Could Joseph and Imhotep have been the same person?

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Who were the pharaohs of the Oppression?

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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 Jospeh-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.

The relationship between the dynasties of Egypt and the Phases of Israel.

The relationship between the dynasties of Egypt and the Phases of Israel.

The major objection to Joseph being Imhotep is the dates, however, new insights into the Egyptian chronology are slowly but surely resolving this issue.

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There are many theories about who Joseph was in Egyptian History.  Similarly, people theorize  about  who was the Exodus Pharaoh and who was the Pharaoh of Moses Birth and who was the pharaoh of Abraham.

As these Biblical and Historical figures are related to each other in time, sequence and position, the identification of one of these figures (a point of reference) determines where and when to look for the others.

As there are different views about the way the various Egyptian dynasties are ordered and as there are two schools of though regarding the length of the Israelite’s Sojourn in Egypt, many different permutations and combinations are possible when everybody logs in their answers for who they think just four of these iconic Biblical figures may have been in Egyptian History.

For a theory to hold, there needs to be a good character match, sufficient archaeological evidence, any discrepant dates need to be explained and the sequence and time frames needs to be right.

As a point of reference, one might ask, what lasting legacy did the Israelites leave behind (for us to find) when they were slaves in Egypt?  The Bible records that the Israelites were forced to make mud bricks that were reinforced with straw.  The Bible says that there were over 600 thousand Israelite men of fighting age by the time of the Exodus.  The Bible says that the Israelites Sojourned in Egypt for 400 years.

Even if the the Israelites only produced one mud brick per person per day for half of their sojourn, that would be 600000 people x 200 years x 365 days x 1 mud brick per day per person = 43.8 billion mud bricks.

That is a lot of mud bricks!!

Where can we find this many mud bricks in Egyptian History? 

The answer is: In the 12th dynasty  (and the 12th dynasty lasted about 200 years)!!

DSC04562 DSC04635 DSC04631 DSC04588 DSC04621 DSC04627 DSC04626

There is considerable evidence to suggest that the 12th dynasty was the period when the Israelites were oppressed.  The 12th dynasty pyramids had a mud brick core and a limestone veneer.  (The limestone veneer has fallen away over the centuries leaving the mud brick core exposed.)  There were seven such pyramids constructed over about 200 years.  The Labyrinth, another monolith of the 12th dynasty, was also made from mud bricks.

There was a massive Exodus of slaves from Egypt in the 13th dynasty, after which, no more pyramids were constructed.

The only other significant exodus from Egypt was at the end of the second intermediate period when The Hyksos were chased out of Egypt in a rebellion lead by the family of Ahmose who went on to found the 18th dynasty.  The Hyksos were rulers of Egypt and are clearly not the Israelites.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Exodus of slaves in the 13th dynasty was in fact the Israelite  Exodus.   This is supported by good character matches for Moses, Moses’ pharaoh, Moses’ adoptive mother and the Exodus pharaoh.  The profiles of Amenemhet III, Sobekneferu Amenemhet IV and Neferhotep and the chronology and time frames make it very likely that they were The pharaoh of Moses Birth, the princess that adopted Moses, Moses himself and the Exodus pharaoh respectively.

People have suggested the 12th dynasty vizier Mentuhotep (of Sesostris I) to be Jospeh of the Bible based on a 200 yr sojourn but there is little evidence and a poor character match.

The Bible says that the Israelites were in Egypt for 400 years. They were able to enjoy the protection of Joseph for the first 70 years and some time elapsed before there was a change of dynasties to a pharaoh who neither remembered Joseph, nor was sympathetic to the Israelites.

It is unlikely that the Pharaohs of the 12th dynasty changed their tune half way thru the dynasty.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest Joseph was Imhotep of the third dynasty and this would fit with Menez being Mizraim.  Abrahams pharaoh (Abimelech) was somewhere in between Menes and Imhotep.

A statue of Imhotep in the Louvre. It is likely that he is the Joseph of the Bible who saved Egypt from a 7yr famine buy building grain silos such as these in cities around Egypt. He was able to buy up all the land of Egypt with the proceeds from selling the grain.  This had to take place early in Egypt's history.  Joseph and Imhotep have many other similarities.  For example, they both lived to the age of 110yrs, were embalmed when they died and given a royal Egyptian burrial, they imposed a 20% tax and they both married the daughter of the high pries of On.  They both saved Egypt from a 7 yr famine.  They were both visiers of non-royal blood.

A statue of Imhotep in the Louvre.
It is likely that he is the Joseph of the Bible who saved Egypt from a 7yr famine buy building grain silos such as these in cities around Egypt.
He was able to buy up all the land of Egypt with the proceeds from selling the grain. This had to take place early in Egypt’s history. Joseph and Imhotep have many other similarities. For example, they both lived to the age of 110yrs, were embalmed when they died and given a royal Egyptian burrial, they imposed a 20% tax and they both married the daughter of the high pries of On. They both saved Egypt from a 7 yr famine. They were both visiers of non-royal blood.

A grain silo in the Step Pyramid complex.  Access to the bottom of the silo is from the steps in the pit next to it.

A grain silo in the Step Pyramid complex. Access to the bottom of the silo is from the steps in the pit next to it.

The Famine Stele.  Inscription number 81.  Carved on a high point on the Island of Sehel during the Ptoleemaic period.  It mentions Djoser, Imhotep and a seven year famine.  It also makes reference to Djoser giving land to the priests of Khnum.  (The priests of Isis also make the same claim elsewhere).

The Famine Stele. Inscription number 81. Carved on a high point on the Island of Sehel during the Ptoleemaic period. It mentions Djoser, Imhotep and a seven year famine. It also makes reference to Djoser giving land to the priests of Khnum. (The priests of Isis also make the same claim elsewhere).

We know that the Egyptian chronology has been stretched out too far, that dynasties overlapped and so we cannot use dates to match Biblical figures with their historical counterparts.

If the long sojourn is right, then Joseph would have arrived in Egypt about 200 years before the 12th dynasty began.

The first intermediate period is likely to have been contemporary with other dynasties (3-6th dynasties).  As a consequence, the 12th dynasty (middle kingdom) followed directly on from the old kingdom (dynsasty 3-6).

The pharaohs of the dynasties 7-11 (erroneously referred to as the First Intermediate Period) were probably Nomarches and high officials and not pharaohs at all.  The only record we have of them is there name and how long they reigned.  They were not even buried in pyramids.

Amenemhet I who founded the 12th dynasty was the vizier of Mentuhotep IV of the 11th dynasty.  Amenemhet I assassinated Mentuhotep IV and took over the whole country.  It was he who had a different attitude to the  Israelites and made them into slaves, forcing them to make mud bricks for the 12th dynasty pyramids.

The major objection to Joseph being Imhotep is the dates, and new insights into the Egyptian chronology are slowly but surely resolving this issue.

I think it is likely Joseph was Imhotep.  Hopefully, as new evidence comes to light, we will understand Egyptian chronology better and reconcile the dates.

In any case, I have no doubt that the Bible is true and that Moses and Joseph were real people and one day we will know their Egyptian names and the names of the Pharaohs that they served with more certainty.

Nigel Hawkins