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Joseph in Ancient Egyptian History

Original article to be found at:


Joseph in Ancient Egyptian History

by Ron and Mary Nell Wyatt

(Originally published in Newsletter No. 7, April 1994)

It's rather amazing how historians and archaeologists have managed to "explain away" evidences which validate the Biblical account. Myths and legends derived from actual events of Biblical times are found all over the world, such as the multitude of "flood" stories, but to the unbeliever, these only "prove" that the Bible was influenced by these myths. The fact is that these myths are satanic corruptions of the truth- designed by Satan to convince man that, in his own cleverness, he is smarter than God. And ultimately, this kind of thinking leads a person to deny entirely the existence of God and the truth of the Bible.

Yet, no one seems to think it strange that every known civilization has had some type of religious system. If there is no God, where did this idea of "religion and gods" come from? It came from the original truths known by the original post-flood family of Noah. And the facts are that the evidences found validate the Biblical account, not the myths and legends. But there will always be those who simply will not see.

Some of these great evidences relate to the story of Joseph in ancient Egypt. Inscriptions on a monument to Horemheb, a pharaoh several years after the Exodus, provide evidence of the story of Joseph's pharaoh's invitation to Jacob's family to come to Egypt and live. It tells of a community of shepherds from the "north" asking Egypt to allow them to pasture their cattle "as was the custom of the father of their fathers from the beginning".

There is also a picture in the tomb of Tehuti-hetep in Bersheh which has a picture of a herd of Syrian cattle entering Egypt with the inscription: "Once you trod the Syrian sands. Now, here in Egypt, you shall feed in green pastures. (Light from the Ancient Past, by Jack Finegan.)

The evidences which parallel the story of Joseph in more detail are the focus of this newsletter. But first, we must set the stage. According to our chronology, taken from the Biblical record, the flood was in about 2348 BC. Abraham left Haran in about 1921 BC, about 427 years later.

Soon after this (we don't know exactly how soon) he and Sarah went to Egypt because of a famine in Canaan. The Biblical account is extremely short on the subject of Abraham's visit to Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20) but we do learn that Abraham misled the pharaoh about who Sarah was- he told him she was his sister. This was partially true since she was his half-sister, but she was also his wife.

The pharaoh, because of her beauty, took her to his palace. (Gen. 12:12-15). The king paid Abraham well for Sarah (verse 16) but God intervened, causing some types of plagues to fall upon the pharaoh. (verse 17). When the pharaoh figured out the cause for these inflictions, he called Abraham to account, asking him why he lied to him about Sarah. (verse 18, 19). He then ordered his men to escort Abraham and his entourage out of Egypt. (verse 20). Egypt at this time was already a rich nation, for it was at this time that Abraham became rich in cattle, gold and silver, given to him as payment for Sarah. (Gen. 13:1,2).

And there is good evidence that it was at this time that the regulation prohibiting the Egyptians from eating, drinking or fraternizing with foreign shepherds was instituted. (Gen. 46:34). Josephus relates that Abraham was responsible for bringing the knowledge of arithmetic and astronomy to the Egyptians, which may also be true. We believe the time of Abraham's visit to Egypt was early in the 1st Dynasty. It would be about 200 years later when Joseph would be elevated to his high position in Egypt, second only to the pharaoh. And in the 3rd Dynasty, there appears on the scene a most incredible individual in the ancient records- a man called "Imhotep".





Statue of Imhotep


For many years, Egyptologists had doubted that Imhotep had been a real person- they found it rather difficult to believe the various accomplishments credited to him in the accounts written over a thousand years after he was supposed to have lived.

At times, Imhotep has been termed the "Leonardo da Vinci" of ancient Egypt, but in fact he was more than that. Da Vinci gained the reputation of a genius- Imhotep was eventually elevated to the status of a god.


In Egypt's long list of "gods", very few were ever once living among them. Imhotep was. Manetho wrote that "during his [Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty] reign lived Imouthes [i.e., Imhotep], who, because of his medical skill has the reputation of Asclepius [the Greek god of medicine] among the Egyptians and who was the inventor of the art of building with hewn stone." It was this statement that caused the specialists to doubt the existence of a real man named Imhotep. But in 1926, the question was settled once and for all- Imhotep was a real man.




Statue of pharaoh Djoser


When excavations were carried out at the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, fragments of a statue of pharaoh Djoser were found.

The base was inscribed with the names of Djoser and of "Imhotep, Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt, Chief under the King, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary Lord, High Priest of Heliopolis, Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vases...".


Does this fit what we know of Joseph? The Bible is quite clear on his high rank under the pharaoh:

GEN 41:40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. 43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. 44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.

In fact, it sounds as if Joseph was the first person ever given such honor by a pharaoh, which is confirmed by evidences in Egypt. If this man, Imhotep, was Joseph, surely there must be some evidence tieing him with the Biblical account. Let's take a look...


Inscription of the 7 Year Famine

Joseph's main position was that of a prime minister and Imhotep appears to be the first who could boast of such a broad range of authority in ancient Egypt. There are records of many, many viziers throughout Egyptian history- but the first evidence which connects Imhotep with Joseph is an amazing inscription found carved on a large rock on the island of Sihiel just below the First Cataract of the Nile.


This inscription claims to be a copy of a document written by Djoser in the 18th year of his reign,- this copy being written over 1,000 years after the events it claims to be relating. It goes on to tell of a 7 year famine and 7 years of plenty. Let's look at a few passages from this inscription and compare them with the Biblical account, keeping in mind that this was written a millenium after the events it claims to be describing:

1. It begins with the great distress of the pharaoh: "I was in distress on the Great Throne..."

GEN 41:8 And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled;

2. In the inscription, the pharaoh is troubled about a famine and asks Imhotep who the god of the Nile is, so he can approach him about the drought: "... I asked him who was the Chamberlain,...Imhotep, the son of Ptah... `What is the birthplace of the Nile? Who is the god there? Who is the god?'" Imhotep answers: "I need the guidance of Him who presides over the fowling net,..."

GEN 41:16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. In the Egyptian text, Imhotep is termed "the son of Ptah", who was the Egyptian god known as the "creator" of everything else, including the other gods.

3. In the inscription, Imhotep answers the pharaoh about the god of the Nile and tells him where he lives. In the Bible, Joseph interprets the pharaohs dream. But, the next thing in the inscription tells that when the king slept, the Nile god Khnum, revealed himself to him in a dream and promised the Nile would pour forth her waters and the land would yield abundantly for 7 years, after a 7 year drought. This passage reflects the fact of a dream by the pharaoh of 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine, although reversed.

4. The inscription then goes on to record Djoser's promise to the Nile god, Khnum, in which the people were to be taxed 1/10 of everything, except for the priests of the "house of the god", who would be exempted.

GEN 47:26 And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part, except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh's.

So here we have an inscription which tells a story of pharaoh Djoser asking his vizier, Imhotep, to help him with the problem of a great 7 year famine. Imhotep tells him he must consult the god because the answer is not in him. Then, the pharaoh dreams a dream which foretells the event.

Next follow 7 years of plenty, which is reverse from the Biblical account.

The pharaoh levies a tax of 10% on all of the population except for the priesthood. The Biblical account tells of a 1/5, or 20% tax, with the priesthood exempt. All of the components of the Biblical account are present in this inscription, except that the story has been "Egyptianized" to fit their religious beliefs.

It is believed that this inscription was written during the 2nd century BC, by the priests of Khnum for the purpose of justifying their claim of some land privileges. Part of the inscription states the pharaoh dedicated some of the land and taxation to the god.

But, this isn't the only inscription with this "tale"- there is a similar inscription on the Isle of Philae, only this one has the priests of Isis stating that Djoser made the same gift to their god for the same purpose. Just as the story of the flood is found in almost every ancient culture but is twisted to fit their own purposes and gods, here we find the story of Joseph, only it is twisted to fit the needs of the priests of the various gods in substantiating their claims to certain land.


