Could Joseph and Imhotep have been the same person?

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The tomb of Imhotep adjoining the Ibis Galleries in Saqqara. The coffin was empty and orientated to the north. The tomb dated to the 3rd dynasty. The Ibis galleries dated to the Ptolemaic period when pilgrims brought offerings to Imhotep hoping for healing.

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The tomb of Imhotep with an empty coffin orientated towards the North.  The burial chamber is a pit that is part of a mustaba type tomb.  Found within the tomb were jars bearing Djoser's imprint.  On the coffin were titles of Imhotep.  The pit connects to the Ibis Galleries which contains thousands of mummified Ibis birds in pots dating to the Ptolemaic period found by Emmery in 1964.

The tomb of Imhotep with an empty coffin orientated towards the North. The burial chamber is a pit that is part of a mastaba type tomb. Found within the tomb were jars bearing Djoser’s imprint. On the coffin were titles of Imhotep. The pit connects to the Ibis Galleries which contain thousands of mummified Ibis birds in pots dedicated to Imhotep about 1000 years after his death – dating to the Ptolemaic period – found by Emery in 1964.

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Imhotep’s mummy has never been found

In 1964, Walter Emery found huge underground galleries containing the mummies of sacred animals that were dedicated to Imhotep, the builder of the Step Pyramid and the high priest of Heliopolis.

Emery found an inscription in the Animal Galleries indicating that that Imhotep was buried there. Emery died before Imhotep’s tomb was found.

Eventually, a third dynasty tomb was found that had a funerary chamber connected to the Ptolemaic Animal Galleries that Emery had discovered, dedicated to Imhotep.

The tomb was connected to the passages of the Ibis Gallery that were filled with thousands of mummified Ibis birds in pots dedicated to Imhotep by pilgrims in the Ptolemaic period some 2000 years after Imhotep lived.

The tomb contained pots that had the seal of Djoser on them. This was, no doubt, the tomb of an important figure in the time of Djoser. The complex was dedicated to Imhotep and so one would assume that this was the tomb of Imhotep. A sarcophagus was found that had titles that Imhotep had been given.

The sarcophagus in the tomb, however, was empty.

Imhotep’s mummy was never found.

This is no surprise for people who believe that Joseph and Imhotep were the same person as the Bible records that Joseph was embalmed and buried in a coffin in Egypt but that his bones were removed by the Israelites when they left Egypt and finally buried in the promised land when the Israelites arrived there 40 years after the Exodus.

Long after his death, Imhotep became an object of worship. He was deified by the Greeks and the Egyptians. Many temples were erected to worship him. 2000 yrs after his death, pilgrims would come to his tomb hoping to be healed. They would bring offerings of mummified animals in jars (Ibis birds, falcons, hawks, baboons etc). These were stored in underground passage ways called galleries which were within a mile of the Step Pyramid at Saqqara.

The search for Imhotep’s mummy and tomb had been revived by the discovery of the base of the statue of Djoser with the name and titles of Imhotep on it by Firth in 1926 and later the discovery of the animal galleries by Emery in 1964.

When this tomb was eventually found, people did not like what they found. There were no treasures, there were no writings and there were no inscriptions on the walls by Imhotep. Just a coffin in a mastaba that was orientated to the North indicating that Imhotep did not worship Re. What’s more, the coffin was empty. While it was clearly one of Djoser’s officials, people could not believe it was Imhotep’s tomb.

While believers (Christians and Jews) struggle with the fact that the Egyptians worshipped Imhotep who seems to be the high priest of a pagan god, the non believers (Egyptians) struggled with the fact that Imhotep’s sarcophagus and mastaba were orientated to the North indicating that he did not worship Re.

It should not surprise us that Joseph, if he was Imhotep, was a priest of Re as the Bible tells us that Joseph married the daughter of the high priest of On (Heliopolis) whose name was Potiphera (or perhaps Ptah as it is known in Egypt).

This would explain one of Imhotep’s titles; “son of Ptah”.

Archaeologists argued that Joseph could not be Imhotep because Imhotep lived a thousand years before Joseph according to the traditional chronology derived from Manetho.

Wanting to find the Imhotep they envisaged, archaeologists brushed aside this discovery and continued to search for Imhotep’s tomb.

Since 1964, the search for Imhotep’s tomb and mummy has continued but nothing his been found.

Perhaps this is the tomb of Imhotep after all.

What better place for pilgrims to come to bring their offerings to Imhotep; even if his mummy was not there.

