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.

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Tentative arrangement of the dynasties with diagram expanded to show the major Nomes of Egypt aligned with the Bible and History

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Expanding the diagram to include the major Nomes of Egypt.  Tentative arrangement of the Old and Middle Kingdom dynasties.

Expanding the diagram to include the major Nomes of Egypt. Tentative arrangement of the Old and Middle Kingdom dynasties.

Tentative arrangement of the dynasties with diagram expanded to show the major Nomes of Egypt – view PDF

Wyatt was right about Imhotep being Joseph and did find the site of the Red Sea crossing and the real Mt Sinai in Arabia but wrongly concluded that Moses was in the 18th dynasty.

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Wyatt believed Joseph was Imhotep but placed Moses in the 18th dynasty because the chariot wheels he found at the bottom of the Red Sea were thought to date from the 18th dynasty.

There is no evidence for a massive exodus of slaves in the 18th dynasty.  It would be very hard to explain how Joseph was third dynasty and Moses 18th dynasty particularly if there was a short sojourn.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest that the Israelites were enslaved during the 12th dynasty. Moses was born during the co-regency of Sesostris III and Amenemhet III in 1526BC. Moses fled from Amenemhet III at the age of 40 after showing his loyalty to the Hebrews. Moses remained in Exile in Midian for 40 yrs. When he was 80 years old, Moses returned to confront a different pharaoh (Neferhotep I of the 13th dynasty). He lead the Israelites out of Egypt in the 13th dynasty in 1446BC. Pilars were left by Solomon to mark the site of the Red Sea crossing which occurred 480 years before Solomon began building the temple.  With a revised chronology and a long sojourn, it is quite possible that Joseph may have existed in the third dynasty and Moses lived towards the end of the 12th and 13th dynasty.

Wyatt found these pillars in 1978 and went on to find chariot wheels in the Red Sea at this point. Unfortunately, experts insisted that the chariot wheels could not have been from the 12th dynasty and sent Wyatt on a wild goose chase looking for evidence of the Israelites in the 18th dynasty. There is, however, no evidence for the Israelite slaves and a mass exodus in the 18th dynasty.

The Hyksos exodus at the end of the second intermediate period was not the Israelite Exodus either. The Hyksos were rulers of Egypt. The Hyksos were foreigners to Egypt who were able invade and rule over Lower Egypt after Egypt had been devastated by the Israelite Exodus in the 13th dynasty when Neferhotep was the Pharaoh. The Hyksos ruled Egypt for some 400yrs (Egypt’s second intermediate period). Eventually, the family of Ahmoses based in Thebes (Upper Egypt in the 17th dynasty) contemporary with the Hyksos 15-16th dynasties in Lower Egypt, lead a rebellion against the Hyksos and successfully chased the Hyksos out of Egypt. The Hyksos (Amelekites) headed towards Israel where they had encounters with King Saul and David. The prophet Samuel instructed Saul to wipe them out but Saul spared their king Agag (Apopi II) and brought him to Samuel. Samuel put Agag to death. David had a few encounters with the Hyksos (Amalekites) too. The Amelekites plundered David’s camp and abducted his wives and children. David managed to catch up with them and wipe them out and get his family back. Ironically, it was an Amelakite who slew King Saul after he had been fatally wounded.

In summary, Wyatt seems to have been right about Imhotep being Joseph and did discover the route of the Exodus, the site of the Red Sea crossing and the true or biblical Mt Sinai in Arabia. Unfortunately, the Chariot wheels that he found at the bottom of the Red Sea were erroneously dated to the 18th dynasty which lead him on a wild goose chase looking for Moses in the 18th dynasty. He, nevertheless, made some critical discoveries which have helped to reconstruct history and reconcile it with the Bible.

The relationship between the Kingdoms of Egypt and the Phases of Israel

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The relationship between the Israelite sojourn (430yrs) and the dynasties of Egypt.

The relationship between the Israelite sojourn (430yrs) and the dynasties of Egypt.

A schematic diagram illustrating the relationship between the Egyptian Kingdoms and dynasties and the various phases of Israel as the Israelites grew to be a nation while they were in Egypt and then traveled to the promised land where they were ruled initially by Judges and later by Kings. The nation of Israel became divided into North (Israel) and South (Judah) after Solomon.  There was no first intermediate period.

