God guided the writer of Genesis to reveal the truth about most every area of Joseph’s colorful life. He allows us to see what the man was really like inside, even what he was thinking. We can sum it up in one sentence: his heart was humble before God.
Why does the writer add these details? First, I think he wants us to know that Joseph was monogamous. He didn’t fall into the trap of polygamy, like so many surrounding him—even his own family. He had one wife, and she bore him two sons. Second, and more important, the writer wants us to realize the significance found in the names of Joseph’s sons. Both names are a play on words. The New International Version footnotes state, “Manasseh sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew word for forget,” and “Ephraim sounds like the Hebrew for twice fruitful.”
In naming his sons as he did, Joseph proclaimed openly that God had made him forget all his troubles, even those in his father’s household. Above and beyond that, God had made him fruitful in a land and in circumstances that had brought him nothing but trouble. How humble of Joseph to acknowledge that!
The memories were still there, lodged deep in the creases beneath his cranium, but when relief finally came, God made him forget the pain, the anguish of what had happened.
It is very tempting to try to get revenge on the Reubens and the Judahs and the Dans and the Mrs. Potiphars from our past. To get back at those who have stung us and stripped us and hurt us with evil deeds and ugly words. Instead, we must give birth to a Manasseh. Could it be that it’s time to ask the Lord God to erase the stings in your memory? Only He can do that. Then it will be time to go on to give birth to an Ephraim. To remember how God has abundantly blessed us. Talk about a positive, affirming name: “God has made me fruitful.” But it doesn’t stop there. With the plural ending, this word conveys the idea of double benefit—multiple blessings. It’s what we would call “superabundance.” And it was God who did it all.