Are Science and Secular History compatible with Faith?

Joseph of Egypt

Many people are unaware of the Joseph story so a short review is in order.

Joseph was born in Canaan to Jacob. He had ten brothers who were older than him. Yet, because Joseph was born to Jacob in his old age, he was Jacob's favorite son. To make matters worse, Joseph seemed to be aware of God's blessing on his life. This seeming arrogance further isolated him from the kinship of his brothers.

The result was that his brothers sold Joseph to Midianite traders who were on their way to Egypt where he was sold again and became a slave in the house of Potiphar. He rises to become the steward of Potiphar's house. After some time, Potiphar's wife falsely accuses him of seducing her and is thrown into prison again. After some time he rises in authority to become overseer of the prison. When two prisoners become anxious over their dreams, Joseph declares:

"Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me please." (Genesis 40:8)

After correctly interpreting the dreams, the Chief Butler is restored to his position in Pharaoh's office. After some time, Pharaoh has a dream that greatly troubles him. He calls for the priests and magicians but they are unable to provide the interpretation. It is then that the Chief Butler remembers Joseph and he is brought before Pharaoh. Once again, Joseph declares:

"It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace." (Genesis 41:16)

Joseph then provides the interpretation of a dream that will save the nation of a terrible, seven year famine. But the seven year famine, according to the interpretation, will follow seven years of prosperous harvests. The dream is a call to prepare for a future famine. Pharaoh responds to Joseph's interpretation with these words:

"Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God? Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took his signet ring and put it on Joseph's hand." (Genesis 41:38-42)

Many people having read this story in the Biblical text have wondered, if the story is true, why do we not read about Joseph in Egyptian history. But readers of Egyptian history are aware of a man in Egyptian history who was not raised in royalty, who was not of Egyptian blood, who rose to the very highest honor next to the pharaoh himself. And, there is an ancient inscription that refers to this man and references the pharaoh asking his advise regarding a seven seven year famine. Could this man be Joseph?

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The Roman-Jewish historian, Josephus, quotes the writings of Manetho, an Egyptian historian, as follows: "During the reign of Pharaoh Djoser, 3rd Egyptian dynasty, lived Imhotep... with a reputation among Egyptians like a Greek God'; Manetho even wondered whether Imhotep had been an actual person, because of his outstanding qualities and talents, like none other in the history of Egypt".

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On the foundations of the Step Pyramid in Sakkara is 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 Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vases...

The Bible tells of Pharaoh honoring Joseph with much the same offices,'Thou shalt be over my house;' Pharaoh gives him his seal ring; 'I have set thee over all of Egypt'.

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On the island of Sihiel, near the first cataract of the Nile, is a great stone with inscriptions which links Imhotep to a key Biblical element of the Joseph story --- it tells of Pharaoh Djoser in the 18th year of his reign. The inscription states 'seven meagre years and seven rich years'. "Pharaoh Djoser asks Imhotep to help him with the coming seven years of famine."

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There is a carving in Sakkara showing starving people --- their ribs prominently outlined --- also depictions of sacks of grain being carried up steps in the circular silo vaults. 'In summary, Moeller says, 'There is no other period of famine of 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 power to organize for Egypt's survival during a long famine --- Imhotep. The similarity to Biblical Joseph is precise and compelling."

Moeller writes: "In Egyptian text, Imhotep is called Son of Ptah, the greatest god.' and 'Joseph would be given the title of the son of Ptah, in accordance with Egyptian custom."

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This section was quoted from: "The Passover Saga, Myth or History?" by Aaron Kolom. Much of the material for the book is quoted from "The Exodus Case" by Dr. Lennart Moller. These books along with the works of Josephus are excellent reading for those who would like to read more.

Imhotep - Minister to the King of Lower Egypt

Joseph - "Pharaoh...made him ruler over all the land of Egypt." (Gen. 41:41-3)

Imhotep - Administrator of the Great Palace.

Joseph - "Thou shalt be over my house." (Gen. 41:40)

Imhotep - Not of royal blood; attained position by ability.

Joseph - From another nation and religion, not of royal blood; attained position by ability.

Imhotep - Not appointed by Pharaoh Djoser until he had reigned for some time.

Joseph - Appointed well after Pharaoh began ruling Egypt. (Gen. 41:37-45)

Imhotep - During seven years famine, Djoser is the reigning Pharaoh (Egyptian records).

Joseph - Joseph's Pharaoh reigns during seven years of plenty and famine. (Gen. 41:37-45)

Imhotep - Imhotep is appointed Administrator by Pharaoh Djoser during the periods of seven years famine after seven ears of bountiful harvests.

Joseph - Joseph is appointed Administrator to Pharaoh for the seven years of plenty, then of famine. (Gen. 41:37-45)

Imhotep - Ruler by "inheritance", given the status of "son" to Pharaoh.

Joseph - Was granted the status of "son" to Pharaoh. (Gen. 41:44)

Imhotep - Was High Priest in Heliopolis.

Joseph - Married to Asenath, daughter of Poti-Pherah, High Priest in Heliopolis, by custom, would succeed father-in-law.

Imhotep - Builder and architect (Many references).

Joseph - Bulder of grain storehouses such as at Sakkara step-pyramid. (Gen. 41:35-36)

Imhotep - Discoverer of art of building with cut stone.

Joseph - Storehouse at Sakkara was of cut stone.

Imhotep - Exalted by Pharaoh Djoser as of godly character.

Joseph - "And Pharaoh said, 'a man in whom the spirit of God is.'" (Gen. 41:38)

Imhotep - Had great medical skill, he was compared to the Greek God of Healing. An inscription tells of a Greek man, healed by Imhotep from a dream.

Joseph - Had doctors under his authority, worked by miracles, dreams, signs. (Gen. 50:2)

Imhotep - Noted as saying, "I need advice from God."

Joseph - Noted as saying, "It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer." (Gen. 41:16)

Imhotep - Decided tax rate during the seven years of famine; also not to apply to priests.

Joseph - Decided the tax rate during the seven years of famine; also not to apply to priests. (Gen. 41:34, 47:26)

Imhotep - Realizes when he is dying. Dies at age 110.

Joseph - Realizes when he is dying. Dies at age 110. (Gen. 50:22, 24, 26)

© 2012 Gregory Drake