The Seven Year Famine in Egyptian History
A number of inscriptions in the form of poems were found in present day Yemen which seem to confirm the seven year famine as recorded in the Bible. The two poems that follow are quoted from: Charles Foster, The Historical Geography of Arabia, Vol. II (London: Duncan and Malcolm, 1844), pp. 81-106.
"POEMS OF THE HIGHEST ANTIQUITY, FOUND ON MARBLES AMIDST THE RUINS OF A FORTRESS, ON THE COAST OF HADRAMAUT, IN THE VICINITY OF THE EMPORIUM OF ADEN."
We dwelt at ease in this castle a long tract of time;
Nor had we a desire but for the region lord of the vineyard.
Hundreds of camels returned to us each day at evening,
Their eye pleasant to behold in their resting-places.
And twice the number of our camels were our sheep,
In comeliness like white does; and also the slow-moving kine.
We dwelt in the castle seven years
Of good life... how difficult from memory its description!
Then came years barren and burnt up:
When one evil year had passed away, there came another to succeed it.
"Egn Hesham relates that a flood of rain laid bare to view a sepulchre in Yemen, in which lay a woman, having on her neck seven collars of pearls; and on her hands and her feet bracelets, and ankle-rings, and armlets, seven on each; and on every finger a ring, in which was set a jewel of great price; and at her head, a coffer, filled with treasure, and a tablet, with this inscription:"
In thy name O God, the God of Hamyar,
I Tajah, the daughter of Dzu Shefar, sent my steward to Joseph,
And he delaying to return to me, I sent my hand maid
With a measure of silver, to bring me back a measure of flour:
And not being able to procure it, I sent her with a measure of gold:
And not being able to procure it, I sent her with a measure of pearls:
And not being able to procure it, I commanded them to be ground:
And finding no profit in them, I am shut up here.
Whosoever may hear of it, let him commiserate me;
And should any woman adorn herself with an ornament
From my ornaments, may she die with no other than my death.
(Reported in Niebuhr's Voyage en Arabie, PL. LIX, translation by Rev. Charles Forster.)
The Famine Stela
On Sehel Island at Aswan Egypt, there is an amazing collection of over 250 rock inscriptions that were carved by priests telling stories of the long history of the region. Many of the inscriptions are dedicated to the goddess Anukis, a protective and fertility deity and her husband Khnum, a ram-headed creator god who is often shown fashioning the ka (soul) of the king on his potters wheel.
The most famous inscription on the island is known as "The Famine Stela". It is a huge boulder. The inscription tells the story of a terrible seven year famine during the reign of Djoser of the Third Dynasty.
I was in mourning on my throne,
Those of the palace were in grief...
because Hapy had failed to come in time.
In a period of seven years,
Kernels were dried up... Grain was scant,
Every man robbed his twin... Children cried...
The hearts of the old were needy...
Temples were shut, Shrines covered with dust,
Everyone was in distress...
I consulted one of the staff of the Ibis,
the Chief lector-priest of Imhotep, Son of Ptah
He departed, he returned to me quickly,
He let me know the flow of Hapy...
"One of Joseph's little-known engineering feats is still with us today and continues to provide for the people of Egypt... Joseph put his teams to work digging canals that diverted water from the Nile into a section of the western desert. It created a man-made lake that watered an entire region that still exists today. The region is called el-Fayoum. In later centuries, various monarchs would attempt to improve on Joseph's work but none could match this monumental feat. The lake is still with us, known as Birquet Qarun. The canal that runs from the Nile into the lake is several hundred kilometers long. The Egyptian name for this waterway confirms its origins and is still venerated as Bahr Yousef, the Sea of Joseph."
(James D. Long, Riddle of the Exodus, (Springdale, Lightcatcher Books, 2006) pp. 150-151)