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    Why is the name Egyptian? – Mikketz

    Joseph, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1874

    After Joseph receives a high appointment in Egypt the king gives him a new name, Tzaf’nat Pa’ane’ach (Gen. 41:45).

    Targum Onkelos translates it, “The man to whom hidden things are revealed”. This is also how Rashi understands it. The idea is that when Pharaoh had weird dreams, it was Joseph who was able to work out their inner meaning.

    The name is probably Egyptian even though it comes in the Hebrew Chumash. The commentators try to explain what the name means but find the task daunting. Radak asks, “Why ever would Pharaoh choose to give Joseph a Hebrew name?”

    It is possible, however, that because Egypt had many visitors from other countries, Pharaoh knew a few Hebrew words. One was tzafon (“north”) because the north was far away and its culture was strange, i.e. hidden.

    If Joseph got a name that included a reference to hidden things, the first part of the name logically meant to uncover or reveal.

    Rashi says that this part of the name is not found elsewhere in the Tanach.

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