Joseph- and the Hebrews to Egypt
Morality lessons can be found in every episode of biblical Joseph’s life: sold into slavery by brothers, angry and jealous of his braggadocio and their father’s favoritism; overcomes false charges and prison by his ability to interpret dreams; rises to great personal power and authority by his administrative ability; saves Egypt, all neighboring peoples and his own family from starvation during a prolonged famine. In the process he makes Egypt extremely wealthy (during the seven lean years, when only Egypt had store-house-cities full of grain from seven prior bountiful years). The biblical story of Joseph is easily justifiable as fiction, however, there is a statue on an island in the Nile of a white-faced, non-Egyptian vizier, who saved Egypt from a devastating famine, and wall-murals depict caravans of starving desert tribesmen (from named Hebrew cities) being sold grain, both fitting perfectly with the Bible. After Joseph becomes Egypt’s Vizier, with many years of famine remaining, per the Bible, he brings his father, his brothers and their entire families to Egypt. That sets the stage, centuries later, for the well-known Passover stories, with extra-biblical corroboration: Hebrew slavery; Moses (at birth) being saved from the drowning fate of male Hebrew babies; his flight from Egypt; and finally, the Exodus story, including mass deaths of Egyptians from the plagues. (Note: Other related Ezine articles: “Miracles 3500 Years Ago, Biblical Exodus – The Only Logical Explanation For 21st Century Artifacts!”; “Mystery Solved – Boy-King Tut’s Magnificent Tomb – Exodus Miracles Affirmed!”; “Hebrews in Egypt – Slaves and Plagues – Extra-Biblical Proof!”)
Beginning with Joseph being brought to Egypt and sold as a slave, Egyptian records correlate exactly with the Biblical episodes of Joseph’s story:
- Attempted seduction of a young man by a high official’s wife, his rejection of her, her false charges and his subsequent imprisonment, then release – told in an Egyptian papyrus, dated 1225 BC. (Identical to the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife).
- Joseph, Vizier/Savior of Egypt. Archaeological digs along the Nile, provide an obvious and remarkable corroboration of the biblical story of Joseph. An unusual life-sized statue was found at Avaris, honoring the famed Vizier who – by Egyptian records – saved the Egyptian people from a terrible famine. The statue is of a white-faced, clean-shaven Asiatic man with unusually-shaped and red hair, (and since legend is frequently based on fact) adjacent Egyptian wall murals depict Asian caravans of the time with similarly-featured non-Egyptian men wearing “coats of many colors”!
- Described in Papyrus #1116A in the Leningrad Museum is a mural of starving desert tribesmen seeking food from Egypt during a period of drought, “Pharaoh giving wheat to a tribe from Ashkelon, Hazor and Megiddo” (undoubtedly Hebrews from well-known cities in Israel);
- Roman historian, Josephus, in his book, “Josephus Against Apion”, quotes two Egyptian priest-scholars, Manetho and Cheremon, who, in their own histories of Egypt, specifically name Joseph and Moses as leaders of the Hebrews, that they “rejected Egypt’s customs and gods .. practiced animal sacrifices (witnessed on the first Passover)” .. These historians confirm that the Jews migrated to “southern Syria” (the Egyptian name for Palestine) and that the exodus occurred during the reign of Amenophis .. during the close of the 18th dynasty, 1500 to 1400 BC.
Reading between the lines and extrapolating the text in both the Old Testament and Egyptian artifacts, there is much that can be derived.
- Pharaoh, whether or not normally religious, truly feared the interpretations of his dreams – seven fat sheaves and cows, followed by seven shriveled sheaves and lean cows. Probably the dreams were of a nightmarish quality – Pharaoh being unable to get relief from them, for he then instituted a remarkable fourteen year national program for survival of his country and people. The gigantic storage facility at Sakkara, with similar granary storehouse all over Egypt, indicates the scale and scope of the undertaking, storing excesses from the bountiful harvest during the first seven years.
