Introduction to Ancient Egypt
No other place in the entire world has had the effect on so many people as Ancient Egypt has. With the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian influences are seen reflected in our modern society through art, literature, and architecture.
Reference to Biblical Egypt was always pointing to “the black land around the Nile” and no other area. The political boundaries we see today have very little to do with the region referred to in the Bible apart from the Nile River and Delta areas. Although the Sinai is currently part of political Egypt today, this region was part of the Wilderness, the western part of the are inhabited by the descendants of Esau and referred to as “the Land of Edom.”
None of this should be surprising. Ancient Egyptian civilization
lasted well over 5,000 years. This span of time covered a period
from c. 5000 BC to the early centuries AD. Before the unification
of the country in 3100 BC there were some 2000 years during the
A HISTORICAL BRIEF; EGYPT AND ISRAEL
Following is an attempt to correlate the histories of these two peoples relative to the historical period we are focusing on during this trip. Some of the dates are approximate, some are accurate, but all are very close. We believe this correlation argues for the historical accuracy and inspiration of the Bible. All dates are BC. //// indicates a gap.
Egyptian History Dates Biblical events re: Israel
2091 Abraham enters Canaan; Gen. 12
2066 Isaac born
2006 Jacob born
Middle Kingdom Period 1991
Pharaoh Amenemhet 1927 – 1894
1898 Joseph brought to Egypt
Pharaoh Sensusert II 1894 – 1878
1885 Joseph exalted
1876 Jacob and sons come to Egypt
Pharaoh Sensusert III 1841 – 1792
1805 Joseph dies at 110 yrs. (Gn. 50:26)
Hyksos control Egypt 1730 – 1584 Slavery imposed
18th Dynasty 1584 - 1317
Pharaoh Thutmose I 1539 – 1514 Birth control imposed, kill babies
1526 Moses born
Pharaoh Thutmose II & Hatshepsut 1514 – 1504
Hatshepsut & Thutmose III 1504 – 1483 Moses/ Senenmut serves the throne
1486 Moses flees Egypt – to Midian
Pharaoh Thutmose III (sole ruler) 1482 – 1450
Pharaoh Amenhotep II 1450 – 1424
1446 Moses to Egypt – Exodus. Takes Joseph’s remains with him.
Pharaoh Thutmose IV, 2nd born
son 1424 – 1414
EARLY EGYPTIAN HISTORY & THE BIBLE
Pre-Dynastic Period (5000 – 2920 BC). NOTE: All dates are approximate. A dynasty represents rule by a family. We will only chronicle those that are significant to us and our trip.
Early Dynastic Period
First Intermediate Period (7th – 11th Dynasties) (2150 – 1991 BC): This was a period of relatively weak pharaohs.
Middle Kingdom: (Strong)
Second Intermediate Period (13th – 17th Dynasties) (1759 – 1584 BC)
The 13th and 14th Dynasties were marked by internal struggles and weakness. After this the Hyksos, a Semitic people from the east, conquered and ruled Egypt during the 15th and 16th dynasties. They conquered Egypt because they had two awesome weapons – the war chariot and a powerful bow. Their capitol was Avaris (also known as Rameses) in the Delta area. They are sometimes referred to as “rulers of a foreign lands” or “Shepherd Kings” and as such might have been favorable to Israel since they were nomadic shepherds in background. This might account somewhat for Israel’s phenomenal growth in a favorable atmosphere. Some scholars, however, believe that it was the Hyksos that first placed the Israelis under bondage. The reasons for this would be that they did not know Joseph and since the Hyksos were not a numerous people they might have felt threatened by the Israelis. We favor the latter view.
Ahmose, the last king/pharaoh of this period expelled the Hyksos. The Hyksos left their mark in that the mostly peaceful Egyptians were transformed into a warlike people. The capitol of Egypt was re-established at Memphis.
New Kingdom (18th – 20th Dynasties (1584 – 1069 BC) - During this period many
public buildings were erected, such as the great temple at Karnak, which we will visit on November 4. This could possibly be referred to as Egypt’s Golden Age.
