In this article we are going to clarify the meaning of the expression with which one comes across in Exodus 1: 8. When you read this passage for the first time, it gives you the impression that Pharaoh did not keep records, or that he lacked the historical knowledge of his country. Being that Joseph had been a hero to Egypt, because he had been an excellent administrator and had saved the nation from a prolonged famine for seven years from a position no less than second in the government of Egypt, the reader who looms there by For the first time he rightly wonders, how is it possible that there was a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph and did not know of his spiritual capacity and heroism?

The meaning of the word "know" in context

In order to answer this question, let's first dig a little into the meaning of the words used in this verse. Let's see, the Hebrew verb that has been translated as "know" in Exodus 1: 8 is yd '(יָדַע). Hebrew does not have vowels, but you can read it as yadá. Strong's dictionary, in its 3045 entry, assigns to this word multiple meanings, all of which are related to knowledge. These meanings are distinguished according to the context.

The meaning that applies here is "recognize". Strong explains that yadá can be used in this way as a euphemism or inference. The new pharaoh did not recognize the good works of Joseph and, consequently, neither the privileges of the Israelite nation that Joseph had established in the best of Egypt. It was not, then, that Pharaoh did not know about Joseph, but of a voluntary ignorance. That is, a reaction of contempt and rejection towards that knowledge.

Why Pharaoh did not know Joseph

It is necessary to explain that reaction a little. In 1730 BC, Egypt was invaded by the Hyksos, a people of Semitic descent known also in the texts of ancient historians, such as Maneto, as "the kings shepherds". After this conquest, two complete dynasties of pharaohs, the 15 ° and the 16 °, came from the Hyksos. They ruled Egypt until 1570 before Christ.

The Hyksos, being Semites, felt identified with Joseph and his family, who were also descendants of Shem and who shared the office of shepherding. The Hyksos favored, then, the Israelites. Pharaoh gave Joseph and his family the land of Goshen, in the most fertile location of Egypt, for its establishment. The capital of government established by the Hyksos, Qantir, was, in fact, close to this place. While the Hyksos remained on the Egyptian throne, the Israelites were recognized and favored.

The Egyptian rebellion against the Hyksos

But it turns out that the Egyptians themselves were not primarily shepherds, but farmers, and they did not feel particular pleasure in being invaded. At the time, around the year 1570 before Christ, the Hyksos were defeated by means of a political maneuver and the Pharaohs returned to being of clearly Egyptian origin. By the time Moses was born, Ramsés Meriamón or his son, Amenofis, probably reigned.

The Egyptian way of rebelling against a bad episode was "to erase all its memory of history", both from historical records and from language. They did that with the Hyksos and, incidentally, also with José. Every memory of Joseph and his achievements and contributions was erased from the memory, the inscriptions of the monuments and all conversation. The new pharaoh, then, was not interested in preserving the memory of Joseph. He despised him, he did not know him.

Therefore, everything that was related to Joseph was abhorrent. The growth in number of the Israelite people began to be seen with growing distrust and discomfort and it came to seem desirable for the Egyptians their subjugation and even their extermination.


The expression of Exodus 1: 8, which speaks of the emergence of a new king who did not know Joseph, should be interpreted not as a lack of knowledge, but as a rejection of Joseph, the Semites as a whole and everything that represented them, on the part of the new king of Egypt. This is the motivation that should be present later, as one reads the detestable decisions made by the king and that were based on this rejection.


  • Walter A. Elwell and Philip Wesley Comfort, Tyndale Bible dictionary, 2001.
  • Roberto Jamieson, AR Fausset, and David Brown, Exegetical and Explanatory Commentary on Bible - Volume 1: The Old Testament. (El Paso, TX: Baptist Publishing House, 2003).
  • James Strong, New concordance Strong exhaustive: Dictionary, 2002.
  • Biblical Event Navigator. (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2014).
  • DA Carson, RT France, JA Motyer, and GJ Wenham, Eds., New Bible commentary: 21st century edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).
  • Eduardo A. Hernández, Lockman Foundation, Biblia of study: NASB (La Habra, CA: Editorial Funacion, Editoral House for the Biblical Foundation Lockman, 2003).
  • Frank Charles Thompson and John Stephen Jauchen, Biblia of reference Thompson: Notes. (Miami, FL: Editorial Vida, 1987).
  • John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985).

Originally posted 2017-11-24 10: 09: 20.

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