Friday, December 7, 2012

Historical Joseph? Imhotep?

National Geographic, January 1995, describes a man called Imhotep who saved his country from a famine.  "Perhaps most confident was Imhotep, the architect who probably conceived of building Djoser's [pharaoh] tomb completely from stone. Known as a sculptor, a priest, and a healer, Imhotep is considered the preeminent genius of the Old Kingdom.  He assembled one workforce to quarry limestone to ship the crude blocks by boat to Saqqara, and yet another to haul the stone to the site, where master carvers shaped each block and put it in place.
"On a granite boulder above the Nile's First Cataract, the formidable rapids at Aswan, a sculptor who lived much later [thus the facts are not totally accurate] chiseled out in hieroglyphs the story of how Imhotep had even saved his country from famine. 

In 1890 Charles Wilbour discovered this boulder
 on the island of Sahal at the Nile, telling a story of Imhotep
The annual Nile flood, which inundated surrounding fields every autumn before farmers sowed their seed, failed seven years in a row.  Djoser asked Imhotep where the source of the river lay.  The pharaoh intended to travel there to interrogate the river gods and beg them to show mercy on his people.
"But Imhotep replied that sacred [God] books had given him the answer....  The floods returned, and the famine was over....
"In about 1200 B.C., fully 1400 years after his death, Imhotep, the genius architect of Djoser's reign, was deified by the Egyptians, who built cult temples to honor him."
Striking similarities.
  1. Both Joseph and Imhotep were Grand Viziers. Genesis 41:41-43, "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."
  2. The priestly connection between Joseph and Imhotep.
    Imhotep was priest in Heliopolis. Of Joseph, we read, "Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.' Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt." (Genesis 41:44ff)
  3. Both were noted to be godlike. Imhotep was titled, "Son of the Ptah, the Creator God." Of Joseph, we read Pharaoh saying, "So Pharaoh asked them, 'Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?' Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.'" Genesis 41:38ff
  4. Imhotep was serving when there was a famine for seven years followed by seven years of plenty. With Joseph, it was the reverse. But the numbers are the same. The Joseph account makes more sense. In the Imhotep account, Imhotep saves 10% of the crops for famine (afterward), in the Joseph account, 20% beforehand.
    Many famines in Egypt, but not seven years in a row. Only mentioned once in Egyptian history, and that was in connection with Imhotep.
  5. When asked to interpret the famine, Imhotep said, "I need advice from God." When Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dream, the text says, "I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires." (Genesis 41:16)
  6. The building design of Imhotep's Step Pyramid was similar to the Sumerian Ziggurats, of which the tower of Babel was the first. Imhotep used stones rather than bricks. Joseph's great grandparents, Abraham and Sarah, were originally from the region where the ziggurats were built...they may have passed on the design.
  7. Imhotep was a cutting edge physician and Joseph had doctors in his service:
    "Joseph threw himself upon his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming." (Genesis 50:2)
  8. Both came to Pharaoh while he was in distress. The inscription near the Nile reads: "I was in distress on the Great Throne"
    In Genesis 41:8, Pharaoh is unusually distressed because of disturbing dream.
  9. Imhotep died at the age of 110. Joseph died at the age of 110 (Genesis 50:22-26).
    (source: The Exodus Case by Dr. Lennart Moller)

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