· 18th Dynasty (1584 – 1295 BC). With the Hyksos driven out the pharaohs again ruled Egypt and continued the oppression of Israel. The first of these was Ahmose (1584 – 1560 BC) who possibly began the persecution of Israel because he wouldn’t know Joseph. (Ex.1:8). He was followed by Amenhotep I (1560 – 1539 BC) and Thutmose I (1539 – 1514 BC).
Thutmose I was the father of Hatshepsut, the only woman who sat on the throne as a pharaoh with all of the authority of a man. She was the only surviving child of Thutmose I by his primary wife, Ahmose. She is also likely the princess who drew Moses (born c.1526 BC) out of the Nile and adopted him as her son. (Ex.2:10).
Hatshepsut was married to a son of a lesser wife of Thutmose I, who took the name of Thutmose II. Therefore, she married her half-brother. This was to facilitate his ascension to the throne since the royal blood line was passed down through the woman. They ruled jointly from about 1514, but he was very weak and only lived until 1504. They had only one child, a daughter, who was then married to a son of a lesser wife of Thutmose II and their child was given the name Thutmose III. Since he was only 10 years old at the time, Hatshepsut was the sole ruler for a few years (1504 - ?), but then their joint rule continued until 1482 when she died. Thutmose III reigned alone from 1482 – 1450.
This means that Moses, having spent the first 40 years of his life in Egypt would have fled Egypt c. 1486 BC, during the final years of his benefactor, Hatshepsut. Two things might be noted. One can only imagine how she felt when her adopted son killed an Egyptian and stood with the Hebrew slaves. Also, there is some possibility that Moses as her son would give Thutmose III some reason to get rid of Moses as his rival for the throne. The state of her relationship with Thutmose III is indicated in that he tried to destroy every reference to her name in all of Egypt. Fortunately for us he was not totally successful.
According to the chronology preserved in the Masoretic text of the Old Testament, Thutmose III (“Napoleon of Ancient Egypt”) was probably the pharaoh of the latter part of the oppression. He was a great warrior and one of the greatest pharaohs of Egyptian history. He conducted 17 military campaigns and extended the control of Egypt as far north as Syria and on to the upper Euphrates. He extended Egypt’s control to the south as far as the 4th cataract of the Nile.
His son, Amenhotep II, assumed the throne in 1450 and ruled till 1424. This means that if the Exodus occurred in 1446 BC he would be the pharaoh that Moses and Aaron confronted just a few years after his accession. (cf., Ex.2:23-25). It also means that his first born son would have been slain the night of the exodus.
Two things confirm this. One is that it is quite clear that the following pharaoh, Thutmose IV (1424 – 1414 BC), was not the oldest son of Amenhotep II. A dream stella, which was discovered some years ago between the feet of the Great Sphinx at Giza, says that he learned in a dream that he would be the next pharaoh. This would be irrelevant if he had been the firstborn son. Also, Amenhotep II was very active militarily during his reign except for a period of about 5 years during which he seems to have been militarily impotent. The reason for this is indicated in Ex.14:7 which states that his 600 pursuing chariots were manned by officers. In other words, the flower of the Egyptian army, perhaps his entire officer corps, perished in the waters of the Red Sea.
· 19th Dynasty (1295 – 1186 BC)
· 20th Dynasty (1186 – 1069 BC)
Third Intermediate Period (21st – 25th Dynasties)
Late Period: (26th – 31st Dynasties)
JOSEPH IN EGYPT:
JOSEPH’S EGYPTIAN TOMB: Thomas McCall
Through Joseph’s good offices, Pharaoh allowed the Hebrew cattlemen from Canaan to settle in the Land of Goshen, in the eastern sector of the Nile delta. This land was relatively flat and well watered from the flow of the delta. For several hundred years, from Joseph to Moses, the Hebrew people flourished and multiplied in the Land of Goshen, even after a Pharaoh arose “who knew not Joseph,” and all he had done for Egypt.
