Joseph Over the House of Pharaoh:
Egypt in the 18th century
"Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled . . ."
— Gen 41:40
The story so far has taken us through the history of the Sumerians, where we left off at the end of the 1600's on the brink of Sargon's Akkadian empire — when Moses was a prince in Egypt. We have also looked at Palestine's Early & Middle Bronze Age, which ended (for the most part) during and shortly after the Wilderness years. Now we will return to Egyptian history, taking up our account of Dynasty XII, which we left at the end of the reign of the conqueror Sesostris III; we will also finish the story of the Archaic Dynasty II. Then we will look at Dynasties III and IV, the "Pyramid Age" of Egypt — which followed the Middle Kingdom — and see how all these "ages" link up in the 1700's. The most important observation we can make of the 1700's in Egypt is that this was the century of Joseph, and so we would expect Joseph to have a notable presence in the secular history of this time. When rightly understood, we find that this expectation is easily met.
After the enduring and powerful reign of Sesostris III, the throne of the Middle Kingdom went to his heir Amenemhet III (Lamares or Lachares, Nama-tre or Ny-maat-ra, c. 1780-c. 1730/ º1842-1797). A reference from his reign to the astronomical Sothis year has compelled standard chronology to date the start of his rule to º1842, or sometimes º1877. But given the disruptions of the orbit of our planet — attested to by both the long day of Joshua and the changing shadows of Hezekiah — we must dismiss all such astronomically derived dates prior to the last of these disruptions.
With the start of the rule of Lamares/ Amenemhet III, there followed well over half a century of prosperity. The monuments of this culture are notable for their skillful construction and their individuality, and it is apparently now that a number of literary classics were written. Also during this era, a syncretism of the sun-cults of Amon and Ra becomes apparent; Amon was the local sun god of Thebes, and Ra was the sun god of Heliopolis in the Delta, northeast of Memphis. This syncretism suggests the mixing of the two cultures, of the Theban "Middle Kingdom", and the Memphite "Old Kingdom", which we shall examine later.
During the reign of Lamares, he caused Lake Moeris to be constructed, which irrigated the wilderness of Fayum. As a result the region became a bread basket. It is also at this time that the canal Bahr Ysuf (that is, Joseph) was built, and there is a consistent and enduring tradition that it was indeed engineered by Joseph. By my paradigm, the evidence from Genesis is clear that Joseph came to power as vizier in 1785, and considering that some sources place these projects in the reign of Sesostris III, Joseph must have been an agent of Sesostris. In fact, I hope not to over-extend the evidence by maintaining that Lamares is just another name of Joseph, who would have been adopted by Sesostris III and made to rule over Dynasty XII as a pharaoh in his own right, although coregent with a pharaoh of Dynasty III, as we shall shortly learn. Indeed, Joseph married a daughter of the priest of Ra — linking the south with the north.
The pyramid of Lamares is found at the northern entrance of Fayum, and Manetho said that near to this pyramid “he built the labyrinth in the Arsinite nome as his own tomb.” It is more likely, however, that the great Labyrinth was built as an administrative center and shrine. In any case, it survives only in the smallest of traces. Vases of the Kamars type from Crete have been found nearby. A broken sphinx bearing the name of Amenemhet III was uncovered from Ugarit.
It is well attested that Asiatics had migrated en mass into the Delta during this period, and we read of this movement in the Bible, when the seven years of famine forced all the nations to come to Egypt to buy grain. We will have more to learn about Joseph in Egypt, in a bit. After Lamares, his successors ruled 42 years, a period which is termed "unstable" — this is the time when the Bondage of Israel began.
The rather mysterious period toward the end of Lamares's rule was governed by something called the Dodecarchy (c. 1727-1705), or "Rule of the Twelve". Modern scholarship seems not to credit the reality of this government, but by now this bias should come as no surprise; needless to say, Manetho and Herodotus recognized its existence. Herodotus gives the building of the Labyrinth to the Dodecarchy, rather than to Amenemhet III; but if Lamares is Joseph, then there is no contradiction, since they would have been intimately connected.
Anyone who has read the last chapters of Genesis must immediately suspect that the Dodecarchy is somehow a reference to the sons of Israel, who had relocated in Egypt. There was a phenomenon which transformed the Nile in 1726, recorded in the account of Dynasty II, which reminds one of an event of the Exodus; we will look at this shortly, but for now it is enough to wonder if the affected Nile during the rule of the Dodecarchy could have had some connection with these sons of Israel, who came to power right around the same time as this phenomenon. Joseph was the first of the sons of Israel to die, in 1705, which is the date which Manetho implies ended Dynasty XII; it is also the most likely ending date for the Dodecarchy.
The stories which Herodotus tells are largely dismissed as legends — and it cannot be denied that he does give different versions of the same story. But as it turns out, this biblical reconstruction validates the traditions which Herodotus preserves. For example, he has the Great Pyramids built after Sesostris III, just as I do. He gives the successor of Sesostris as an anonymous son, Pheros (which simply means Pharaoh) — “a prince who undertook no military adventures.” This corresponds with Joseph. Pheros, in turn, was followed “by a native of Memphis, whose name in the Greek language was Proteus.” We shall see that the Thebans were indeed followed by rulers from Memphis, and this Proteus would indeed be the first of a new house, of Dynasty VI.
