Jacob, Pharaoh and the Famine



Damien F. Mackey


The patriarch Jacob (= Israel) and his celebrated son, Joseph, appear to have left some fairly substantial imprints upon archaïc Egypt of the era of pharaoh Zoser (Third Dynasty).  



“Patterns of evidence” is presently being touted as a most useful methodology – and rightly so.



The era of the substantial Third Dynasty pharaoh, Zoser (c. 2670 BC, conventional dating) has been favoured by some revisionists – myself included – as being the most likely time for Jacob and Joseph in Egypt, with Zoser’s vizier, Imhotep, thereby accepted as Joseph.

That would necessitate a lowering of pharaoh Zoser on the time scale by about a millennium.

Among the “patterns of evidence” for this scenario are the highly important reference to a seven-year famine; the Step Pyramid, reminding one of Jacob’s dream of a Stairway to Heaven; and, as I noted recently in:


Heb-Sed Festival Clues in Genesis



with reference to Genesis 32:4, Jacob’s wrestling with the man (angel): “wrestling with a young man was also a feature of the ancient Egyptian Heb-Sed festival, as is apparent from the case of pharaoh Zoser”. http://www.arabworldbooks.com/egyptomania/sameh_arab_sed_heb.htm “One of the more remarkable signs of the Heb Sed can be found at the Djoser (3rd Dynasty) Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara, where remnants of the Heb Sed court were found, as well as an inscription on a false doorway inside the pyramid”.

A further potential “pattern of evidence” is the testimony of the Papyrus Chester Beatty IV (British Museum ESA 10684) that Imhotep, among others, could tell the future with certainty (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums-static/digitalegypt/literature/authorspchb.html):


Is there another like Imhotep?


Those who knew how to foretell the future,

What came from their mouths took place ….

Joseph, of course, knew the future and accurately interpreted the pharaoh’s dream (Genesis 41):


38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”[c] 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.[d] Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. 43 And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!”[e] Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. 44 Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”


Included in Papyrus Chester Beatty IV is Ptahhotep, a legendary seer, who, like Joseph, lived to be 110 years old (Genesis 50:26): “So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt”.


Some of what follows has been suggested to me by John R. Salverda. See also his:


The Hebrew Origins of Argolian Mythology



Interestingly, the wise Imhotep was said to have the son of Ptah. The Greeks recognized the Egyptian god Ptah as their “Hephaestus,” who had a permanent limp as a result of contending with the chief god, Zeus (cf. Genesis 32:24-32).

The image of Ptah is a mummified man (Jacob was mummified. See Genesis 50:2), wearing what modern Egyptologists have called a ‘Punt’ beard (this term was developed for the beard because it resembles the style of beard that Puntites, whom the Egyptians regarded as their ancestors, also wore). In Dr. I. Velikovsky’s theory, Punt is identified as Palestine. (It may better relate to Phoenicia).

Ptah is the main god of the city of Memphis, where the “Theology of Memphis” shows a remarkable affinity to the theogony of Genesis.

Part Two:

Egyptian Influence in Genesis




As Professor Yahuda explains, Egyptology failed to provide a solution [to the era of composition of the Pentateuch], not because the Egyptian element was lacking but “only because after the rise of the Graf-Wellhausen school some of the leading Egyptologists accepted its theories without having sufficient knowledge of Hebrew and the Bible to enable them to take any initiative in these questions”.




According to what two colleagues and I wrote approximately three decades ago, in an article entitled “A Critical Re-appraisal of the Book of Genesis”, Part Two (SIS C & C Workshop, 1987, No. 2, p. 3):



The Graf-Wellhausen system has dominated the field of Biblical research for more than a century, as was explained in Part One. Consequently the entire Pentateuch is considered by scholars to be a late product – even those parts which deal with the “Egyptian Epoch” of Israelite history (i.e. from the Patriarch Joseph to the Exodus). Biblical critics today claim that those narratives which deal with the sojourn of Israel in Egypt were the work of authors who had very little knowledge of Egypt and matters Egyptian [1]. As Professor Yahuda explains, Egyptology failed to provide a solution, not because the Egyptian element was lacking but “only because after the rise of the Graf-Wellhausen school some of the leading Egyptologists accepted its theories without having sufficient knowledge of Hebrew and the Bible to enable them to take any initiative in these questions” [1].

