Tuesday, August 24

Is Joseph in Egyptian History?

For centuries skeptics have claimed that the Genesis account of Joseph cannot be true because there is no evidence. Many scholars believe otherwise, and in this entry, we will look at why. In fact, there is MUCH evidence to support Joseph. First, let's take a look at the Biblical Account of Joseph.

The account of Joseph spans Genesis 37-50. To read an outline of the account, see the entry, "God Can Bring Good out of Bad Situations." Generally, Joseph was the son of Jacob, and great-grandson of Abraham. He was one of twelve brothers, and was Jacob's favorite. Jealous of how he was treated, they sold him into slavery to Ishmaelites, and told their father that Joseph had been eaten.

In reality, Joseph was taken and sold by the Ishmaelites at Egypt, sold to one of Pharaoh's officials, Potiphar. He served Potiphar faithfully, but Potiphar's wife, day after day, tried to seduce Joseph. "And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her." But one day, she tore his cloak from him, and told Potiphar that Joseph had tried to come onto her. (Genesis 37, 39)

Joseph was jailed for a few years. He served the jailer faithfully, who had under Joseph's care all those held in prison. Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh's cup-bearer and baker. Both interpretations came true - the Baker was impaled, and the cup-bearer restored to his position. He told Joseph that he would mention him to Pharaoh. He forgot. (Genesis 40)

Two Years later, the Pharaoh had disturbing dreams, and none of his men could interpret them. The cup-bearer remembered Joseph, and had him brought in. He interpreted his two dreams, with God's help, and told him that there would be Seven Years of Plentiful Food, but Seven Years of Famine would follow suite. These 14 years came to pass. (Genesis 41)

After Joseph had given him the interpretation, he named him "Zaphenath-Paneah," second only to Pharaoh. He put him in charge of the grain storage, giving him free-reign to build storage areas. Now, there is more to the account - Joseph's brothers came for grain, and after a few visits, he finally revealed his identity as Joseph to them, and had Jacob, his brothers, and all his family move to Egypt with him. He died at the age of 110, and was put in a coffin in Egypt. But before he died, he had the Israelites promise to bring his bones to the Promised Land. (Genesis 50:25)

This was fulfilled in Joshua 24:32. Now, what of the evidence? What of the proof of Joseph? Let's take a look. For years, scholars have studied the subject of Israelites in Egypt. From all findings, we can conclude that their names in Egyptian may be a bit different than in Hebrew - meaning, if you call me Troy here in the United States, I may go under a different name in Egypt.

So who in all of Egyptian history could possibly line up with Joseph? Imhotep. Imhotep was popularized by "The Mummy" and its sequels, remakes of older thriller films. However, unlike in the movies, Imhotep played a much larger role in Egyptian History. Imhotep was second, only to Pharaoh Djozer. (also spelled Zozer).

Though many scholars have issues with the chronology, we trust God's Word. So what does God's Word say? Exodus 12:40 says, "Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord's divisions left Egypt." Now, the stay in Egypt could have been between 180-430 years, as some translations say, "lived in Egypt and Canaan," indicating the time of Abraham. However, 430 years in Egypt between Joseph and Moses is generally accepted, though not by all.

If the Exodus took place in 1446 BC, and Joseph brought his family to Egypt during the Seven Years of Famine, it would place Joseph about 1876 BC - meaning that the first seven years would have begun in 1883 BC. While many historians say Imhotep and Djoser existed in the 11th Century, while others say 27th Century BC, it is a "educated guess." The point is, there are many similarities between Joseph and Imhotep. Let's take a look.

(Click to Enlarge)
Now, we can see plenty of similarities between Joseph and Imhotep. Many scholars accept that Imhotep was another Egyptian name of Joseph, as well as Zaphenath-Paneah. We will touch on that in a moment. Pharaoh Djoser had issued a decree, now shown as an inscription on the "Famine Stela" located in Sehel Island on the Nile.

The decree tells of a seven year famine during Pharaoh Djoser's reign and Imhotep's part in the this event. So, where are Imhotep's structures? In Saqarra, Egypt. He built the first pyramid, "The Step Pyramid of Djoser." Very nearby was a building that was used as an "accounting building," an office-type building where people during the seven years would come in and purchase grain.
At the grain bins which are at Saqarra, it has been discovered that there are eleven bins which all connect through tunnels to one central large bin, where Grain was taken from. When grain was removed from the Central Bin, more from one of the eleven would come into it. An interesting fact? There is still some grain at the very bottom of the grain bins.

