She was the wife to Joseph and mother to Manasseh and Ephraim.
Scriptures to read:
Genesis 41:45, 50; 46:20
As I read these chapter I wondered a few things:
Was she an Egyptian?
Was she an Israelite?
Was she a Hyksos?
Did Joseph marry outside of the covenant?
Is she a descendant of Ham and her descendants unworthy of the priesthood?
I decided that I would need to dig around for some answers.
The question I continued asking myself as I read of Joseph and his family was, "Where in the world did Asenath come from and how did it not ruin the priesthood lineage?" I kept thinking she was a descendent of Ham b/c she was Egyptian.
At first, I thought, "perhaps it only follows the father's lineage." That would be too easy though so I kept digging.
Genesis 41:45 says she is the daughter of Potipherah who is a priest of On (oldest city of ancient Egypt, also called Heliopolis, which means "City of the Sun" or "City of the Light".)
She was a pagan and had poor lineage but she's still the mother of Manasseh and Ephraim? This just wasn't adding up so I kept on digging.
In the apocrypha, we learn Asenath actually turned down several suitors because she was in love with Joseph. Joseph, however, refused to marry a pagan so she locked herself in a tower and rejected her idols and accepted Joseph's God (Yahweh). Basically, she converted so she and Joseph married.
Well, that answers the question about the idols but what about her lineage?
On lds.org I found something called "Asenath an Egyptian?" It stems from the article "Joseph, Model of Excellence" from 1980. In order to understand her roots, you must know a bit of Egyptian history. The Hyksos people took over the eastern Nile Delta during the 12th dynasty. They first appeared in Egypt during the 11th dynasty. It was a multi-ethnic group in search of many different things from war to slaves to agriculture.
In his article entitled “Joseph, Model of Excellence” (Sept. 1980, p. 9), the author writes that Joseph’s wife, Asenath, “was not only Egyptian, but a daughter of an Egyptian priest,” thus conveying the idea that her two sons, Ephraim and Manessah, were of “half-Egyptian” blood. If that were so, then both of them would have been of a lineage which at that time “could not have the rights of Priesthood” (Abr. 1:27).
Actually, the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time was not Egyptian by blood, but was of the Hyksos, a nomadic people who swept into Egypt from the Arabian peninsula. The Hyksos were a Semitic people, which made them distant relatives of Joseph and his family. Asenath was a descendant of these Semitic Hyksos, not an Egyptian.
Albert S. Paskett Grantsville, Utah
The language used does permit confusion. Yes, Asenath was of the Semitic Hyksos people who were ruling Egypt in the days of Joseph. However, because they had conquered Egypt and were living there for a number of generations, it is also appropriate to identify them as Egyptians, just as it is possible to identify U.S. citizens of Danish or German or English extraction as Americans. The author was discussing national homeland boundaries, not racial origin or lineage.