Manasseh and Ephraim were Joseph’s sons born in Egypt during the height of his power as Egypt’s administrator. This is listed on the Bible Timeline Chart around 1704 BC. Apart from their father’s high position in the Egyptian court, they were also descended from priests. This was through their mother Asenath and their grandfather Potiphera (not to be confused with the captain of the guard Potiphar in Genesis 39). Thereby cementing their position in the Egyptian society, as well as later in the establishment of Israel as a nation-state.
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Their father’s story began in the 37th chapter of Genesis after Jacob settled his family in the land of Canaan. The deep-seated envy of Joseph’s brothers resulted in him being sold to Ishmaelite traders and later on as a slave in Egypt. This story culminated in the succeeding chapters after he rose as Egypt’s ruler (second only to Pharaoh) by interpreting the king’s dreams about the years of abundance followed by years of famine. This life-changing moment also established Joseph as a member of Egypt’s elite. The Pharaoh personally gave him a new Egyptian name “Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On (Sun City or Heliopolis, the modern-day suburb of Ain Shams), to be his wife.” (Genesis 41:45 NIV).
Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim were born before the years of famine. Joseph named his eldest Manasseh (‘to forget’ in Hebrew) because “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household,” while his younger son was named Ephraim (‘to be fruitful’) “because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (Genesis 41:50-52 NIV) There are no records as to whether Joseph had more children by Asenath apart from Manasseh and Ephraim. The boys were later on blessed by Jacob in his deathbed.
On (Heliopolis: Ancient City of Egypt)
Manasseh: Meaning of Name and Background
Ephraim: Meaning of Name and Background
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