THE OATH ABOUT THE BONES OF JOSEPH: Joseph believed the word of God, and knew that the Hebrew people would not stay in Egypt forever. He knew that one day the Lord would bring them out of Egypt back to the Land of Abraham, to the Land of Promise. Joseph knew that he would not see that day, but he made his kinsmen swear that, when that day came, they would carry his remains with them out of Egypt to the Promised Land:
Gen 50:25, 26, “Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’ So Joseph died, being one hundred ten years old, and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Hundreds of years passed. Joseph’s body lay in the coffin, and his tomb must have been well identified, because when the Exodus occurred, and Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt, he was able to locate Joseph’s coffin and take it with them to the Promised Land:
Ex.13:19, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the children of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones away from here with you.”
Not only were the bones of Joseph taken out of Egypt, but they were carefully guarded all during the wilderness journey for forty years, the transition from Moses to Joshua, and the turbulent conquest of Canaan. As the Book of Joshua closes, after the Land was conquered, and the territory of Israel was parceled out to the tribes, Joseph’s bones were ultimately buried in their final resting place by his descendants in the town of Shechem:
Josh.24:32, “The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money: and they became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”
Thus the story of the bones of Joseph is faithfully recorded by Moses and Joshua, to make sure that posterity knew that the oath Joseph made his fellow Israelites swear had been fulfilled to the letter. Joseph’s body did not remain in Egypt, but went with his people and abode with them in the Land of Israel. Joseph is a magnificent illustration of the Messiah, the rejected Kinsman Redeemer who will ultimately be reconciled with His Jewish brethren in the Land of Israel.
THE IDENTIFICATION OF JOSEPH’S TOMB: But we return to Joseph’s coffin in Egypt, where his bones lay for hundreds of years. It must have been well marked and identified all that time, in order for Moses to have selected it out of all the Hebrew tombs in the Land of Goshen. Most likely, the coffin of Joseph would have been laid in a clearly identified tomb, befitting the office of the man who had served most of his life as the vizier of all Egypt. Furthermore, Joseph would have wanted his tomb to be in the Land of Goshen, close to his people, where his remains would be readily available when the people of Israel left Egypt. Also, we would not expect Joseph, as a Hebrew, to be buried in the Upper Nile Valley, known as the Valley of the Kings. This is where the Pharaohs and some of their chief servants were buried. It was probably by mutual agreement that Joseph, although the vizier of Egypt, would be buried close to his people in the Land of Goshen. Such is the Biblical account of the burial of Joseph.
Does archaeology confirm any of this? Up until recently, it has not. The Egyptian archaeologists, using the conventional chronology, have not been able to find any evidence of the Hebrew people in the Land of Goshen as indicated in the Scriptures. They do find various groups of Semitic people occupying Goshen at various periods of time, but they do not see any mass Semitic occupation at the time the Exodus was supposed to occur. In their chronology, if the Exodus event occurred at all, it would have had to have been about 1300 BC. Only traces of Semitic occupation are found at that time period.
This has led the archaeologists to conclude that the Exodus never happened. They think that Moses and his phenomenal struggles with Pharaoh are all mythological and unhistorical, and only a “fundamentalist conservative” could possibly believe in the historicity of these ancient Biblical accounts.
THE NEW EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGY: It is important to understand that the Biblical chronology does not put the Exodus at 1300 BC, but rather some 150 years before that, around 1450 BC. What a difference a couple of hundred years make! At that time period, there is evidence of a massive Semitic occupation of Goshen. Until recently though, Egyptologists have claimed that this could not be the Hebrew occupation described in the Scriptures, because it is too early. They ascribe this occupation to other type Semites, such as the Hittites. However, there is a small but very vocal group of Egyptologists, led by British scholar David Rohl (author of Pharaohs and Kings), that is vehemently challenging the conventional chronology. They assert that there are numerous fallacies in the assumptions of the accepted chronology, and they have established a new chronology based on what they believe are more sound Egyptian archaeological grounds. Having done this, these secular scientists were astonished to discover that the new chronology supports the Biblical chronology, and the once mute Egyptian evidence is alive with testimony to the validity of Biblical history.
