Wednesday, February 4, 2015

#BlackBiblicalHistory: Asenath, Joseph's Egyptian Wife

Screenshot of the Animated Movie Joseph: King of Dreams. Asenath is the woman in the middle.
Biblical Reference: Genesis 41, Genesis 48:5

The Israelite trajectory that is shared in the Bible is one which was very often tied in to Egyptian history as well. For example, Father Abraham depended on the Egyptians when his land was struck with a famine. And of course, there is the famous story of the Egyptians enslaving the Israelites for many centuries, out of fear that they could overtake them in a rebellion (if they ever chose to do so). But before all of this happened, Israel and Egypt lived as one, through the union of Israel's favorite son Joseph to one of Pharaoh's favorite courtiers, Asenath. She was the daughter of Pharoah's priest to the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, which the Hebrews referred to as On (Genesis 41:37-45). 
      Though Asenath had been raised as a follower of Egyptian idols, she found herself married to a man who worshiped a God unlike any of the gods she had heard of. Joseph's God was invisible, not represented in sculptures formed by the hands of men, but understood as simply being everywhere at once...omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.
      Not much is said about her in the Bible, but she is noted as being the mother of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were so loved by their grandfather Israel, that he proclaimed them as his own sons (Genesis 48:5), forever noted in the tribes of Israel. Despite the lack of Biblical information about her (or perhaps because of it) Asenath has been the source of much fascination. The love she shared with Joseph resulted in the apocryphal novel Joseph and Asenath. A translation by David Cook can be read at this link or the translation by Alex Chappell can be purchased on (click on the picture below to be sent to the page).

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