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Joseph interpreting the dreams of the baker and the cupbearer, by Benjamin Cuyp, ca. 1630.

Zaphnath-Paaneah (Hebrew צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ Ṣāfnaṯ Paʿnēaḫ, LXX Ψονθομφανήχ Psonthomphanḗch) is the name given by Pharaoh to Joseph in the Genesis narrative (Genesis 41:45). The name may be "Egyptian", but there is no straightforward etymology; some Egyptologists accept that the second element of the name may contain the word ˁnḫ "life."


Targum Onkelos (1st century AD) gives the meaning of the name as "the man to whom mysteries are revealed"; Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, "one who reveals mysteries"; Josephus[1] (c. AD 94), "a finder of mysteries". The Jewish interpretation is received in early Protestant translations: the Geneva Bible (1599) glosses "The expounder of secrets",[2] while the Authorised Version of 1611 has in the margin: "Which in the Coptic signifies, 'A revealer of secrets', or 'The man to whom secrets are revealed.'

In his work on Genesis, Jerome gives as the Latin translation salvator mundi "saviour of the world".[3] This Christian interpretation (reinforcing the ancient concept of Joseph as a prefiguration of the Christ) is influenced by the Greek form of the name, Ψονθομφανήχ Psonthom-phanêkh and Ψομθομφανήχ Psomthom-phanêkh in the Septuagint and the Hexaplaric version, respectively. This, at least, is the suggestion made by Wilhelm Gesenius in his Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon[4]. Early Egyptologists have interpreted the name as equivalent to Coptic ⲡⲥⲟⲧⲙ ⲫⲉⲛⲉϩ, psotm peneh meaning "salvation of the age"[5]

After the decipherment of hieroglyphics, Egyptologists have interpreted the final element of the name (-ʿnêaḫ, -anêkh) as containing the Egyptian word ˁnḫ "life"; notably, Georg Steindorff in 1889 offered a full reconstruction of ḏd pꜣ nṯr iw.f ꜥnḫ "the god speaks [and] he lives" (Middle Egyptian pronunciation: ṣa pīr nata yuVf[n 1] anaḫ)[6]. This interpretation is philologically plausible and has since become somewhat popular.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Antiquities ii.6.1
  2. ^ "Genesis 41:45 GNV - And Pharaoh called Joseph's name". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
  3. ^ Jerome, Liber Hebraicarum Quaestionum in Genesim, LXI:45. (Migne, J. P. (ed.) Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Stridonensis presbyteri Opera omnia, Patrologia Latini vol. 23, Paris: 1845, pp. 998.)
  4. ^ "The genuine Egyptian form of the word appears to be more accurately given by the LXX."[1]
  5. ^ where ⲡ is the article, ⲥⲟⲧ is "salvation" (loaned from Greek soter) and ⲫⲉⲛⲉϩ is "aion, age" (Gesenius). This interpretation goes back to the Glossarium Aegyptiacum by Jablonski (published 1809). The Asiatic Journal. Parbury, Allen, and Company. 1837-01-01.< See also "Coptic Dictionary Online". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  6. ^ "Zeitschrift für Ägyptische Sprache," xxvii. 42, modifying Krall's etymology in "Trans. 7th Orientalist. Congr." p. 110


  • Marquardt, Philologus, vii. 676;
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. col. 5379 (where a disfigured Hebrew original is suspected);
  • Steindorff, G., Der Name Josephs Saphenat-Pa'neach: Genesis Kapitel 41, 45. ZÄS 27, 1889, 41–42.
  • Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch. xx. 208 (where the other theories have been collected). E. G.
  • "Zaphnath-Paaneah". Retrieved 2015-08-30.


  1. ^ V represents an unknown short vowel sound.