Zaphnath-Paaneah (Hebrew: צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ‎) is the name stated by the Bible (Genesis, 41:45) as given by Pharaoh to Joseph. It seems to be an Egyptian name, but its etymology is in doubt.


Targum Onkelos gives the meaning of the name as "the man to whom mysteries are revealed"; pseudo-Jonathan, "one who reveals mysteries"; Josephus ("Ant." ii. 6, § 1), "a finder of mysteries." The Authorised Version has in the margin: "Which in the Coptic signifies, 'A revealer of secrets,' or 'The man to whom secrets are revealed.'" There is, however, no known Egyptian etymology by which these guesses can be supported. Jerome claims that his suggestion, "savior of the world," rests on the Egyptian. This interpretation is also accepted by Jablonski.

Modern Egyptologists have tried a great many etymologies for the element "Zaphnath," but have mostly agreed that "paaneah" contains the Egyptian "p-ônḫ," meaning "the life". Steindorff's explanation,[1] differs somewhat; it is "ṣe(d)-p-nute(r)-ef-onḫ" = "the god speaks, [and] he lives." This has become popular, and is philologically possible; however, it does not convey the allusion to Joseph's office or merits which we should expect. However, the Septuagint and the Hexaplaric versions (respectively, "Ψονθομφανήχ" and "Ψομθομφανήχ") differ so widely from the Hebrew in the first half of the name that it may have been disfigured by copyists.


  • Marquardt, Philologus, vii. 676;
  • Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. col. 5379 (where a disfigured Hebrew original is suspected);
  • Zeitschrift für Aegyptische Sprache, 1883, p. 59;
  • Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch. xx. 208 (where the other theories have been collected).E. G.
  • Source material from Jewish Encyclopedia ([1])


  1. "Zeitschrift für Aegyptische Sprache," xxvii. 42, modifying Krall's etymology in "Trans. 7th Orientalist. Congr." p. 110

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