The Jewish Messiah – Zaphnath pa’aneach

Jewish Messiah / Zaphnath paaneach

Many words in the Hebrew language have a complex and twisted history. Sometimes one of the paths along which the word marched is blocked, but then another opens along which it continues its existence. This is probably the case with "Zaphnath pa’aneach", a name which appears only once in the Bible: "And Pharaoh called Joseph by the name Zaphnath-pa’aneach" (Bereishit 41:45). The challenge of explaining this name has captivated commentators from as far back as ancient times and right up to modern times. The earliest biblical commentators already point out the difficulty in interpreting this name. A careful reading of the Ibn Ezra will show us that he cleverly pointed put the fork in the road where the various versions of this word divided.

On one hand, the Ibn Ezra raises the hypothesis that this may be an Egyptian word, whose meaning is not known (and note the concentration of Egyptian words in the chapter: Pharaoh, Avreich, Poti-phera). Today we know that we can bring support for this hypothesis from other ancient sources. The Septuagint – a Greek translation of the Bible written in the first centuries BC – contains this exact name, transliterated into Greek, without any translation. Later one of the church fathers, Hieronymus (died circa 420) states that "Zaphnath-pa’aneach" is Egyptian and means "savior of the world". Hieronymus’ interpretation is probably based on an Alexandrian interpretive tradition, which understood the name as being taken from the Egyptian language: pa-santh-n-pa-ankh, meaning "creator" or "sustainer".

According to another interpretation, the intention is another Egyptian expression meaning: "the god says he shall live". On the other hand, the Ibn Ezra says that one should understand the letters "pa’aneach" according to the Aramaic translation, which is the translation of Onkelos. This Aramaic translation – which was composed in the second and third centuries CE – translates "Zaphnath-pa’aneach" as "the man to whom secrets are revealed". In truth, what would a translator do when confronted with an Egyptian word that he does not know the meaning of? It is logical to assume that he will attempt to find a phonetically similar word in Hebrew or Aramaic and try use it to explain the problematic phrase. It seems that the similarity between "Zaphnath" and the Hebrew root word "Z-Ph-N", which means "to hide" or "to conceal" (for example "And when she could no longer hide him" [Shemot 2:3]) lead to the interpretation: "revealer of that which is hidden", an interpretation that appears not only in Onkelos but also in Midrashim of chazal. When the interpretations of the word "Pa’aneach" as "explanation of something closed" or "revealing of hidden things" were taken the root word "P-A-N-Ch" became part of the system of Hebrew verbs. It is found frequently in medieval literature and also in Modern Hebrew, for example, the noun "pianuach" (deciphering or decoding) and the verbs "pi’nach" (decoded/deciphered)) or "pu’nach" (solved, interpreted, compiled [computing]) and even the profession, especially in the-army,-of-"m’pha’aneach"-(cryptographer).

We have seen how initially the meaning of a combination of Egyptian words from the biblical period was forgotten, but through the commentaries of chazal it received new meaning which continued it’s existence up till today.

The name of the Jewish Saviour (Moshiah).

Yeshua, spelled "Yud Shin vav ayin" or the hebrew Yehoshua (never yahshua, or yahoshua, or any other weird, non hebrew way), meaning "to deliver, save, or rescue". In the Second Temple Period the it was a common name among Jews, and is thought by some scholars and religious groups to be the Hebrew or Aramaic name for the Jewish Messiah.

I find it interesting that by Pharaoh giving to Joseph a gentile name, it hid the identity of Joseph to their brothers. They could never see this gentile ruler as the Moshiah of their generation. It sound it absurd even it if was prophesied by any one, that this gentile ruler could become the saviour of the world, impossible! It was till Joseph revealed his real identity, as an Israelite like then, their brother, that they came to accept his Messiahship, his complete help.

I do believe is the same with our holy Rabbi, Maran Yeshua. The holy One blessed be His Name is revealing slowly, but surely the true identity of Maran Yeshua to Israel. HaShem does not want Jewish people to become like the gentiles of the lands, He wants them Jewish, with the Jewish Messiah, so that they came became the light to the nations that they were meant to be.

Jesus or even Zaphnath pa’aneach never existed; they were gentiles in the eyes of the Jewish people.

Let the Jewish Messiah be revealed.

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