The Pharaoh Who Did Not Know Joseph


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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 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 definitely did not add up. And after reading some of archaeological and historical records of the time line, something still doesn’t add up.

Of course, there arose a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph! Really? Was Joseph’s legacy that weak that someone quickly and easily forgot he existed?

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, who did what, etcetera. However, in my search i found some interesting history lessons that much of some 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. 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 brought 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.

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 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.

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.

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 400years.


P.S. 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. By the 18th dynasty, Netjerikhet was known after his vizier as Pharaoh Djoser; the Pharaoh of Joseph (or Zozer in Greek).


P.P.S. I found a some  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.



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