With a better understanding of the Egyptian Chronology, it may be possible to reconcile the differences between the Biblical Chronology and the History of Egypt.

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

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

Christians can understand man’s tendency to deify God’s messenger. The Greeks and the Egyptians did not deify Imhotep until 1000 years after his death. This does not alter the facts in Imhotep’s (Joseph’s) time that he was able to save Egypt and the surrounding nations from a famine that lasted seven years and that by selling grain he was able to make the pharaoh rich and buy up all the land of Egypt except that of the priests. He was able to protect his family as they grew to be a nation in Egypt. In his spare time, he built canals, pyramids, buildings with columns, store houses and grain silos. He wrote many literary works including medical writings. He developed mummification techniques.

He was embalmed when he died and was buried in a tomb close to the Step Pyramid. When the Exodus of the Israelites took place, his mummy was removed from the tomb and carried by the Israelites to the Promised Land where he was finally put to rest. In later times, Imhotep became an object of worship and was deified by the Egyptians and the Greeks who built temples to honor him and brought mummified animals to offer to his empty tomb.

Today, most Egyptians are either Muslim or Christian and  there are not many worshipers of Re.

The Pharaoh and the Egyptians recognized Joseph / Imhotep as a great ‘seer’ and Joseph was able to help save Egypt. In so doing, Joseph / Imhotep became quite an influential figure in Egypt.  With his influence, he was able to ensure the safety of his family.

God used Joseph to save His chosen people, the Israelites.  Joseph may have tried to steer the Egyptians towards Jehovah, but his main objective was to save his family and allow them to grow into a Nation.

It may well have been Joseph / Imhotep who introduced circumcision to Egypt.

Imhotep / Joseph’s children, Ephraim and Manasseh, were born before the famine and lived with the Israelites.  Legend has it that Imhotep / Joseph’s wife, Asenath, died in child birth [1].  Ephraim and Manesseh’s descendants became two of the largest of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Imhotep / Joseph’s descendants left Egypt with the Israelites when the Exodus took place 430 years after Imhotep / Joseph first came to Egypt.   At the end of his life,  Joseph / Imhotep wanted his bones to be carried back to the promised land to be buried with his fore fathers.  He was clearly loyal to the God of Abraham.

Both Christianity and Islam (as well as Judaism) are Abrahamic religions that believe the Old Testament is true.

Identifying the correct historical counter parts of  Abraham, Joseph and Moses would not only help to affirm these religions for those who doubt, it would give added meaning and significance to ancient history which has been lost or distorted as a result of  wars and natural disasters or white washing over the ages.


Genesis 41:45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife.  And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.
Genesis 41:50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
Genesis 46:20 In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
Genesis 50:25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”
Genesis 50:26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Exodus 13:19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”
Joshua 24:32 And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.
Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.


Tombs of Sacred Animals in Saqqara

The Search for Imhotep’s tomb

David Down’s revised Egyptian Chronology fits with Moses in the 12th dynasty. With a long sojourn and no first intermediate period, his chronology also fits with Joseph being Imhotep.

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Did Imhotep bury the Pharaoh in one of the shafts that he originally made to store grain?

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The Step Pyramid was built on top of a Shaft in which the Pharaoh was buried. Was this shaft originally used to store grain or was it made for this purpose?

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The shaft was cased with large limestone blocks and the top was sealed.  A limestone mastaba was constructed over it.  Successive layers were then added to the mastaba to bury the rest of Djoser’s family.  The final result was the Step pyramid.

In about 500BC the limestone casing in the shaft collapsed, crushing Djoser’s sarcophagus.   It was only in recent times that the rubble in the tomb has been cleared and the tomb inspected.

The shaft would have had to have been constructed before the pyramid was constructed.  

This means that Djoser must have died and been placed in the shaft before the construction of the Step Pyramid.   The famine occurred during Djoser’s life time as did the seven years of plenty.  Maybe the shaft was originally used to store grain and later was lined with limestone and used as a burial chamber.  A limestone mastaba was contructed on top of the burial chamber and then successive mustabas were added to bury Djoser’s 11 daughters and three wives.  The original mastaba was extended horizontally and then vertically (stacking one upon another) resulting in a Step Pyramid which was then faced with nicely cut limestone (which has fallen down over the centuries).



Exploring the Step Pyramid, Saqqara, Ancient Egypt – Dr. Zahi Hawass

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Egyptian Slavery – The History of Egypt

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