50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bare unto him. 51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. 52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.
As God had promised, there comes to Egypt seven years of plenty. But aside from just the bounteous grain this is also a special “time of plenty” specifically for Joseph. He has been made a ruler in Egypt, given a wife, and now the blessing of two sons. What a whirlwind period this must have been for Joseph! For a time, he was in the lowest pit of human existence, but now the riches are coming at a furious pace.
Manasseh’s name means “making to forget,” meaning that Joseph has been made to forget all the years of suffering, but also to forget the old life he once dreamed of. Once he was of the family of Jacob in Canaan, and presumably his ambitions were tied to those people and that place. But now he has been given a new station and a new calling to fulfill. This is his work now and this is his family. He can’t ever go back to just living under his father’s roof and tending the flocks.
In fact, one transformation that I imagine Joseph never anticipated is that he would be married to an Egyptian woman. That, of course, means marrying out of the covenant, something that was a typically an embarrassment to the lineage of Abraham. But while “strange wives” will become associated with the Israelite people giving up their God, this is not the case with Joseph.
Yes he is married to an Egyptian, yes he is in the employ of the Pharaoh, yes he is surrendering any ambitions related to his father’s house…but never is he giving up his worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Joseph has the fortitude of spirit to become an Egyptian while still retaining all his covenants as well.