- Because of the importance of the program, the person selected by Pharaoh as Vizier had to be truly second to Pharaoh in administrative authority (as both the Bible, re Joseph, and Egyptian artifacts, re Imhotep, attest) . An aspect of human nature – that during many years of bounty (seven – a long time), unless one is truly fearful of a deity and the prediction of seven years of famine, there is a natural tendency to “slack off”. Joseph, son of Patriarch Jacob, would have complete faith in God’s prediction, however, Egyptian power resided in Pharaoh, thus he primarily, had to believe completely and fearfully in the forthcoming years of famine – to put his country through such an ordeal of self-denial and discipline during years of plenty. Such a national program had to have been the most important in the country, and for fourteen years duration: during the years of plenty, hoarding all excess grain, building storage cities, then transporting and maintaining the surplus grain; then during the years of famine, selling off the grain and safeguarding Egypt’s accumulating wealth. An enormous administrative task, clearly, the designation of Joseph/Imhotep as “Vizier, second in power to Pharaoh in all of Egypt”, has to be recognized as extremely meaningful.
Digging Deeper – Joseph and Imhotep
The “deeper digging” is by Dr. Lennart Moeller in his book, “The Exodus Case”. Dr. Moeller, a medical doctor at Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, is also an archaeologist, explorer, marine biologist, scuba diver, and a scholar of both Egyptian history and the Bible. It was Dr. Mueller who directed the diving expedition which discovered coral-covered clumps of chariot wreckage from Egypt’s 18th dynasty in the Gulf of Aqaba (see listed Ezine articles).
Moeller refers to an inscription on the island of Sihiel, near the first cataract of the Nile, which actually links Imhotep to the key biblical element of the Joseph story – telling of Pharaoh Djoser in the 18th year of his reign. The inscription states “seven meagre years and seven rich years”. Commenting on the inscription, Moeller writes, “Pharaoh Djoser asks Imhotep to help him with the coming seven years of famine. All the biblical components of the story are there, and there is a similar inscription on the island of Philae in the Nile.” (This is exactly as in the Bible with Joseph, except for listing the “meagre” years before the years of plenty. Note: The famine years were, of course, the event of significance, saving everyone from starvation and bringing in much wealth to Egypt – it is noted that the manuscript was written a thousand years after the occurrences.) A carving in Sakkara shows starving people (ribs prominently outlined), also shows sacks of grain being carried up steps (as in the “silo” vaults at Sakkara), also food being distributed. In summary, Moeller says, “It should be noted that there is no other period of famine of seven plus seven years in the history of Egypt – except for the one for which Imhotep was responsible.” In Egyptian records, only one person is described as having the administrative authority to organize Egypt’s survival during the long famine – Imhotep. The parallel to biblical Joseph is precise and compelling. Moeller cites the large number of similarities in the lives, the accomplishments, responsibilities and characteristics of Imhotep of Egypt and Joseph of the Bible. Noting the dove-tailing of their individual stories from separate Egyptian and biblical accounts, Moeller’s conclusion is that the two – most probably – were the same person, the two stories told from different viewpoints. He includes 27 comparisons of Imhotep and Joseph, many are listed below.
(Imhotep – Egyptian records); Joseph – Bible:
- (Imhotep is appointed Administrator by Pharaoh Djoser during the periods of seven years famine and seven years of bountiful harvests); Joseph is appointed Administrator to Pharaoh for the seven years of plenty then of famine;
- (Minister to the King of Lower Egypt); Pharaoh .. made him ruler over all the land of Egypt;
- (Administrator of the GreatPalace); Thou shalt be over my house;
- (Not of royal blood; attained position by ability); From another nation and religion, not of royal blood, attained position by ability;
- (Not appointed by Pharaoh Djoser until he had reigned for some time); Appointed well after Pharaoh ruled Egypt;
- (Given the status of “son” to Pharaoh); Granted the status of “son” to Pharaoh;
- (High Priest in Heliopolis); Married to Asenath, daughter of Poti-Pherah, High Priest in Heliopolis – by custom, would succeed father-in-law;
- (Builder and architect); Builder of grain storehouses such as at Sakkara step-pyramid;
- (Exalted by Pharaoh Djoser as of godly character.); “And Pharaoh said, ‘a man in whom the spirit of God is!'” ;
- (“I need advice from God.”); Noted as saying, “It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer.”;
- (Had great medical skill – was compared to the Greek God of Healing);
- Had doctors under his authority – worked by miracles, dreams and signs from God;
- (Decided the tax rate during the seven years of famine; also not to apply to priests); Decided the tax rate during the seven years of famine; also not to apply to priests;
- (Realizes when he is dying – dies at age 110.); Realizes when he is dying – dies at age 110..