"Imhotep, the Voice of the God, Im (I AM)"

The name, Imhotep, in ancient Egyptian is translated to mean "the voice (or mouth) of Im"; however, there is no record of a god in Egypt called "Im". But, we all know the God, "I AM":

EXO 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

JOH 8:58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

God told Moses to tell the pharaoh that "I AM" had sent him because "I AM" was the name by which the Egyptians had known Joseph's God. Could "Im" have been "I AM"?

The name the Bible states that was given to Joseph by the pharaoh, "Zaphenath-paneah", has been translated by some to mean, "the God lives; the God speaks". Since we do not fully understand the meaning of the Egyptian "hotep", it is quite possible that the translation of Imhotep ("The voice of I AM) is identical to the Biblical name of Joseph ("the God lives; the God speaks).


Imhotep, the Physician

Imhotep is the earliest physician whose historical records survive, and although Joseph isn't mentioned as being a physician, the Bible gives one very important clue to this:

GEN 50:2 And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. Here, the physicians are specificly stated to be under Joseph.

But later, when Imhotep became established as the "god of healing", it is the manner in which he healed that ties him directly to Joseph. Ancient Greek writings mention a great sanctuary at Memphis where people came from everywhere to seek cures from Imhotep. They would pray to him, make offerings and then spend the night in this sanctuary, which was a sort of Lourdes of ancient Egypt. While sleeping, the god, Imhotep, was said to come to people in their dreams and cure them. Is there a connection between Joseph and dreams?

GEN 37:8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

Remember, it was Joseph's dream about he and his brothers binding sheaves- their sheaves stood up and bowed to his- that was one of the causes of their great jealousy of him.

GEN 37:20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.


The Wisdom of Imhotep

The Biblical account also speaks of Joseph's wisdom: GEN 41:39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:.

Again, the evidence points to Imhotep. Imhotep was also revered for his wisdom. In several inscriptions from much later times, reference is made to the "words of Imhotep". For example, in "Song from the Tomb of King Intef", we read:

"I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef...",

and it goes on to explain that their "sayings" were recited in his day. To date, nothing has been found of Imhotep's works, however there are several works of "wise sayings" attributed to one "Ptahotep", who is only known as a vizier of a king from the 5th dynasty.

However, there are 5 known "Ptahoteps", all viziers to pharaohs of the 5th dynasty, all priests of Heliopolis, or "On". Evidence seems to indicate that after Imhotep, the trend among viziers became patterned after him, with these later viziers taking credit for Imhotep's actual deeds and his writings- a practice which the Egyptians, among others, were notorious for.

Now, let's do some assuming for a moment- let's assume that Joseph wrote a collection of wise sayings, of course, inspired by God. Because of his great favor with the king, these came to be revered by the scribes and people. His fame as a sage spread throughout Egypt and became the standard of wisdom. We know that his wisdom came from the true God of Abraham. Would it not be expected that Joseph would pass on his wisdom from God to those around him? In fact, the Bible says that he did:

PSA 105:17 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:...20 The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people, and let him go free. 21 He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: 22 To... teach his senators wisdom.

After Joseph's death, others copied his wise sayings and took credit for them, perhaps adding a bit of their own and changing things to suit them. As these sayings were passed down through several generations, instead of being attributed to Imhotep, they were attributed to Ptahotep, "the voice of" the Egyptian creator, "Ptah". Thousands of years later, several papyruses are found which purport to be copies of "The Instruction of Ptahotep". Could this scenario have happened?

There are 2 particular statements in Ptahotep's writings which indicate that this is exactly what happened. At the end of these manuscripts, the writer states that he is near death, having lived 110 years and that he received honors from the king exceeding those of the ancestors,- in other words, he received the most honors ever given a man by a pharaoh. And, we know that Joseph died at the age of 110 years.

Well, it gets even more familiar as we examine the text of these manuscripts. They begin as Solomon's Proverbs begin, as instructions to his son, with the admonition they are "profitable to him who will hear" but "woe to him who would neglect them". Keep in mind that the Originator of Joseph's wisdom was also the Originator of Solomon's wisdom, and the parallels between the 2 are undeniable. We are told in the Bible that Solomon knew many, many proverbs:

1KI 4:30 And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser... and his fame was in all nations round about. 32 And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.

This statement indicates that the concept of a "proverb" was known to the ancient peoples. We aren't told if Solomon was the author of all of these proverbs or whether they were passed down to him from his ancestors. There are examples of proverbs in many ancient civilizations, but the only ones which Solomon recorded by inspiration and today appear in the Bible are very similar to the ancient Egyptian "wisdom literature" which can be traced back to Imhotep. This doesn't mean that Solomon copied from the ancient Egyptians- it means that the God of His Fathers gave the same wisdom to his ancestors, who included Joseph, that He gave to Solomon.

We'll compare a few passages of Ptahotep's writings to the Bible:

1) "Don't be proud of your knowledge"

PRO 3:7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

2) "One plans the morrow but knows not what will be".

PRO 27:1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

3) "If you probe the character of a friend, don't enquire, but approach him, deal with him alone,..."

PRO 25:9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another".

4) "If you are a man of trust, sent by one great man to another, adhere to the nature of him who sent you, give his message as he said it."

PRO 25:13 As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

5) "Teach the great what is useful to him."

PRO 9:9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

We also find parallels in other Books, such as Psalms and Ecclesiastes:

6) "If every word is carried on, they will not perish in the land."

PSA 78:5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: 6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:

7) "Guard against the vice of greed: a grievous sickness without cure. There is no treatment for it.

ECC 6:2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

8) "If you are a man of worth who sits in his master's council, concentrate on excellence, your silence is better than chatter... gain respect through knowledge..."

ECC 9:17 The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.

9) "The wise is known by his wisdom, the great by his good actions; his heart matches his tongue..."

PRO 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

10) "If you are one among guests at the table of one greater than you, take what he gives as it is set before you."

PRO 23:1 When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:

God used Joseph to establish in Egypt a safe haven for the growth and development of the "seed of Abraham" until they were ready to be delivered into the land God had promised them. And while in Egypt, surrounded by paganism, God would not leave His people nor the Egyptians without access to His Truth. The Bible records the fact that Joseph even taught the pharaoh's "senators".

And while this wisdom was revered by the Egyptians and carried down through the ages by their sages who copied some of his writings, (claiming it as their own), some of these same "wisdom sayings" were recorded by some of Joseph's descendants over 700 years later, and ultimately were preserved for us in the Book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Psalms. But Joseph's wisdom didn't originate with him- it was divinely inspired, as was Solomon's wisdom, David's wisdom and the wisdom of all of God's people.


Imhotep Appointed Later in Djoser's Reign

There are several other items concerning Imhotep which continue to fit the Biblical account. We know that the pharaoh of Joseph had been king for an unknown period of time when Joseph was finally brought to him to interpret his dream.

And the evidence shows that Imhotep was not Djoser's vizier earlier in his reign- in fact, no mention is made at all of Imhotep on Djoser's earlier monuments. Imhotep was not the architect of Djoser's tomb built at Beit Khallaf, which was probably undertaken soon after he became king. In this earlier tomb, which is similar to the preceding dynasties as Sakkara, there are clay sealings of jars which record Djoser's name, his mother's name, and the names of numerous other officials from his reign- but not Imhotep's, which indicates that he hadn't been appointed to his position yet. The standard practice was for the pharaoh always to appoint men to office as soon as he took the throne, with family members being the highest ranked.

All available information about Imhotep continues to point to his identification with Joseph. For example, in some inscriptions, his titles indicate that he was not a member of the royal family, but a "self-made man". This was unique because the son of the pharaoh was usually the vizier.

Imhotep was also the "priest of Heliopolis", the Biblical "On". Now in the story of Joseph, we learn that his father-in-law was the "priest of On" at the time of Joseph's marriage:

GEN 41:45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

Since Asenath was old enough to marry Joseph at this time, it follows that her father was probably at least in his forties. And in ancient Egypt, the people didn't live too much longer than about 50. At his death or disability, it follows that his son-in-law would be assigned his position, especially if that son-in-law were so highly regarded by the pharaoh as Joseph was.