THE POSSIBLE PALACE, TOMB AND STATUE OF JOSEPH: One last stunning piece of evidence for Joseph exists, and that brings us back to his burial in Goshen, and his bones that were removed by Moses at the time of the Exodus. In this same area in Goshen, where a large contingent of Semites lived, a great palace has been discovered, with a garden and a tomb, curious in its combination of Egyptian and Semitic styles. Rohl and his colleagues believe the palace is that of Joseph, perhaps his retirement villa after many years of service to Pharaoh. It has two apartments in front, suggesting the living quarters of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. In the rear are the more spacious living quarters of the prime occupants, perhaps Joseph and his Egyptian wife.
Adjacent to the ruins of the palace, there is an elegant garden area, and in the garden was an unusual tomb. The tomb was in the shape of a small pyramid, but it is clear that the vault was broken into and the remains removed. However, the damage to the tomb was not like that done by the all too common grave robbers of Egypt. It appears to be a careful and methodical removal of bricks from the tomb, as one would expect where the bones of Joseph were carefully removed from his long-used grave by Moses. Could it be that we have here the very tomb of the great patriarch Joseph? The evidence certainly takes it out of the realm of mythology, even for the hardened scientist, and into the realm of accurate history.
But there is more. In the tomb complex, there are ruins of an ancient statue, also unusual in its design and subject matter. It has been violently smashed almost beyond recognition, but enough of it has been found to piece together a possible identification. The statue is of a man who had obvious stature in the Egyptian power structure, with the symbol of Pharaoh’s authority, the throw-stick, on his chest. Yet he also has an unusual Semitic hairdo, with flaming red hair, and wears a coat with variegated colors. The statue has been deliberately smashed and defaced, with an obvious attempt to destroy the head and face. It is as though the remaining Egyptians were so angry with the Semitic inhabitants that, when the Semites left, the Egyptians tried to destroy any trace of their occupation.
One could well imagine this to be the reaction of the Egyptians after suffering the plagues and the Red Sea destruction at the hand of the Hebrews and their mighty God. The similarities between this ruined statue with the Biblical account of Joseph are so striking, that Rohl has an artist’s conception of what this statue might have looked like on the front cover of his book.
The new Egyptologists are persuaded that they have not only corrected some of the most glaring errors in understanding the history of ancient Egypt, but that they have constructed a marvelous bridge between the histories of Egypt and Israel that demand further study and appreciation. Not least in this consideration is the possibility that the artifacts of the unique person of Joseph have been discovered in the stone ruins of Egyptian archaeology.”
- David M. Rohl, A Test of Time: The Bible from Myth to History (1995), pp. 350-351, 355.
“The pyramid tomb, discovered by Manfred Beitak and his team in Area F at Tell ed-Daba, was the original burial place of the patriarch/vizier Joseph (before his body was removed by Moses for reburial in the Promised Land). The shattered limestone head and shoulders found in the tomb originally formed the upper part of a cult statue of Joseph, awarded to him by Amenemhat III for the Hebrew vizier’s outstanding services to the Egyptian nation during a time of great trials and tribulations.”
- David M. Rohl, A Test of Time: The Bible from Myth to History (1995), p. 355, 358
“Immediately atop an earlier Syrian Villa at Tell ed-Daba was ‘a large Egyptian-style palace, to which was attached a beautiful garden. The pottery and stratigraphy indicated that the palace had been built during the early 13th Dynasty. The elegant palace…was originally erected as the residence for the vizier Joseph in the regional capital of Avaris – the headquarters of the delta administration known as the Department of the North.’”
“In the garden, a tomb was uncovered of typical Egyptian style. It was found to be almost empty, having been broken into long ago. However, Bietak did discover the desecrated remains of a twice life-size colossus or statue of the occupant of the tomb and palace. Over his right shoulder is a throw stick’, representing a holder of office and authority. The figure is Asiatic. The face has been mostly cleaved off and there are marks on the head where someone has tried to split the stone.”
- John Fulton, “A New Chronology – Synopsis of David Rohl’s book ‘A Test of Time”