Due to the fact that the average Egyptologist could find no more than occasional connections between Hebrew and Egyptian because of a lack of expertise in Hebrew, they simply took it for granted that Egyptology had very little to yield for the study of the Bible, as Yahuda points out [1]. Professor Adolf Erman, a renowned Egyptologist, went so far as to affirm that “all that the Old Testament had to say about Egypt could not be regarded with enough suspicion” [2].

Yahuda explains that such a statement and others like it, coming as they did from Egyptologists of established authority, brought about a situation where students who perhaps might have undertaken to penetrate more deeply into a study of Egyptian-Hebrew relationships were intimidated and deterred from approaching the matter [3]. On the other hand, he says, Biblical critics could always refer to such statements by renowned Egyptologists as being highly authoritative in support of their views on the late origin of the Pentateuch, and the unreliable character of those parts which deal with Egypt.

The endeavours of those few scholars who dared to go beyond “the limits prescribed by the official view,” as Yahuda puts it, “were either ignored altogether or only condescendingly considered, the results of their research being contemptuously rejected as unscientific and even fantastic” [3]. But fortunately for Biblical scholarship Professor Yahuda was not only prepared to be numbered amongst those few daring scholars who did break the bonds of the stifling “official view” of representative Egyptologists, but he was also qualified to do so. He was one of those extremely rare Egyptologists who had a masterful knowledge of classical Hebrew and the Bible as well.