The Roman-Jewish historian, Josephus, quotes the writings of Manetho, Egyptian historian: “During [the] reign of .. Pharaoh Djoser, 3rd Egyptian dynasty, lived Imhotep .. [with a] reputation among Egyptians like the Greek God of medicine – [Manetho even wondered] whether Imhotep could have been an actual person .. [because he had] “so many outstanding qualities and talents .. a very special person [who] appears in the history of Egypt.” On the foundations of the Step Pyramid in Sakkara was carved the name of Pharaoh Djoser and “.. Imhotep, Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt, Chief under the King, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary Lord, High Priest of Heliopolis, Imhotep the Builder..”.
The Bible tells of Pharaoh honoring Joseph with much the same offices as given to Imhotep “It is probable that Joseph was the only person to gain Pharaoh’s confidence to this degree. Joseph received every authority apart from Pharaoh himself .. [though] not of royal blood and .. [of] another nationality.” (As detailed above, the same also applies to Imhotep.) In both cases there is much reference to the pharaohic announcements – “second only to Pharaoh”; the Bible also tells of Joseph being given Pharaoh’s signet ring (with the royal seal), an outstanding act and undoubtedly, a national event.
A startling point is Moeller’s statement about what Joseph/Imhotep achieved for Egypt, “It was during the reign of Djoser that Egypt became a great power .. great riches were accumulated during the seven years of famine .. when grain was sold to all the countries around Egypt. The complex of buildings at Sakkara is remarkably unique, nothing like it has been seen anywhere .. built of white limestone from neighboring hills.” Describing the immense storage vaults at Sakkara, Moeller writes, “40,000 cubic metres storage .. remnants of grain have been found at the bottom.” Egypt built a vast nation-wide system of granary-storehouses as at Sakkara, evidence of a nationwide major program to store an enormous amount of grain for an anticipated famine.
While the Bible ‘s story of Joseph focuses on the greater story of the Hebrew people: his father Patriarch Jacob, the brothers, the beginning of the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt, leading to their slavery, then Moses and Aaron and the miracles of the plagues and the Exodus, it is the Egyptian artifacts that tell the details of how remarkable a man was Imhotep/Joseph. Not only an exceptional administrator who built the storage cities and maintained the discipline of storing rather than dissipating the excess grain during the seven years of bounty, Imhotep was also memorialized in Egyptian history for his medical abilities – his sarcophagus was decorated with the Ibis, Egyptian symbol of medicine, and in US medical schools today there is the Imhotep Medical Society.
Final “Clincher” – that Egyptian Imhotep was the Biblical Joseph.
Extremely noteworthy regarding Imhotep-Joseph is that the mummified bodies of neither have ever been found. The known facts regarding the burials of Imhotep and Joseph also strongly support the thesis that they were the same person:
– Both died at age 108.
– Imhotep’s coffin in Sakkara – with innumeral Ibis birds mummified in the adjoining galleries (Imhotep was called “Ibis” because of his reputation for healing – a large number of Ibis birds were sacrificed to him at his funeral in Sakkara); many clay vessels bearing the seal of Pharaoh Djoser were near the coffin; and the coffin is oriented to the North, not East, and is empty.
– Joseph would have been buried at Sakkara, his coffin orientated to the North – indicating he did not believe in the gods of the Egyptians (who were buried facing East, the rising sun); the coffin would also be empty as Joseph’s bones would have been taken by Moses with the Hebrews during the Exodus.