A schematic diagram illustrating the relationship between the Egyptian Kingdoms and dynasties and the various phases of Israel as the Israelites grew to be a nation while they were in Egypt and then traveled to the promised land where they were ruled initially by Judges and later by Kings. The nation of Israel became divided into North (Israel) and South (Judah) after Solomon. There was no first intermediate period.

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

The Israelites had a profound influence on Egyptian culture

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Djoser Pyramid Complex at Saqqara, Egypt. Note the large man made holes in the ground near the Step Pyramid that were used to store grain. They were most likely made by Joseph, the designer of the Step Pyramid, also known as Imhotep.

If it is true that Joseph and Imhotep were the same person, then the first pyramid (the Step Pyramid in Saqqara) was designed by an Israelite at the beginning of Israel’s Sojourn in Egypt. What’s more, if the last of the great pyramids (those of the 12th dynasty) were constructed with a core made from mudbricks which were made by Israelite slave labour, then the Israelites were in Egypt while all of the great pyramids were being constructed. After the Israelites departed from Egypt in the 13th dynasty, lead by Moses, there were not enough slaves left in Egypt to construct pyramids any more. If this is correct, the pyramid age would coincide with Israel’s sojourn in Egypt and all of the Great Pyramids would, therefore, have been constructed over a period of around 430 years.

The Black Pyramid of Amenemhet III. The inner core made of mud bricks is exposed. Josephus records that the Israelite slaves were given the task of building the Pyramids. The Pyramids of the 12th dynasty had an inner core that was made of mud bricks.

Egypt’s wealth and power reached it’s peak in the 12th dynasty under Sesostris III and his son Amenemhet III but as they had no successors, the Middle Kingdom started to fall apart when they died. Moses, an Israelite baby, was adopted by the Princess Sobekneferu and groomed to be the next Pharaoh (Amenemhet IV). Amenemhet IV did in fact co-reign with Amenemhet III for a period of 9 yrs but when he had to flee to Midian at the age of 40 years, there was suddenly no successor for Amenemhet III. His daughter Sobekneferu had to take over the reigns when Amenemhet III died. She only lived for another 4 yrs and when she died, the 12th dynasty ended and Egypt fell into turmoil and became politically unstable. There was a quick succession of Pharaohs in the 13th dynasty until Neferhotep who was the Pharaoh who was ruling when Moses (Amenemhet IV) returned from exile in Midian. After a series of ten plagues that were inflicted on Egypt, Neferhotep let Moses take the Israelities into the desert. When they did not return, he pursued them with his army. The Israelites were able to cross the red sea at the Gulf of Aqaba but Neferhotep and his army drowned when they tried to follow.

Moses and the Israelites Crossed the Red Sea at Nuweiba in the Gulf of Aqaba in 1446BC.

Not only did Egypt lose its slave labour force, it lost it’s monarch, it’s entire army and it’s transportation system. It was a massive defeat and not something that Egyptian historians would want to memorialize.

When the Israelites left Egypt, Pharaoh and his son died and all the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea taking all of Egypts chariots with them. Egypt was then thrown into turmoil. Thy Hyksos were able to take control of lower Egypt and the second intermediate period began. (The Hyksos were foreigners to Egypt who reigned for 400 yrs until they were finally defeated and then the 18th dynasty began).

The Israelites, therefore, had a profound influence on Egypt. Joseph saved Egypt from 7 yr famine, brought up all the land of Egypt and made the Pharaohs wealthy. Joseph designed the first pyramid (in the third dynasty), was the first to build with columns, write on papyrus and practice medicine and preservation methods. Later in their sojourn, the Israelites provided slave labour for various public works which included making mudbricks for the construction of the last of the great pyramids (those of the 12th dynasty).The Israelite Sojourn, therefore, coincides the Pyramid Age. Egypt was destabilised when Moses (Amenemhet IV) went into exile as there was nobody to continue the 12th dynasty. Egypt suffered massive losses as a result of the Exodus 40yrs later (1446BC) and as a result became vulnerable to invasion – (the end of the 13th dynasty). The Hyksos took over and ruled Lower Egypt for the next 400 yrs (the second intermediate period).

Egyptian Slavery – The History of Egypt

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