Notes and References


  1. A. S. Yahuda, The Language of the Pentateuch in its Relation to Egyptian (Oxford U. P., 1933), p.i.
  2. A. Erman, Agypten und agyptisches Leben im Altertum (1885), p.6.
  3. Yahuda, op. cit., ibid. Professor Yahuda throws out a challenge to critics of this sort. If by comparison with the Egyptian it could be proved that the Egyptian influence on Hebrew was “so extensive that the development and perfection of this language can only be accounted for and explained by that influence,” then it would be quite clear that it can have happened only in “a common Hebrew-Egyptian environment”! [5] Now there was only one period in Israelite history during which the sort of close intimacy necessary for that degree of influence of Egyptian on the Hebrew language prevailed: this was the “Egyptian Epoch” of Israelite history. Yahuda is convinced, therefore, that only in this epoch, from the time of Joseph to Moses, would Hebrew have begun to develop gradually into a literary language, “until it reached the perfection which we encounter in the Pentateuch” [5]. Let us then turn towards Egypt.In this long period between Joseph and the Exodus, the Israelites “cannot possibly have escaped the influence of Egyptian culture and Egyptian life,” Yahuda claims [5]. On the contrary, he believes, in spite of their segregation, that they must have adapted themselves from the start to Egyptian conditions, conceptions and customs [6]. (b) this influence must also be extensive and distinctly traceable in all matters dealt with in Genesis so that there can be no question of mere accident or of a faint influence reminiscent of a dim past [7].Professor Yahuda goes on to explain that in a more special sense the dependence of one language upon another is revealed chiefly in the following phenomena:(1) In the adoption of loan-words,(3) In the adoption of grammatical elements and adaption to some syntactical rules of the alien language, so that even in structure and style there is a close assimilation in many respects [7].Notes and References
  4. (2) In the coinage of new words and expressions, technical terms, turns of speech, metaphors, and phrases quite in the spirit of, and even in literal accordance with, the other language, “in which case the characteristic of such new formations is that they are alien to the spirit of the adopting language and to the conceptions and institutions of the people speaking it – but reflecting throughout the spirit of the other language and the conditions of the alien environment” [7].
  5. (a) those constituents of the language which reveal a higher cultural level must reveal the spirit and style of Egyptian if it is to be taken as conclusive that it was under the influence of Egyptian that “Hebrew soared from a primitive Canaanite dialect into a literary language” [7].
  6. Moreover, Yahuda submits that the dialect which they brought with them from their Canaanite home could not but have absorbed Egyptian elements in the course of this lengthy period [7], “and in adaptation to the Egyptian have continued to develop, to extend, and even to modify its original grammatical form and syntactical structure” [7]. But, he adds, any attempt to decide these questions, however, depends upon the following points:
  7. As we are told in the Joseph (Genesis) and Exodus stories, the Israelites spent a long time in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) – in excess of 200 years by any view – as a tribe apart (Exodus 1:8); with their own manners and specific customs (Genesis 43:32); with their own worship (Exodus 5:17); living in a separate area assigned to them in the Delta near the Asiatic border (Genesis 47:6); with their own organisation (Exodus 4:29); as a self-contained entity in the midst of an Egyptian environment [5].
  8. Of course the very thought that anything like a literary language or literary activity existed before the complete conquest of Canaan by Joshua and his forces (after the death of Moses) is scoffed at by modern Biblical critics. They cannot accept any view point which does not accord with their notions about the religious evolution in Israel. Thus, as Yahuda writes, everything leads these critics “to a conclusion diametrically opposed to every Biblical statement about the composition of any part of the Pentateuch, and to rank it on linguistic and literary-historical grounds as quite a late product” [4].
  9. Whilst I may not now agree with professor Yahuda’s explanation afterwards of “The Evolution of the Hebrew Language”, nor of the degree of Egyptian influence upon it – because some of this apparent influence may actually have been from the Hebrew side, instead – his detection of Egyptian idioms in the Joseph history is compelling (“A Critical Re-appraisal”, p. 4):
  10. Ibid., p. xxxi.
  11. Ibid., p. xxxii.
  12. Ibid. Note: see Genesis 50:2f and 11, also Exodus 1:16.
  13. Ibid., p.xxxiii. 
  14. One of the main reasons why modern Biblical scholars cling to the theory that the Book of Genesis, in the main, was written around the period of the Babylonian Exile [9], hundreds of years after Moses’ death, is because parts of the book contain clear Assyrian and Babylonian elements. Assyriologists have rightly concluded that some parts of Genesis must have originated in a period when the Israelites (or Hebrews) were connected closely with Mesopotamia. As is well known, according to the Bible there were two periods during which the Israelites were in immediate contact with Mesopotamia:
  15. But What of the Akkadian Influence?
  16. With Yahuda’s thesis well in mind, the question then needed to be asked (“A Critical Re-appraisal”, pp. 4-5):
  • the first in the time of the Patriarchs (e.g. Noah to Jacob), before the time of Moses, and
