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Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Wendy Wippel

Joseph Campbell, the “father of comparative mythology”, considered the Scriptures themselves mythology, once saying that the Biblical story of Joseph should not be considered, in any way, shape, or form, historical. Sorry, Joe, but that dog won’t hunt. In fact, there’s more evidence for the Biblical Joseph than there is for you.

Beginning with the Nile river, specifically a particular island in the Nile called Sehyel, on a major trade route about 2.5 miles from Aswan.

Littered with large granite boulders, the island, beginning about 2000 B.C., became a popular place to post inscriptions, and, thousands of years later those inscriptions remain. Prayers for safety for those continuing down the Nile, records of government business, basically the 2000 B.C. version of "USA Today" Egyptian news.

One inscription, should sound more than a little familiar to most students of the Bible.  It records the distress of one Pharoah Djoser regarding a dream that he had, and the assistance of a particular servant (called Imhotep in the inscription), who had the ability to interpret the Pharoah’s dream.

The inscription goes on to announce that that his servant, also called the son of Ptah (Ptah being the supreme Creator God in Egyptian mythology) had deduced from the dream that Egypt would be blessed with seven years of bumper crops, but that seven years of famine would follow.  The inscription finished by notification that Imhotep had leveled a tax on the population in order to create national storehouses in order to protect what was produced in the first seven years and thus ensure long-term provision for Egypt’s people.

Kudos for Genesis, right?

But it gets better. You would expect any self-respecting Pharoah, if he needed to get urgent information out to his subjects, to post it in more than one place, right?

Yep. And sure enough, a very similar inscription was erected on the island of Philae, an important holy city in ancient Egypt a little ways down the Nile, that boasted the Temple of Isis.

But it gets even better….

A lot of the ridicule of the Biblical account of Jewish by the “scholars”  centers on a passage in Exodus:

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses." (Exodus 1: 8-11) NASB

The “scholars”(AKA  Egyptologists), are fairly certain that Rameses himself lived around 1250 BC and have found no evidence for any Joseph figure in that time period. Joseph therefore, was officially labeled a myth.

Fortunately, there’s a “rest of the story”.  Excavation and study of ancient Egypt has continued fervently since the discovery of King Tut, and eventually, beneath the city of Ramses, archaeologists discovered the ruins of another city that had been founded around 2000 BC by a Semitic people.

A people called the "Hyksos” by the scholars but whom the Bible calls the Canaanites, who then lived in the land of Israel. The city, called Avaris, was in the area called Goshen.

And these Hyksos conquered the northern part of Egypt and ruled there.  

We know from Scripture that Joseph ruled over Egypt. In fact, if you pay attention, he had a varied and extensive career in Egypt. "So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt".

These are all official titles describing duties Joseph held. Egyptian titles. “Lord of all his household” was responsibility for managing the Pharaoh's personal holdings (palace and all other property). “Father of the Pharaoh”  was more of a personal assistant who tutored/advised the Pharoah (and no doubt interpreted dreams). "Ruler over all of Egypt” was essentially the Prime Minister who acted as the chief administrative ruler of Egypt (and would have been the person who dealt with visiting dignitaries like his brothers.)

Joseph had a long career. But exactly when was that career? Can we nail down the timeline?

Joseph, taken captive to Egypt by some Canaanites, can be safely placed in Egypt during Hyksos rule.

Another  important clue to when Joseph was in Egypt can be found in Exodus 1:1-10:

Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt; each man and his household came with Jacob: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; 4 Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 5 All those who were descendants[a] of Jacob were seventy persons (for Joseph was in Egypt already). 6 And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. 7 But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.

Translation: It had been a long time since Joseph’s rule, and his family had obeyed Yahweh’s instruction to be fruitful and multiply.  

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.”

We are told a new king arrived in Egypt who did not know Joseph. Exodus 1:8-10.

And history records that Hyksos rule of Egypt ended when an Egyptian Pharoah, Ahmose, came to power. And that Ahmose, worried that the Jews, who were relatives of Hyksos (all of whom descended from Abraham) would unite with the Hyksos against him, began to persecute the Jews. 

And he thus managed to defeat the Hyksos and reunite Israel. 

The “new king” (long after Joseph) was the king that re-established Egyptian rule.  So that pretty much nails it down to close to the time that Avaris was founded.

Which makes it extremely interesting that Austrian archaeologists unearthed a large fragmented statue in Avaris in 1985, which they spent the next three years reconstructing. The cemetery, part of the palace in Avaris, and obviously reserved for royalty, dated back to the Hyksos reign in Israel, and the art and other trappings of the monuments reflected Semitic themes and motifs.  The statue, reconstructed, was found to be that of a man, but approximately 1.5 times life size

(But not as would be expected by it’s being larger-than-life, a pharaoh). The man did, however, hold a crook and flail, symbols of authority in Egypt.

Who is it? Well, no name appears, but the man depicted is obviously an inhabitant of the levant (the area of Israel) depicted as such by hair style.

And the man is wearing a cloak decorated with numerous stripes—both vertical and horizontal—in varied colors. I’m pretty convinced. 

But if I wasn’t, the last thing the Austrian researchers discovered would have sealed the deal.  The particular tomb that was graced by the statue of the non-Egyptian ruler was curiously and in contrast to others in the cemetery—absent of its bones.

I don’t think Joseph Campbell has a statue anywhere today, and I sure don’t think there will be anywhere thousands of years from now.

He reigns!

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Sinai's Slippery Senses

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