“Pharaoh called Joseph by the name Tzafnat-Pa‘neach and gave him as his wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-Fera priest of On.“-Genesis 41:45
I want to point out something obvious about Joseph’s wife Asenath I think many of us have a tendency to skip over without giving it much thought.
Joseph’s wife is considered to be an Egyptian.
She is a Gentile.
And when I say she is a Gentile, I don’t mean she was a Gentile who switched her allegiance from Egypt’s gods to YHVH.
She retained her full Egyptian identity.
There is no evidence she ever converted.
In fact, she was the daughter of a priest who was of the Temple of On.
On was the city of the Sun God.
The purpose of the Temple of On was to pay homage to the highest Egyptian deity called Re (or later Atum-Re).
On would later be called Heliopolis, meaning the city of the sun.
Thus Joseph married the heathen daughter of the priest of the Sun God!
Why did God allow this?
In the story of Dinah and Shechem, we saw how God orchestrated circumstances to prevent intermarriage from occurring between Jacob’s family and the Hivites.
Back in Genesis 39, we also saw how God thwarted Judah’s intentions to carry on his family line through his Canaanite wife by having Judah unknowingly sleep with his Semitic daughter-in law Tamar who disguised herself as a prostitute.
So why was it acceptable in God’s sight for Joseph to marry an Egyptian who was of the line of Ham and didn’t pledge allegiance to YHVH?
In fact, given her status as the daughter of the Sun god’s priest, it would have been unimaginable for her to become a Hebrew.
Some Christians say this points to Jesus marrying His Gentile Bride which symbolizes the Christian church.
However, if this typology is to be correct, then Asenath would have to have converted and pledged allegiance to YHVH.
There is no evidence of her doing that.
It seems like the rabbis had a real problem with this and Jewish scholarship through the ages has largely denied the Egyptian racial origin of Joseph’s wife.
“The disturbing fact with regard to the wife of Joseph was her descent from Ham.“-Professor V. Aptowitzer of Hebrew Union College
Many Jewish legends actually say that Asenath was the offspring of Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, and resulted from Shechem’s seduction as told in Genesis chapter 34.
However, I believe the answer might lie in the findings of modern scholarship.
Do you remember how I mentioned earlier that Egypt at this time was under subjugation by Semitic conquerers known as the Hyskos or Shepherd kings?
Well, the Egyptian capital of the Shepherd Kings, Avaris, was in the region of Goshen where the Israelites dwelled and On the city of the sun god (or Heliopolis) where Potiphar and his daughter resided was located apparently just a stone’s throw away.
My point is could not Potiphera and his daughter, Joseph’s wife, also be members of the Semitic Shepherd Kings?
In fact, the Jewish historian Josephus believed that the Hyksos were “the children of Israel”.
So who knows, maybe Joseph married a Hebrew after all.
If this theory is true, it harmonizes with past Scripture and shows that again God orchestrated circumstances to keep His Semitic line pure as he did with the Shechem incident and the incident with Judah and Tamar.