Alice C. Linsley
Potiphar bought Joseph as a slave. Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce Joseph. Potiphera was Joseph's father-in-law and a priest of the Temple in Heliopolis. Heliopolis is Biblical On and was an Ainu shrine.
A reader has asked whether Potiphar and Potifera might be the same person. I think not. There is no reason to assume that the officer of Pharaoh's guard, whose wife attempted to seduce Joseph, is the same man as Joseph's father-on-law who was a priest. The men are ascribed different roles. One is a priest and the other is a warrior. It is more likely that their names indicate their high status in a ancient society that valued hierarchical order. Both names relate to the deity Horus. This is evident from reading the Potiphar Stela which has this designation "Putiphar son of ‘Ankh-Hor".
Potifra is the likely form of the name and it suggests a title. Referring to Proverbs 8:33, Ibn Erza holds that the phrase al-tifra-u means something like "don't change the order." The verse says: "Listen to my instruction and become wise. Don't change the order." This suggests that the name Potifra was not uncommon among ranking men who were part of the established order in Egypt.
The widely accepted interpretation of Potiphera is that it is derived from the Egyptian Pa-di-Pre, “the gift of the Re.” This seems less likely than my suggestion that the name is related to the word tifra, meaning order. The view that the names Potiphar and Potiphera refer to men of high rank is supported by the stela of Potiphera in Cairo Museum. This is the single extra-Biblical occurance of the name. It dates to the 21st Dynasty (ca. 1070–945 BC).
Societal structure among the ancient Horites
Societies of the ancient world were characterized by castes. The ruler was the highest in rank and those who served him were next in rank. This included scribes, priests, metalworkers and warriors.
In the hierarchical order Joseph would have held a very high rank. This is evident in his marriage to the daughter of the high priest of Heliopolis. Asenath, Joseph's wife, was probably a cousin to Joseph and her first born son belonged to her father's shrine. Ephraim, the younger son, belonged to the House of Jacob. This explains why Jacob gave him the blessing that pertained to the first-born (Gen. 48:14). In 1949, Claude Levi-Strauss recognized that in system where ruling lineage is traced through the fathers the mother and son do not belong to the same household.
Asenath or Asnat combines two ancient Egyptian words: As or Asa, a name for God, and nt meaning Lord, as in tera neter, priest of the Lord. Her name means As or Asa is Lord. The name appears in association with the Divine Name Yahu in Judah (Asayahu). Anath was also called Mari-Anath and many water shrines were dedicated to her. These were places where women came to ask the Creator for children. These were also places of healing (compare to story in John 5). It is likely that Mari-Anath is the same deified mother as Hathor-Mari, the mother of Horus.
|Reproduction of Stela of Potiphera|
The stela has four lines of large hieroglyphs written from right to left. They say:
A boon which the King gives Osiris, the Spirit of his Olive-tree, that he may give offerings consisting of bread, beer, oxen, fowls and every good and pure thing on which the god lives to the Ka of the revered, the guardian of the chamber of Ptah who is under his olive-tree, Putiphar son of ‘Ankh-Hor [born of....] mistress of reverence for ever.
Here we find a direct connection between the name Potiphar and Horus. Potiphar is said to be the son of Ankh-Hor. Anhk-Hor means "Horus, may He live forever." The story of Joseph, like the story of Abraham, winds around Horite belief and practice. In fact, all the rulers listed in the Genesis King Lists were Horites. The Horites were a caste of ruler-priests who were devotees of Horus and his father Ra.
Related reading: The Enigma of Joseph; The Joseph Narrative; Who Were the Horites?; The Daughters of Horite Priests; The Nilotic Origin of the Ainu; Jesus Fulfills the Horus Myth