Tsaphnat Pa'ne'ach, Tsephan-Yah (Zephaniah)

צפנת פענח


Genesis 41:45: Yoseph's Mitsri (Egyptian) name, or title, more likely. Yoseph itself is probably a Hebraisation of Yah Suph, the god of the reeds or the Reed Sea, which is to say Osher (Osiris). In Egyptian it means "Saviour Of The Age" and is thus a title of the sacred king, or in this case the vizier who stands in for the sacred king.

The Hebrew word Tsaphan (צפן) means "to hide" or "conceal", whence he is usually translated as "Keeper of a Secret"; but it is erroneous to explain an Egyptian name through the Hebrew, when it clearly entered the language from the Egyptian. 


However it did become a Hebrew root, and Tsaphan is echoed in the name of the prophet Zephaniah (properly Tsephan-Yah - צפניה), the ninth of the twelve minor prophets. His father was named Kushi (כּוּשִׁי), his great-grandfather was named Chizki-Yah (חִזְקִיָּה - Hezekiah), which scholars tend to assume must have been the king of that name, though there is no evidence to support that speculation. He lived and prophesied during the reign of Yoshi-Yahu (יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ - Josiah), which is to in the first half of the 7th century BCE, which made him a contemporary of Yirme-Yahu (יִרְמְיָהוּ - Jeremiah).


A priest of the same name, the son of Ma'asey-Yah (מַעֲשֵׂיָה), is mentioned in Jeremiah (21:1 and many others). While this is not the prophet, it is almost certainly the same Tsephan-Yah who was taken prisoner in Yerushalayim, when Nebuzaradan conquered the city in the time of king Tsidki-Yahu (צִדְקִיָּהוּ - Zedekiah). 2 Kings 25:19 ff tells how "The commander of the guard took as prisoners Sera-Yah (שְׂרָיָה) the chief priest, Tsephan-Yah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of the conscripts who were found in the city. Nevuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Rivlah. There at Rivlah, in the land of Chamat, the king had them executed."
Zechariah 6:10 names a Tsephan-Yah who was the father of Yoshi'ah (Josiah - יֹאשִׁיָּה), a priest in Yerushalayim at the time when Darius issued the decree that the Temple should be rebuilt
1 Chronicles 6:36 names a Tsephan-Yah of the Beney Kohat who was an ancestor of the prophet Shmu-El (Samuel).


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