Herodutus records next the story of Rhampsinitus, who “possessed fortune in silver, so great that no subsequent king came anywhere near it — let alone surpassed it.” Herodotus tells another long tale about this treasure, but the relevant point is that, since all the world went to buy grain in Egypt, we would expect the rulers of Egypt following the days of Joseph to be fabulously wealthy. Rhampsinitus built a palace to store his treasure, and it is pleasing but not essential to suppose that this is the Labyrinth of Lamares and the Dodecarchy. After Rhampsinitus, Herodotus tells us that the pharaohs of the Pyramids ruled.
After the Dodecarchy, Dynasty XIII starts up, but Dynasty XII had a bit of life yet in it. Thus King Ameres has not been found in any inscriptions, but Manetho gives him 8 years (1705-1697). Then followed Amenemhet IV (Maat-kheru-ra), ruling for 8 or 9 years (1697-1689/ º1798-1789). At Byblos of this period, the MB IIA graves of two of its native rulers have been found, equipped with goods heavily influence by Egyptian culture, although of local workmanship; even the writing in the tombs was in Egyptian, although peculiarities indicate that the scribes were not completely fluent. Amenemhet IV was followed on the throne by his sister, Queen Sebek-neferura (Sebeknofrure, Scemiophris, 1688-1685/ º1789-1786), the last ruler of Dynasty XII.
“The reign of Amenemhet IV and that of Sebek-neferura have left little trace. The vigorous power of the dynasty seems to have come to an end with Amenemhat III. With the disappearance of Queen Sebek-neferura — who with the first king of Dynasty XIII, Amenemhat-Sebek-hotep, at least kept up the recording of the Nile levels at Semna — we reach a period of Egyptian history as dark as that between Dynasties VI and XI.” While the obscurity of Dynasties VII through X (the so-called "First Intermediate Period") was the result of provinciality, the obscurity of Thebes after Amenemhet III was the result of the ascendance of Memphis and its mis-named "Old Kingdom", as we will see. Notice that the standard paradigm once more hides its distortion and confusion by inventing yet another "dark age".
During almost all of the 1700's, Joseph and his family were prominent in Egypt. If we identify Amenemhet III/ Lamares as Joseph, adopted into the family of Sesostris III, and if we identify the Dodecarchy as Joseph's family, then the last third of Dynasty XII was controlled by the children of Israel. It would have been some time not too long after the death of Joseph — perhaps after the death of Benjamin (c. 1673), last of these patriarchs — that (Ex 1:8) “there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” We shall learn that this king belonged to Dynasty VI.
During the Middle Kingdom, there is evidence of Egyptian trade with Asia and Crete. As for Nubia, it is commonly said that Kerma, at the Third Cataract, was an Egyptian settlement — but this opinion has been challenged, and now it seems that Kerma thrived somewhat later, as the capital of the Kushite kingdom, the kings of which “acquired much old Egyptian statuary, some of it royal, which for many years misled scholars into thinking that Kerma had been an Egyptian trading post.” The Kushites dealt with the Hyksos, and their kingdom and culture were extinguished by the Egyptian invasion early in Dynasty XVIII. The cemetery here has been “only partly excavated and published”, so we must look to the future for clarification on this matter.
Following the end of Dynasty XII, standard scholarship describes the period of the Hyksos (and Judges) with the label the "Second Intermediate Period". We will discuss this period later.
Dynasty IIb (1799-1716 [-1638]/ c. º2840-2780)
We left off our account of the Thinite Dynasty II with Peribsen, the "Seth-king", and I intimated that he may have been linked to the rise of Dynasties III and IV, which we shall consider shortly. In any case, the dynasty continued on after him — although, I will suggest, under a different family, if Peribsen himself was not of a new house.
The fifth king of Thinis II was Sened (1799-1758), called Sendi or Sethenes by Manetho, and said to have ruled for 41 years. He is given only 37 years in the Palermo Stone, and it seems that the variation is due to a four year coregency at the end of his 37 years of sole reign. Several important events in the Bible occurred during his reign. Although he was not involved, it is during Sened's reign that the Egyptian sojourn of Joseph started. In 1798, when Joseph was 17 he was sold into slavery, and at age 30 he stood before Pharaoh in 1785. The time of plenty and of famine, fourteen years in all, lasted from 1785 to 1771. As I calculate it, 1767 was the year of the catastrophe which befell Job, when rocks fell from the sky, killing his household. Finally, Jacob died in Egypt in the year 1759. The next year saw the end of Sened's rule, which ended in a period of unrest, during which there was a rival claimant to the throne of Thinis. I will point out a link between Sened and the founder of Dynasty III, shortly. Here, I suggest that Sened was of a new house.
The rival of Sened was Khasekhem, called Chaires by Manetho, and given 17 years (c. 1761/1758-41) — with the earlier four years of rivalry counted to the reign of Sened. Khasekhem was a warlike and successful ruler, if we are to judge from his monuments. I propose that he was a member of the former ruling family of Thinis, who regained the throne for a time.
The final, seventh king to be recognized by archeology is Khasekhemuwy, given 17 years. Manetho calls him Nephercheres (Neferkare in the king lists), and credits him with 25 years (1741-1716), overlapping the Dodecarchy (c. 1730-1705) of Dynasty XII. He called himself both a Seth and a Horus king, and because of this title it has been speculated that he may be the same individual as his predecessor, having changed his name in some sort of effort to unite with the faction represented by Peribsen. But I propose that Khasekhemuwy restored the new house of Thinis to power. It may be a mere coincidence that a king of the next generation, Neferhetep of Dynasty XIII, has retained an anachronistic name so similar to this last king of Dynasty II — or it may be an indication that they were nearly contemporaries.