The fact is, whoever Imhotep was, he interpreted Pharaoh Djoser's dreams, became second in-command of Egypt, helped store up grain at Saqarra, built the Step-Pyramid, and the remains of these structures, which are still pretty intact, can still be found in Egypt. Let's see. Who in the Bible do we know that also did these things? Joseph, son of Jacob. "And the famine was over all the face pf the earth; and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians." (Genesis 41:56) Imhotep also did this.

What does Im-Hotep mean? It means, "The Voice [or Mouth] of Im." The odd thing? There is not Egyptian God named Im. However, centuries later when The Angel of The Lord (Pre-Incarnate Jesus, God) spoke to Moses through the Burning Bush, he told Moses that the Israelites would recognize his named as: "I AM." So could Imhotep mean, "The Voice of I AM?" Zaphenath-Paneah means, "The God Speaks." Very similar. (Exodus 3:2)

Would it disprove the Bible if Joseph was NOT Imhotep? Not at all. We still have plenty of evidence for the Bible. But among these few things, there is still MUCH evidence for Imhotep as Joseph, the Exodus, and many other Biblical accounts. Before he was sold into slavery, Jacob taught Joseph much about the World, about God, about reading and writing Egyptian, and he was a learned man. He proved it over and over to his overseers, and though wrongly accused, he was used to save thousands, if not millions, of people.

"The Famine Stela," Djoser's Pyramid, Storehouses of Grain
In Genesis 41:40 the Pharaoh tells Joseph, "You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders..." In Genesis 41:43-44, we are told, "He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him. 'Make way!' Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt." Imhotep also had this exact same position.
Is it possible that Joseph was Imhotep, another of his Egyptian names? Yes. Some Egyptians went by more than one name, and not all Egyptian history is recorded. Is it possible that Pharaoh Djoser was the Biblical Pharaoh of Joseph's time? Entirely probable. Are we 100% positive of these things? No. But who else do you know that would perfectly line up the similarities between Imhotep and Joseph? As I said, there is evidence for Joseph aside from all of this.

But if we are to believe that Joseph was Imhotep, then I tell you, the grain "silos" and management building, as well as the pyramid, that Joseph built and run, is located in Saqarra, Egypt. If you have Google Earth, the location is easy to locate. Google Images also has plenty of Images. The Image included in this entry shows not only the decree by Pharaoh Djoser, but the Pyramid built by Joseph and the large, deep Grain Silos, as well as the steps where the Egyptians took the grain down.

Is the account of a Seven Year Famine in Egypt true? Evidence supports that it occurred under Pharaoh Djoser's reign, and was taken care of by his second in-command, Imhotep. There is a high probability that the Biblical Joseph was the Historical Imhotep. I would recommend investigating this yourself, if you are compelled. The Biblical accounts have proven true over and over again, and this is just one of many instances. While this specific instance is in question, there are plenty of others that have been fully proven, and the only question is by those who refuse to accept the evidence.

Also, as aforementioned, Joseph had told the Israelites to take his bones when they left Egypt. (Genesis 50, Joshua 24) At Saqarra, there is an empty tomb underground. While the tomb does not ascribe itself to anyone in particular, all evidence in the chamber seems to indicate that it once housed the body of Imhotep. The tiles in the chamber are of someone of great importance during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser.

A Greek inscription, made centuries after the chamber, tells of a man who was known for many things, including dreams - saying that the man had died in dreams. The interesting thing? Imhotep's body has never been found. If Joseph is Imhotep, then his bones were taken by the Israelites. That is why his body cannot be found in Egypt - because it is in the Promised Land.
If you do believe the Biblical account, and you have never put your trust in God, I would urge you to do so. Romans 10:9 tells us that if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that he is risen from the dead, you will be saved. Belief in God alone cannot save you - it is belief in God as well as accepting Jesus as Savior. He asks that we pray for forgiveness of our sins, and turn from "our ways."

I want to mention one more thing. On September 29, 2009, news broke from Egypt that coins had been found. To quote the ANI article, "Ancient coins bearing the name and image of the biblical Joseph have been found from the Museum of Egypt, contradicting claims made by some historians that coins were not used for trade in olden Egypt." Also, "One coin has an inscription on it, and an image pf a cow symbolizing Pharaoh's dream about the seven fat cows and seven lean cows, and the seven green stalks of grain and seven dry stalks of grain."

Understand that this entry is merely a comparison, it does not prove nor is it our intention to prove that Joseph was Imhotep, but to inform of an intriguing similarity. I pray this entry has proven insightful and meaningful to you.  May God Bless You, Take Care. Troy Hillman


  1. lol this is so funny since when comparison is a proof? what are the books and study for reference? the bible? what article says that the face on the coins was for joseph? how do they know 1 how he was looking? lol!!!

