At first glance, the text of Shemot 1:8 "וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ חָדָשׁ עַל מִצְרָיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדַע אֶת יוֹסֵף" would appear to simply indicate that a new king came to power in Egypt who had never heard of Yosef. However, there are some interesting features of this verse which merit consideration:
- Most Biblical descriptions of royal succession first register the death of the former king ("וַיָּמָת").1 However, in this instance, the Torah does not mention the previous Paroh's death.2
- The standard formulation used for the coronation of a new king is "וַיִּמְלֹךְ תַּחְתָּיו". Yet, here, the Torah employs the unusual language of "וַיָּקָם מֶלֶךְ חָדָשׁ עַל מִצְרָיִם" (a new king arose on Egypt).
- Given that Yosef had played such a prominent role in administering Egypt, how could it be that the new king had never heard of Yosef? See Ignorance or Selective Memory for details.
These issues raise the possibility that there is more here than meets the eye and prompt exegetes to explore various possible interpretations of this verse.