We find in Manetho's comment on this king the curious fact that “In his reign, the story goes, the Nile flowed blended with honey for 11 days.” Using the same method as that which gave me the date for the opening of the chasm in Bubastis and for the catastrophe of Job, I place this honeyed river in the year 1726 bc. As to what this phenomenon could possible be, we have only to open the pages of the Bible, to read of manna, which tasted like honey (Ex 16:31). What is it, then, that made the Nile flow so sweet? Manna. Details must await the discussion in Chapter 15.
His monuments are of a higher craftsmanship than his Thinite predecessors, which is taken to indicate a move from primitive to more sophisticated culture, when in fact it represents the improved situation of these nomarchs. The effect of Sesostris's suppression of the nomarchs was fading away, so that they could import artisans of greater skill. As with any provincial region, the Thinites lost the most gifted to the most powerful. But in this era of the Dodecarchy there was a great de-centralization in Egypt, freeing up at least a few skilled craftsmen to form a local school at Thinis.
Manetho gives us the names of two more rulers. The eighth nomarch of this last dynasty of Thinis was Sesochris, who is credited with a reign of 48 years (1716-1668). He is called Neferkaseker in the king lists, and given only 8 years; this may refer to a coregent or rival, or to only a segment of his total term in power. Notice that Neferkaseker was a precise contemporary of Neferhetep of Dynasty XIII. The notable fact preserved about Sesochris is that his height was 5 cubits and 3 palms, which translates to 8½ feet tall. This is strikingly similar to Sesostris III (ends c. 1780), who was well over 7 feet tall. The similarity of such tremendous height between these two kings may have inspired Sesochris to called himself after his predecessor Sesostris III, whose reign ended 60 years previously, rather then the full millennium later, as the standard conception of Egyptian history would have it.
The ninth and final of Manetho's kings in Thinis is Cheneres, ruling 30 years (1668-1638). He is known only as a name, and ruled during Dynasty VI and the Bondage.
From the Turin Papyrus and the king lists, we find the final names Hudjefa (11 years), and also Beby or Bepty (27 years), whose name and date is so close to that of Pepi I and/or Pepi II of Dynasty VI that it is tempting to equate them. The actual order of these kings, and what successional problems these varying lists may hint at, are beyond our scope, and unrecoverable from the available evidence.
We may divide pre-Exodus Egyptian history into three parts: the first controlled by the influence of Nimrod, the second by the Middle Kingdom of Dynasty XII (dominating the 19th and 18th centuries), and the third by the Old Kingdom of Dynasty VI (dominating the 17th and early 16th centuries). These latter periods included the time of the Israelite rule and Bondage in Egypt, and aside from Dynasty XII, include Dynasties III, IV and VI, as well as the peripheral XIV, XIII, X and V.
It is an unpleasant fact that two of the most intriguing dynasties of pre-Exodus Egypt — Dynasties III and IV — are obscure, and their reigns confused, with sources disagreeing as to the duration and the order of the kings. In itself this is nothing unusual, but given the period in which these dynasties thrived, it is lamentable. Not only were the most dramatic and famous monuments of all history — the pyramids of Giza — created in this era, but Joseph was ruling in Egypt.
Contrary to the common expectation, both these dynasties, IV and III, ruled in the north of Egypt at the same time, associated with Memphis; as to how such a thing is possible, we shall see. But both dynasties had their heyday in the 1700's. I have identified several of the pharaohs of the "Old Kingdom" with Joseph, and although this is not a necessary assumption, it is a pleasant one, and elegant as well.
Dynasty III — c. 1817-c. 1700/ º2780-2680; in Memphis, 214/197 years, 8 kings
In Dynasty III, only Zoser seems to have been a noteworthy king, and the other “kings of Dynasty III are as shadowy as those of the first two dynasties [of Thinis] . . .” Overall, the silence is monumental, and the kings of this dynasty are obscure and unimportant, their names known for the most part only from king lists. Some of this silence may be due to the fact that the same individuals are known by different names, so that their accomplishments go unrecognized, but even so, it is “strange that not only Sekhemkhet but also the other kings of the 3rd dynasty left so few positive memorials of their reigns.” Only the funerary monuments of Sekhemkhet, Khaba and Huni speak of the prosperity of the times — although we must wonder what disaster interrupted the construction of the immense, unfinished tomb at Zawiyet il Aryan — perhaps it was an effect of the great seven year famine.
PRIVATE Dynasty III º2780-2680
c. 1805/ c. º2770
c. 1775/ c. º2750
c. 1760/ c. º2730
c. 1740/ c. º2720
c. 1725/ c. º2710
c. 1710/ c. º2700
Sephuris or Sahure
Be that as it may, the founder of this line in Memphis was Sa-nekht (Necherophes, Kha'sekhemui; c. 1817-c. 1790/ c. º2770). From archeology, the only known event of his career is of an expedition into Sinai, where he left an inscription. From the ancient historians we have the detail that he subdued the Libyans, aided by a lunar eclipse which caused them to surrender.
Notice the similarity between Sa-nekht/ Khasedhemsi of Dynasty III (1817-1790) and Sened (1799-1758) & Khasekhemuwy (1741-1716) of Dynasty II. It is exceedingly tempting to speculated that Sa-nekht's heirs turn up in Dynasty II — perhaps initiated by Sesostris III. The politics of "Seth" kings and "Horus" kings, and of the "rival" Khasekhem, takes on a new significance, in this light.
