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Monday, June 4, 2012

Ancient Egyptian Names

GEN 41:45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

There are lots of theories about what the ancient Egyptian names in Genesis 41:45 mean.  Here is my theory for anyone who is interested.  What it suggests to me is that the name was in part derived from the name of the wife he was being given and his acceptance.  My reason for suspecting this is that it contains the same good luck wishes or symbols as the name of one he was to marry.  These include SA, the symbol for protection and SHEN, the symbol for eternity. Also, Joseph is given the name and the wife in the same sentence, at least in the translations.  The first part of the ceremonial name for Joseph does not contain SHEN (which is spelled sn), so Pharaoh may have added the ending to make up for it and to make it more masculine sounding. 

There are a variety of translations for these names. None seem to have anything in common. I have no idea whether they have any merit, so I thought up my own interpretation. Some examples from thers of Asenath  are:  "Follower of Neith",  "she belongs to her father", "thorn bush" and "gift of Isis".  Some examples of ZAPHNATH-PAANEAH are: "the nourisher of the living", "the man to whom mysteries are revealed", "savior of the world",  "the god speaks, [and] he lives.", "treasury of the glorious rest".

My probably misguided literal translation:


zp = accept or bind

ḥ = house

ntḥ = the pre-dynastic religious symbol for Lower Egypt

p = the

nḥ = eternity (or Ankh if you think it is a hard h sound as in Hebrew, צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ )



s = son or daughter

ḥ = house

ntḥ = the pre-dynastic religious symbol for Lower Egypt

N.B., sn is the symbol for eternity and s is the symbol for protection. So, the name is filled with good luck symbols for the house of Lower Egypt.

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