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Joseph

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"Joseph Makes Himself Known to His Brethren". by Gustave Doré.
This article refers to Joseph the patriarch and viceroy of Egypt. For other uses of the name, see Joseph (disambiguation).

Joseph (Hebrew: יוסף, Yōsēf; Greek: Ἰωσήφ, Iōsēph; Latin: Ioseph; Arabic: يوسف, Yūsuf; "God shall add"), (Abib 2259 AMApril 1744 BC
Iyar 2016 He
Abib 2259 AM
—vr.Teveth 2289 AMDecember 1715 BC
Teveth 2046 He
Teveth 2289 AM
-Abib 2369 AMApril 1634 BC
Nisan 2126 He
Abib 2369 AM
), was the eleventh son of Jacob (and the first by his second and favorite wife Rachel). Kidnapped and sold into slavery in Egypt, he interpreted a dream for the then-reigning Hyksos Pharaoh. He is paraded around Egypt in Pharaoh's "second chariot". The Hyksos introduced chariots to Egypt. As a result became a ruler of Egypt (Genesis 41:43). He held that office for eighty years, beginning with his management of the seven-year famine in Egypt.


Contents

Birth in Haran and youth in Canaan

He was born in 2259 AM, in the fourteenth year of the term of service of Jacob to his father-in-law Laban.[1] The Bible says that God granted his birth as a favor to Rachel, who had not been able to have a child before then.[2]

The Bible says nothing further about the life of Joseph until he reaches the age of seventeen. What it says is not quite flattering:

  1. Joseph earned a reputation as a talebearer.
  2. Jacob showed favoritism toward Joseph and clearly preferred him to his brothers.
  3. Jacob made Joseph a special coat. The King James Version describes it as "a coat of many colors," but the actual Hebrew reads "a coat with sleeves." By either description, however, this was a special luxury.

As a result, Joseph's brothers hated him and could not even speak peaceably to him.[3]

Joseph then had two vivid and prophetic dreams which, out of either arrogance or simple tactlessness, he told to his family, causing further resentment.

  • In one, Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves of grain (probably wheat), and suddenly Joseph's sheaf stood upright and the other sheaves bowed low to it. The brothers quite reasonably interpreted that to mean that Joseph thought he would reign over them.
  • In another, Joseph dreamed that the sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed low to him. Even Jacob found that an arrogant thing to say—though he remembered it, perhaps finding it significant and possibly prophetic.[4]
The sale of Joseph by Friedrich Overbeck, 1816

Finally, his brothers had had enough. One fine dayApril 1727 BC
Nisan 2033 He
Abib 2276 AM
[5] they waylaid him and threw him into a dry pit. Reuben, the eldest, stopped the others from killing him. They instead sold Joseph to Ishmaelite and Midianite traders. The brothers then stained Joseph's coat with blood and gave it to their father, allowing him to think that "a wild beast" had killed Joseph.[6]

Slavery in Egypt

The traders who bought Joseph carried him off to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar (He whom Ra gave), the Pharaoh's captain of the guard.

Potiphar's steward

Potiphar seems to have realized rapidly what a valuable slave he had bought. Indeed, Potiphar made Joseph his chief steward. But then, disaster struck. Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph, who refused, saying that such a thing would violate Potiphar's trust. One time, Potiphar's wife caught hold of Joseph's garment in an attempt to detain him and it tore as he fled. When even that failed, she cried rape against him, and Potiphar had him thrown into prison.[7]

The Prison Trustee

Exactly what Potiphar wrote about Joseph to the warden of the prison, the Bible does not record. The Bible does tell us that the warden also realized that everything Joseph did, prospered. As a result, the warden trusted Joseph with the administration of the prison, and even put him in charge of the other prisoners.[8]

Gone, by now, were the arrogance and tactlessness that had marked Joseph's earlier life. Furthermore, what Joseph probably did not know was that, even though Joseph remained a slave and was now a State prisoner, God was training him to be an administrator, with ever larger budgets and levels of authority. Nor did Joseph know in advance the extraordinary turn of events that would cause him to vindicate this training.

The Butler's and Baker's Dreams

In 2287 AM,[9] Joseph came to know two officers of the Pharaoh's court.[10] Each man told Joseph a dream that he had had, and asked Joseph to interpret it.[11]

One of them was Pharaoh's butler, or possibly cupbearer. He dreamed of seeing a vine having three branches, each bearing ripe grapes. The butler pressed the grapes into a cup and served it at once to Pharaoh. Joseph assured the butler that within three days, Pharaoh would restore the butler to his office. Joseph also asked the butler to speak to Pharaoh about Joseph's case upon his release.

