ASK Commentary
May 1, 2004 

Joseph in Egypt

Commentary for May 1, 2004 — History Comes Alive

This month’s Newsletter and Article involve the patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob, and his place in secular Egyptian history. The article is titled, “The Writings of Joseph in Egypt .”

The history of Egypt and its relation to Palestine is currently misunderstood. There should be close correspondence between events and rulers in Egypt with events and rulers in Judea. Present understanding of Egyptian history seems to indicate that such events as the Israelite exodus from Egypt, the reigns of King David, King Solomon and their descendants, as well as the non-Davidic kings in Samaria, all happened in an apparent historical vacuum that has no relationship to the rich history of Egypt. This is surprising because many Egyptian rulers have international relations and wars in Judea, but none of them seem to fit biblical events. To further complicate matters, while the expected correspondence between Egyptian historical events and biblical events does not seem apparent, a definite historical correspondence exists with events and the kingdoms of Syria, Assyria and Babylon.

This mixup has occurred primarily because the Egyptian king lists as presented to us by historians and Egyptologists are misunderstood, and are not synchronized with the biblical record, which should be the standard for the chronology of ancient times (however much that standard is avoided). According to these records Joseph and and the subsequent history of Israel are not easily identified. This results in the biblical account of Joseph, so important to the history of Egypt, to be largely ignored, according to secular Egyptian history.

However, there are accounts in Egyptian records that have a close fit with the Bible when properly recognized. These accounts are so close in correspondence to biblical events that to conclude that Joseph is the subject of these accounts is unavoidable. This is the subject discussed by Dr. Martin’s article.

Jacob's Request and Joseph's Command

Regarding Jacob and Joseph, father and son, the author of Hebrews list them as a people who acted with considerable faith, and notes incidents toward the ends of their lives:

“By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.”

Hebrews 11:21–22

Before Jacob died he blessed all his 12 sons. The blessing to Joseph was divided between his two sons, each of whom received a share equal to that of the other 11 sons. That blessing involved the land of Palestine that God gave to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As Jacob requested, Joseph took Jacob's body to be buried with his fathers Abraham and Isaac in the land of Promise (Genesis 49:29–50:14). All those who went to bury Jacob returned to Goshen (Genesis 50:14).

When Joseph died he knew, so says Hebrews 11:21–22, that the children of Israel would some day depart from Egypt. Joseph commanded that they take his bones with them. This is recorded in Genesis 50:24–25. Joseph knew about that prophecy and Promise from his father Jacob. Joseph believed it and logically looked to the future of his children and their descendants:

“And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you [gather you], and bring you out of this land unto the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of [from] the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you [gather you], and you shall carry up my bones from here. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt."

Genesis 50:24–26

This double emphasis of “God will surely visit you” is interesting because it shows how certain Joseph was that the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt would occur.

Joseph’s Bones

Joseph's command for his body to be taken and buried with his fathers in Palestine, just as Jacob's body was buried, was fulfilled when the Israelites took Joseph's bones with them at the time of the exodus from Egypt (Hebrews 11:22, cf. Genesis 50:26).

“But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he [Joseph] had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you; and you shall carry up my bones away hence with you.’”

Exodus 13:18–19

Joseph's bones were not buried by Moses, who never entered the promised land, but they were finally buried later in the time of Joshua:
“And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph."

Joshua 24:32

Joseph's story ends with his bones being buried in the land of Promise, just as Jacob's bones were brought there. This may be why there is no record or reference to Joseph’s burial in Egyptian records. He was, after all, a major and a pivotal figure in Egyptian history. If there would be a record of Joseph's tomb in Egypt, it might indicate that the body had been removed.

Enjoy the information put forth in this month's Article. Some day soon the chronology of ancient Egypt will be corrected and the full story of Joseph's exploits will be revealed. This will result from the upcoming restitution of all things. A corrected Egyptian history will lead to many other revelations about major events and people elsewhere in the ancient world. Pray that God makes us, as His children, a part of that restitution, not just as observers, but as participants. Pray that we may help restore the understanding of events as they relate to the Bible, which in addition to being the Word of God to us, is also reliable history.

David Sielaff

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