  • the second during the Babylonian Exile of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. Mackey’s comment: More recently, I have shifted to the view that the biblical “Shinar” was, not Sumer in southern Mesopotamia (as I had thought when co-authoring this 1987 article), but rather the Sinjar region of NE Syria. If so, then this would lessen even further the Babylonian influence over Genesis: See my:Tightening the Geography and Archaeology for Early Genesishttps://www.academia.edu/8608280/Tightening_the_Geography_and_Archaeology_for_Early_Genesisand: https://www.academia.edu/18955800/Tightening_the_Geography_and_Archaeology_for_Early_Genesis._Part_Two_The_Epoch_of_GilgameshGetting back to the article (pp. 4-6):Now the point which we wish to emphasise as regards this – and it is a very important point – can be seen in the following passage written by Yahuda:”Whereas those books of Sacred Scripture which were admittedly written during and after the Babylonian Exile reveal in language and style such an unmistakable Babylonian influence that these newly-entered foreign elements leap to the eye, by contrast in the first part of the Book of Genesis, which describes the earlier Babylonian period, the Babylonian influence in the language is so minute as to be almost non-existent.” [10]It is an amazing fact that where there are similar details in the Genesis account of Creation and in the Akkadian myths, almost without exception the Akkadian uses different words and expressions from the Hebrew. Yahuda notes that, whilst some Akkadian words and expressions are used in the Hebrew, they do not occur in the Genesis story [11]. Therefore, any attempt to argue for a so-called strong literary or linguistic “dependence” of the Genesis stories on the Akkadian myths can have no convincing proof to support it. If such a close dependence actually existed, Yahuda argues, one would expect such Akkadian words which are frequent in all Akkadian creation and flood stories, “to be preferentially and in a much higher degree represented in the Genesis stories” [11].Added to these, according to Yahuda, are “other highly significant Egyptian influences on the composition, style and mode of narration,” and on many conceptions concerning the well-known stories of Genesis such as the Creation, the Flood, and even the Tower of Babel. One can only conclude, he says, “that the whole pre-Egyptian narrative, too, was written from an Egyptian perspective” [12].The Egyptian Elements [Mackey’s comment: I may not necessarily agree now that all of Yahuda’s presumed ‘Egyptian’ influences here had originated with Egypt]
  • But it is quite another matter when we come to consider the dependence of the Genesis narratives on Egyptian. Whilst, perhaps, we may have expected a strong Egyptian influence in that part of the Book of Genesis which deals with Joseph and the “Egyptian Epoch” of Israel (i.e. Genesis chapters 39-50), we find that the entire book is saturated with Egyptian elements. The Egyptian influence is to be found even in the pre-Egyptian Epoch (i.e. Genesis chapters 1-38), though it builds up to a crescendo in the Joseph narrative. In the pre-Egyptian part of Genesis, Egyptian loanwords occur, as do idioms and phrases considered by Biblical scholars as being typical of this portion of Genesis, but which can be explained only from Egyptian.
  1. In the Creation StoryThe Hebrew word ‘bereshith‘ with which the Creation story begins, is found on closer examination to be an exact adaptation to the Egyptian expression ‘tpy.t‘ for earliest time, “primeval time.” Just as ‘bereshith‘ is formed from the Hebrew word for “head,” so also is the Egyptian word formed from the word for “head” [13].The Hebrew word ‘tehom‘ for primeval deep, which is also used in the Flood story, has long been regarded by scholars as being an Akkadian (Assyrian) loan-word. Nevertheless, Yahuda considers it necessary to investigate whether the more or less unanimous interpretation of this word given by Assyriologists is at all tenable and, if not, what is the real meaning of ‘tehom‘, and consequently what place does it occupy in the Genesis story of Creation? [15]Both Yahuda and Wiseman would concur that this whole approach to Biblical interpretation is due to “mythologising tendencies” which, employing all possible and impossible kinds of combinations, in Procrustean fashion, seek to work into the Genesis stories – and even into the narratives of the Patriarchs – features and elements drawn from the Babylonian myths which are absolutely remote from and completely alien to the Hebrew spirit. One only has to compare the Genesis account of Creation with the Babylonian one to realise how intrinsically different they are: The two accounts are as follows:
  2. Assyriologists and almost all of the modern Biblical critics, he says, still take for granted that ‘tehom‘ is identical with ‘tiamat‘, the name of the dragon of darkness which the god Marduk slew in bitter conflict before the creation of the world [15]. But, he goes on to say, “the positiveness with which this assumption is put forward, and the stubbornness with which it is maintained, are based on no intrinsic or philologically well-founded facts; since, besides the similarity of sound of ‘tehom’ with ‘tiamat’, no other proofs for such an identification can be put forward” [15]. The argument that ‘tehom‘ must be identified with ‘tiamat’ because like the latter it is feminine, is untenable, says Yahuda, “for the simple reason that in our particular passage the gender of ‘tehom’ is not apparent, and further because there are examples of its being used in the masculine as a poetical expression for sea” [16].
  3. The Hebrew word for “heaven” occurs only in the plural form. This is all the more remarkable as its stem is the basic root from which the conception “heaven” is formed in all Semitic languages, yet it is only in Hebrew that “heaven” is used in the plural form. Now such a conception was quite familiar to the Egyptians, says Yahuda, for they accordingly spoke of ‘p.ty‘ “two heavens!” [14]
Bible Babylonian Creation Tablets
1 Light 1 Birth of the gods, their rebellion and threatened destruction.
2 Atmosphere and water 2 Tiamat prepares for battle. Marduk agrees to fight her.
3 Land, vegetation 3 The gods are summoned and wail bitterly at their threatened destruction.
4 Sun and Moon (regulating lights) length; defeats Tiamat, splits her in half like a fish and thus makes heaven and earth. 4 Marduk promoted to rank of ‘god’; he receives his weapons for the fight. These are described at
5 Fish and birds 5 Astronomical poem.
6 Land animals 6 Kingu who made Tiamat to rebel is bound and, as a punishment, his arteries are severed and man created from his blood. The 600 gods are grouped; Marduk builds Babylon where all the gods assemble.