If Joseph became the "Priest of On", was he being unfaithful to the true God? Absolutely not- the pharaoh had recognized the power of the God of Joseph, and even though the Egyptians remained idolaters, Joseph made them aware of his God and was unswerving in his loyalty to Him. The "Priest of On" was not termed the priest of a particular god- but the title instead seems to indicate a position of high honor and political importance.


Imhotep, the Architect of the 1st Pyramid

It was Imhotep who is credited with having designed the first pyramid and began building with hewn stone instead of all mud brick. If we look at ancient Egyptian history, we can see evidence which shows that it was during the time of Djoser that Egypt became a truly great nation- after all, it had gathered the wealth of all the surrounding nations by selling them grain during the famine.


Step pyramid built by Imhotep


And during the 7 years of plenty, the people, under Joseph's wise guidance, began to organize a great administrative center which would handle the selling of the grain to all the surrounding nations.


A large complex was built which contained the future burial site of the pharaoh but also included a walled in center which contained huge grain bins. There was only one entrance into this center and there was an outside entrance into the system of storage bins. The Step Pyramid complex at Sakkara is the complex which we will now discuss. 



Grain Storage Bins


Surrounding the Step Pyramid, the first ever built, and its complex is a very beautiful and elaborate wall.

At the main entrance on the east wall at the southern end, one enters a long hall of 40 columns- 20 on each side. Each column is connected to the main wall by a perpendicular wall, forming small "rooms" between each column.

As you exit this colonade and walk straight ahead, you come to a series of very large pits which extend deep into the earth. These are extremely large in size- much larger than any burial chambers; they are all centrally accessible by a connecting tunnel, extend to well above ground level, and one has a staircase extending down to the bottom. For this reason, we know that they were not built as tombs- if they were, they would have been constructed underground and they certainly would not have been so incredibly large.

These massive structures extend to well above ground level, which indicates that they were not hidden, as were tombs. Because the ancient Egyptians buried their dead with so much valuable material and provisions for their "afterlife", plundering of tombs was always their biggest fear. Therefore, we know that these massive pits had another purpose.

Also, in all the other ancient cities, whenever large bins such as these were uncovered, they were recognized as "storage bins", but in Egypt, the scholars tend to term everything they find a "tomb".

However, in the pharaoh's burial complex under the pyramid, we find matching bins for the king and his family's afterlife- and in these bins were found grain and other food stuffs.

In the Biblical account, we learn that Joseph appointed men throughout the land of Egypt to oversee the gathering and storing of the grain in all the cities:

GEN 41:34 Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. 35 And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.


Joseph had given this plan to the pharaoh prior to his appointment as vizier or prime minister, and since it would be impossible for him to oversee the gathering and storing for the entire country, we know he implemented this plan. We also know that when the famine began and the Egyptians began to cry for food, they were told to go to Joseph and do whatever he said, which indicates that he gave the orders for the distribution of the grain:

GEN 41:55 And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. 56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.

But when the foreign peoples came to purchase grain, we learn that they went directly to Joseph:

GEN 42:6 And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph's brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

Joseph's brothers came directly to Joseph in person. We believe it is Sakkara to which they came- where the remains of this fantastic complex are preserved. And it was here that Djoser had 11 extremely large pits constructed which can only be grain storage bins.

Every city had stored grain from its region, but at this complex at Sakarra, we have these massive pits which would have stored an incredible amount of grain- more than a single city would have needed. At the entrance to this complex, as we described earlier, there are 40 small cubicles, each just the right size to hold a single person who could administer the receipt of payment from people coming to purchase grain. There could have been several "cashiers" of each language group to handle the purchases of those who spoke the various languages. Of course, the Egyptologists think all these little cubicles were for statues, however, no pedestals were found in the remains, which is a very important point, because these statues were always erected on pedestals. Statues may vanish, but pedestals remain.

The design of the 11 pits is impressive. There are 11 of them, with only one containing a very elaborate stairway extending all the way to the bottom. All the pits are connected to each other by a subterranean tunnel- the pits were filled and the tops were sealed with wooden timbers and stone. And, all of the grain could be accessed from one entrance- and there is one entrance into the pits from outside the wall enclosure of the complex. Last of all, grain was found in the floor of these pits, which has been explained by Egyptologists as having been from foods buried with deceased who were buried there- however, no evidence of burials was ever found in these pits.


Does this fit the Biblical account? When Joseph's brothers came to him for grain, they talked to Joseph and paid for the grain. When they received the grain, it was already in sacks:

GEN 42:25 Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them. 26 And they laded their asses with the corn, and departed thence. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his ass provender in the inn, he espied his money; for, behold, it was in his sack's mouth.

The complex at Sakkara is unique- nothing like it has ever been found. It was described by William Hayes as being a "veritable city in itself, planned and executed as a single unit and built of fine white limestone from the near-by Mukattam Hills." (The Scepter of Egypt, Vol. 1, p. 60.) In fact, Egyptologists tend to term everything they find as a royal "tomb", which is what they have called this complex.

But it in fact exhibits every feature indicative of being a center of great activity, a feature which again fits with the story of Joseph. When Joseph's brothers came to get grain, they came face to face with Joseph who was overseeing the distribution. Where did they go to get the grain? They went to wherever the grain was stored, and this was where Joseph was.

And the storage of such a massive amount of grain would have required a large storage area, such as the extremely large pits found in this complex. It is also reasonable to expect to find the storage pits within an enclosure such as this complex, with an area for the payment of the grain. This was a "business" and would have required a center of administration.

A great deal has been written about this complex, and most mention the uniqueness of it- something they cannot explain. In fact, when you ask the Egyptians what the huge pits were for, they admit that they just don't know.

Some ancient historians have written of the fact that the pyramids were once believed to be "Joseph's storage bins" for the grain, and perhaps this story has its roots in the fact Joseph designed the first pyramid in the same complex in which the grain was stored. But regardless of what the "experts" want to believe about the Step Pyramid complex, the circumstantial evidence fits the story of Joseph perfectly. And, it is one of the best preserved site in Egypt- certainly of the very old structures- and this is consistent with God's preservation of important evidences which confirm the total accuracy of His Word.


The Search for Imhotep's Tomb

We know from the Bible that Joseph died in Egypt and was embalmed and placed in a coffin.

GEN 50:26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

But, when the children of Israel left during the Exodus, his bones were taken with them:

EXO 13:19 And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you.

This leads us to think that Joseph would have had a royal tomb in Egypt, but that it was possibly taken over and used by someone else, we just don't really know. But one of the big mysteries for Egyptologists has been the tomb of Imhotep- they simply can't find it although they know it should be somewhere in Sakkara. So important is Imhotep to Egyptology, that in the Guidebook to Sakkara by Jill Kamil, "The Tomb of Imhotep" is listed as a subject heading, only to explain that it has not been found.

In our discussion of "Imhotep, the Physician", we mentioned that ancient Greek texts speak of a place near Memphis where people came to worship "Imhotep" and be healed. When excavators continued to search for Imhotep's tomb very near the Step Pyramid, they found an incredible labyrinth of underground tunnels, full of mummified ibis (birds) and bulls (in separate galleries). Inscriptions and coins found here show that people came here to be healed! They had found this "sanctuary to Imhotep" written of by the Greeks.

After the deification of Imhotep as "god of medicine" , he was given the title, "Chief One of the Ibis"- and this was the connection of this labyrinth with Imhotep. These hundreds of thousands of ibis were mummified and brought here as tribute to Imhotep, filling these tunnels.

It was later discovered that these galleries connected to a pit that extends down to a funerary chamber which contains an empty coffin. They also discovered that this chamber belonged to a very large mastaba tomb which contained a second chamber full of broken stone vessels, and in the tomb's storerooms were jars whose clay-stoppers had the seal impression of Djoser! Here is absolute proof that this was the tomb of a very important person of Djoser's reign. No inscriptions were found on the walls and the sarcophagus was empty. But even more importantly, this mastaba is oriented to the north instead of the east, as the other pyramids and mastabas are. This was an important tomb of someone from Djoser's time- but the sarcophagus was empty.