The baker's dream was far more dire: he had three baskets of baked goods balanced on his head, and the birds ate them all. Joseph told him that within three days he would be executed, and birds would eat his flesh afterward.[12]

The third day happened to be the Pharaoh's birthday—and on that day, the butler was reinstated, and the baker was executed.

The butler did not, however, remember to speak to Pharaoh about Joseph's case. But the butler would not forget Joseph forever—for within two years he would have occasion to remember him again.

Pharaoh's dream

The Pharaoh (a Hyksos king) had two very troubling dreams that were strikingly parallel. Each dream involved seven symbols of great plenty being devoured by seven symbols of great hunger and want. When none of Pharaoh's advisers could interpret this dream reliably, Pharaoh's butler remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh the full story.

Joseph interprets the dreams of the Pharaoh by Peter von Cornelius 1816

Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once. Joseph began by modestly disclaiming any ability of his own to interpret dreams, and giving full credit to God. Then he asked Pharaoh to tell him his dreams. When he had done so, Joseph gave his interpretation: that Egypt would see seven years of plenty, to be followed by seven years of a famine severe enough to make people forget that plenteous times had ever been. Joseph then gave Pharaoh a critical piece of advice: Pharaoh must appoint a special minister with full authority over all the land, and have that minister reserve a fifth part of the plenteous harvest to come, so that when the famine came, the people would have food to see them through it.

Pharaoh's Ruler

Main Article: Famine in Egypt

Pharaoh realized two things at once: that this was a sound plan, and that none in the land of Egypt was better qualified than Joseph to carry out this plan. Therefore Pharaoh placed Joseph as a ruler, second-in-command only to himself over all of Egypt, and even gave Joseph his signet ring, so that Joseph could make law and issue decrees in Pharaoh's name. Thus Joseph became a ruler in his own right of Egypt.[13] It is important to understand that Joseph is paraded in Pharaoh's "second chariot". The Hyksos kings introduced chariots to Egypt.

As ruler, Joseph gained a new name: Zaphenath-Paneah, the meaning of which is variously reported as revealer of a secret or preserver of a world (or age). Joseph was 30 years old when he began his viceroyship, and held the office until the day of his death. Joseph was married at this time (2289 AMwarning.pngThe date "2289b AM" was not understood. ) to Asenath, daughter of Potipherah Priest of On. By her he had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.[14]

During the next seven years, Egypt saw some of the most abundant harvests in that nation's history. Joseph did exactly as he said he would: he reserved one-fifth of the harvest in granaries in every major city. Then the famine struck. This famine affected not only Egypt but also all the surrounding lands—but Joseph now had granaries full of grain to dole out to anyone who asked, Egyptian or foreign.[15]

Joseph tests his brothers

Two years into the famine, Jacob sent ten of his eleven remaining sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph now remembered his original dreams of reigning over his brothers and decided to test them.[16] He at first accused them of being on a spy mission for a hostile foreign power—not an entirely unreasonable assumption, except that Joseph knew who his brothers were, even if they did not recognize him. (They knew him by his Egyptian name Zaphnathpaaneah, not by his Hebrew name Joseph.) The brothers told him their history, except that they said that one of their number (Joseph) was dead, which of course was untrue, and that another brother (Benjamin) was staying with their father. Joseph ordered them to bring Benjamin back to him, and held Simeon as a hostage against their return. But Joseph also gave them a full ration of grain to take back to Jacob in Canaan—and also returned the money they had used to buy it, by placing it in their grain sacks for them to find on the return journey.

Eventually the brothers had to return, after the grain ration ran out. This time they brought Benjamin with them. Again Joseph sent them back with a full load of grain, and again Joseph put back their money into their sacks—but this time Joseph hid a silver cup in Benjamin's sack. He then had the brothers arrested, ostentatiously searched them, and "found" the cup in Benjamin's sack. Whereupon Judah, who by now had acceded to the headship of the family in place of Reuben, confessed all to Joseph, including the complete truth of Joseph's disappearance. Judah also offered himself as a hostage in place of Benjamin.