A comparison of the two accounts shows clearly that the Bible owes nothing whatever to the Babylonian tablets, despite the efforts of commentators to make us believe that whoever wrote this portion of Genesis was borrowing from these corrupted Mesopotamian myths. If we rely solely on the text of Genesis, without being biased by the Babylonian mythology, we find no trace of any contest with a living monster in the sense of the Babylonian myth of the fight of the gods. Thus there in no intrinsic ground whatever for the identification of ‘tehom‘ with ‘tiamat‘. Here ‘tehom‘ means nothing else but the primeval water, that ocean which filled the chaos, says Yahuda [16]. This is clearly shown, he stresses, by its context as part of the phrase “on the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2), “which unmistakably indicates the real nature of ‘tehom‘ as water” [16].

From this Yahuda concludes that (‘tehom‘) ought to be identified philologically with a different Akkadian word. It is not (‘tiamat‘), but (‘tamtu‘), with which (‘tehom‘) is identical [16]. The Akkadian word (‘tamtu‘) often occurs – not only in creation myths, but also in many other kinds of myths – most distinctly in the sense of primal ocean, exactly like (‘tehom‘) “and not as the personification of any divinity like (‘tiamat’)” [16].


  1. In the Paradise StoryWe recall that in the Garden of Eden there was “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). Likewise, in the Egyptian “Fields” ‘sh.wt‘, and in the “Garden of God” ‘k3n ntr‘, there were all kinds of trees with sweet fruits such as sycamores, figs, dates and vines, as well as other “lovely trees” ‘ht ndm‘ [17].Another expression common to Egyptian and Hebrew is that found in Genesis 3:14 when God says to the serpent, “upon your belly you shall go.” Yahuda points out that this is the same expression used for reptiles in Leviticus 11:42 as well, where “it is a distinctive denomination for a special category of animals” [19]. It corresponds exactly, he says, “to the elliptic expression” in Egyptian ‘hry h.t-f‘ “that (which goes) on its belly” for snakes and reptiles generally. Again, a very remarkable parallel to the condemnation of the serpent to the eating of dust is provided in the Egyptian verse: “Behold their sustenance (or food) shall be (Geb or) dust ‘m.k grt ir hr.t-sn ntf pw‘.” [19].
  2. Of most importance for us, however, is the fact that among the trees of the Egyptian Paradise was also the “Tree of Life”, says Yahuda [17]. The idea that the food of the gods was also the food for eternal life is quite natural and was not confined to Egypt, he says [18]. This idea was also common to the mythology of the Babylonians. But whereas the Akkadian expression ‘akãl balãti‘, “Food of Life,” is quite different from the Hebrew, Yahuda explains, the Egyptian ‘ht n ‘nh‘, “Tree of Life,” “corresponds literally with the Hebrew phrase in Genesis 2:9 [18].
  3. In the Flood StoryYahuda believes that no more striking evidence in support of his thesis that the Babylonian stories are later versions of the Hebrew originals is to be found in the story of the Flood. The Flood story is not told by Noah, according to Wiseman’s explanation. Noah’s account concludes at Genesis 6:9, “These are the generations of Noah,” immediately before the account of the Flood. It is the three sons of Noah – Shem, Ham and Japheth – who record the story of the Flood and who, like Noah, were eye-witnesses of that great catastrophe.As, however, the same Hebrew word also occurs in the story of the finding of the infant Moses (Exodus 2:3), a comparison of both passages at once suggests itself. Such a comparison is all the more instructive for our whole thesis as, on the one hand, it clearly reveals the Egyptian character of the Flood narrative, and, on a secondary level, shows how much more powerfully Egyptian influences prevailed in the Exodus narrative.Mackey’s comment: For the story of Moses as, in part, ‘a miniature Flood story’, see my:“Why this mountain?” Part Two: Noah and Moseshttps://www.academia.edu/19896087/_Why_this_mountain_Part_Two_Noah_and_MosesBack again to “A Critical Re-appraisal”, pp. 6-7:…. Whilst on the subject of the Flood, it will be instructive to revert back for a moment to Wiseman’s theory of the Toledoth, so as to answer a major query raised by the documentists. If Wiseman is correct, then how do we account for the fact (sic) that commentators of the Graf-Wellhausen persuasion have discovered two accounts – or even three accounts in the case of J. Astruc – of the Flood story interwoven into the text of Genesis chapter 7? 19 “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth.”Also, verse 21 “And all flesh died that moved upon the face of the earth.”23 “And every living substance was destroyed.”It is sufficient here to note with Wiseman “two significant facts”:
  4. 22 “All in whose nostrils was the breath of life and all that was in the dry land died.”
  5. 20 “Fifteen cubits upwards did the waters prevail.
  6. Genesis Chapter 7, verse 18 “And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth.”
  7. Wiseman has no difficulty whatever in answering this query which easily is explained by the Toledoth theory itself. Chapter 7 of Genesis is, as we saw, part of Tablet (series) 4, written, or owned, by Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, and signed by them [21]. Their story is taken up almost entirely with the account of the Flood of which they were the only eye-witnesses. Wiseman notes that this story of the Flood “has received considerable attention from the documentists who assert that it was borrowed from Babylonia” [22]. Astruc, insisting that it contained “three accounts,” instanced such repetitious passages as:
  8. To begin with, the most characteristic fact is that for the chief feature of the whole story, the Ark, neither an Akkadian word is used, says Yahuda, nor the Canaanite one current elsewhere in the Bible [20]. Instead a Hebrew word, in which the Egyptian word ‘db.t‘, “box, coffer, chest,” has been recognised, is used by the writer. Yahuda exclaims: “It is astonishing that a narrative supposedly set in Babylonia, uses for the Ark an Egyptian loan-word!” [20]
  • first, the conclusion of the tablet informs us that more than one person is connected with the writings of the narrative, “for it is the history of the three sons of Noah” [23],
  • second, an examination of the story reveals every indication that it was written by several eye-witnesses of the tragedy [24]. Notes and References9. 700 years after Moses by even the most conservative estimate.11. Ibid., p.107.13. Ibid., p.122.15. Ibid., p.127.17. Ibid., p.192.19. Ibid., p.204.21. L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, vol.V (Philadelphia 1955), pp.196-197.23. Ibid., p.93.   Genesis 47:7-10 Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, ‘How old are you?’    The “kernel of the Joseph narrative,” Yahuda notes, is his appointment as Grand Vizier to Pharaoh [26]. For this office, Genesis 41:43 gives a Hebrew word containing a root which has the meaning “to do twice, to repeat, to double,” in the sense that Joseph represented in relation to the king a sort of “double,” acting as his deputy, “invested with all the rights and prerogatives of the king”. Yahuda explains that exactly in the same way the Egyptian word ‘sn.nw‘, “deputy” was formed from ‘sn‘, “two” [26]. In the same verse, the command is given for all “to bow the knee” before Joseph. The Hebrew word, which is probably an imperative, is generally considered to have been taken from an Egyptian word [27].At the beginning of his conversation with Joseph, Pharaoh says: “I have had a dream… I have heard that you understand a dream to interpret it” (Genesis 40:15). For “understand” the Hebrew has the verb to “hear”: “you hear a dream” – a usage which has been so difficult for commentators, says Yahuda, but which corresponds entirely to the Egyptian use of ‘sdm‘, “to hear” or “to understand” [31].  Yahuda tells us that a very peculiar form of expression which has often been noted, but remained unexplained, is the Hebrew word for “lord” in the plural, with reference to either Pharaoh or Joseph [35]. Thus, for instance, a literal translation of Genesis 40:1 would read: “the butler of the king of ‘the two lands’ (i.e. Egypt) and his baker offended their lords,” instead of their “lord” in the singular. The same ceremonious turn of speech occurs also in Genesis 42:30 and 33 with reference to Joseph. Now we find that already in quite ancient times, again in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, Pharaoh, besides being referred to as ‘nb‘ “lord,” in the singular, also is spoken of as ‘nb. wy‘ in the plural [35].Let us see first what a modern Biblical expert has to say about this exchange. Eugene Maly, the expert on Genesis in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, whom we met briefly in Part One, ascribes this portion of Genesis to the Priestly tradition again, or P. Now his only comment on this peculiar and difficult dialogue between Jacob and Pharaoh is that “The presentation of Jacob to Pharaoh is narrated by P with a sobriety that gives it a touch of grandeur” [36]. No attempt to explain the meaning of the words: nor does he show the least awareness that a great part of the language in the Joseph narrative is modelled on set formulae and expressions used in Egyptian court and official parlance as customary, or even prescribed, in Egyptian hierarchic circles, especially in conversation with exalted persons and the Pharaoh.We pointed out in Part One that Joseph’s story, the longest in the Book of Genesis, neither contains any catch-line phrases nor concludes with a Toledoth colophon. Does this fact severely damage our thesis? On the contrary, it enhances it! The explanation again is very simple. Unlike the Babylonians and Assyrians, the Egyptians – under whose influence the Israelites were living by the time of Joseph – used neither of these literary methods of catch-lines or “Toledoths.” The Egyptians did not write on clay tables, but on papyrus rolls, and hence their literary methods were quite different from the Mesopotamians. In typically Egyptian fashion, the story of Joseph ends with his death and embalming, not with the colophon ending of the other Patriarchs. It is quite consistent with our thesis, therefore, that the Joseph narrative should be devoid of these Mesopotamian literary techniques.Notes and References25. Yahuda, op. cit., p.3-99. 26. Ibid., p.20. 27. E.g. in Langenscheidt’s Pocket Dictionary. But W. W. Hallo, Biblical Archaeologist 46 (1983), p.25, disagrees with this. He claims that the Hebrew ‘Abrekh‘ = Akkadian ‘Abarakku,’ a fact which he says dates the Joseph story to the Assyrian period. In reply we might say that, even were the equation accurate (and some think it very doubtful), our article demonstrates that Genesis is more ancient than the Mesopotamian texts; so it would be the Assyrians who were doing the borrowing. 28. Yahuda, op. cit., p.23. 29. Papyrus Prisse, ed. Devaud, p.17, 43 (= Lit., p.56 n.1). 30. Yahuda, op. cit., p.24. 31. Ibid., p.7. 32. Ibid., p.8. 33. J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt (Chicago, 1906-7), i. 351. 34. Yahuda, op. cit., p.13. 35. Ibid., p.14. 36. JBC 47:9. 37. Prisse Dev., p.52, 640f. = Lit. 65. 38. Yahuda, op. cit., p.17.