There was even found an inscription by an anonymous Greek who came here, telling how he was cured- and it was through a dream! Once again, the evidence speaks loudly of a wonderful story from the Bible- the story of Joseph.


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The Writings of Joseph in Egypt


Original article found at:


The Writings of Joseph in Egypt

by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1983
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, May 2004

When people look at the biblical records that have come down to us, they are often amazed that we only have the writings of about 30 different persons spanning a period of 1,600 years. Some of the divine authors have only given us one book (often quite small). This has caused people to ask what happened to all the other writings of the patriarchs, prophets, priests, apostles, and evangelists? It could hardly be imagined that the apostle Paul only wrote (in his entire Christian experience) 14 letters — those, which are found in the New Testament. This also applies to Old Testament personalities. The prophet Isaiah was a noted historian of his era, but we only have the book of his prophecies and the Book of Kings (found in the Bible) which Isaiah wrote up to his time. 1

But surely the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul wrote many other compositions than the ones which are presently found in the biblical canon. We know from biblical evidence that some of the writers of the Bible authored many other compositions that have not come down to us within the divine canon. The biblical Book of Proverbs only has a little under a thousand verses within it, but we are told that Solomon composed three thousand proverbs (parables), and we know that some of them were very lengthy (not just simple “one-liners”). 2 See Proverbs 1:7 to the end of chapter 9. This represents a single proverb (parable) which Solomon, or perhaps Joseph, wrote.

The truth is, the introduction to the Book of Proverbs is a superscription of six verses which shows that many of the proverbs in the biblical book did not originate with King Solomon at all. That introduction states that the proverbs selected to be included in the biblical canon were chosen to show wisdom, instruc­tion, understanding, justice, judgment, subtlety to the simple, knowledge, discretion, learning, counsel, and,

“... to understand a proverb [parable], and the interpretation; the words of the wise ones [“wise” in Hebrew is plural: “wise ones”], and THEIR dark sayings.”

·        Proverbs 1:6

This means that the Book of Proverbs not only contains proverbs from King Solomon, but it represents a compilation of wise and dark sayings associated with “wise men” beforeSolomon. Who were these “wise men” who lived prior to Solomon? Of those mentioned in the Bible, there were the sons of Zerah [the son of Judah, the brother of Joseph]. They were named Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda (1 Kings 4:31). These four “wise men” (or ancient philosophers) lived in Egypt when Joseph was in power (Genesis chapter 41). 3

Proverbs of the Wise

Let us not forget the patriarch Joseph (the subject of this Article). Recall when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream that a famine of seven years was to grip the Middle Eastern world, Pharaoh admitted that “there is none so discreet and wise as you [Joseph] are”(Genesis 41:39).

There were other “wise men” who lived prior to the time of Joseph. Notable among them were those “of the east country” (1 Kings 4:30), the people in the land of Edom who were “the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?”(Obadiah 8), where the “wise man” Job had his residence (Job 1:1). The land of Uz was located east of the Jordan River. This patriarch named Job composed one of the greatest stories of ethical and moral value known to man, the Book of Job!

There was, as the Bible indicates, considerable literary activity in Egypt during the time the Israelites sojourned there. And some of the compositions done in Egypt (either at that time or later) have found their way into the biblical canon. Read Proverbs 22:17–21 and you will find it to be an introduction to a separate division of the Book of Proverbs. It should be understood that the five verses making up the introduction are not individual proverbs in themselves. They represent a caption to a separate section (a new division) of the Book of Proverbs. Let us notice that introduction.

“Bow down your ear, and hear the words of the wise [plural: “wise ones”], and apply your heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them [the following proverbs] within you; they [these proverbs] shall withal be fitted in your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to you this day, even to you. Have not I written to you excellent things [the Revised Standard Version has: “thirty sayings”] in counsels and knowledge, that I might make you know the certainty of the words of truth; that you might answer the words of truth to them that send unto you?”

·        Proverbs 22:17–21

After this long introduction, we then find the first proverb of this new section.

“Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoil them.”

·        Proverbs 22:22–23

There are actually thirty sections to this third division in the Book of Proverbs (from Proverbs 22:22 to 24:22). The Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and most modern translations realize that this reference to “thirty” is the proper translation of Proverbs 22:20. True enough, the Hebrew could be stretched to mean “thirty” from the use of the word “excellent,” but now scholars are assured that “thirty” is correct. Why are they certain? Because this section of Proverbs has been found in a manuscript from ancient Egypt. Indeed, the similarity of language in the Book of Proverbs and what was discovered in Egypt has caused scholars to identify the two as coming from a single composition, no doubt originally done in Egypt.

This Egyptian document is now in the British Museum (and a part of the text is also found on a writing tablet in Turin, Italy). Those original “thirty sayings” were probably written by Egyptian priests and called “The Instruction of Amen-em-opet” (or, Amenophis). 4 The date when the original Egyptian work was written has been disputed. Some say it was composed before the time of Solomon, while others say afterwards. The Egyptian version differs in some respects from that in the Book of Proverbs, but there can be no question that the two documents represent the same composition. 5

If the Egyptian text is earlier than that of Solomon, it could be that the book was a product of Joseph’s time (perhaps by the sons of Zerah. After all, the early Israelite patriarchs were once in Egypt and could have written many of their works in Egyptian as well as Hebrew. It is reasonable that many of those early works came from Israelites (even from one who was a prime minister of the nation directly under Pharaoh). There is reason to believe that Joseph could have left some documents of wisdom in the Egyptian language which later Egyptians copied for their instruction. And we now know that some of these early Egyptian works have found their way into the pages of the Bible itself.

“The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep”

This brings us to consider the author of an early Egyptian work called “The Instruction of the Vizier [the Prime Minister] Ptah-Hotep.” The man who wrote this document of proverbial teaching was so close to the Pharaoh that he was considered Pharaoh’s son — from his own body. This does not necessarily mean that the author was the actual son of the Pharaoh. It is a designation which means that both the author (the Prime Minister) and the Pharaoh were one in attitude, authority, and family. 6

Could this document be a composition of the patriarch Joseph? There are many parallels between what the document says and historical events in Joseph’s life. Indeed, the similarities are so remarkable, that I have the strong feeling that modern man has found an early Egyptian writing from the hand of Joseph himself. Though it is evident that the copies that have come into our possession are copies of a copy (and not the original), it still reflects what the autograph said; in almost every section it smacks of the attitude and temperament of Joseph as revealed to us in the Bible. Let us now look at some of the remarkable parallels.

This Egyptian document is often called “The Oldest Book in the World” and was originally written by the vizier in the Fifth (or Third) Dynasty. The Egyptian name of this vizier (i.e.,the next in command to Pharaoh) was Ptah-Hotep. This man was, according to Breasted the “Chief of all Works of the King.” He was the busiest man in the kingdom, all-powerful (only the Pharaoh was over him). He was the chief judge and the most popular man in Pharaoh’s government. 7

The name Ptah-Hotep was a title rather than a proper name, and it was carried by successive viziers of the Memphite and Elephantine governments. The contents of this “Oldest Book” may direct us to Joseph and to the later teachings of Israel.

Notice what this Ptah-Hotep (the second in command in Egypt) had to say of his life on earth. How long did he live? The answer is given in the concluding statement in the document:

“The keeping of these laws have gained for me upon earth 110 years of life, with the gift of the favor of the King, among the first of those whose works have made them noble, doing the pleasure of the King in an honored position.”

·        “The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep,” Precept XLIV

This man, with the title Ptah-Hotep, was one who did great construction works. Joseph was supposed to have done mighty works — traditionally, even the Great Pyramid was built through the dole of grain during the seven years of low Niles. And remember, Joseph also lived 110 years (Genesis 50:26) just as did this Ptah-Hotep. He resembled Joseph in another way.