Revelation and Reunion

Whatever psychological operation Joseph had been running against his brothers was now at an end, because Joseph could no longer hold back the love he still bore them, and their father. He ordered everyone else out of the room, and then revealed to them his identity and asked whether Jacob was still alive. When the brothers assured him that Jacob still lived, Joseph commandeered many wagons and invited his brothers to bring every member of Jacob's extended family to Egypt. They settled in the land of Goshen, which Pharaoh gladly made available.[17][18]

Policy During the Famine

The famine was so sore in Egypt that very quickly the Egyptian people ran out of money to buy grain. So Joseph allowed them to pay him in cattle, and thus acquired for Pharaoh all of the livestock of Egypt. Eventually even livestock gave out, and so Joseph ended up buying all the land that everyone held—so that from that day forward, the Pharaoh owned all the land directly. (This did not apply to the priestly class, because they always received a portion of whatever grain Pharaoh himself had.) Joseph also set this permanent policy for all farmers in Egypt: that every year, when they had a plentiful harvest, they would give twenty percent to Pharaoh as a store against a repeat of the famine.[19]

The Dutiful Son

Seventeen years after Jacob arrived in Egypt, he died. Before he died, he adopted Joseph's two sons as his own. This entitled Manasseh and Ephraim each to a full share of Jacob's estate and to the rights that attached to it.[20] Jacob also gave Joseph strict orders not to bury him in Egypt, but to bury him in the burial ground in the Cave of Machpelah that held the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob's first wife Leah.[21] (Rachel was buried separately, near Bethlehem.)

Joseph's Last Years

When Jacob was buried, Joseph's brothers were afraid that Joseph would take the occasion to retaliate against them for their earlier treatment of him. Joseph took pains to reassure them, saying,
"Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." - Genesis 50:15-21 (KJV)

Joseph lived for 110 years1,360.51 mon
40,176.664 da
, and reigned as viceroy in Egypt for 80 years989.462 mon
29,219.392 da
. In 2369 AM,[22] Joseph died. Before he died, he gave an order—or perhaps simply uttered a prophecy—that his descendants were to carry his bones out of Egypt when they left.[23]

Synchrony with Egypt

Mentuhotep

As the Hyksos dynasty introduced chariots to Egypt, and Joseph was paraded by Pharaoh in a chariot (Genesis 41:43) the Hyksos had clearly arrived. As Canaanites, the Hyksos would have found favor with Joseph, another Canaanite.

Interestingly, the Hyksos were called "shepherd kings" even though their introduction to Egypt was as warriors. Joseph was a shepherd by training and was declared a ruler by Pharaoh. He is the only one among them truly qualified to be a "shepherd king". Some speculate that Joseph may have earned this moniker for the Hyksos on his own.

"So Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.' Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph's finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, 'Make way!' Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.'" - Genesis 41:41-44
The Nile river with a portion of Joseph's Canal visible, running parallel to the Nile, and extending into the Faiyum Oasis. Image from the NASA Terra Satellite MODIS.

Joseph's Canal (or Bahr Youseff) is a canal system in Egypt that parallels the Nile River and brings water to the Faiyum Oasis, south of Cairo. The modern system now supports vast farmlands and the largest oasis in Egypt with a population of 2 million people. However, the modern canal is largely a reconstruction of an ancient system that was originally built during Egypt's 12th dynasty. As the historic name implies, the canal is believed to have been a engineering project that was under the oversight of Joseph in preparation for the famine in Egypt [24].

Imhotep

Main article: Joseph and Imhotep

A second scholarly opinion holds that Imhotep is actually Joseph.[25] Imhotep served under the Third Dynasty king, Djoser, as chancellor to the pharaoh.[26] The superficial similarities between Joseph and Imhotep however, are far outweighed by their significant differences both in education and the reasons for their reputation.

Manetho wrote:

... during his (Pharaoh Djoser of the 3rd dynasty) reign lived Imouthes (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.

Remarkably, no evidence survives for Imhotep from the early part of Djoser's time as Pharaoh, including monumental evidence. For example, Imhotep was not the architect of Djoser´s grave at Beit Khallaf, a building that was surely begun as soon as Djoser came to power. At this place there is a clay seal with Djoser´s name, his mother's name and the name of a number of people who held office during his reign, but Imhotep is not mentioned.

Important to note here is that Imhotep is famous for his deep mastery of science. Joseph is not known to have had any scientific training at all. Joseph is famous for agrarian logistics (famine management) which is well within his scope of training as an agrarian shepherd and farmer.

In addition, the Famine Stele notes that Imhotep used applied science to stop a famine. Joseph used dream interpretation to foresee one. The intersections in their stories are entirely superficial.