The next king of Dynasty III was Zoser (Djoser, Tosorthos, Neerkhet, given 19 and 29 years; 1789-1770/60/ c. º2750). He bears the rare honor of having had his name written in red ink in the Turin Papyrus. He too left a record in Sinai. Two tombs for him are known: a mastaba at Bet Khallaf near This, and the Step Pyramid at Sakkara, designed by the famous Imhotep (whose career we will consider in a moment). The step pyramid is considered to be the first large stone construction, but we know that the Tower (and the Ark of Noah) preceded it.
Zoser is the key to placing Dynasty III within our overall framework. Specifically, at Sehel by the First Cataract, a copied rock inscription from Zoser's 18th year records a message to the governor of Elephantine: “I am very concerned about the people in the palace. My heart is heavy over the calamitous failure of the Nile floods for the past seven years. There is little fruit; vegetables are in short supply; there is a shortage of food generally. Everybody robs his neighbor . . . . Children weep, young folk slouch around. The aged are depressed, they have no power in their legs, they sit on the ground. The court is at its wits' end. The storehouses have been opened but everything that was in them has been consumed.” This same famine is referred to in another Egyptian inscription in the tomb of Baba, at el-Kab. Discovered in 1908 by Brugsch Bey, the text says that “for seven successive years the Nile did not overflow, and vegetation withered and failed; that the land was devoid of crops, and that during these years, famine and misery devastated the land of Egypt.” In all of ancient Egyptian history, there are only these references to a famine of a duration of seven years: here, and in the account of Joseph, in Genesis. The seven years of plenty benefited only those who knew to store the bounty, and others, who did not save, would indeed have been misery during the latter seven years.
Joseph stood before Pharaoh Zoser in 1785 bc, and was made vizier. In 1784 the 7 years of plenty began, in 1777 the famine started, and its final year was 1771. So the seventh year of Zoser's famine is the last year of Joseph's famine, which gives 1789 as the first year of Zoser's rule, 18 years before. With this as our starting point, let's follow the implications.
From the distress of Zoser it appears that in the final year of the famine supplies were running low — especially in regions which had not been administered with maximum efficiency. Considering that Egypt acted as the granary of the world during this time, it is self-evident that stores would be low even for those nomes which had enjoyed seven years of plenty.
It may well be that the seven years of plenty were the direct result of immediate and large-scale action taken to improve the land — such as the completion of Lake Moeris and the canal Bahr Ysuf. On the other hand, these water-projects may have been a response to the years of famine, as a preparation against another such calamity. In any case, by the end of the famine Pharaoh Zoser owned all the riches of Egypt. This fact must certainly have played a major role in the ultimate breaking of the power of the nomarchs which is credited to Sesostris. We read that the means by which Sesostris came to dominate Egypt are unknown — but the famine of Joseph must be considered as the final cause.
But if Zoser owned Egypt, what then of the Middle Kingdom to the south, under Lamares/ Amenemhet III? Whether or not Lamares is to be identified as Joseph, he would have been vassal to Zoser, just as in medieval times the king of England could have been sovereign in his own right, yet also — because of his holdings on the Continent — a vassal lord of the king of France.
Regarding Joseph as vizier, we find some interesting details in Gen 41:40‑45. Pharaoh Zoser says: “'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.' And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, 'See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.' And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck. 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. 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.' And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On [Heliopolis]. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.”
Critics claim that this passage is anachronistic, in that Egypt is not supposed to have known "chariots" at this time. However, we are not reading of Roman chariots, but rather of a wheeled vehicle, and in any case this reconstruction invalidates such considerations. Joseph's Egyptian name, Zap-nt-pa-aneh, literally means "abundance-of-the-life." Poti-pherah the priest is not that officer Potiphar ("consecrated to Ra") to whom Joseph was sold. It is clear that Joseph was involved with the Old Kingdom, given the references to On and the reverence of Ra — elements of the northern culture of Memphis.
But from the secular record the vizier of Zoser is quite famous: Imhotep. It is far more reasonable to suppose that Zoser had not two but only one brilliant vizier, which indicates that Joseph and Imhotep were one and the same. Imhotep was a royal official, with impressive secular and priestly titles. Tradition has him as a seer and philosopher, and later generations called him "the holy". He is supposed to have invented — or innovated — the art of writing; he was said by Manetho to have invented the architectural use of hewn stone, and although we know this is not correct, it speaks of the fact that he was an architect of genius. He entered into Egyptian lore as a wonder of medical skill, and was called Asclepios, the god of medicine. We find here the corrupt, pagan Egyptian memory of Joseph, whose godliness was deified and whose brilliance was mythologized. This is an example of the principle of euhemerism, where historical figures are counted as gods by later generations.
After Zoser, the third king of Dynasty III was Sekhem-khet (Nebka?, Tureis or Tyris, given 7/19 years; 1770-1751/ c. º2730). Inscriptions of Sekhem-khet have been found in Sinai, marking the only known event of his reign. Another of the rare finds of this period is his unfinished step pyramid, also at Saqqarah, which was discovered only in 1951. The size of his pyramid is the same as Zoser's, but the masonry is inferior.
Next came Kha-ba (Tety, Zoser-teti, Tosertasis, Mesochris, variously given 17, 61, or 76 years; 1751-1734/ c. º2720). It is intriguing to note that Joseph ruled for exactly 76 years in Egypt, from 1781 to 1705 bc. In any case, Kha-ba must have been a coregent for a considerable part of his life.
The fifth king is Neb-ka-ra (16 or 66 years, 1734-1718/ c. º2710). Archeology is silent on this king, but as we will see, I have identified him as Suphis of Dynasty IV. Furthermore, Neb-ka-ra may be tentatively identified as that remarkable vizier of Zoser's, Imhotep — and so Joseph.
