|In a word, it appears that the
biblical, historical, and archaeological data are best
served by theorizing that it was a Hyksos monarch before
whom Joseph stood as an interpreter of dreams (Gen.
41:14-37) and who later ceded a choice parcel of land
(Goshen) to Joseph's family (Gen. 47:6). According to such a
theory, the "new king" of Exodus 1:8 would have
been one of the native Egyptian monarchs of the New Kingdom
who, as part of his Hyksos purge, resolutely refused to
recognize the validity of the Goshen land grant. Discerning
in the Israelites a multitude who might very well join with
his Asiatic enemies in war, this new king moreover acted
quickly to enslave the Israelites.
The above-mentioned theory also
fits well with the historical profile attested in the book
of Genesis. The patriarchs moved in and through Palestine
for some 215 years (cf. Gen. 12:4; 21:5; 25:26; 47:9),
seemingly with the greatest of ease, mobility and freedom.
Yet, it is inconceivable that their movements should have
gone unnoticed (e.g., Gen. 14:14). That bespeaks a political
climate in Palestine that would have been free from any sort
of national or international domination, which is truly
characteristic of that period between 1850 and 1550 B.C. The
theory might also humanly explain how Joseph, a
non-Egyptian, was able to rise to a position of Grand Vizier
in a foreign land -- the court itself would not have been
Egyptian, but Hyksos. It also might explain why there is no
historical mention of Joseph.
This is obviously not the place
for a detailed discourse concerning the date of the Hebrew
Exodus. However, an interpretation of Exodus 12:40 does
impinge upon our discussion, and it must be addressed
at least briefly. Does the mention there of 430 years
designate the amount of time that the Israelites spent in
Egypt (so the Masoretic text) or in Canaan and Egypt (so the
Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint, though the order is
inverted in the latter text)? Prior statement should make it
clear that we have given historical and textual preference
to the latter view (cf. Gen. 15:13; Gal. 3:17). And,
accordingly, we could advocate that the patriarchal sojourn
in Egypt took place between approximately 1660 and 1445 B.C.
and that the patriarchal sojourn in Canaan encompassed
approximately the dates 1875-1660 B.C. Thus, some 430 years
elapsed while the early Israelites lived in Canaan and
This would mean that Joseph was
promoted about 1670 B.C., in the middle of the Hyksos
occupation of Egypt. But it is impossible to identify the
individual before whom Joseph appeared, because the dating
and succession of Hyksos kings remains indemonstrable today.
In addition, the Bible provides virtually no clues for the
length of time the Israelites suffered under Egyptian
bondage, so it seems hazardous to speculate on the identity
of the pharaohs of Exodus 1:8, aside from identifying him as
a native Egyptian. The biblical narrative locates the
beginning of the Israelite trek at the city of Ra'amses (Ex.
12:37; cf.1:11), from which they journeyed first to Succoth
(13:20), then to Etham, to Pi Hahiroth (14;2, between Migdol
and the sea, opposite Baal-zephon), finally to the body of
water where the biblical parting of the waters took place
(cf. Num. 33:5-8).
Egyptian Granaries in the Middle Kingdom, not unlike the
ones Joseph may have commissioned.
Of all those sites, it is the location of of Ra'amses and
Succoth that is established beyond reasonable doubt. Though
earlier sought in the eastern delta at the site of Zoan/Tanis
(San el-Hagar), Ra'amses must be placed at Qantir (Tell
ed-Dab'a), some 17 miles to the southwest (see map above).
Furthermore, it seems conclusive that that was also the site
of the Hyksos capital, known in the period as Avaris.
Excavators have discovered archaeological remains at Tell
ed-Dab'a indicating that it was a large habitational site in
the Hyksos era and into parts of the New Kingdom period. The
artifacts dug up at the site (pottery, utensils, burial
wares, etc.) do not conform to Egyptian typology, but rather
to what is found in contemporary layers in Palestine. In The
Ancient Near East: A History, the authors comment,
"Archaeologically, it is as if the site were actually
in Palestine." Just north of the tell a tile
factory was found where glazed blue tiles were manufactured
for use in the palatial estates of the pharaohs. And in the
environs of this installation were found certain ostraca
that actually bear the name of Ra'amses. This was the locale
in which the Israelites lived and from which the Israelites
began their journey.
The above information is from a
variety of sources, but mainly from a section of The
Moody Atlas of Bible Lands, Barry J. Beitzel, Ph.D)
Joseph's Tomb in Shechem.
the last verses of Genesis it is told how Joseph adjured
his relatives to take his bones back to Canaan whenever
God should restore them to their original home, and in
Joshua 24:32 it is told how his body was indeed brought
to Palestine and buried in Shechem. For centuries there
was a tomb at Shechem reverenced as the Tomb of Joseph
(see photo to left). A few years ago the tomb was
opened. It was found to contain a body mummified
according to the Egyptian custom, and in the tomb, among
other things, was a sword of the kind worn by Egyptian
Prophets, Idols and Diggers
book by John Elder
price of twenty shekels of silver paid for Joseph in Genesis
37:28 is the correct average price for a slave in about the
18th century B.C. Earlier than this, slaves were
cheaper (average ten to fifteen shekels), and later they
became steadily dearer. This is one more little detail true to
its period in cultural history."
Ancient Orient and Old Testament, by K.A. Kitchen
Discoveries Relating to the Bible
- Rosetta Stone discovered
in 1799. This led to the decipherment of Egyptian
- Merneptah's Stele. First
mention of "Israel" in Egyptian texts. Stele dates to
about 1210 BC.
- Amarna Letters (14th
century BC). Letters written from Canaanite scribes in
Akkadian to king Akhenaten about the conditions in Canaan,
especially the troublesome Hapiru which probably refers to
- Inscriptions at Karnak.
Karnak is the largest temple complex in the world. There
also may be the earliest depiction of the Israelites.
- Mortuary Temple of Rameses
III at Medinet Habu. It depicts the battle with the
Sea People. One of the five groups of Sea Peoples was the
Philistines. There are carvings of what the Philistines
Texts Relating to the Bible
- Tale of Two brothers.
This story is similar to the story of Joseph in Genesis
when he is tempted.
- Seven Lean Years Tradition in
the time of Djoser. Similar to the seven years of lean
in the story of Joseph.
- Sinuhe's Story. Tells of
his time in Canaan.
- Wenamun's Journey. Tells
of his trip to Byblos in Canaan.
- Amenemope's Wisdom.
Similar to Proverbs 22:17-24:22.
- Hymn to Aten which
parallels Psalm 104.
- Elephantine Papyri.
Letters from Jewish exile.