The Egyptian Pharaohs with Joseph
Categories: Joseph, Men in the Old Testament
- Most scholars think Joseph lived in Egypt between 2000 and 1600 BCE.
- The historical period known as the “Middle Kingdom” lasts from 2000 to 1786 BCE.
- This is one of Egypt’s greatest times.
- There are 8 Pharaohs during this time - comprising Egypt’s 12th Dynasty.
- Joseph might have come to Egypt during the reign of Sesostris II (1894-1878 BCE).
- He most likely begins his career under Sesostris III (1878-1841 BCE). He lives in Egypt for 71 years, so Joseph dies in approximately 1805 BCE, under the reign of Amenemhet III (1841-1797 BCE).
- Sesostris III is a most influential Pharaoh; he conquers Nubia (Ethopia) and greatly expands Egypt’s territory.
- He also institutes many administrative reforms which lead to the demise of the local nobility.
- Some scholars question this timeframe, but there are good arguments supporting it.
- According to 1 Kings 6:1, the Exodus occurs 480 years before the fourth year of Solomon. Solomon’s fourth year is 966BCE. That places the Exodus at ca. 1446 BCE.
- Exodus 12:40 says Joseph went to Egypt 430 years before the Exodus. That would be ca. 1876 BCE.
- Despite these dates, some scholars think Joseph was in Egypt during the Second Intermediate Period (ca 1630-1523 BCE), or “the Hyksos Period,” yet the context doesn’t fit.
- The Hyksos Period is not a time of greatness for Egypt.
- The name, Hyksos, means “rulers of foreign lands.”
- They never have any lasting rule over all of Egypt - only the delta region.
- Nonetheless, a popular theory is that the Israelites were somehow related to the Hyksos. It would, therefore, be more likely that they would allow a fellow countryman (Joseph) to attain a high official position.
- Yet, that puts Joseph in Egypt around 1650 BCE, which was roughly 220 years later.
- Scholars look to the texts for additional information to decide the matter.
- Genesis 37 states that Joseph’s brothers sell him for 20 shekels of silver.
- That is the average price for a slave during the Middle Kingdom.
- Before that time, it is roughly 10-15 and later it became 30-40 shekels.
- Joseph works as a slave, a practice that becomes widespread during the Middle Kingdom period.
- Many slaves are owned by private individuals, such as Potifar.
- Genesis 41:14 states that before Joseph meets with Pharaoh, he puts on clean clothes and shaves. The Egyptians abhor facial hair and are a clean people. The Hyksos have no such proclivities.
- The Pharaoh rewards Joseph by making him “ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
- The Hyksos never “rule over all the land of Egypt.” Sesostris III does.
- Pharaoh gives Joseph the daughter of Potiphera, Priest of On, to be his wife.
- “On” is the center of solar worship in Egypt. The main god is Ra or Re.
- The main god of the Hyksos is Set.
- If this is a Hyksos Pharaoh, it should be a priest of Set.
- Scholars think Pharaoh makes Joseph Vizier of Egypt, giving him ultimate responsibility.
- With Joseph in charge, the Pharaoh can go about his daily life.
- Servants clean and dress Pharaoh every morning.
- He wears fine linens or kilts. His clothes set him apart from his subjects.
- On his feet are sandals oftentimes made of feathers.
- They adorn him with jewelry comprised of large gold necklaces.
- He also wears a large headdress, called a nemes.
- The headdress has accordion pleating over his head. It is held in place by a tightfitting band that extends over his eyebrows and is tied in the back.
- He wears his hair short, though some wear wigs made out of human hair.
- He wears black makeup on his eyelids. It is made from a type of black paint called kohl.
- His arms are rubbed with scented oils and perfumes.
- His morning meal consists of bread and fruit.
- His cupbearer tastes everything before he starts to eat.
- Oftentimes, he eats with his wife.
- His day is filled with meetings. People come and kneel before him.
- Foreign rulers shower him with gifts.
- He might include his family while eating his midday meal.
- After a full day, Pharaoh goes to give thanks to his god, Ra or Re.
- He talks to his god, asking questions, and getting inspired answers.
- Then, in a show of gratitude, he sacrifices a bull to the god.
- As Pharaoh, he eats a rich diet – including vegetables, meat, fowl, and lots of wine.
- Later in the day, he walks among the people and oversees the construction of new buildings built to honor him.
- When he dies, he will be buried in a pyramid.
- He will spend years planning the items that will be buried with him.
- These will include items that interested him in life and amulets that will ward off harmful spirits. There might also be some tools, furniture, games – anything that might be helpful in the transition to the afterlife.
- A woman can also become a Pharaoh, but during this period the Pharaohs are all male.