“If you would be held in esteem in the house wherein you enterest, whether it be that of a ruler, or of a brother, or of a friend, whatever you do enter, beware of approaching the wife, for it is not in any way a good thing to do. It is senseless. Thousands of men have destroyed themselves and gone to their deaths for the sake of the enjoyment of a pleasure which is as fleeting as the twinkling of an eye.”

·        Precept XVIII

Here again we have Joseph! Even though adultery was the common thing in Egypt (thousands of men were doing it), only one uncommon example shines out in its history — that of Joseph. This virtue of Joseph was so strong, that its inclusion into these “Precepts” again may indicate that Joseph had a hand in writing them.

Now look at the beginning of Precept XLIV. Ptah-Hotep says that if the laws of the master were kept, a person’s father will give him a “double good,” i.e., a double portion. Joseph did in fact receive the birthright and with it the “double good” (double blessing, Deuteronomy 21:15–17). This birthright blessing is repeated in Precept XXXIX.

“To hearken [to your father] is worth more than all else, for it produces love, the possession doubly blessed.”

·        Precept XXXIX

Ptah-Hotep Was a Great Man

There is much more that is like Joseph in the document of Ptah-Hotep. Notice Precept XXX:

“If you have become a great man having once been of no account, and if you have become rich having once been poor, and having become the Governor of the City [this exactly fits Joseph’s experience], take heed that you do not act haughtily because you have attained unto a high rank. Harden not your heart because you have become exalted, for you are only the guardian of the goods which God has given to you. Set not in the background your neighbor who is as you were, but make yourself as if he were your equal.”

·        Precept XXX

The instruction above almost sounds as if it came from the Bible itself! The parallel to such high ethical teaching could be an indication that Joseph wrote it. There is also, in these Precepts, an emphasis on obedience, especially to one’s father(s).

“Let no man make changes in the laws of his father; let the same laws be his own lessons to his children. Surely his children will say to him ‘doing your word works wonders.’”

·        Precept XLII

“Surely a good son is one of the gifts of God, a son doing better than he has been told”

·        Precept XLIV

“When a son hearkens to his father, it is a double joy to both, for when these things are told to him, the son is gentle toward his father. Hearkening to him who has hearkened while this was told him, he engraves on his heart what is approved by his father, and thus the memory of it is preserved in the mouth of the living, who are upon earth.”

·        Precept XXXIX

“The limits of justice are unchangeable; this is a law which everyman receives from his father.

·        Precept V

Some of those teachings are so biblical and right! It could well be a fact that these principles and good teachings came from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and are here recorded by Joseph, the one respecting the teachings of his fathers. Notice this Precept:

“The son who receives the word of his father shall live long on account of it.’

·        Precept XXXIX

Compare this with the Fifth Commandment:

“Honor thy father and mother: that the days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God gives you.”

·        Exodus 20:12

Could it be that many of the laws that became a part of the Old Covenant which God made with Israel at the Exodus were known long before — in the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? We are told that the early patriarchs knew some of God’s laws (Genesis 26:5).

The biblical agreements, however, do not stop with this reference. They are throughout the work.

“When you are sitting at meat at the house of a person greater than you, ... look at what is before you.”

·        Precept VII

And now, notice Proverbs 23:1. The agreement with the above of Ptah-Hotep is exact.

“When you sit to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before you.

·        Proverbs 23:1

Professor Howard Osgood, who translated into English these “Precepts of Ptah-Hotep,” has a note to the one precept mentioned above.

“This passage is found in the Proverbs of Solomon, chapter 23. The Hebrews knew then, if not the whole of the maxims of Ptah-Hotep, at least several of them which have passed into proverbs.”

·        Howard Osgood, Records of the Past 8

Why of course. Many of Solomon’s proverbs were those of ancient men. Solomon nowhere claimed to have originated all his proverbs. On the contrary, he clearly states that many of them were “words of the wise men, and their dark sayings” (Proverbs 1:6). Look at another precept of Ptah-Hotep:

“If you are a wise man, train a son who will be well pleasing to God.”

·        Precept XII

Compare this with Proverbs 22:6:

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

·        Proverbs 22:6

Solomon merely recorded many of the proverbs and laws, which were handed down in Israel generation after generation. He, of course, augmented the proverbs but he did not originate them all. In fact, it seems certain that many of them were from Joseph who further recorded for us the teachings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But let us go on with the Precepts of this second in command to Pharaoh.

“In doing homage before a greater man than yourself you are doing what is most pleasing unto God.”

·        Precept X

“Labor diligently while you have life, and do even more than you have been commanded to do.”

·        Precept XI

“Neglect not to add to your possessions daily, for diligence increases wealth, but without diligence riches disappear.”

·        Precept XI

“None should intimidate men, for this is the will of God.”

·        Precept VI

“Terrify not men, or God will terrify you.”

·        Precept VI

“If you would be wise, rule your house, and love thy wife wholly and constantly. Fill her stomach and clothe her body [i.e., support her], for these are her necessities; love her tenderly and fulfill all her desire for she is one who confers great reward upon her lord. Be not harsh to her, for she will be more easily moved by persuasion than by force.”

·        Precept XXI

This type of teaching for the husband to his wife seems almost like that of the New Testament. It is very different from the normal beliefs of ancient times.

“Take care of those who are faithful to you, when your affairs are of low estate. Your merit then is worth more than those who have done you honor.

·        Precept XXXV

“The man who hurries all the day long has not one good moment; but he who amuses himself all day long does not retain his house.”

·        Precept XXV

In other words, work hard but learn to relax as well, do not amuse yourself all the time.

“Treat well your people as it behooves you; this is the duty of those God has favored.”

·        Precept XXII

Continuing, he says that if you have been given a job to do, “never go away, even when thy weariness makes itself felt” (Precept XIII).

“If you are accustomed to an excess of flattery and it becomes an obstacle to your desires, then your feeling is to obey your passions.”

·        Precept XIV

“A man is naturally annoyed by having authority above himself, and he passes his life in being weary of it ... but a man must reflect, when he is fettered by it, that the annoyance of authority is also felt by his neighbor.”

·        Precept XXXI

Or, since authority is necessary, learn to put up with it.

“If you desire that your conduct be good and kept from all evil, beware of all fits of bad temper. This is a sad malady which leads to discord, and there is no more life at all for the one who falls into it. For it brings quarrels between fathers and mothers, as between brothers and sisters; it makes the husband and wife to abhor each other, it contains all wickedness, it encloses all injuries. When a man takes justice for his rule, walks in her ways, and dwells with her, there is no room left for bad temper.”

·        Precept XIX

Ptah-Hotep Was a Great Ruler

There are a great many laws found in this “Oldest Book” which echo over and over the rule of Joseph in Egypt. This man was the chief judge except for Pharaoh throughout the land. Notice Precept XVII:

“If you have the position of a Judge listen to the discourse of the petitioner. Do not ill-treat him; that would discourage him. The way to obtain a true explanation is to listen with kindness.”

·        Precept XVII

“If you have the position of leader prosecuting plans according to your will, do the best things which posterity will remember; so that the word which multiplies flatteries, excites pride and produces vanity shall not succeed with you.”

·        Precept XVI

The next Precept could certainly come from the experiences of Joseph. Notice it:

“Be not puffed up because of the knowledge which you have acquired, and hold converse with unlettered men as with the scholar; for the barriers of art are never closed, no artist has ever possessed the full limit of the knowledge of his art.”

·        Precept II

In other words, no one knows it all, even of his own profession. Even the unlettered may instruct at times.

“If you are in the position of leader, to decide the condition of a large number of men, seek the best way, that your own position may be without reproach.”

·        Precept V

“Do not speak to the great man more than he asks, for one does not know what might displease him. Speak when he invites you to do so, and your word will please.”

·        Precept VII

And finally:

“As to the great man [i.e., the ruler, master or Pharaoh] who has behind him the means of existence, his line of conduct is as he wishes. But as this means of existence is under the will of God, nothing [not even the great man] can revolt against that.”

