III.    Events During the Reign of Amenemhet II (1929-1895)
Genesis 37
A.    Father's House (Gen. 37:1-11): Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob and was the last born in Padan-Aram. His birth probably took place toward the end of Jacob's first seven years of bondage.

B.    The Sale(s) of Joseph:

1.    A Story of Reversals: This story is one of mini reversals and thus reflects one of the major themes of the overall story.
a.    Joseph starts out as his father's favorite as exemplefied by the gift of a special coat. Jacob sends him on a mission to find out the welfare (~Alv'/shalom) of his older brothers. (37:12-17)
b.    The brothers devise a plot to kill him and throw his body in a pit.  Reuben quickly persuades them that they should not kill Joseph, but just to throw him in a pit. He wanted to save him later.  One wonders if this is a move by Reuben to regain his father's favor.
c.    The brothers without Reuben's knowledge sell Joseph to traders going to Egypt.  These traders are identified as both Midianites and Ismaelites.  Which was it?  There are a variety of answers.
(1)    Some critical scholars see that two sources are at work in this story and that one source called them Midianites and the other Ishmaelites.
(2)    A second explanation is that Ishmael has become very influential among the Midianites and that this is a mixed group. The literary effect is to show that the "promises" made to Ishmael are beginning to be fulfilled and so his "hand is against everyone" and that would include his brothers.
(3)    A third explanation is that they are Midianites and that the term Ishmaelite is a pejorative term. It is therefore an insult that is anachronistically applied to these Midianites to insult them.
d.    Reuben's plan has been foiled and whatever his reason, he sees his life as ruined.  The father falls into deep despair.
2.    The Sale to Potiphar. Is this a sober fact or just a generalization.  If the sale were directly made to Potiphar then this would imply a rather open border at this time.  If the statment is a generalization then it is merely stating Joseph ended up in Potiphar's hands.
a.    Was the border open in the Middle Kingdom?  Before Joseph was born during the reign of Amenemhat I (1991-1962) a structure called "The Wall of the Ruler" was constructed to keep the Asiatics (Aamu) out of the country. The Prophecy of Neferti speaks of a savior king who "will" come to save Egypt.  Notice the social ills that he is to correct.
Then a king will come from the South,
Ameny, the justified, by name
Son of a woman of Ta-Seti, child of Upper Egypt.
He will take the white crown,
He will wear the red crown;
He will join the Two Mighty Ones.
He will please the Two Lords with what they wish,
With field-circler in his fist, oar in his grasp.
Rejoice, O people of his time,
The son of man will make his name for all eternity!
The evil-minded, the treason-plotters,
They suppress their speech in fear of him;
Asiatics will fall to his sword,
Libyans will fall to his flame,
Rebels to his wrath, traitors to his might,
As the serpent on his brow subdues the rebels for him.
One will build the Walls-of-the-Ruler
To bar Asiatics from entering Egypt
Then Order will return to its seat,
While Chaos is driven away.
Rejoice he who may behold, he who may attend the king!
And he who is wise will libate for me,
When he sees fulfilled what I have spoken!
b.        Plausibility of the Story
(1)    "There is an apparent increase at this time in the number of Levantine names recorded in Egypt, presumably belonging to those brought in as domestic servants." Clayton, p. 82.

(2)    Potiphar is one of the few Egyptians given a name in the story.

(a)    Name: When names from one language are written in another they become corrupted.
i.    The usual explanation is that it means "he whom Ra has given."
ii.    Another interpretation is that it simply means the "the house of the God Ptah"
iii.   Among private names (Ancient Records of Egypt by James Breasted) was found the name Ptahwer who served Amenemhet III.
(b)    Titles: The problem with Potiphar's titles is that they are semitic equivalents of the actual Egyptian titles.
i.    syrIs'/saris = eunuch.  This term can either decribe a man who is deprived of his manhood or in a generic sense of a man who is an official.  It is obviously the latter since Potiphar had a wife.

ii.    ~yxi(B'J;h; rf;Þ/Sar ha††aBBäHîm  = chief of guards.  In the middle kingdom there appears the position sehedj-shemsu which appears tobe the Egyptian equivalent of this term. Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003), p. 477.

(3)    Price: K. A. Kitchen’s Slave Argument
Genesis 37:28, Joseph was sold for 20 shekels of silver. (19th- 17th centuries B.C.E.)
Exodus 21:32, A slave is valued at 30 shekels of silver (15th- 13th centuries B.C.E.)
II Kings 15:20, Menahem taxes the Israelites 50 shekels of silver (8th century B.C.E.)
(4)    Joseph's Position (Overseer of the House/AtêyBe-l[;/`al-Bêtô) is paralleled in the Papyrus Brooklyn 35.1446. Several servants are called Hry-pr (he who is over the house).
 


NEXT