Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second he named Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.”

Genesis 41:51-52

 

When Joseph was thirty years old, his lot in life changed dramatically. One day, he was a slave in exile and a prisoner because of injustice. The next day, he was the second most powerful person in Egypt, having been promoted by Pharaoh because of his God-given gift of dream interpretation and his strategic plan for how to get Egypt through a terrible famine. Moreover, Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian woman as his wife, who soon bore him two children.

A father walking with his son on the beach.Joseph named his sons Manasseh and Ephraim. These are Hebrew, not Egyptian names, a fact that shows Joseph’s desire to keep his sons connected to their religious and cultural heritage. Yet Joseph chose these names not simply because they were Hebrew or because he liked their sound. Both names represent God’s grace in a particular way. Today, we’ll examine Manasseh. Later we’ll focus on Ephraim.

Genesis 41:51 says that Joseph named his firstborn “Manasseh” because “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name “Manasseh” is closely related to the Hebrew phrase “making forget.” The gift of a son helped Joseph to forget all of the suffering he had gone through in his early life. (The phrase “and all my father’s house” probably means “and all my hardship in my father’s house,” referring to his mistreatment by his brothers.)

When Joseph speaks of forgetting his hardship, he does not mean that he could literally no longer remember what had happened to him before he turned thirty. Rather, he remembered it differently, from a new perspective, seeing God’s hand in things that formerly seemed godless. As he thought of his suffering, he was not bitter or resentful. God’s grace had delivered Joseph and blessed him beyond measure. The name “Manasseh” represented this grace.

Something to Think About:

Can you think of names, perhaps in your family or among your friends, that have special meaning because of personal history?

What names or things or places or people remind you of God’s grace in your life?

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for blessing Joseph in so many ways, including the blessing of his first son, Manasseh. Thank you for removing the sting of Joseph’s past by your grace, allowing him to see his life in a new light. Thank you for letting him “forget” the bitterness of the past and live with new freedom and joy.

Thank you for all the ways you have blessed us similarly. Thank you for redeeming our past, for setting us free from anger and resentment. Thank you for giving us new life in Christ, abundant life that begins now and stretches into eternity.

Thank you as well, Lord, for reminders of your grace. May the memory of your grace in the past open our hearts to your grace in the present, even today. Amen.

This post was originally published on February 4, 2016.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Joseph Creates a Long-term Agricultural Policy and Infrastructure (Genesis 41:46-57)