·        Precept VII


The foregoing has been a selection of the remarkable precepts of this vizier. And, amazingly, throughout this document there is complete agreement to Bible principles. No paganism is found within it. The name Osiris is found once when Ptah-Hotep said that no laws had been changed since the time of Osiris. See Precept V. 9 There is hardly anything wrong with that passage.

The only possible objection is found in Precept XLII where we find: “A son who hearkens, is like a follower of Horus; he is happy because he has hearkened.” The fact is, the name Horus became a general title for all kings of Egypt. The Horus-name was applied to Pharaohs. Even Joseph possessed it! The name Horus in this passage is not necessarily a reference to the personal Horus of the First Dynasty. The monotheistic contents of these Precepts of Ptah-Hotep predominate. The Horus name is merely a title and does not reflect paganistic tendencies. Even names like “Ptah-Hotep” or like “Im-Hotep” were normally titles that could refer to people like Joseph. Note (in the comparison below) the remarkable literary agreements. 10

All indications are that the narrative about Ptah-Hotep appears to be referring to the biblical character we know as Joseph. Understand that non-biblical works may have had mistaken or untrue elements added to the narrative. Thus, they may not 100% correspond to the biblical narrative. However, that does not seem to be the case with Ptah-Hotep. Below are some side-by-side comparisons between Ptah-Hotep and Joseph.

Ptah-Hotep Precepts


Joseph’s History 

(1)    He lived to be 110 years old (XLIV).


(1)     He lived to be 110 years old (Genesis 50:26).

(2)    He lived in the Third Dynasty. 11


(2)     The Third Dynasty saw seven years of low Niles.

(3)    The name Ptah-Hotep was a title of all Memphite viziers, those second in command to Pharaoh himself. 12


(3)     Joseph was second in command to Pharaoh. He was the vizier, as all scholars admit (Genesis 41).

(4)    Ptah-Hotep was the chief judge in ancient Egypt but had been raised to the highest office (XXX).


(4)     Pharaoh required all Egyptians to submit to the judgeship of Joseph (Genesis 41:41–44).

(5)    Ptah-Hotep was once of no account in Egypt but had been elevated to the Prime Ministership (XXX).


(5)     Joseph was raised from the dungeon to sit on the very throne of Pharaoh (Genesis 41:14, 41–44).

(6)    Out of thousands who went into their neighbor’s wives, Ptah-Hotep did not, and taught people not to do so (XVIII).


(6)     Joseph refused to submit to the advances of his master’s wife (Genesis 39).

(7)    Ptah-Hotep received from his father divine laws; even one of the Ten Commandments was quoted (XXXIX).


(7)     Joseph was taught the divine laws from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:5).

(8)    Ptah-Hotep was a monotheist. No idolatry is mentioned.


(8)     Joseph believed only in the God of Israel, not idols.

(9)    Many of Ptah-Hotep’s teachings went directly into the Bible especially Proverbs. 13


(9)     Solomon quoted from the ancient wise men of Israel and copied their teachings and proverbs (Proverbs 1:6).

(10)  Ptah-Hotep received a double possession from his father because of his obedience (XXXIX and XLIV).


(10)   Joseph likewise received the birthright the double possession (1 Chronicles 5:2).

(11)  Ptah-Hotep warns those of advanced knowledge, such as he had, to shun being puffed up (II).


(11)   There was none considered wiser in all the land of Egypt than Joseph (Genesis 41:39), but he was also humble (Genesis 45:15).

(12)  Ptah-Hotep was the first in Egypt whose great public works made him famous. (XLIV)


(12)   Joseph, traditionally, built the Great Pyramid, the Labyrinth, the canal system of Egypt, and many other great public works.


Addendum One: The Works of Joseph in Egypt

The history of Egypt is a long and complicated one. Historians are still trying to figure out when the events described in the literary and archaeological accounts took place, and who the actors were that carried them out. It is not an easy task — especially for the periods before the 6th century B.C.E. The truth is, we simply do not have enough chronological data to be certain, and this would be admitted by any reasonable scholar. 14

The case is not completely hopeless, however. It is our belief that the Bible ought to be consulted in a more serious way by scholars. We feel that it can provide some solid chronological and historical bits of information which can clear the way to a better comprehension of an overview of Egyptian history. After all, the Bible not only has some definite information as to what was happening in Egypt in some crucial times of glory and decline, but it records (in almost an unbroken historical account) the major events occurring in Palestine, a geographical area adjacent to that of Egypt. What was taking place in Palestine, in a cultural way, must have been reflected in the Egyptian environment as well. This is why we think that the biblical record can properly serve as a guide to understanding the historical periods in neighboring Egypt.

The major problem in straightening out Egyptian history has been chronological, that is, discovering when the recorded events in the literary and archaeological evidences actually took place in world history.

For example, the main classical account of early Egyptian history (before the time of Alexander the Great) is that of an Egyptian priest called Manetho — who lived in the 3rdcentury B.C.E. He said there had been thirty-one separate dynasties of kings from the earliest times to that of Alexander the Great. When one reads Manetho, the impression is that all the dynasties were successive to one another. But historians have disputed this, saying that some parts or even whole dynasties ruled at the same time with each other, though in different geographical areas of Egypt. The Bible supports this belief. In Isaiah we have an 8th century B.C.E. description of Egypt as being made up of more than one kingdom.

“And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.”

·        Isaiah 19:2 

Jeremiah also said there were kings (plural) over various regions of Egypt.

“The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, says; ‘Behold, I will punish the multitude of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with their gods, and their kings [plural]; even Pharaoh, and all them that trust in him.’”

·        Jeremiah 46:25  

And even at the time of the Exodus, Psalm 105:30 says that there were several kings in Egypt.

“Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings [plural].”

·        Psalm 105:30  

In this brief survey we cannot give proofs for the contemporaneity of some of the dynasties (we hope to do that in a book on the subject), 15 but it can be shown that this was the case. It appears certain that parts of the third, fourth, and fifth dynasties (for example) were in existence at the same time — only in different regions of Egypt. The third dynasty saw the first construction of pyramids by a king named Djoser who had a famous architect and writer called Imhotep. This later person was so famous for his wisdom and buildings that the later Greeks thought him to have had divine knowledge. From this period an inscription has been found which says that there were seven years of famine in the land but the wise counselor to the king was able to find out how the Nile River inundations were under divine control. After seven years the Nile returned to normal flow.

In the Bible there is only one major time in Egyptian history in which there was an exact period of seven years famine. That was in the time of Joseph (Genesis 41:25–57). Early Christian scholars (some of them were natives of Egypt) said that the chief pyramids were constructed in the time of Joseph. They derived the meaning of “pyramid” from pyros(wheat). Joseph supposedly paid the people in grain (which was stored up during the seven years’ plenty) to build some of the pyramids and other buildings

The Roman historian, Pliny, said the pyramids were constructed partly out of ostentation and partly out of state policy to divert the people from mutinies by putting them to work (XXXVI.12). This would seem to have been a wise policy to keep the people occupied with work during the seven years famine when no ordinary farming was possible. Thus, there was a good reason for pyramid construction.

The greatest pyramid was built in the fourth dynasty by a man that the Egyptians called Philition the shepherd (Herodotus 11.128). This man was not an Egyptian, and his name implies he was from Palestine (where the raising of herds was a primary occupation). Could this have been Joseph?

There was also an artificial lake called Moeris which was fed by an extensive canal system which is named the Bahr Joseph. This was supposed to have been constructed by Joseph. It was a huge reservoir which was once 72 feet above sea level, but has now dried up (through deterioration) to a water level 144 feet below sea level. Herodotus in the 5thcentury B.C.E. called the whole hydro-complex an outstanding engineering feat (Herodotus 11.149).

Really, if one could have seen Egypt during the time of Joseph (and especially the flourishing condition in which he left it), it would be an astonishment to modern man. Yet even the small remnants of what was once a glorious civilization cause us moderns to marvel. But when all the buildings, canal systems, and other artistic creations were in their prime, Egypt must have been the most wondrous nation in existence and one that has not been surpassed even in modern times!

