And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:45)
For someone to receive a new name is not exclusively Egyptian in nature. There are several instances in Scripture where someone was given a new name by God — Abraham and Sarah, for example. Oshea was changed to Joshua. As I said, there are many examples of this. In this case, not only was Joseph given authority over the land of Egypt, he also was given an Egyptian identity. For all practical purposes, Joseph’s Hebrew name and identity was concealed beneath the veneer of an Egyptian.
As a matter of fact, the word zaphnath comes from a root word that means “to conceal” thus, Zaphnath-paneach is translated by some as “Revealer of hidden things.” Along with the name came an Egyptian wife, the daughter of the High Priest of On (also known as Heliopolis). Historically, this place was the seat of sun worship. In other words, Joseph married into the family that led the nation of Egypt in sun worship, further concealing him from his Hebrew identity.
So what does this all mean for you and me? First of all, we again see how Jospeh’s life paints a picture of the Messiah; how He is concealed from His brethren. Most of Judaism perceives Jesus as a westernized god and not what the Bible describes as the promised Messiah. For most Jews, Messiah’s true identity is concealed from them. Yet, that factors a great deal into why you and I have been invited into the family of God. As Paul said: “Through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11).
As in Joseph’s case, this concealment serves God’s purpose as it relates to the restoration of Israel. When all is said and done, those who rejected Messiah will one day realize who He truly is. In that day, as Paul concluded in Romans 11, “All Israel shall be saved.” In the meantime, as His followers, we are to provoke His brethren to jealousy. How do we do that? We are to follow Him and His ways; we are to emulate Him in every way so that those we come in contact with want to be part of this family. These are the days when all that has been hidden must come to light.
Blessings and Shalom,