What Manasseh Meant to Joseph (Genesis 41:51)

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Despite what we may think, Biblical characters are not robots.

We read about Joseph and Abraham and Moses and think that these guys are just on autopilot. Their faith is rock solid, their relationship with God is steady, and it seems like they never put a foot out of line.

But all of these men experienced their own versions of hardship.

Remember when Abraham had to watch as Hagar and Ishmael walked off into the unknown?

Remember when Jacob dealt with an overbearing father-in-law for nearly 20 years before striking out on his own?

Just like those men, Joseph had pain, too. Thankfully, most of us don’t know the bitterness of being sold into slavery by your family, but Joseph did. The entire ride from Canaan to Egypt, he thought about why his family treated him this way. He thought about it while overseeing Potiphar’s house, interpreting dreams, and even riding in the second chariot behind Pharaoh.

When the pain cuts that deep, it’s hard to think about much of anything else.

That’s why Manasseh was such a blessing. In Genesis 41:51, Joseph’s first son Manasseh is born, and he gives him such a name because “God has made [him] forget all [his] trouble and all [his] father’s household.”

Think about that. No matter what took place in Joseph’s life — how low he went into that prison and how far he ascended in Egypt’s social class — it wasn’t until his firstborn was born that he experienced a joy that could override the sorrow in his life. Such is the power of children.

I know that many people reading this have gone through pain in their life. Maybe they’ve grown up in broken homes where their parent was borderline abusive. Maybe they were routinely absent. Maybe they never even knew their parents.

For those people, the joy of seeing your children brings mixed emotions. On the one hand, you’re ecstatic at the life you’ve been blessed to manage. On the other, you hope you don’t repeat the pattern.

Children give us an opportunity to look forward, and, at the same time, to forget about what’s behind us. Even for someone like Joseph, who had an incredible relationship with Jehovah and advanced far beyond his contemporaries, he couldn’t shake the pain of his past.

Until Manasseh came along.