The Bible in History…
In the latter part of Genesis, we read about the unusual story of a teenage boy named Joseph who was sold to captivity by his ten brothers. The Midianite Merchants who bought him later sold him to Egyptian slave market, and he was bought by a high ranking Egyptian officer named Potiphar. After a short break from his turmoil, he landed in prison. He later rose to stardom by becoming the Vizier/Chancelor (administrative assistant) to Pharaoh of that time. A few years later, he forgave his brothers and brought his entire clan of 75 people, including his father Israel, to Egypt where he took care of them. And that in a nutshell was how the nation of Israel was born. They grew in number and grew in number……
And as we opened Exodus, we read about a nation of Israel already in slavery!!! And it took the intervention of God and a runaway Prince-turned-Prophet, Moses, to rescue the nation and bring them to the Promised Land.
Something did not add up. Of course, there arose a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph and that was how Israelite nation became slaves! And I said “Really? Was Joseph’s legacy that weak that someone quickly and easily forgot he existed?”
So I decided to the answers and the missing link by studying actual historical events. and my discoveries were amazing! The Bible can mostly be “fact-checked” and the accuracy of Biblical events is always impressive. Well, I’m not an archaeologist and therefore it is somewhat difficult for me to make authoritative claims of the exact persons and time-line. However, in my search I found some interesting history lessons that answered much of my questions and thought I could share. Enjoy!
P.S. Apparently, this new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph came to power like 100 years after Joseph. Fair enough.
Who were the Pharaohs of the Oppression?
The Israelites numbered about 70 when they first came to live in Egypt at the invitation of the Pharaoh whose vizier was Jacob’s 11th son Joseph-Imhotep. (A Vizier is a high-ranking political advisor or minister). They were allowed to live in the best part of the land; Goshen. Here they flourished and multiplied under the protection of Joseph who was second in charge of Egypt and had saved the country from a seven year famine by storing up grain to sell before the famine started. Joseph had bought up all the land of Egypt and had made the Pharaoh very rich and powerful. Joseph lived until the age of 110 years and served several pharaohs. When he died, he was embalmed and given a royal Egyptian burial – some 80 yrs+ after he first entered Egypt.
The Israelites came to Egypt in the 3rd dynasty when Netjerikhet was the Pharaoh. Pharaoh Netjerikhet came to be know as Pharaoh Djoser as time went by (the pharaoh of Joseph). The Israelites flourished and multiplied during the 3rd & 4th dynasties while Joseph was alive and continued to multiply during the 5th & 6th dynasties after his death. The 6th dynasty, which was based in Memphis in Lower Egypt, was contemporary with the 9th and 10th dynasties based in Herakleopolis and the 11th dynasty based in Thebes.
The 12th Dynasty of Egypt
About 100 years after Joseph’s death, a pharaoh who did not know Joseph came to power. Amenemhet I was the vizier of Mentuhotep IV of the 11th dynasty based in Thebes (Upper Egypt). He assassinated Mentuhotep IV of the 11th dynasty and took over both Upper and Lower Egypt to start what is known as the 12th dynasty (or Egypt’s Middle Kingdom). The pharaohs of the middle kingdom did not like the Israelites and felt threatened by them. Fearing that they would join their enemies, they forced the Israelites into slavery.
The 12th dynasty pharaohs constructed their pyramids from mud brick with only a veneer of limestone. The 12th dynasty pharaohs needed a large slave labor force to make the mud bricks required for their pyramids. This became the task of the Israelites who by the time of the Exodus had come to number over two million. The 12th dynasty lasted some 200 years (from 1965 – 1773 BC); and during this time, 7 pyramids were constructed as well as the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth was considered one of wonders of the ancient world by Heroditis.