The next king was Huni (Tosertasis, Zoser II, 19, 24; 1718-1699/ c. º2700), whose ruined pyramid at Maydum may indicate a failure of design, or perhaps some catastrophic or deliberate destruction. This king has been identified as Job, which may be correct — we shall consider this later.
The final three kings of this line are considered utterly obscure. However, there is a startling correspondence between these and the first kings of Dynasty V, of Elephantine. With this in mind, Aches is given 42 years, which I date from the 1720's until the 1690's (overlapping with Huni), Sephuris or Sahure is given 30 years (1690's-1660's), and Kerpheres ruled for 26 years (c. 1660's-1640's). We will look at the correspondence with Dynasty V in the discussion of that line.
Dynasty IV is said to have ruled from Memphis, as did Dynasty III. But I have these two houses ruling at the same time. How is this possible? In order to accommodate this new construction, we must revise our conception of Egyptian government. Rather than thinking of it as a centralized autocracy, let's adopt the model of Judea, in which the Sanhedrin governed, and Herod, and Pilate, and Caesar, all at the same time. Again, consider the Unites States, with its federal, state, county and local governments. Again, we may think of Japan, with its Shogun and its Emperor. Another analogy would be of Dynasty XVII, considered to be a duel government, consisting of a foreign line of Hyksos kings, and a native Egyptian line as well. These analogies are greatly aided by the fact that Dynasty IV reportedly consisted of foreigners.
Aside from going against conventional wisdom, there is another difficulty in placing Dynasties III and IV next to each other rather than end to end. Although the literary testimony is almost nil as to the relationship of these houses, yet I know one reference. In an ancient text called The Instruction Addressed to Kagemni, full of sage advise for a young man, the author concludes by saying that after King Huni died, “the majesty of King Snefru was raised up as beneficent king in this whole land.” Clearly, this is saying that the last king of Dynasty III was Huni, and the first of Dynasty IV was Snefru. And this is what modern scholar's have taken to be correct. However, we have just seen that Huni was not the last king of Dynasty III, so it is self-evident that the ancient sources do not agree: whom then shall we believe? Although conventional scholars have made their choice, we are not bound by their conviction, but rather by the evidence. And when the evidence — not mere opinion about the evidence — does not agree, then (all things being equal) we must make a more or less arbitrary selection, based on our axioms. We have considered this principle before.
There is a rational and fairly straightforward explanation as to how the scribes of the advice to Kagemni could have been in error. We already noticed that for Dynasty III, Manetho has Sephuris (Sfrs) or Sahure (Sr) following Huni (1718-1699). Does it seem reasonable that some scribe mistook this Sephuris (Sfrs) as Snefru (Snfr)/ Soris (Srs) of the earlier Dynasty IV? Is this possible? It is certainly possible. Indeed, the order of the syllables of names written in hieroglyphs is not governed by convention, and so various scholars read names differently, as with Radedef/ Dedefre of Dynasty IV. We will see that Sephuris appears in both Dynasty III and Dynasty V, and it is fair to suppose that some overly-diligent scribe, noticing Sephuris (Sfrs) in Dynasty V, took his appearance at the end of Dynasty III as a mistake, and "corrected" the error by changing the reading of Sfrs (Sephuris) to Snfr (Snefru). Maybe this explanation was not so straightforward after all, but considering that it allows for both sources to be correct in their original authorship, we may adopt it as valid.
A final initial consideration involves the fact that I depart from the conventional durations of the kings of Dynasty IV. I do this not from any requirement of my own theory, but rather because the ancient historians have left a number of different lengths for any particular king. This would be an excellent situation if we had more information to clarify the coregencies and ascension dates which the various numbers represent, but we do not have that additional information, so the best I can do is estimate. With these objections addressed, let's look at the details of this line.
Dynasty IV — c. 1831 to c. late-17th century/ º2680-2565
Scholars give Dynasty IV about 120 years, the Palermo Stone gives it 115 years, and the Turin Papyrus tells us that it started 123 years before Dynasty V. Eight kings are listed as lasting a total of 274 or 277 years, although some sources list another 9 kings, bringing the total duration of the line to 448 years. Aside from the enduring tradition that Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus were the builders of those most-famous pyramids of Giza, almost nothing “else is known of Egypt in the 4th Dynasty.”
This dynasty was inaugurated by Snefru (Soris; 29 years; c. 1815 or 1831/26-1802/ c. º2680-2655 or c. º2613). Curiously, it seems to be after his rule, around 1800, that Manetho starts to count the years of this line — similar to Dynasty IX, and we shall see this again when we look at the start-up date of Dynasty V. Apparently, by some reckoning Snefru is not counted in this dynasty. The Palermo Stone tells us that he sent military expeditions to Nubia and Libya, and he is linked by inscribed fragments to copper mining around the Second Cataract, in Nubia. We learn from Sinai inscriptions that during his rule, forty ships brought ceder from Byblos. Tombs tell us that Snefru used princes as officials, and indicate that his government was highly centralized — apparently based in the royal palace. Middle Kingdom documents indicate that Snefru was much loved. This is just about all we know. Snefru was a contemporary of Sesostris III, and it appears that he was a rival — which may go a long way in explaining why Sesostris suppressed the nomarchs.
