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Did Joseph Marry Out?

Did Joseph Marry Out?

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Question:

Joseph married Osnat and had two children in Egypt before his family came down to join him. Was she Egyptian?

Response:

We read in Genesis 41:45 that Pharaoh gave Joseph Osnat daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. From the various midrashim, a wondrous story emerges:

You see, when Shechem abducted Dinah, she became pregnant with his child. Her father, Jacob, saw that his family was deeply ashamed of his new granddaughter. The little girl was banished from the camp and placed under a thorn bush. They called her Osnat, a derivative of sneh, the Hebrew word for thorn bush.

Jacob brought a golden plate with a holy name inscribed upon it and hung it on her neck. In other accounts, it is stated that he wrote, "Whoever meets you, meets the seed of Jacob." And he sent her away.

As all is revealed before the Holy One blessed be He, Archangel Michael descended and took her down to Egypt, the home of Potiphera, for Osnat was fitting to be Joseph's wife. Potiphera's wife was barren, and she reared Osnat like a daughter.

When Joseph took charge of Egypt, all the maidens were taken by his extraordinary beauty and threw jewelry and other objects at him in, trying to gain his favor. Osnat had nothing to throw, except the golden plate bearing the inscription that her grandfather had made her. When Joseph saw what was written on it, he knew that she was his kin, and immediately married her.

Other midrashim, however, describe her as a righteous convert, on par with Hagar, Ruth and Rahab.

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Yankel M London November 30, 2015

Joseph's dream This Midrash also explains why in Vayeshev when Joseph dreams about his 11 brothers (represented by the 11 stars) bowing down to him Dinah is conspicuously absent.
According to this Midrash Dinah is not only his sister, but also his mother-in-law. And not in his wildest dreams would his mother- in-law bow down to him! Reply

Raffy London, England January 25, 2010

Joseph's Wife As usual, Midrash to the rescue. Reply

Anonymous oak park, MI January 4, 2010

Dina's daughter We learn that Levi had just was 13 when Dina was abducted. Since there is a gap between Levi and Dina (Leah saw that she was not getting pregnant), Dina couldn't have been older than 10 or maybe 11 an d too young to conceive. Reply

adael hebron January 3, 2010

re: danny, and yes, was a boy You're right, it's not a simple book of history, and how exactly the events that happened were experienced is what's subject to debate. the zohar/kabbalah also says that to God we're all female, so even if Dinah had a biological son (yes) spiritually he was female just like the rest of us. most of us, at least. Reply

Anonymous brooklyn, N.Y January 3, 2010

nope dina did have a girl
however, since dina's brothers wanted to kill the child, jacob was kind and hid her behind a bush. he inscribed the gold plate around her neck etc and an angel took her and placed her in potipera's house in egypt. later she married joseph and yes an uncle is -according to torah- allowed to marry his neice (an aunt cant marry her nephew though). Reply

danny tiberias January 2, 2010

soul grow up people . the torah is not a simple book of history . the zohar says if so surely we could have written a better one !! look beyond the simple meaning and see the sublime truths in the torah . la chaim !! Reply

adael hebron January 2, 2010

No.. That's not what happened, and Dinah had a son, not a daughter, and every woman knows this. Besides, what does it matter whether one of the sons of Jacob married outside of the family, when most of the other brothers married outside anyways? Sooner everyone realizes this, the sooner we can move forward. But a pretty story nonetheless!

Also, enough slander about Shechem. Reply

Anonymous Detroit, MI January 1, 2010

confusion According to the first Midrash, doesn't that mean that Joseph married his niece? Wouldn't that be incest? Reply

disgusted los Angeles January 1, 2010

broken home How am I to accept this story. It's AWFUL. What kind of man would banish his own granddaughter from his family while she is still an infant because the child's mother was raped?! What an awful, awful person. And I am to believe that Jacob was righteous. This disgusts me. Reply

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