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


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.