He “knew not Joseph”? How could this be possible if Joseph had done so much for Egypt in time of trouble?
One view is that the new king pretended not to know. He was a new broom that swept clean. It suited him for political reasons to ignore what Joseph had done or the kingdom.
Rashi quotes a view that it wasn’t a new king at all but the old one who was still in office; he was “new” in that he changed his royal policy and no longer acknowledged Joseph’s loyalty or achievements.
Sforno suggests that it really was a new king and though he found Joseph’s name in the royal records he was unaware that Joseph was connected with the Israelites who are the subject of this particular Biblical story.
Another possibility is that there was a coup in which a new (perhaps a non-Egyptian) leader “arose”, i.e. seized the throne, unaware of Egyptian history.
These are all views that need to be considered when we read these verses. But regardless of the way we translate and interpret the text, there is an issue here which every leader needs to recognise – that no matter how you work, struggle and even suffer for the community, it doesn’t take long for your name to be forgotten.
A leader is tempted to say to him- or herself, “They’re going to forget me almost the moment I’m gone, so why should I bother to exert myself if I’m not going to get proper recognition?”
It is a temptation, but the genuine leader resists it. He or she must follow the inner promptings that allow no choice but to get involved and work with every fibre of energy.
Sometimes people will flatter you and even remember your name, but often there will never be a vote of thanks, either in your lifetime or afterwards.
My late mother had a saying which is worth remembering, “Blessed be who expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed…”