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

Zaphnath-Paaneah (Biblical Hebrew: צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַṢāfnaṯ Paʿnēaḫ, LXX: Ψονθομφανήχ Psonthomphanḗch) is the name given by Pharaoh to Joseph in the Genesis narrative (Genesis 41:45).

The name may be of Egyptian origins, but there is no straightforward etymology; some Egyptologists accept that the second element of the name may contain the word ˁnḫ "life".


*(ḏd pꜣ-nṯr jw.f ꜥnḫ)
"God speaks and he lives"
Egyptian hieroglyphs

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 Christ) is influenced by the Greek form of the name, Ψονθομφανήχ Psonthomphanḗkh and Ψομθομφανήχ Psomthomphanḗkh 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, -anḗkh) as containing the Egyptian word ꜥnḫ "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] Egyptologist Patrick Clarke, however, has pointed out this interpretation's shortcomings; namely, this name-type is unattested prior to the 11th century BC (Joseph lived much earlier), and, this name type "always mentioned a specific deity, never ‘the god’".[7]


  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 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
  7. ^ "One very popular idea that Joseph was some kind of ‘revealer of godly secrets’ (Dje(d)-Pa-Nute(r)-(‘e)f-ankh) was first postulated by Steindorff over a century ago. This name-type has been attested by scholarship as occurring between the 11th–6th centuries BC but not during the time of Joseph, which in both the conventional and the biblical chronology was considerably earlier. What Steindorff did not know at that time was that his Ḏdp3nṯrfanḫ 𓆓𓆑𓅮𓄿𓊹𓀭𓆑𓋹 always mentioned a specific deity, never ‘the god’."Patrick Clarke (2013-12-01). "Joseph's Zaphenath Paaneah—a chronological key" (PDF). Creation Ministries International.


  • 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.