  2. Pardon, but why would it be funny? Comparisons have been used many times to prove a point. It is a serious matter that many have struggled over. There are many articles about the face of Joseph on the coin. Here's a general overview: http://elev8.com/world/think-positive/elev8-staff/coins-found-bearing-name-and-face-of-biblical-joseph/, http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=111091, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news/news.aspx/133601, etc. If someone is going to accuse of no proof, look it up for yourself. Google it, you'll find plenty of sources. The Movie, "In a Coffin in Egypt," Ron Wyatt's ((http://www.arkdiscovery.com/joseph.htm) discoveries of Joseph's Grain Bins, and research done by the Egyptian Archaeologists, as well as many other archaeologists, films, documentaries, books, etc, have confirmed this. If someone comes in and laughs at evidence, how can you laugh if you have not researched for yourself? Why question the fact that Joseph was Imhotep merely because there is no works cited? If someone told you Washington crossed the Delaware, would you ask for work's cited? No. There's no point, its history. So what is the point in arguing with history? There is none. Ephesians 4:18, "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts." The Authority of the Bible is not to be questioned. Even if it was the only source, it would still be truth.

  3. This is so cool! I love it when history points back to The Bible! Thank you so much for posting this Troy. May God continue to use you in speaking the truth and make your efforts at this blog fruitful! :D

  4. Thank you for much, I am very glad you loved the entry. I can only pray that God will continue to use me anyway He wills. History and the Bible are so intertwined, and it is certainly enjoyable and relieving each year to see more and more historical discoveries that back up God's Word. God bless!

  5. The bible doesn't have the greatest reputaion for being historically accurate but it's cool to see biblical acccounts verifyed but outside historical records. If Imhotep really was Joseph it just adds a lot of credince to the presence of the Isralites in Ancient Egypt and the Exodus story overall

  6. As this entry is popular, I felt it best to comment. Understand that I cannot state with certainty that Joseph is Imhotep. Indeed, several archaeologists and historians - including Christian - disagree with this position, placing Joseph under the reign of Sesostris I of Dynasty 12. Egyptian chronology is not set in stone, contrary to popular belief, and is rather difficult to determine when Biblical events transpired under which Pharaoh. The Exodus likely occurred around 1445 BC, placing Jacob's arrival into Egypt around 1875 BC. However, since the dating of the reign of different Pharaohs is in question - and since, sometimes more than one Pharaoh ruled at the same time - it is difficult to pinpoint who the Pharaohs of Genesis and Exodus were.

    Note that aside from the coins which bear the seal of Joseph son of Jacob, bearing his likeness, there is other evidence for his existence. If Joseph was not Imhotep, this does not throw into question his historicity, but merely provides that we must find an alternative explanation. A fascinating inscription was fund on a marble tablet in a ruined fortress on the coast of Hadramaut (in present-day Yemen). Examination of this inscription suggests that it was written around 1800 years before the birth of Jesus, which corresponds around the time of the Biblical record. The ancient poem records the devastation of years of famine that had followed seven years of plenty. The tomb of a female Yemenite was uncovered in 1850 which describes Joseph, also making reference to the grain. Also, two ancient Egyptian priest-scholars, Manetho and Cheremon, name both Joseph and Moses in their history of Egypt as leaders of the Jews. So it is not without merit that Joseph is given historical credence, yet my point is commenting was to state that the purpose of this entry comparing Joseph to Imhotep was merely that: a comparison. The historicity of the Biblical record does not rise or fall upon whether or not Joseph is Imhotep, which he likely is not, though the possibility still exists. Thank you, and may God bless.

  7. In fact, having read the book "Unwrapping the Pharaohs," I am more of the mind that Joseph was Mentuhotep and that the Pharaoh he served under was Sesostris I of Dynasty 12. This does not negate the research in this entry, since it is not necessarily my personal belief but merely information I conveyed. The chronology given in Unwrapping the Pharaohs is more reliable than the typical jumbled chronology, and lists Khufu as the Pharaoh during Abraham's visit and Neferhotep I as the Pharaoh of the Exodus (it is also important to note that we have never found the body of Neferhotep). If you wish to read this book for yourself, see here: http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/v/recent/pub/utp

    Also, I apologize for the discrepancy. In my above comment, I noted that Jacob entered into Egypt ca.1875 BC. I'd meant 1660 BC, 1875 was when Abraham and God had made a covenant.