning of that Hebrew word may further allow us to figure out, for 
the first time, why Joseph interpreted the Baker’s dream as entailing that 
the Baker would be duly impaled 3 days hence.  Can we consider the ordinary 
meaning of that Biblical Hebrew word on the b-hebrew list?
The word XRY at Genesis 40: 16 has been translated in every imaginable way: 
 “white”, “cake”, “wicker”, “bread”, “white bread”, etc.  But the 
Hebrew word for “white stuff” is XWR, with a vav/W, whereas the word at Genesis 
40: 16 is XRY, with no vav/W.  If XRY were a Hebrew common word for “white 
bread”, why does it only appear once in the entire Bible, at Genesis 40: 16? 
 And though those traditional translations of XRY might, out of context, be 
linguistically defensible, they don’t seem to make good sense in context, 
for a Baker dreaming of three “white bread” baskets is as innocent as can be 
The normal meaning of the Hebrew word XRY is the meaning that those three 
Hebrew letters have at Genesis 14: 6.  If we are willing to consider at 
Genesis 40: 16 the normal meaning of the Hebrew letters XRY [which, to the best 
of my knowledge, no university scholar has ever done], then instead of the 
Baker’s dream being innocuous, it looks treasonous.  As such, that would then 
explain why, having heard about that dream, Joseph accurately predicts that 
the Baker will be duly impaled 3 days hence.
Why would the chief Baker, one of Pharaoh’s top officials, be impaled by 
Pharaoh?  It’s hard to imagine any offense by a Baker that would be bad enough 
to warrant such a dramatic penalty, except treason.  Let’s examine that 
both Biblically, and then historically.
Biblically, we should ask if the XRY are viewed negatively in the 
Patriarchal narratives.  Although the Hebrew word XTY is not the same as the Hebrew 
word XRY, scholar Edmund Lipinski views the word XTY as being a foreign 
proper name that in the Bible effectively implies a meaning of XRY.  On the 
theory that the XTY and the XRY are the same people, consider now Rebekah’s harsh 
sentiments as to the XTY [and hence as to the XRY] at Genesis 27: 46:  “
Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I loathe my life because of the XRY women.  If Jacob 
marries a local XRY woman like these [the XRY wives of Jacob’s older twin 
brother Esau], what good will life be to me?’”
Now switch to an historical analysis.  The Pharaoh who, in my view, 
commissioned that magnificent portrait of Joseph in chapter 40 of Genesis gets 
reamed out but good by the leading XRY figure of the day, in a quite derogatory 
“One must not change another’s words.  Whatever be the things that I [the 
XRY king] say, my brother [Pharaoh] should do, and whatever the things be 
that my brother says, I will do.  One shall not cause distress to the other in 
anything whatsoever.  …Now may my brother give me the statues of solid 
chased gold;  may my brother give me promptly much gold that has not been 
worked.  Your father himself granted me statues of gold.  Why is it for you a 
source of distress…?  …Would [my brother] cause me distress?  …[M]ay my brother 
not cause me distress.  …I hereby declare:  ‘My brother has indeed not let 
my messengers go, and he indeed detains them a long time.  I certainly 
denounce this, my brother, I indeed denounce it.’  …My brother is not to 
complain.”  Amarna Letter EA 29
Yet though this Pharaoh who commissioned the magnificent portrait of Joseph 
in chapter 40 of Genesis was treated with disrespect by the XRY king, 
nevertheless some of pharaoh’s nobles, like the Baker, muttered loudly that 
Pharaoh had done the wrong thing in cutting off all relations with Naharim.  [The 
Amarna Letters use the same nomenclature for eastern Syria as does Genesis 
24: 10:  “Naharim”.]  Pharaoh’s father’s best ally had been Naharim, and 
with the Hittites just now threatening to overrun Syria [and possibly Lebanon 
and Canaan as well, who knows?], several nobles like the Baker thought that 
Pharaoh should follow his father’s pro-XRY policy, despite the personal 
insults hurled at Pharaoh by the XRY king in Amarna Letters EA 27-29.
Please note that historically, the  o-n-l-y  time when a dream of three XRY 
baskets would seem treasonous in Egypt was in Year 13, shortly after 
Pharaoh had cut off all relations with Naharim in Year 12, 7th month, and before 
the issue became moot with the destruction of the XRY state of Naharim by the 
Hittites.  [Without going into details as to ages, on one level Joseph is 
portrayed as being age 13 years when he interprets the Baker’s deadly dream.  
That level of meaning may be expressly intended to let us know that chapter 
40 of Genesis is playing out against the historical backdrop of Year 13.  
Year 13 was the one year in which feelings were running high in Egypt both 
pro and con regarding the XRY, with Pharaoh’s controversial decision to break 
with the XRY state of Naharim in mid-Year 12 being a controversial decision 
that, it was thought by many, might adversely affect Egypt’s sphere of 
influence in western Asia.] 
If we give XRY the same translation at Genesis 40: 16 as those same three 
Hebrew letters are understood as meaning at Genesis 14: 6, we may then have 
solved the age-old mystery of how Joseph managed to interpret the Baker’s 
dream as meaning that in three days he would be impaled, and what the Baker’s 
terrible crime was.  A Baker dreaming of three “bread” baskets would be 
entirely innocent.  But a Baker dreaming of three XRY baskets in the context of 
Year 13 could easily be a dead giveaway of some terrible treason that the 
Baker was planning against Pharaoh.  [By the way, there appear to be numerous 
references to XRY baskets in the Amarna Letters.]  
In the historical context of Year 13, an image of three XRY baskets on top 
of the Baker’s head in the Baker’s dream was plenty enough for Jacob to 
adjudge correctly that the Baker was engaging in high treason against Pharaoh 
and Egypt by selling out to the XRY.  That in turn was what led this 
historical pharaoh to commission that magnificent portrait of the historical early 
Hebrew who is portrayed as being Joseph in chapter 40 of Genesis.
The Hebrew word XRY is the key to unraveling this entire mystery.
Jim Stinehart
Evanston, Illinois

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list