Saturday, May 8, 2010

Joseph in Egypt: Part V

This article was published in the Spring 2003 issue of Bible and Spade.


The specific Egyptian titles granted to Joseph by Pharaoh have been discussed at great length by modern scholars. The key verse is Genesis 45:8, which mentions three titles held by Joseph. The Hebrew text of course does not give the Egyptian form of these three titles. Hence, years of scholarly debate have arisen over the exact Egyptian renditions of the Hebrew words or phrases.

Of the three titles that Joseph held, let us begin with the one obvious title, and then move on to the two more complex and problematical titles.

Lord of Pharaoh’s House

Genesis 45:8 states that Joseph was made Lord of all of Pharaoh’s House. This title has an exact Egyptian counterpart, which is normally translated into English as “Chief Steward of the King.”

The main job of the Chief Steward was the detailed supervision of the King’s personal agricultural estates, the number of which would have been vast. This fits well with Joseph’s advice regarding the coming years of plenty and the following years of famine. As Chief Steward, Joseph would be well placed to prepare for the coming famine during the years of more abundant production.

It is interesting to observe that another specific responsibility of the Chief Steward was to take charge of the royal granaries, where the agricultural wealth of the nation was stored. As the person in charge of these great storehouses, Joseph was ideally placed for carrying out his suggestion to store food during the good years for the bad.

On the practical side, two things can be learned from Joseph’s post as Chief Steward.

First, note how God had prepared him for his task. No one starts out in life at the top of the ladder. We all must learn the ropes, so to speak, from the ground floor up. Joseph had been steward of the estates of Potiphar. This job was very much like that of Chief Steward of the King, but on a much smaller scale. Joseph without doubt received on-the-job training as Potiphar’s steward, which stood him in good stead when he later was promoted to the same job in the King’s household.

As Potiphar’s steward, Joseph did his job faithfully. We are told that all that Potiphar owned prospered under the stewardship of Joseph. Joseph evidently learned well. He was therefore ready when the Lord allowed him to become Chief Steward for all of Egypt.

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