    Jacob and Joseph were not ‘godly’ Christian gentlemenIt is a mistake to impose, as Creationists are wont to do, modern religious and scientific standards upon the Genesis worldview and its characters. We saw, from Jacob’s reply to Pharaoh, that the Patriarch was prepared to defer to some degree to Egyptian court etiquette. And, in the Book of Daniel, the young Jews are given pagan names. ‘Overseer of all Royal Works’ and this included overseeing Sesostris’ construction projects at the Temple of Amun in Karnak; again the question must be asked, ‘How happy would the godly Joseph have been to oversee work that glorified the god Amun?’In my scheme, this Mentuhotep is an actual candidate for Moses:Moses – May be Staring Revisionists Right in the Facehttps://www.academia.edu/11915103/Moses_-_May_be_Staring_Revisionists_Right_in_the_FaceClarke dismisses the stand-out candidate for Joseph, Imhotep, for the same reason of ‘godliness’:Wyatt creates far greater problems by linking Joseph to the famous Imhotep. Firstly, Wyatt, like several other supporters of this idea, believes that Imhotep’s name means ‘he who comes in peace’. Imhotep’s name is attested on the base of a statue of Zoser as iy m ḥtp unearthed at Saqarra. Certainly there is a verb ii m ḥtp but the very manner that Imhotep’s name was written indicates a different meaning to that claimed. The sign M18 is vocalized as iy, which is an epithet of the god Horus (all the Egyptian gods and goddesses had multiple epithets which people incorporated into their personal names); the sign G17 signifies who is; the sign R4 is hotep which means content. Brought together, Imhotep translates as Content is Horus (lit. Horus who is content). Again the question must be asked, ‘How happy would the godly Joseph have been to bear the name of the Egyptian sky god, Horus?’

