Asenath

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Asenath (Hebrew: אָסְנַת) was the wife of the prophet Joseph and the mother of Manasseh and Ephraim. She was the daughter of Potiphera, the Egyptian priest of On (Heliopolis). The Pharaoh granted Asenath as a wife to Joseph in recognition of Joseph's services to Egypt. The apocryphal text Joseph and Aseneth greatly expands upon the story of Asenath and Joseph.

Joseph and Aseneth[edit]

Planned marriage[edit]

Joseph and Aseneth describes Aseneth as the most beautiful maiden in Egypt and as being like an Israelite maiden "in every respect". Many people, including the Pharaoh's son, desired Aseneth as their wife. Yet she did not think much of men, and her father Potiphera kept her secure in a high yet luxurious tower. Potiphera kept idols in the tower, and Aseneth worshiped and offered sacrifices to them.

Joseph came to On and asked Potiphera, via messengers, to be invited into Potiphera's house in order to escape the heat, eat, and drink. Potiphera accepted and then made plans to marry Aseneth to Joseph, since Joseph was a prophet of God and the Pharaoh's viceroy. Potiphera shared his plan with Aseneth, and Asenth became upset. She believed Joseph, as a foreigner, former slave, shepherd's son, and alleged adulterer, to be beneath her and expressed her ambitions to marry the Pharaoh's son.

Meeting Joseph[edit]

One of Potiphera's men announced Joseph's approach, and Aseneth went up to her room in the tower in order to have a look from a window. Joseph arrived, wearing the regalia-like symbols of his station. Potiphera and his entourage went out to greet and pay respect to Joseph, but Aseneth remained inside.

From her window, Aseneth learned of Joseph's true splendor and panicked. She became concerned about how Joseph and his all-knowing, ever-present God would punish her for berating Joseph earlier. She began to feel guilty.

Joseph was dismissive of Aseneth, thinking that she might be like Zulaikha or the other women who abused him. Plus, his father Jacob had warned him to beware of strange women. However, Potiphera explained that Aseneth is a maiden who does not seek to exploit men for sex. This piqued and delighted Joseph, since there now exists a possibility of a women who would not try to exploit him.

Joseph asked Potiphera and Potiphera's wife to summon Aseneth, and Potiphera's wife brought Aseneth down. Aeseneth greeted Joseph, and Potiphera commanded Aseneth to kiss Joseph as if he were his sister, but Joseph pushed her back, saying that he will not be touched by a mouth that praises idols and that he would only kiss sisters from his own tribe.

Aseneth wept when she heard Joseph's works, and the compassionate Joseph developed feelings for her. Joseph prayed to God and asked God to bless Aseneth and transform her into one of God's people.

Penitence[edit]

Aseneth greatly appreciated Joseph's blessing, and she rushed to her room. She was happy yet frightened. She wept and forsake her idols. Meanwhile, Joseph departed, saying that he would be back in eight days.

The next morning, Aseneth retrieved ashes from downstairs and locked herself in her room. She denied entry to the concerned maidens who lived with her. Then she put on a black, mourning tunic, tying it with a rope instead of her golden belt.

She took off anything fancy and threw her fancy clothes and jewelry out of the window so that the poor may recover and benefit from them. Aseneth then broke his gold and silver idol and threw the pieces out of the window so that he might be recovered and used by the poor as well. After that went the meats and wines she had once used as offerings to idols.

Aseneth spread the ashes she had retrieved earlier and spread them on the floor. She took on a sackcloth and began covering herself with the ashes. She flogged herself and wept all night. By the next morning, enough of her tears fell to turn the ashes on the ground into mud. She then covered herself with these ashes as well.

Aseneth continued for seven days and denied herself any food or drink.

The angel[edit]

By the eighth day, Aseneth had grown weak and exhausted. Aseneth then prayed to God. She acknowledged Him as the creator and ruler of everything. She confessed her sins to God, acknowledged her old idols as incapable of hearing or answering prayers, and pleaded for salvation. She expressed regret for ignorantly dismissing Joseph and asked God to allow her to be Joseph's servant.