Conventional wisdom has it that Sneferu built the first true pyramid, and two other vast structures at Dahshur. But of his two pyramids, one changes its slope midway up, and the other has a shallow slope; these curious features are supposed by scholars to have been the first tentative experimentations with the pyramidal form, but we have seen that there were pyramids long before Snefru. It may be that these were deliberate design features, rather than the stop-gap efforts of incompetence. It is thought that the later use of proper pyramids may signify some sort of religious reform. As to this, who can say — but if innovation is the result of reform, then pyramids with changing or shallow slopes may also signify some such temporary reform, away from the norm. On the other hand, these pyramids truly may be primitive, though not the efforts of Snefru but rather of some earlier king.
The second king was Cheops (Khufu, Suphis I; 23 or 63 years; c. 1790 or 1802-1779/ º2655-2635). Agriculture at this time was a high priority, as the tombs tell us. This was the very time of the seven years of plenty, when Joseph was vizier for Zoser. As we have learned, it was also the time when Sesostris III was at the end of his reign in Dynasty XII — again when agriculture was a high priority, and again when we have found Joseph ruling, as Amenemhet III. We will have more to say on this in a bit.
Calling him Suphis, Africanus reports Manetho as saying this second king “reared the Great Pyramid, which Herodotus says was built by Cheops.” From the fact that the Great Pyramid was even built, scholars have deduced that Khufu/ Cheops had the most centralized of Egypt's kingdoms — and this may be so, although the conventional construction of Egyptian history makes all such generalizations suspect. A number of mastaba tombs are neatly arranged around the Great Pyramid, presumably of the courtiers of Cheops, and the deaths of a few of Cheops' sons are recorded in tombs near Giza. Most significantly, unique artifacts have been found in the Giza tomb of Khufu's mother, Hetephere (her original tomb was at Dahshur, but another was made when the first was plundered); these artifacts are significant in that other tombs of this culture yield only statues and funerary incriptions.
Just about everything we know from the ancients of the Great Pyramid comes from Herodotus, who said it took 20 years to build. Unlike his predecessor Snefru, Cheops was very unpopular — so much so that later generations seemed loath even to mention his name, reportedly because of his hard character. From Manetho we learn that this king “conceived a contempt for the gods: he also composed the Sacred Book . . .”
I have a suggestion as to the reason for his unpopularity, which extends beyond the fact that Cheops repudiated the idols of Egypt, and goes beyond the fact that he acted autocratically — which is, after all, only to be expected from a pharaoh. I suggest that Cheops is to be identified with the Biblical Job.
First, let's notice that there is a philological identity between the names Cheops and Job — with the initial consonant of each name standing for an aspirant (rasping or not), and the p and b being philologically interchangeable. This is not proof, but it is interesting. Next, let's remember that the kings of Dynasty IV were foreign. This is not proof, but it is interesting. And let's remember that Noah foretold that the children of Ham would be the servants of the Semites. We cannot prove that the Hamites served the Semites in building the Pyramid, but it is interesting. Again, let's remember that there truly is a sacred book which was written by Job. We are shown in the Bible the unyielding, the righteous, the hard character of Job. We know that Job ruled as a king (Job 29:25): “I chose a way for them, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, [and] as one that comforteth the mourners.” He is called (Job 1:3) “the greatest of all the sons of the east.”
Of course none of this is proof, and even taken together, it is not proof. Whether or not Cheops was truly Job is incidental — it is merely interesting speculation. Given the paucity of evidence, we can have virtually no certainly in this regard. It is certain that Job was alive at this time, but this fact alone says nothing. I urge any reader to avoid stating my supposition as fact, and I ask that any skeptic avoid judging the merit of this entire work by any such inconsequential speculations.
But supposing that Job were Cheops, we must inquire as to the significance of such a construction as the Great Pyramid. It seems unlikely that a godly man would waste so much effort in building such a monument for his own glory, rather than investing those resources into some project which honored God. It seems highly unlikely that Job would build such a tomb for a body which he knew would rise again (Job 19:25‑26): “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at last upon the earth: and even after my skin be destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” As to what the correct meaning of the Great Pyramid might be, I simply cannot say. There has been much speculation on this matter, but for my part I have sedulously avoided the topic — I think all would agree that my ideas are strange enough, without the added peculiarities of pyramidology — one might almost say, if you'll pardon me, pyramidiotology. I do not accept the theory that it contains a prophetic timeline of history. To what end might Job have built this pyramid? I am content to let it stand as the enigma which it has been.
Be that as it may, and whether or not Job was Cheops, this seems to be the appropriate place to discuss Job. The catastrophes which befell him occurred by my calculations in the autumn of 1767 bc, four years after the end of the famine of Joseph. Job had prospered during this time (if as Pharaoh Cheops, ruling during the seven years of plenty) — but in his homeland (presumably having retired from his Egyptian office) he was raided by the Sabeans and Chaldeans (Job 1:15,17) who had been unsettled by the famine. The fire from the heavens and the great wind from the southern wilderness were the result of the cyclic catastrophies which periodically rained down meteors and brought on earthquakes and hurricane-force winds. The calamities of Job were not confined in their effect solely upon him, but they seem to have focused on him.
When the affliction which beset this godly man had passed, he was blessed with a double blessing. All of the wealth which he had lost, he regained twice over. Now, if Job had first ruled in some capacity as Cheops, was this former honor restored to him? His first retirement had nothing to do with the catastrophes, so any later rule need not have been doubled, but it may be that we find him as Huni, in the so-called Dynasty III. Given that Huni seems not to have reigned double the time of Cheops, we need not suppose any earlier rule was considered lost.