When one uses the Bible as a chronological and historical guide to events in the Middle East, it is possible to arrive at a sensible account of what was generally happening in nations surrounding Palestine. It has to be admitted, however, that many questions remain for historians to sort out, because many of the sources of evidence are not always consistent or complete. But we have enough to show that Joseph’s time was one of profound human accomplishment.


Addendum Two: “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep”

In Appendix Two of Restoring the Original Bible (see note 3 above) Dr. Martin discusses the relation­ship between several of the sayings in Proverbs chapters 22 and 23 and a work called “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep. There are 30 sayings in the Division of Proverbs, and there are 30 sections in “the Instruction of Amen-em-otep” but scholars are unable to determine at this time how the 30 Hebrew sayings fit with the 30 Egyptian sections. 16 Part of the problem is Egyptian translation, and part is because the Hebrew sayings were likely edited and updated to suit audiences who would have had the material read to them by scribes in Solomon’s (or Hezekiah’s) time. Whoever performed the final compiling and editing (likely done by Ezra the priest), had full authority to do so. 17

There is practically unanimous agreement among scholars that these two works are related.18 Let us review some of the corresponding passages from Proverbs and the “Instruction” 19:

“Bow down your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you [Heb. in your belly]; they shall withal be fitted in your lips. ... That I might make you know the certainty of the words of truth; that you might answer the words of truth to them that send unto you?” 

·        Proverbs 22:17–21

“Give your ears, hear the sayings,
Give your heart to understand them;
It profits to put them in your heart,
Woe to him who neglects them!
Let them rest in the casket of your belly,
May they be bolted in your heart;
When there rises a whirlwind of words,
They’ll be a mooring post for your tongue.”

·        Instruction, 3:9–16

Note how the texts obviously relate to each other, yet do not appear to be direct quotations. This is the way the entire comparison reads.

“Rob not the poor, because he is poor: 
neither oppress the afflicted in the gate.” 

·        Proverbs 22:22

“Beware of robbing a wretch, 
of attacking a cripple.”

·        Instruction, 4:4–5

Rich and poor, and how to properly relate to them, is a major theme in both works.

“Labor not to be rich: 
Cease from your own wisdom. 
By humility and the fear of the Lord
are riches, and honor, and life.”

·        Proverbs 23:4–5

“Do not set your heart on wealth,
There is no ignoring Fate and Destiny;
Do not let your heart go straying,
Every man comes to his hour,
Do not strain to seek increase.”

·        Instruction, 11:12–13

Part of the problem is that many of the Egyptian words in the “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep” are unique and the meanings are up for interpretation, less so than with this section of Proverbs, although here too there are problems of understanding word meanings. 20

“Make no friendship with an angry man21; and with a furious man you shall not go: Lest you learn his ways, and get asnare to thy soul.” 

·        Proverbs 22:24–25

“Do not befriend the heated man,
Nor approach him for conversation, ...
He is the ferry-man of snaring words.”

·        Instruction, 27:16–17

Landmarks and boundary markers for fields were important to the agricultural society of Egypt, where on a yearly basis the Nile River inundated the fields and left a deposit of rich mud which became fertile soil when the floods receded and the new earth dried. Who owned what piece of land was a matter of life and death to the lower classes, and advantage was frequently taken by the rich and powerful.


“Remove not the ancient landmark, 
which thy fathers have set.” 

·        Proverbs 22:28

“Do not move the markers on the borders of the fields ...
Nor encroach on the boundaries of a widow ...
Beware of destroying the borders of fields.”

·        Instruction, 7:11, 15

An “evil eye” meant someone who is stingy and greedy.

“Eat you not the bread of him that has an evil eye, neither desire you his dainty meats: ... The morsel which you have eaten shall you vomit up, and lose your sweet words.”

·        Proverbs 23:6–8

“The big mouthful of bread — 
you swallow, you vomit it,
And you are emptied of your gain.”

·        Instruction, 14:16–18

Dealing with rulers or superiors is a large part of the discussion in both Proverbs chapters 22 and 23, and the “The Instruc­tion of Amen-em-otep”

“When you sit to eat with a ruler, 
consider diligently what is before thee.”

·        Proverbs 23:1

“Do not eat in the presence of an official,
And then set your mouth before 

·        Instruction, 23:13–14

Hard work is praised. Sloth is demeaned. A courtier is a court official or a friend of the ruler, most always a nobleman by birth.

“See you a man diligent in his business? 
he shall stand before kings; 
he shall not stand before mean men.”

·        Proverbs 22:29

“The scribe who is skilled in his office,
He is found worthy to be a courtier.”

·        Instruction, 27:16–17

As mentioned before the Proverbs and “Instructions” are not exact parallels, although they are close enough that scholars recognize their relationship. The Proverbs of this section were collected to be advice to those acquainted with rulers (Proverbs 23:1–3), those with access to the king (Proverbs 22:11), and those with opportunities and expectations for wealth (hence the warning against striving after riches, Proverbs 24:4–5), all of which shows that the intended audience was composed of nobility. So too, the “Instructions” were not written to peasants but to those who could expect make good use of the advice, again, the nobility.


As both the Proverbs and “Instructions” indicate, people are free to pursue their various courses in life, but there are certain courses of action, borne out by experience that tend toward success. This is not information that has anything to do with your spiritual salvation, but it may help you live life a little better than you otherwise would, until the day when God takes control of this earth and directly shows us how to maximize our lives to our benefit and to the glory of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you ignore the advice that is available in the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, you may be missing out on tangible benefits to your present life here and now. God has made wonderful resources of the world’s wisdom available to you. Read them, use them, and learn from them.

You have nothing to lose except ignorance.

Ernest L. Martin, 1983
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, April 2004


NOTE: I am reprinting a short commentary that deals with Joseph and Egypt.   DWS ]

God Enslaves the Egyptians — Commentary for June 10, 2003

In today's world “freedom” is very important. Freedom of nations, peoples, families, and in the western world, the freedom of individuals to live their lives as they see fit is one of our cherished ideals. Freedom is such a central principal that it is surprising to learn that God has created circum­stances whereby men and women were made less free, and became servants or slaves of other men.

Dr. Martin explained the story of Genesis 47 (I do not remember the occasion), and he pointed out that the Egyptians were free before the 7 years of plenty and the 7 years of famine. During the long famine Joseph kept the Egyptians alive by providing them grain he ordered stored during the 7 years of plenty. However, Joseph did not give them grain, he sold it to them in stages. First he sold them grain in exchange for their goods, then in exchange for their lands and in exchange of their freedom,

“And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the store­houses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.”

• Genesis 47:56–57

Before 7 years of famine Egyptian farmers were free men. They were not “subject” to Pharaoh. After the famine Pharaoh was the majority landholder and most all Egyptians were servants of Pharaoh.

In the first year the people of Egypt spent all their money on food (Genesis 47:13–15). Then Joseph exchanged grain for all the cattle of the Egyptians (Genesis 47:16–17). The second year Joseph gave the Egyptians grain in exchange for ownership of their land so that Pharaoh owned all the land except that of the priest (Genesis 47:18–22). Joseph sold them the seed to grow food on land that Pharaoh now owned (Genesis 47:23–24). The payment price was their freedom. The Egyptians made a covenant with Pharaoh through Joseph. They said, “We will be Pharaoh's servants” (Genesis 47:25).

Then Joseph did something even more interesting, “Joseph made it a law ... that Pharaoh should have” one-fifth of the produce of the land, in perpetuity. This law existed even to the time of Moses “unto this day” (Genesis 47:26). It was during this period of time that the Israelites prospered (Genesis 47:27), probably because they were free and unencumbered by the one-fifth tax on their agricultural produce. In addition, the Israelites probably owned their land in Goshen, unlike the Egyptians.

God, through Joseph, transformed the Egyptians from being free men into being servants of Pharaoh in less than three years. It is therefore not surprising that the Egyptians were so willing to oppress the Israelites when God brought up “a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (Exodus 1). The Jewish historian Josephus stated in Antiquities of the Jews Book 2, chapter 9, that the new king was from a new family that arose in Egypt. We now would say that a new “dynasty” had taken rulership over Egypt. The Thackeray translation of Josephus in fact uses the term “dynasty.”