Moses was born during the co-reign of Senusret III and Amenemhet III about 4yrs into Amenemhet III’s reign. Amenemhet III built two pyramids and the Labyrinth. He was very cruel to the Israelites and it was probably he who ordered the midwives to kill the Hebrew baby boys. His daughter Sobeknefru was childless and there was no male heir to the throne. Sobeknefru adopted a Hebrew baby Moses that she found in a basket amongst the reeds of the Nile and she brought him up as her own in her household. He was known as Amenemhet IV. Sobeknefru was the first known female Pharaoh and she is known to have had a prosperous, though brief, reign. She reigned for 4 years.
When Amenemhet IV was old enough, 30yrs, he began a co-regency with Amenemhet III. This lasted 9 yrs and then Amenemhet IV suddenly disappeared. This left no male heir to the throne. Consequently, Sobeknefru had to assume the throne but she only lived for 8yrs and then she died. When she died, the 12th dynasty ended and Egypt became unstable.
There was a rapid succession of pharaohs in the 13th dynasty. The longest ruling was Neferhotep I who reigned for 11 years. It was Neferhotep I who was the pharaoh when Moses-Amenemhet IV returned from exile. Neferhotep I was the Exodus Pharaoh who chased the Israelites and whose army and chariots were drowned in the Red Sea.
Moses and The Exodus: Political and Economic Implications
The loss of Amenemhet IV (Moses) in itself was a big blow to Amenemhet III as it meant that he had no male successor to the throne. His daughter Sobeknefru had to take over when he died. Amenemhet IV’s tomb and mummy have never been found. This is likely to be because Amenemhet IV was Moses who fled to Midian and then returned 40 years later to confront a different pharaoh Neferhotep I of the 13th dynasty, and lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
The Exodus of the Israelites was an even bigger blow to Egypt because Egypt lost not only its slave labor force, it lost its army, its pharaoh, its transportation system, its firstborn children and much of its crops and animals. Egypt was crippled by the Exodus of the Israelites and became vulnerable to invasion.
Not long after the Exodus, the Hyksos, shepherd kings from Arabia, invaded Egypt and built a fort at Avaris. From there, they occupied and controlled Lower Egypt for the next 400 years. During this time, the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years and then in the Promised Land where they were ruled by a series of Judges.
Source: Joseph And Israel in Egypt
P.S. Amenemhet III, the last great ruler of the Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty. He had no heir to the throne but had a daughter who was unable to have children. Meanwhile her adopted son Amenemhet IV disappeared after 9 years. So she had to become the Queen after her father. Their dynasty ended when she died, abruptly. Amenemhet IV’s co-regency with Amenemhet III was likely to be around 1495-1486BC making it highly likely that Amenemhet IV was Moses of the Bible.)
P.P.S. Although many believed that the events in Exodus occured in the 18th and the 19th dynasties where the Moses-Pharaohs (the Ah-Moses, Thut-Moses I, Thut-Moses II, and Thut-Moses III) and Queen Nefertiti ruled, new evidences suggest that the Egyptian history of the 18th Dynasty period does not harmonize with the biblical depiction of an Egypt crippled by plagues and a destroyed army. As a result, the conventional 1773 BC ending of the 12th Dynasty is brought into rough alignment with the 1446 BC biblical date for the Exodus.
P.P.P.S. Re: Joseph… I found some historical accounts which matches the biblical records of Joseph with the Imhotep in the Egyptian history book, proving that he was the same person. Both were Second in command under Pharaoh (Djoser), lived to be 110 years of age, great architect and builder, stored up corn during 7 yrs of plenty, saw seven years of famine and fed the people. They were both interpreter of dreams, built pyramids & palaces, instituted a income tax of one fifth, had knowledge of astrology, were physicians (Joseph’s Egyptian name was Zaphnath-paaneah which indicates salvation or preservation), Both married into the Priesthood of On, educated men, overseers of public works, and both were one of twelve siblings. The similarity appears too striking. So, it’s either both were same person or one of them a fictitious character.
It was Joseph who set the precedent for Mega Tombs and Monuments for Pharaohs by burying Netjerikhet in a grain silo and stacking mastabas on top of it.Joseph was a very prominent person in Egyptian History.