Zaphenath-Paneah, Joseph, Pharaoh of the Book of Genesis

Zaphenath-Paneah, Joseph, Pharaoh of the Book of Genesis

Joseph, a central figure in the Book of Genesis, was given an Egyptian name by Pharaoh after interpreting the king's dreams and advising him on how to prepare for the upcoming famine.

This name, Zaphenath-Paneah, has sparked much scholarly debate regarding its meaning and origin.


  • Zaphenath-Paneah is the Egyptian name given to Joseph by Pharaoh.
  • The exact meaning of the name is uncertain, with various interpretations proposed by scholars.
  • Some interpretations suggest meanings related to Joseph's role in revealing secrets or his divine connection.
  • The name reflects Joseph's integration into Egyptian society while maintaining his Hebrew identity.

Joseph's Egyptian Name: Zaphenath-Paneah

Joseph Egyptian Name in the bible

Joseph's rise to power in Egypt is a remarkable story of transformation from a Hebrew slave to a high-ranking Egyptian official.

As part of this transformation, Pharaoh bestowed upon him the name Zaphenath-Paneah.

This name is mentioned in Genesis 41:45, where it is stated that Pharaoh also gave Joseph an Egyptian wife, Asenath, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.

Interpretations of Zaphenath-Paneah

The exact meaning of Zaphenath-Paneah remains a topic of debate among scholars. Here are some of the proposed interpretations:

  • "God Speaks and He Lives": This interpretation suggests that the name means "the god speaks and he lives," reflecting Pharaoh's recognition of Joseph's divine insight and wisdom.
  • "Revealer of Secrets": Josephus, an ancient historian, interpreted the name as "revealer of secrets," emphasizing Joseph's ability to interpret dreams and uncover hidden meanings.
  • "Savior of the World": Some Christian interpretations suggest that the name means "savior of the world," drawing parallels between Joseph and Jesus Christ.
  • "He Who Explains Hidden Things": Another interpretation, based on Hebrew roots, suggests that the name means "he who explains hidden things," aligning with Joseph's role in deciphering Pharaoh's dreams.

Cultural and Historical Context

The name Zaphenath-Paneah signifies Joseph's assimilation into Egyptian society. By giving him an Egyptian name, Pharaoh not only honored Joseph but also made him more acceptable to the Egyptian people.

This practice of renaming foreigners was common in ancient cultures and symbolized their new roles and identities within the society.Despite his Egyptian name and position, Joseph maintained his Hebrew identity.

This is evident in his choice of Hebrew names for his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, which reflect his gratitude to God for helping him overcome his past and prosper in Egypt.


The name Zaphenath-Paneah given to Joseph by Pharaoh is rich in potential meanings and reflects his significant role in Egyptian society.

While the exact meaning remains uncertain, the various interpretations highlight Joseph's wisdom, divine connection, and his ability to reveal hidden truths.

This name also symbolizes his integration into Egyptian culture while preserving his Hebrew heritage.


Why did Pharaoh give Joseph an Egyptian name?

Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name, Zaphenath-Paneah, to honor him and integrate him into Egyptian society, making him more acceptable to the Egyptian people.

What are some interpretations of the name Zaphenath-Paneah?

Interpretations include "God speaks and he lives," "revealer of secrets," "savior of the world," and "he who explains hidden things."

Did Joseph maintain his Hebrew identity despite his Egyptian name?

Yes, Joseph maintained his Hebrew identity, as evidenced by his choice of Hebrew names for his sons and his continued worship of the Hebrew God.

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