Through the famine God made the Egyptians servants to Pharaoh. The Egyptians in turn oppressed the Israelites (with Pharaoh's approval), then God later freed the Israelites through His mighty acts at the Exodus. God is sovereign. If God so chooses He will make those who are free to be slaves, and those who are slaves to be free.

Remember the main message of Paul’s letter to Philemon in the New Testament. We should always attempt to improve our situation in life. That is good and proper. However, keep in mind that prayer has great effect at times, we should also be willing to accept from God both good and bad, not cheerfully necessarily, but with the understanding that He is sovereign and He will do what He will do, sometimes regardless of our wishes or current understanding.

David Sielaff, 2003, 2004  


1 Note that 2 Chronicles 32:32 where the word “and” is in italics in the King James Version. If that word is removed, as it should be, it shows that Isaiah wrote the biblical Book of Kings up to his time.  ELM

2 1 Kings 4:32 tells us about Solomon that, “He spoke three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five.” We have only 1 of the 1,005 songs in the biblical canon. It is the best song. In Hebrew it is “the Song of Songs” which the King James titles as the Song of Solomon.  DWS

3 See Appendix Two, “The Book of Proverbs: The Book of Proverbs: Its Structure, Design and Teaching” in Dr. Martin’s Restoring the Original Bible (Portland: ASK, 1994), pp. 483–492 on this subject. As Dr. Martin understood their structure, the Divisions of the book of Proverbs are:


Proverbs 1:1 to 1:6

Division 1

Proverbs 1:7 to 9:18

Division 2

Proverbs 10:1 to 22:16
“The Proverbs of Solomon”

Division 3

Proverbs 22:22 to 24:22
“The Words of the wise

Division 4

Proverbs 24:23 to 24:34
“These also belong to the wise

Division 5

Proverbs 25:1 to 29:27
“These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied”

Division 6

Proverbs 30
“The words of Agar the son of Jakeh”

Division 7

Proverbs 31 (whole chapter)
“The words of king Lemuel”

For more information see R.N. Whybray’s The Composition of the Book of Proverbs (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement 168; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1964). It gives a summary of the history of composition and organizational studies of the book of Proverbs. Some consider that there are only 6 Divisions. They combine together into one all of the sayings from Divisions 3 and 4.  DWS  

4 There is an excellent discussion in “Excursus on the Book of Proverbs and Amenemope” by Murphy, Roland E. in Vol. 22, Word Biblical Commentary: Proverbs (Dallas: Word Biblical Commentary, 1998). “The Instruction of Amen-em-opet” was not written by Joseph. Joseph was not Amen-em-opet. Its importance is that it is used as a source for a section of Proverbs. See below, “Addendum Two: The Instruction of Amen-em-opet.” DWS  

5 See James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament,3rd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 421–424, for more information and the complete Egyptian text. According to Miriam Lichtheim:

It can hardly be doubted that the author of Proverbs was acquainted with the Egyptian work and borrowed from it, for in addition to similarities in thought and expression — especially close and striking in Proverbs 22 and 23 — the line of [Proverbs] 22:20: ‘Have I not written for you thirty sayings of admonition and knowledge’ derives its meaning from the author’s acquaintance with the ‘thirty’ chapters of Amenemope.”

·        Lichtheim, Introduction to “Instruction of Amenemope” (1.47)

Lichtheim’s quote is in The Context of Scripture, Volume 1: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World, William W. Hallo, General Ed., (Boston: Brill, 2003), p. 115. This selection in Context of Scripture was taken from Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 3 volumes (University of California Press, 1973–1980).  DWS  

6 Recall that the husband of Mary (the New Testament Joseph) was only the legal father of Christ, though the Gospel of Luke records his name as though he were the real father Luke 3:23.  ELM  

7 See James Henry Breasted, A History of Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Persian Conquest, 2nd ed. (New York: Scrivner, 1937), p.83.  DWS  

8 Howard Osgood, Records of the Past: Being English Translations of the Ancient Monuments of Egypt and Western AsiaVol. I, A. H. Sayce, ed. (Concord, NH; Washington, D.C.: Archaeological Institute of America, c1914–1934), p. 313.  DWS  

9 Osiris was a human, later attributed divine status by the Egyptians. See the articles by Dr. Martin, “The Secret of Ancient Religion Revealed! – Part 1” and “The Secret of Ancient Religion Revealed! – Part 2” Note what  Roman historian Diodorus Siculus wrote in The Library of History, Book 1, 13 ( in the 1st century B.C.E.:

“And besides these there are other gods, they say, who were terrestrial, having once been mortals, but who, by reason of their sagacity and the good services which they rendered to all men, attained immortality, some of them having even been kings in Egypt. Their names, when translated, are in some cases the same as those of the celestial gods, while others have a distinct appellation, such as Helius, Cronus, and Rhea, and also the Zeus who is called Ammon by some, and besides these Hera and Hephaestus, also Hestia, and, finally, Hermes. ... Then Cronus became the ruler, and upon marrying his sister Rhea he begat Osiris and Isis, according to some writers of mythology, but, according to the majority, Zeus and Hera, whose high achievements gave them dominion over the entire universe. From these last were sprung five gods, one born on each of the five days which the Egyptians intercalates: the names of these children were Osiris and Isis, and also Typhon, Apollo, and Aphrodite; and Osiris when translated is Dionysus, and Isis is more similar to Demeter than to any other goddess.”   DWS  

10 There are several complete translations of the two Egyptian documents mentioned in this Article. One modern translation is found in Ancient Near Eastern Texts edited by J.B. Pritchard (see Note 4 above). This work can be found in most major libraries. We cannot furnish photocopies of these translations because of copyright laws, but because they are easily obtained in public libraries, we thought to make mention of them at the conclusion of this Article. Modern discoveries are revealing more information about the Bible and its contents. Several complete English translations of “The Instruction of Ptah-Hotep” are on the internet at: This version has excellent notes, but it does not show all of the Precept numbers. Other English translations are at:,  ELM/DWS  

11 Breasted, History of Egypt, p. 83.  ELM  

12 Breasted, History of Egyptp. 126.  ELM  

13 Osgood, Records of the Past, p. 313.  DWS  

14 For more information see the articles: “The Importance of Egyptian History” and the accompanying “Newsletter for July 2003” at See also “Free Men into Slaves” at  DWS  

15 Unfortunately, this book was never written, nor did Dr. Martin compile writings that could be published before he died in January 2002. As I mentioned before, in my opinion one book has gone far to accomplish what I understand Dr. Martin wanted to do with regard to understanding the Egyptian dynastic chronology. The book is calledSynchronized Chronology: Rethinking Middle East Antiquity by Roger Henry (New York: Algora Publishing, 2003; It seeks to correct Egyptian chronology for the middle and later dynasties and resolves major historical problems in biblical and Greek archaeology. Mr. Henry takes the literary history seriously.  DWS  

16 It is possible that the biblical reference to 30 sayings may in fact be indicating the source of the sayings that are in this section of Proverbs, a source that the original audience may have known was “The Instruction of Amen-em-otep,” hence no further explanation was necessary beyond “thirty sayings.”  

17 See Martin, Restoring, chapter 10, pp. 128–135.  DWS  

18 Murphy, “Excursus on the Book of Proverbs and Amenemope” in  Proverbs.  DWS  

19 The translations are Lichtheim’s (contained in Context of Scripture) and are somewhat different from the ANET translation Dr. Martin used in his Appendix Two of RestoringDWS  

20 Lichtheim, “Instruction,” p. 116 states, “Amenemope is a difficult text. It abounds in rare words, elliptic phrases and allusions whose meaning escapes us. Further, the copying scribes introduced numerous errors.”  DWS  

21 See Proverbs 15:18, 17:27, and 29:22 which also discuss angry men.  DWS

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