In our day and age, a person’s name is just a simple form of identification.
However, in the ancient Middle East, a name was much, much more.
In those days, a name reflected one’s personality and character and even one’s status in society.
When Joseph was elevated from the status of prisoner to 2nd in command of all Egypt, it was necessary he be given a new name befitting of his new position.
The new Egyptian name Pharaoh bestowed upon Joseph was “Zaphenath-panea“.
The first part Zaphenath means “He who is called“.
The second part “anea” means “life“.
So a literal rendering would be “He who is called life“.
Six years later with his Egyptian wife, Joseph gave birth to two male children.
The first born was named Manesseh.
The second born was named Ephraim.
However, interestingly, these are both Hebrew names, NOT Egyptian.
Manesseh means “causing to forget“.
Ephraim means “fruitful“.
Concerning these two names, in terms of life application, I sense that God communicated the following to me:
After successfully going through a great trial as Joseph did, the blessing of God will be so fruitful (Ephraim) that it will cause us to forget (Manesseh) all of the pain and hardship we had to go through prior.
One final point.
According to the customs of those times, it was the mother’s nationality that determined the identity of the children.
So even though these boys had Hebrew names, they were considered Egyptians.
Keep this fact tucked in your pocket because in future teachings we are going to explore how in some mysterious way Joseph’s two Egyptian, Gentile sons symbolize how God will bring Jew and Gentile together as one people.