From textual evidence, particularly
paying attention to material culture and the likely status of
foreigners in Egypt, several dates have been proposed for Joseph's
service in Egypt. An early date is 1886 BC, in the Middle
Kingdom. A late extreme is 1475 BC, during the 18th dynasty. One
piece of important evidence is the price Joseph was sold for, which is
20 silver shekels (Gen. 37:28). This has been established as the
correct average price for a slave in about 1700 BC; earlier it was
less, and later is was much more.(13)
Modern scholarship places Joseph in Egypt at the time of the Shepard
kings, a tradition that has been in vogue for quite some
Egypt, like other great empires with a long history, underwent
several periods of political unrest. These are called
"Intermediate Periods." This phrase is used to denote a break in an
otherwise more or less reliable king list. The 15th - 17th
dynasties of Egypt are often combined under the title the Second
Intermediate Period. The Hyksos, a people of uncertain origin,
are credited with this period of unrest. They preferred to stay
in northern Egypt, but at times held sway over the entire
country. There is much difficulty in naming these rulers.
Some scholars suggest that there were two kings named Apophis (known as
Apophis I and II) because there are two known prenomens for this king,
Awoserre and Aqenenre. Other scholars suggest that these names in
fact refer to one ruler, and that these two names were used at
different times. It is therefore likely that Apophis I ruled for
forty years, from 1580 - 1540 BC. This ruler, according to
"...the king who made Joseph his
prime minister, and committed into his hands the entire administration
of Egypt, was Apepi. George the Syncellus says that the
synchronism was accepted by all. It is clear that Joseph's
arrival did not fall, like Abraham's, into the period of the Old
Empire, since under Joseph horses and chariots are in use, as well as
wagons and carts, all of which were unknown till after the Hyks“s
invasion. It is also more natural that Joseph, a foreigner,
should have been advanced by a foreign king than by a native one, and
the favour shown to his brethren, who were shepherds (Gen. xlvi. 32),
is consonant at any rate with the tradition that it was a "Shepard
King" who held the throne at the time of their arrival. A priest
of Heliopolis, moreover, would scarcely have given Joseph his daughter
in marriage unless at the time the priesthood was in a state of
depression. Add to this that the Pharaoh of Joseph is evidently
resident in Lower Egypt, not at Thebes, which was the seat of
government for many hundred years both before and after Hyks“s
In a later passage Rawlinson adds:
"If, however, we are to place Joseph
under one of the "Shepherd Kings," there can be no reason why we should
not accept the tradition which connects him with Apepi. Apepi was
dominant over the whole of Egypt, as Joseph's Pharaoh seems to have
been. He acknowledged a single god, as did that monarch (Gen.
xli. 38, 39)" (p. 146).
Ussher in his annals of the world suggests that the people were from
an area "...bordering upon Egypt, called by the Egyptians Hyksos,
meaning Shepard Kings, and invaded Egypt. They took Memphis and
took over all of lower Egypt bordering on the Mediterranean Sea."
The date given for the first ruler, called Salatis, is nineteen years
||Figure 12 (p. 141). This bust of a "Shepard King" broadly follows the
Egyptian style, but has peculiarities - such as the head dress, face
and beard - that easily mark it from this period.
The book by Rawlinson does not
give pride of place to the Bible, but clearly uses it as a major
source. The identity of the Pharaoh that oppressed the Hebrews is
given special attention:
"According to the almost unanimous
voice of those most conversant with Egyptian antiquities, the "great
oppressor" of the Hebrews was this Ramesses. Seti may have been the
originator of the scheme for crushing them by hard usage, but, as the
oppression lasted close upon eighty years (Ex. ii I ; vii. 7) it must
have covered at least two reigns, so that, if it began under Seti, it
must have continued under his son and successor. The bricks found
at Tel-el-Maskoutah show Ramesses as the main builder of Pithom
(Pa-Tum), and the very name indicates that he was the main builder of
Raamses (Pa-Ramessu). We must thus ascribe to him, at any rate,
the great bulk of that severe and cruel affliction, which provoked
Moses (Ex. ii. 12), which made Israel "sigh" and "groan" compassion
(ib. iii.7). It was he especially who "made their lives bitter in
mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field" -
service which was "with rigour." Ramesses was a builder on the
most extensive scale" (p. 249).
Rawlinson also notes that while some have thought that the term "Apiru"
or "Apeiru" - as used in documents of the period - specifically
mentions the Hebrews, he notes that the term is often used for "foreign
bondsmen" in Egyptian service.
Rawlinson observes that the physiognomies of the two rulers, Seti and Ramesses II, are quite different:
"Seti's face is throughly African,
strong, fierce, prognathous, with depressed nose, thick lips, and a
heavy chin. The face of Ramesses is Asiatic. He has a good
forehead, a large, well-formed, slightly aquiline nose, a well shaped
mouth, with lips that are not too full, a small delicate chin, and an
eye that is thoughtful and pensive. We may conclude that Seti was
of the true Egyptian race, with perhaps an admixture of more southern
blood ; while Ramesses, born of a Semetic mother, inherited through her
Asiatic characteristics, and, though possessing less energy and
strength of character than his father, had a more sensitive
temperament, a wider range of taste, and a great inclination towards
peace and tranquility" (p. 252).
Before one denounces the above statement, that relies upon the
physiognomy of the individual as revealed in sculpture to yield a
psychological profile, one must remember that at the time this
discipline was regarded as a science. It thoroughly dates the
author and renders the rest of his text highly suspect to modern
readers, but was not out of place at the time.
Head of Seti
|Figure 13 (p. 250, 251). The portraits of Seti and Ramses II are
compared here. Unlike some other works of the period the artist has
rendered them in Egyptian style, apparently drawn from monuments and
not imagination. When the bust of Ramses II is compared with
the idealized portrait in figure 7 one suspects that it is holds truer
to the original sculpture.
Bust of Ramses II
Figure 14 (fold
out map in front). It is significant that the book contains a map in
the front. This was not usual for the period, as most studies
were simply literary based.
J. (1998). Handbook of Biblical Chronology (revised
edition). Hendrickson Publishers: Mass., p.
Annals of the World p. 22.