Imhotep preceded the advent of the chariot. Joseph rode in a chariot when Pharaoh declared him a ruler. This places the Hyksos kings (who introduced the chariot to Egypt) in power before Joseph's arrival.

The founder of Egypt is Mizraim, the son of Ham, the son of Noah. The Scripture records that Shem, son of Noah lived for many centuries after the Flood and even outlived Abraham. We may presume that Noah's sons Ham and Japheth also enjoyed high longevity, and that they carried with them the amassed pre-Flood scientific knowledge.

This effectively nominates Ham as the enigmatic Imhotep, who exhibited a knowledge and application of deep science, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry and medicine that well-exceeded the capacity of one man to accumulate in the average lifetime.

Disputed Chronology

Main article: Biblical chronology dispute

James Ussher's calculation of the "years of the world" at which Joseph was born, flourished, and died has its basis in the detailed genealogies mentioned for all of Joseph's direct ancestors, going clear back to Adam through Shem and his father Noah.[27][28]

The calculation of the age-of-the-world (that is, the AM) year is problematic because of disputes concerning the date of the birth of Abraham in relation to the life of his father, Terah.

The calculation of the proleptic Julian (that is, the BC) year is problematic, because of disputes concerning:

  1. The length of the Sojourn in Egypt.[29][30]
  2. The chronology of the Divided Kingdoms Northern and Southern, and the starting and ending points of the prophet Ezekiel's "years of iniquity" of Israel.[31]


From the Scriptural record, if we place the founding of Solomon's temple at 970 BC as an anchor point, we can extrapolate a timeline back into the Egyptian chronology.

Ahmose[32] defeated the "kings from a foreign land" using superior chariot technology. These foreigners are the Hyksos kings that originally introduced chariots and the compound bow to Egypt. Various other records align the 18th Dynasty of Ahmose as having replaced the Hyksos. In Scriptural context, he would have been the king mentioned in Exodus 1:8 who "knew not Joseph" and thus purposed to enslave and control the Israelites.

The following years are approximated based on dates for the estimated year of the founding of Solomon's Temple.

  • 1890 - Joseph and Israel begin Sojourn in Egypt (430 years to Exodus) (Exodus 12:40-41). Joseph established as a ruler by the Hyksos Pharaoh, parading him in a chariot.
  • 1450 - Year of Exodus (480 years from the founding of Solomon's temple) (1 Kings 6:1).
  • 970 - Founding of Solomon's Temple

Timeline

An approximate timeline showing the Israelite Sojourn and the relationship to the various dynasties of Egypt.


Landmarks in the Biblical Chronology. Long sojourn aligned with the revised Egyptian Chronology (Egyptian History) as per David Down. Some adjustments for co-regency in the 12th dynasty. First intermediate period contemporary with dynasty 11 (Clayton). Pharaohs of Egypt shown where there is good archaeological evidence to support the synchronism with the Biblical time line. [History aligned with the Bible (expanded).]

See Also

"Joseph Sold to the Ishmaelites" by Hippolyte Flandrin

References

  1. James Ussher, The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed., Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003 (ISBN 0890513600), pgh. 122
  2. Genesis 30:22-24
  3. Genesis 37:2-4
  4. Genesis 37:5-11
  5. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 129
  6. Genesis 37:12-36
  7. Genesis 39:1-20
  8. Genesis 39:21-23
  9. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 130
  10. "Pharaoh" in this and other Old Testament narratives is a title often used as if it were a given name.
  11. Genesis 40 (KJV)
  12. This was a dreadful humiliation in Egyptian culture, because it meant that the baker would be denied even the enjoyment of the next life.
  13. Genesis 41:1-44
  14. Genesis 41:45-52
  15. Genesis 41:53-57
  16. Genesis 42-44
  17. Genesis 45
  18. Genesis 47:1-12,27-28
  19. Genesis 47:13-26
  20. Genesis 48:1-6
  21. Genesis 49:30-31
  22. Ussher, op. cit., pgh. 149
  23. Genesis 50:22-26
  24. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Ashton83
  25. The Exodus Case: New Discoveries Confirm the Historical Exodus Lennart Moller: ISBN 9788772472300
  26. Imhotep Wikipedia, Accessed May 31, 2011.
  27. Genesis 5
  28. Genesis 11
  29. Galatians 3:17
  30. Exodus 12:40-41
  31. Ezekiel 4:5
  32. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmose_I
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