In this regard, we are told that Job lived an additional 140 years (Job 42:16). This may mean he had lived 70 years, which were doubled, or it may mean that he had already lived 140 years, which he received again. But let's remember that two centuries before, Abraham was considered old at age 90, and in Job's own time Jacob was counted by Pharaoh Zoser as venerable at age 130 (Gen 47:9). With this in mind, it is unlikely that Job was 140 when catastrophe struck.
Finally with regard to the doubling of Job's assets, it is interesting to notice that while his 10 children had been killed, he was not then given 20 children, but only 10 more. This tells us that, while he truly lost the sheep and camels and oxen, his children had not been lost, but only relocated to Abraham's bosom: with the additional 10 children, his progeny truly was doubled.
According to Jewish tradition, the woman who bore the children of Job's solace was Dinah, that daughter of Israel who had been raped. She would have been only around age 48 when Job married her, and in contrast to the shrill character of his first wife (cf. Job 2:9), Dinah — well acquainted as she was with unmerited hardship — would have been a gracious mate for Job.
It was also taught by the ancient rabbis that Job counseled Pharaoh (Phiops I of Dynasty VI) to curb the growth of Israel by killing the male infants: “May the King issue a decree to all the midwives and nurses and command them to kill every Hebrew male child as soon as it is born.” Years later he was called before Pharaoh to interpret a dream that a saviour would be born who would rescue oppressed Israel. After Balaam son of Beor, and Reuel priest of Midian, had each spoken, “The King thereupon turned to Job of Uz, in Mesopotamia, and said: 'Job, give us thy opinion now and tell us what we shall do with the Hebrews.' But Job never said a word, neither did he open his lips.'” Another version has Job responding differently: “'Great King,' said he, 'are not all the inhabitants of Egypt in thy power? Do, therefore, with the Hebrews as it seemeth good in thine eyes.'”
What are we to make of Job's supposed advice? If Job was acting as a prophet — recognizing the antetype of which the type would be Herod's attempt to kill the infant Jesus — then this counsel fits Job's character. In any case, Job lived until 1626 — into the teen years of Moses.
The lineage of Job is obscure, but if it is to be found in the Bible, there are four possibilities. Jacob had a grandson named Job, son of Issachar (Gen 46:13). Issachar was born in 1816 bc, so his sons are unlikely to have been born before the 1790's, and our Job was at least seventy in the 1760's, so the Job of Gen 46 is too young by at least 40 years. Again, if Job's genealogy is given, it must be under the name Jobab, and there are three men who bear that name in scripture. Benjamin had a distant descendant with that name, through Shaharaim (1Ch 8:9), but Job was an elder peer of Benjamin's brother Joseph, so this Jobab cannot be right. Eber had two sons, the first being Peleg, and the second Joktan who had 13 sons, one of whom was Jobab (Gen 10), patriarch of one of the true Arab tribes. This Jobab is far too old.
Finally, after Bela died, who was the first king of Edom, Jobab son of Zerah of Bozrah became king. The kings of Edom are not given any chronological benchmarks, but we glean from the Targum that Bela was Balaam son of Beor, who died in the days of the Exodus, which would mean that he lived some 65 years longer than Job. So if this Jobab is Job, then Bela cannot be Balaam, since Job (d. 1627) died before Balaam (d. 1561), but Bela died before Jobab. It is perhaps unlikely that Edom would have had a king prior to the Bondage, since Edom was peopled by the tribe of Esau, brother of Jacob, and just as it took a number of generations for the children of Israel to become a populous nation, so would it have taken time for Esau to multiply, and so need a king. This means that if Jobab was Job, he ruled over Esau's territory after the days of Joseph. Be that as it may, if we can identify Zerah's Bozrah with Buz, then we might link Jobab with Uz, since Buz and Uz were both nephews of Abraham (Gen 22:21) — and cousins of Lot. So, given that we have excluded the other possibilities, it seems that if we are to find Job in the Bible under circumstances other than those of his affliction, it must be under the name of Jobab son of Zerah.
This is not meant to be taken as a positive identification, although it may be strengthened by the fact that one of Job's comforters was Elihu the Buzite; Elihu son of Barachel was a contemporary of Esau. As for the rest of Job's friends, Eliphaz the Temanite may have been the father of Teman and the son of Esau (1Ch 1:35, born c. 1865), since the latter Eliphaz is too late (1Ch 1:36). Bildad the Shuite was the descendant of Abraham and Keturah, who gave birth to Shuah c. 1920's bc (1Ch 1:32, Gen 25:2); notice that Abraham had six other sons, after Ishmael and Isaac, which he fathered some 50 years after he had scoffed at the idea of ever becoming a father. Finally, Zophar the Naamathite seems unknown in the genealogies, since Naaman the grandson of Benjamin (through Bela) would have been too young.
Returning to the kings of Dynasty IV, the next king after Cheops was Radedef (Dedefre, 8 years; c. 1775 or 1779-1771/ c. º2635-2625). There is speculation that he was a usurper, which might account for the "retirement" of Cheops/ Job. That he oversaw the funeral of Cheops may simply have been a political ploy, or a religious or symbolic claim to his own legitimacy; on the other hand, it may discredit the identification of Cheops with Job. Radedef built his own pyramid at Abu Ruwaysh, just north of Giza.
Next we come to Chephren (Suphis II, Chabryes, Khafre; 66 years; c. 1771-1705/ c. º2625-2600); notice that he too is called Suphis, and is regarded as the son of Cheops. His pyramid was only slightly smaller than the Great Pyramid. There are significant remains of his funery temples near his pyramid, and the Sphinx is near his "valley temple", perhaps as "guard".