An angel appeared before Aseneth. The angel possesses a fearsome appearance, and Aseneth bowed down in fear. The angel told Aseneth to not be afraid, then commanded her to take off her clothes and wash herself up. He commanded her to put on a new rob and to fasten a belt around her waist as a symbol of her virginity. Aseneth did as she was commanded and also put on a veil.

The angel told her to take off her veil, since she was now pure and that her name was securely in the Book of Life. The angel then told Aseneth that she will be Joseph's wife, in accordance with God's plans, and she will now be known as "City of Refuge", since many nations will look to her for guidance and protection. The angel told Aseneth that God was rewarding her for her penitence.

Honeycomb and bees[edit]

Finally, the angel told Aseneth that Joseph was being summoned to her and asked her to put on a wedding dress. Aseneth was relieved and thrilled. She thanked God and offered the man food and wine, and God asked Aseneth to bring him a honeycomb as well. Aseneth told the angel that she was prepared to send a servant to fetch the honeycomb, but the angel announced that there was a honeycomb in Aseneth's inner room. The honeycomb was where the angel said it would be, and Aseneth brought it over to the angel.

The angel explained to Aseneth the honeycomb was from Paradise and that angels and those who give themselves over to the Lord eat it. The angel then placed a piece of the honeycomb into Aeneth's mouth. The angel then performed a miracle with the rest of the honeycomb, causing bees to emerge from it.

The bees surrounded and flew around Aseneth, with several large bees landing on Aseneth's lips. the angel then conducted the bees. First, directing them to the ground, and then directing them to the courtyard surrounding the tower.

With this donw, Aseneth acknowledged the miracle, and the angel had the rest of the comb engulfed in flame, resulting in a refreshing aroma.

Aseneth then asked the angel to bless the maidens that grow up with and lived in the tower with her. The angel agreed, and Aseneth summoned the maidens to be blessed. The angel blessed them and with his duties and requests completed, the angel left in a chariot of fire. Aseneth then prayed to God.

Aseneth and Joseph embrace[edit]

A servant of Joseph arrived to Potiphera's and announced that Joseph would be arriving soon. Aseneth put on the finest dress she had, fastened a fine belt around her waist, and put on her best jewelry and a veil.

Joseph arrived, and Aseneth went out to greet him. Joseph told Aseneth that he had received a message from God telling him about what had transpired and that Aseneth was his promised wife. They embraced each other and became refreshed.

Aseneth led Joseph into her father house and began washing his feet. Joseph invited Aseneth to ask a maid to wash his feet instead, but Aseneth insisted on being the one to perform the duty, saying that she and Joseph belong to each other now. After the washing was done, Joseph kissed Aseneth's hand, and Aseneth kissed Joseph's face.

Wedding performed by the Pharaoh[edit]

Aseneth's parents returned, approved of what they saw, and praised God. Potiphera said that he would arrange for the ceremony, but Joseph said that he desired the approval of the Pharaoh first.

Aseneth and Joseph went to see the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh approved of the marriage, acknowledging God. The Pharaoh then gave the Chosen Couple crowns, asking God to bless them. The Pharaoh permitted the couple to kiss, and they kissed.

They then feasted and celebrated for seven days. Once the celebration was over, Aseneth and Joseph consummated their love for each other. Aseneth and Joseph conceived a child, and Aseneth gave birth to Manasseh. Then they conceived another child, and Aseneth gave birth to Ephraim.

Meeting Jacob[edit]

After several years, the famine that Joseph prophesied came about, but thanks to Joseph, Egypt was prepared when other countries weren't. Other countries were then approaching Egypt for food. Joseph's brother came to Egypt to obtain gain, and after putting his brothers through a series of trials, had them fetch his father Jacob and their families.

Jacob and the Israelites migrated to Egypt to settle in Goshen. Aseneth asked to meet her father-in-law Jacob, and Aseneth and Joseph spent time with Jacob. Jacob blessed and honored the couple.

Aseneth became close to Joseph's brother Levi, who Joseph and Aseneth describes as a prophet who was able to see and interpret signs from God, and Levi would share these messages to Aseneth.

