Vayyiggash: Joseph and the Silver Thread (Hebrew Word Study)

Vayyiggash: Joseph and the Silver Thread (Hebrew Word Study)

The Biblical hero Joseph's life was marked with interactions with silver, even from the time that his brothers threw him in a pit, and Midianite traders sold him to Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of the shiny metal. You can read our lesson about that transaction here.

Long after the death of Joseph, the Book of Joshua records that the children of Israel brought his bones back to the Land of Israel, again connecting him with his father Jacob's transaction in Shechem (Samaria) of 100 pieces of silver:

 

Joshua 24:32 - “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”

 

This “silver" thread goes all through Joseph's life, from the silver his brothers brought to purchase grain during the famine, the silver “cup” placed and later found in Benjamin's sack, and his collection of all of the silver in the land of Egypt as second in command to Pharaoh.

 

Genesis 47:14 ; “And Joseph gathered up all the silver that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the grain which they bought: and Joseph brought the silver into Pharaoh's house.”

 

This verse ties Joseph and silver together TWICE, once as the gatherer of silver in the land and the one who stored the silver for later use. This verse in the Hebrew reveals some interesting and AMAZING Hebraic concepts.

 

Don't forget the Hebrew words are read from right to left!

First let's look at the name Joseph in Hebrew: יוֹסֵף

 

Joseph is made up of the Hebrew letters yad-vav-samech-pey, (YOSF) and is a future construct of the root, YSF, that generally means “to add”. So, here we get the common Hebrew meaning of Joseph's name, “He will add”, or “he will accumulate”.

Here is the Hebrew root word YSF (“add” or “accumulate”) in Hebrew: יָסַף

Now, let's take a look a the word for “silver” in Hebrew: כֶּסֶף

 

The word “silver” in Hebrew is KSF, pronounced “keh-sef”. Silver shares the same Hebrew letters as its Hebrew root, KSF, pronounced “kah-saf”, which means “to long for”.

 

Notice the similarities between the Hebrew root word for Joseph, YSF, and the Hebrew word for silver, KSF. They both derive from the same basic Hebraic word-letter structure! The only difference is the first letter of the word, “Y” in the case of “Joseph” and “K” in the case of Silver! 

 

This is quite amazing so I think we will need to dig a bit deeper. The Hebrew Aleph Bet, or “alphabet” is built on the objects found in life and nature. The letters are “combined” to communicate relationships of those objects into more complex concepts. This is the core of all “Semitic” languages including Hebrew.  Because these two words share a common letter structure, it means that words "Joseph" and "silver" are related in some way!

 

So, lets take a look at the letters that make up the Hebrew words for “Joseph” and “Silver” starting with the letters that the two words share:

 

The “pey” which has the “F” sound at the end of these words is the Hebrew word for the “open mouth”.

 

The “samech” used in the center of each word, making the “ess” sound is a representation of a “thorn” or a “turn”.

 

The combination of a “samech” and a “pey”, according to Jeff A. Benner's Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible, is a picture of “a turning mouth”, which would be used for the “lip of a bowl”, the “lip” being the opening circle of a container used to gather things together for eating. 

 

Other words from this root are:

 

“Asaph”: ASP, “to gather”, “to store”, “assemble”, and even “ingathering” as used in the KJV

“Saphaph”: SPP, “doorkeeper”, one who is at the “lip” of a door or threshold

“Saphah”: SPH, “lip”, “language”, “edge”,“brink”, “border”, on the edge or “lip” of something

“Mispo”: MSPVA”, “provender”, “feed”, that which is gathered for cattle to eat

“Yasaph”: YSP, “increase”, “do again”, “more”, “longer”

 

So, we can see this combination of “samech” and “pey” that both words "Joseph" and "Silver" share have to do with gathering, assembling, adding, increasing, collecting, adding to, storing, bowls, food, and lips (edges).

 

Now lets take a look at the difference in the FIRST letter of both words, "Joseph" and "Silver/Kesef".

 

The first letter of “kesef “is a “kaf”, which is the pictograph of an “open hand or palm”.  As we studied earlier, the Hebrew word “kesef” means “longed for” or “silver” the shiny metal, but it can also mean “strong desire” and even “greed”.

 

The first letter of Joseph is a “yad”, which is the pictograph of a “closed hand or fist”. By putting all of the letters of YSF together we have the “one who stores food”, or “one who adds feed to the storehouse”.

 

Back to our verse:

 

Genesis 47:14 ; “And Joseph (closed hand) gathered up all the silver (open hand) that was found in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, for the grain which they bought: and Joseph (closed hand) brought the silver (open hand) into Pharaoh's house.”

 

Joseph “gathered”  the increase of Egypt in both grain and silver into storehouses during the times of plenty so that it could be food and provision for the children of Israel during the times of famine!

 

Upon reconciling with his brothers, Joseph explained his role this way:

 

Genesis 45:4-9 “And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I [am] Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt.

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.

For these two years [hath] the famine [been] in the land: and yet [there are] five years, in the which [there shall] neither [be] earing nor harvest.

And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

So now [it was] not you [that] sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

 

Joseph knew that it was the Almighty who had sent him to Egypt to preserve the lives of the sons of Israel in a great deliverance. In the next book of Exodus, the children of Israel will be delivered once again by Moses, but this time it will not be a famine, but a deliverance from bondage and slavery in Egypt and to the Pharaoh.

 

This silver that was gathered in the land of Egypt from all of the people by Joseph would be commanded of God and given to the children of Israel by the Egyptians on their great exodus from Egypt. Thus ALL of the children of Israel would be the storehouse for all of the silver and gold as they left Egypt for their journey to the promised land led by Moses.

 

The Almighty said to Moses:

 

Exodus 3:21,22 “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:

And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty”

 

Exodus 11:2 “Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man borrow of his neighbour, and every woman of her neighbour, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.

 

Exodus 12:35-36 “And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment:

And YHWH had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.”

 

I have often wondered if the silver that was gathered by Joseph into Pharoah's house was marked in some way to designate that it had been stored by Joseph during the time of the famine. This would have made sense. The Egyptians were skilled in metallurgy and the storehouse under Joseph's care would have had its own “mint mark” perhaps with Joseph's own signet seal. When the Almighty commands the children of Israel to “ask” of the Egyptians for the gold and silver , perhaps the markings of their brother Joseph on the silver and gold PROVED that the silver and gold belonged to the children of Israel after all and its ownership could not be questioned.

 

Who knows, maybe that's how it happened.

 

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