  • Whilst I, from the biblical trend as discussed, would not agree with Clarke in these two cases, I find that he has made an excellent case for Joseph, and his name, in the context of the Eleventh Dynasty – an era that is not out of the question in my scheme, based on the following Table
  • [End of quotes]
  • Down’s choice of Mentuhotep is all the more surprising given that this specifically (and popular) Middle Kingdom name means Content is Mentu. How happy would the godly Joseph have been to bear the name of the Egyptian god of war? Sesostris I was served by a Mentuhotep and this official is one of the best attested from the Middle Kingdom. He was
  • Now Creationist, Patrick Clarke, who has argued for an Eleventh Dynasty location for Joseph, based on the name given to him by Pharaoh: Zaphenath Paaneah (Genesis 41:45), is critical of Dr. David Down’s identification of Joseph with a Twelfth Dynasty high official, Mentuhotep, since this is a non “godly” name:
  • But getting back to the meaning of Jacob’s reply, for which undoubtedly he was primed by his son Joseph, we gather from Egyptian texts that his words were purely a formal convention with no literal meaning [37] but, in the light of Egyptian court etiquette, so rich in the niceties of speech, quite appropriate and well chosen. As Yahuda puts it, “such remarks as Jacob’s, coming from the lips of a foreigner, must have appeared to Pharaoh and his court as being very tactful and thoughtful” [38].
  • We could multiply passage upon passage as regards the Egyptian influence in the language of the Book of Genesis, but we shall content ourselves with just one more example. This is that difficult passage in Genesis chapter 47 describing Jacob’s first meeting with Pharaoh. One line in particular has defied interpretation by commentators who did not consider to look for the solution in the Egyptian records. To Pharaoh’s question to Jacob: “How many are the days of the years of your life?”, Jacob replies in the following enigmatic fashion: “The days of the years of my sojournings are 130 years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life” (Genesis 47:9).
  • Addressing the Egyptian king in the third person: “Pharaoh was angry with his servants” (Genesis 41:10): “Let Pharaoh do this” (41:33), and many other such passages, corresponds entirely to the court etiquette of old Egypt and is wholly official. This usage dates back to ancient times, and so we read in a letter addressed in the name of Pharaoh Pepi II of the Old Kingdom of Egypt: “… your letter to the king in the palace so that one (= the king) should know” [33]. A characteristic formula also is the phrase recurring in several passages of Genesis: “in the face of Pharaoh,” or “from the face of Pharaoh” (e.g. Genesis 47:2, 7 and 41:6), meaning “before Pharaoh” [34]. According to Yahuda, this corresponds completely to hierarchic court custom, whereby one might not speak to his Majesty ‘r hm-f‘, “to his face,” but only ‘in the face of his Majesty” ‘m hr hm-f‘ [34]. The same respectful expression was used for viziers, and so we have the phrase “before Joseph’s face” (Genesis 43:15 and 34).
  • Court Expressions of Deference
  • In Genesis 41:40, Pharaoh says to Joseph, literally, “According to your mouth shall my people kiss.” Again this verse has been a headache for commentators and translators, as the verb to “kiss” seems to be completely out of place, Yahuda says [31]. But on comparison with Egyptian, he explains, “kiss” proves to be “a correct and thoroughly exact reproduction of what the narrator really meant to convey. Here an expression is rendered in Hebrew from a metaphorical one used in polished speech among the Egyptians” [31]. Instead of the ordinary colloquial expression ‘wnm‘ for “eating,” the Egyptians spoke of “kissing” ‘sn‘ the food. Our passage thus is to be taken literally, says Yahuda, “but in the sense of the Egyptian metaphor” [32]. Pharaoh is saying to Joseph “by your orders shall my people feed,” whereby Pharaoh simply meant that the feeding of the whole country would be regulated solely “by the measures and ordinances of Joseph” [32].
  • Joseph was called “Father to Pharaoh,” and, according to Yahuda, the Hebrew expression ‘Ab‘, “father,” is a reproduction of the Egyptian title ‘itf‘, “father,” a very common priestly title, and one borne also by viziers [28]. For instance the wise and celebrated vizier of the Fifth Dynasty, Ptah-hotep – who incidentally, like Joseph, may have lived for 110 years – “referred to himself as ‘itf ntr mryy-ntr‘, “father of god, the beloved of god” [29],” Yahuda explains [30].
  • The important story of Joseph and his rise to governorship of Egypt occupies almost one quarter of the entire Book of Genesis. Because the narrative is set largely in Egypt, it is most significant from the point of view of our thesis. The fact is that the Joseph narrative is saturated with Egyptian elements, a full appreciation of which one would gain only from reading right through Yahuda’s book [25]. Again we only can summarise some of the most striking examples.
  • (iv) In the Joseph Narrative
  • Continuing on with “A Critical Re-appraisal of the Book of Genesis”, from Part Two: https://www.academia.edu/20363679/Jacob_Pharaoh_and_the_Famine._Part_Two_Egyptian_Influence_in_Genesis we arrive at the era of Joseph (SIS C & C Workshop, pp. 7-8):
  • Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence.
  • And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers’.
  • Part Three: Jacob Blesses Pharaoh
  • ….
  • 24. Ibid., p.100.
  • 22. P. J. Wiseman, Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis (Thomas Nelson, 1985), p.92.
  • 20. Ibid., p.205.
  • 18. Ibid., p.193.
  • 16. Ibid., p.128.
  • 14. Ibid., p.123.
  • 12. Ibid., p.xxix.
  • 10. Yahuda, op. cit., p.xxix.
Patriarch Old Kingdom Middle Kingdom Archaeology
Abraham 0-I X (?) EBI
Joseph [II]- III XI EBII
Joshua (Conquest)     MBI on EB III/IV
Anarchy in Egypt VII-IX (?) XIII-XVII  


aligning the Eleventh Dynasty with the Third Dynasty.

This (still tenative) Table first appeared in my:


Archaeological Parameters for Patriarch Joseph in Egypt. Part Two: Re-aligning Egypt’s Kingdoms






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