The Pharaoh's son attempts to recruit Simeon and Levi[edit]

The Pharaoh's son still coveted Aseneth despite her marriage to Joseph. The Pharaoh's son attempted to hire two of Joseph's half-brothers Simeon and Levi to murder Joseph in order to have Aseneth. He selected Simeon and Levi due to their infamous massacre of Schechem in retaliation for Schechem's dishonoring of their sister Dinah. The Pharaoh's son threatened to kill Simeon and Levi if they refused his offer, and he drew his sword.

Simeon would have none of it, drew his sword, and prepare to charge at the Pharaoh's son. Levi foresaw this series of events and halted his brother. Levi refused the Pharaoh's son's request and warned the Pharaoh's son to cease his scheming. The two brother drew their sword, saying that these were the same sword that God used to avenge Dinah's lost of honor at the hands of Schechem. The Pharaoh's son was intimidated and backed down, trembling.

The Pharaoh's son recruits Dan and Gad[edit]

Yet the Pharaoh's son was still obsessed with Aseneth. He heard rumors that Joseph's half-brothers Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher disliked their half-brother Joseph. The Pharaoh's son summoned Dan and Gad and attempted to trick them into doing his bidding. The Pharaoh's son lied to them and claimed that Joseph did not respect or love them and was planning retribution for their selling of him into slavery many years earlier. He also alleged that the Pharaoh gave Joseph's plot his blessing and promised immunity to Joseph.

Dan and gad believed the Pharaoh's son's lies, feared for their lives, and begged the Pharaoh's son for aid. The Pharaoh's son then asked them to kill the Pharaoh and Joseph. The brothers agreed and leaked information about the security arrangements of Aseneth. They then plotted to ambush and capture Aseneth and use her to get to Joseph.

The Pharaoh's son attempted to kill his father but was barred from entering his father's chambers, so the Pharaoh went to ambush Joseph.

Naphtali and Asher were hesitant to participate in Dan's and Gad's plan and expressed doubts and concerns, but Dan and Gad were adamant.

The ambush[edit]

Aseneth prepared to leave for Joseph's country estate but was concerned about not having Joseph at her side. Joseph reassured Aseneth and told her that God would be with her. Aseneth then left while Joseph continued his duties. Along with her was Joseph's younger (and only full) brother Benjamin.

The Pharaoh's men ambushed Aseneth and her escort, and Aseneth attempted to escape with Benjamin on their chariot. Levi revealed a vision from God and assembled his brothers to rescue Aseneth.

Benjamin jumped out of Aseneth's chariot, took a rock, and hurled it at the Pharaoh's son. The rock slammed into the Pharaoh's son's head and knocked him off his horse "half-dead". Benjamin then hurled rocks at the Pharaoh's son's men, killing many of them.

Levi and his brothers then arrived and slew many of the rest of the Pharaoh's son's men.

The pardon[edit]

Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher witnessed the loss of their allies and attempted to kill Aseneth and Benjamin and flee. Aseneth prayed to Gad, and God caused the swords of Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher to drop from their hands and turn to dust. Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher realized that God was with Aseneth instead of them and bowed to Aseneth, requesting mercy from Aseneth.

Aseneth told them to not be afraid since their brothers were men of God but told them to go into the woods and remain there until she can secure their pardon. Aseneth told the brothers to spare their half-brothers. Simeon insisted on exacting justice, but Aseneth told him that it isn't God's way to "repay evil with evil". Simeon relented and bowed to Aseneth.

The Pharaoh's son regained consciousness, and Benjamin approached him. Benjamin picked up the Pharaoh's son's sword and prepared to slay his enemy, but Levi stopped him, saying, as Aseneth did, that it was not God's way. They then tended to the Pharaoh's son's wounds and returned him to the Pharaoh.

Levi told the Pharaoh what happened, and the Pharaoh bowed to him. The Pharaoh's son died a few days later.

The Pharaoh later died, and Joseph served as regent for 48 years before handing the reins of the kingdom to the Pharaoh's grandson.

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