For our purposes, Suphis is by far the most intriguing of these kings. Like Cheops, he is remembered as a hard ruler. Eratosthanes — the librarian of the legendary library of Alexandria — wrote an Egyptian history, which sadly no longer exists; but we have some of his information, and we know that he wrote that the Egyptians called Suphis a ‘money-getter’ or ‘trafficker’ — a merchant. When we compare this characterization to Gen 47:13‑31, in which Joseph arranged for all the wealth of Egypt to come to his Pharaoh, we see that however apt a description "money-getter" may be for Suphis, it is perfect for Joseph.
I have already suggested that Joseph may have ruled in Dynasty XII during these very years as Lamares. I have already suggested that Joseph was Imhotep, the vizier of Zoser, and Neb-ka-ra, also of Dynasty III. With this in mind, the similarity between the names Joseph and Suphis seems more than coincidental, especially given that in the ancient, vowel-less form of writing, both names could have been written identically, as 's-ph.
Now, it is a matter of mere speculation as to why Joseph should be called the second Suphis, or why Job should have been called ‘Joseph’ (Suphis I) at all. I suppose the most likely reason would be that these foreign pharaohs — Job and Joseph — were related, and so identified by a common name. Or it may be that in that era the name we transliterate as Joseph had the force of a title. But here it stands: given the natural demands of this reconstruction of ancient history, all three of these dynasties — XII, III and IV — have characters who necessarily lived in the 1700's, and who can be identified as that Joseph of Genesis who ruled in Egypt in the 1700's. I do not require that any of these characters be Joseph — but I do require that they lived at the time of Joseph.
To conclude, the latter kings of Dynasty IV, stretching into the 1600's, are obscure. Manetho lists 5 kings after Suphis, but the king lists of Abydos give only two, and other sources vary. The fourth king was Menkaure (Mycerinus, Mencheres; given 27 and 63 years by the ancients; c. º2600-2570). He built a more modest pyramid at Giza. Herodotus says that Cheops, Cephren and Menkaure should have ruled 150 years, to fulfill a time of hardship for Egypt, but actually ruled for only 106 years. What we are to make of these numbers I cannot say — here, I merely report them. At Giza, this king's daughter, Queen Khentkawes, built "the False Pyramid" as her tomb.
Finally, the fifth king was Hardjedef (Ratoises, 25 or 7 years), and sixth was Baufre (Bicheris, 28 or 22 years, º2600). Seventh was Shepseskaf (Sebecheres, 4 or 7 years, c. º2570), who built a great mastaba at Saqqarah, and last was Thampthis (9 years, c. º2565). Adding up the various numbers — and discounting any possible coregencies — we notice that Dynasty IV would have endured until anywhere from 1636 to the highly unlikely 1532. If Dynasty V started up when IV left off, then we must deal with a period between 1701 and 1670. This is the reason I have left out the corrected dates of these last kings — we must be dealing with coregencies for which the evidence is too equivocal for any precision.
This completes our look at the 1700's of Egypt. Sumer in this century was embroiled in petty disputes over borders and water rights. Palestine was controlled by Early Bronze Canaanites and Middle Bronze Amorites. Egypt was ruled in the south by the Middle Kingdom, and in the north by the Old Kingdom — both controlled to a greater or lesser degree by Joseph. It seems that the same individuals make their appearances in different dynasties under different names, and although we can have no sure knowledge that all of my identifications are correct, I trust I have made as strong a case as any which might be raised against it. The key here, to this reconstruction, is to remember how truly small is the volume of evidence we have for this period of Egyptian history. Once we realize this, we may look upon the dogmatism of the standard model with new eyes — no longer intimidated, but rather, perhaps, a bit annoyed.
Ch. 11 — Joseph Over the House of Pharaoh
.For some insight into the mechanisms of such disruptions, see Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, or Patten, Hatch and Steinhauer, The Long Day of Joshua and Six Other Catastrophes. Neither of these sources is entirely correct, but they give some useful insights. In another place qq, I will give my own construction of these events. My theory is both dependent upon, and significantly different than those of these authors.
.Weigall, Ancient History of the Pharaohs, Vol. 2.
.Africanus, Waddell, p. 67.
.W.S. Smith, Ancient Egypt (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1960), p. 77.
.Herodotus, ii, 148.
.Book 2, §111, p. 170, & §126, p. 179.
.Herodotus, Bk. 2, §111, p. 170.
.Smith, p. 77.
.Smith, p. 77; dashes replace commas, for clarity.
.J. Hawkes, Atlas of Ancient Archaeology (NY: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1974), p. 165.
.Waddell, p. 37.
.Smith, p. 22.
.T.G.H. James, "Egypt, History of: Egypt to the end of the 17th dynasty," Ency. Brit., Vol. 6, p. 465.
.Keller, Bible as History, p. 102.
.Translated in Brugsch, History of Egypt, i, p. 304; cited in The Companion Bible (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, re-published 1990), p. 58, note 30.
.AEL, Vol. 1, p. 60.
.CAH, Vol. 1, pt. 1, p. 178.
.LaSor, "Egypt," ISBE, Vol. 2, p. 38.
.Africanus, p. 47.
.In Graves, Hebrew Myths, p. 240.
.A.S. Rappoport, Ancient Israel: Myths and Legends, Vol. 2 (NY: Bonanza Books, 1987), p. 204.
.Ibid, p. 208.
.Waddell, Manetho, frag. 17, p. 219.