50 “Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” (Genesis 41:50–52 (ESV)
Scholars have placed proper emphasis on Joseph’s leadership during the seven years of plenty. This is appropriate. However, it should also be noted that during this time of extensive preparation and work, Joseph was beginning a family.
Following his marriage to Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On (Gen. 41:45), she bore him two sons. The text reveals that Joseph had a home life, aside from beginning his work as the viceroy of Egypt.
Joseph named his eldest son Manasseh. Manasseh means forget or causing to forget. Moses wrote that Joseph named his eldest child this “For God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.”
It was not that Joseph could ever forget his Hebrew family, for in mentioning the hardship of his father’s house was to remember. However, the Hebrew word forget (nas’sa) means to not proceed upon an action, either to bless or to punish. In naming his child Manasseh, Joseph declared he would not seek vengeance upon his brothers for selling him into slavery (Gen. 37:12-36) when he was now in a position to do so.
Joseph named his second child Ephraim. If calling his first born Manasseh focused on his past, the name Ephraim focused on Joseph’s present. Moses wrote, “The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Gen. 41:52). The word fruitful, meaning abundance, contrasts with the word bitter, which means poverty. The poor slave in Egypt is now the wealthy delegated leader of Egypt.
Dr. John Walvoord writes, “In spite of his success, he did not abandon his Israelite heritage. He gave his two sons characteristically Hebrew names. Manasseh (forget) signified that God had made him forget the misery of his separation from his family. Ephraim (fruitful) signified that God had made him fruitful in the land of Egypt.”
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “The names, meaning “forgetful” and “fruitful,” assigned to his sons together with their explanations depict the centrality of God in Joseph’s worldview. Years of suffering, pagan presence, and separation from his own family had not harmed his faith.”
Joseph offers believers in Christ today a valuable life lesson when dealing with unfair and cruel treatment by others. We are not to dwell on past wrongs done against us, but rather consider the present blessings God has brought to us. We must realize that God is in control of both (Romans 5:1-5; James 1:1-5; I Peter 1:3-7).
Have a blessed day in the Lord as your count your blessings from the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!