Appendix VI: Joseph & Imhotep – One man, different name?

The biggest stumbling block to reconciling the clear identity of the biblical patriarch Joseph with his obvious historical counterpart Imhotep, has been the orthodox chronology of the ruling Egyptian dynasties of kings by mainstream Egyptologists. Central in the error of this chronology has been the acceptance of the embedded belief that the dynasties of Egypt followed each other in a neat orderly, consecutive pattern of one to thirty-one, without overlap. Within this flawed paradigm is the perception that one Pharaoh ruled all Egypt – that is, both the Lower kingdom in the north and the Upper region in the south – without realising Pharaohs ruled concurrently more often than not.

Yet the governorship of the vast land of Egypt was far more complex than that. So it is difficult to entertain that dynasties ran concurrently or that there were two or more kings at once. For instance, the XIII Dynasty did not have thirty plus pharaohs in a row, but included many ephemeral monarchs under the control of a powerful line of viziers, or viziers who themselves had been appointed or elected to short term office in regional capacities.

Ancient Egypt was divided into 42 regions known as Nomes and these were headed by a provincial governor called a Nomarch, who invariably held considerable authority in their respective jurisdictions. Nomarchs were often appointed by pharaoh’s and others held hereditary positions. These Nomarch’s could become powerful and so would take on the functions of a pharaoh and govern autonomously, particularly during a period of weak central government. Thus, the dynastic king lists are not always a representation of a Pharaoh who actually governed either Lower or Upper Egypt, let alone all Egypt, which likely derives from the probable myth of First Dynasty King Menes-Narmer unifying all Egypt. 

Revising the Egyptian Chronology: Joseph as Imhotep… Anne Habermehl – emphasis & bold mine:

‘From earliest predynastic times Egypt has been a dual country, composed of Upper Egypt (Southern Egypt) and Lower Egypt (Northern Egypt). Two different cultures had developed, the Nagada in the south and the Maadi in the north (Midant-Reynes, 2003, pages 41-56). The papyrus plant and the bee were symbols of the north, and the lotus and sedge plant symbols of the south. Two goddesses protected the king: the vulture goddess, Nekhbet, of the south, and the cobra goddess, Wadjet, of the north. The kings’ chief titles were traditionally “Lord of the Two Lands” and “King of Upper and Lower Egypt.” There were two crowns for the two Egypts as well: the Red Crown of lower Egypt and the White Crown of upper Egypt. Any king who claimed to rule over all of Egypt wore both crowns at once, with the tall white one inside the red one, forming what was called the Double Crown. 

Even today, just about any discussion of Egypt refers to Upper Egypt (everything south of Cairo) or Lower Egypt (Cairo and the Delta), retaining the ancient division of this country. 

It is possible that the two divisions of Egypt may have been far more important historically than has been realized, and Egypt may have often been divided into two parts under two pharaohs. Two pharaohs may have reigned concurrently for a lot of Egypt’s history, and more than two pharaohs during some periods, especially in times of disorder. Some pharaohs who have caused much trouble for historians, e.g., the much-debated mysterious Nebka (or Sanakht) of the 3rd Dynasty, may well have ruled a small piece of Egypt under the auspices of a more powerful pharaoh who was ruling at the same time. We suggest that scholars have been naïve in believing that every pharaoh who claimed both the red and white crowns necessarily ruled over all of Egypt, and this has led to confusion in working out when and where some kings reigned. There were kings who obviously exaggerated their importance; for example, it is known that Intef I (11th Dynasty) claimed the title of King of Upper and Lower Egypt, but actually ruled only the southern part up to Abydos (about 1/3 of the length of Egypt) (Edwards, 1988, page 191). Because Egyptian rulers glorified themselves at every opportunity, they might not have been inclined to suggest that they were ruling over only a portion of the country, or that they ruled under the auspices of another pharaoh.’ 

In the book, The Egyptian God of Medicine, Jamieson Hurry describes the comprehensive and impressive duties of a vizier to a Pharaoh: ‘chief judge, overseer of the King’s records, bearer of the royal seal, chief of all works of the King, supervisor of that which Heaven brings, the Earth creates and the Nile brings, supervisor of everything in this entire land.’ According to Habermehl the vizier’s office included the responsibility of ‘the Judiciary, the Treasury, War (Army and Navy), the Interior, Agriculture, and the General Executive.’ This would necessitate a very talented individual as Hurry states: “A prodigy of efficiency must have been required to carry out such multifarious duties. The office of vizier to the ruling pharaoh was one of high dignity and responsibility. The occupant of the post was a sort of Joseph…” Yet amazingly, Hurry apparently did not join the dots from Imhotep to Joseph [refer Chapter XXXIII Manasseh & Ephraim].

There are a number of significant similarities between Joseph and Imhotep, which are too coincidental to ignore.

The most obvious and convincing surrounds their names as explained by Anne Habermehl – emphasis & bold mine: 

‘Although the name “Joseph” is pronounced “Yosef” in modern Israeli Hebrew, it wasn’t always so. There is a form of archaic Hebrew called Tiberian, considered to go back to at least second temple times, in which “Joseph” is pronounced “Yehosep” (Yəhôsēp̄). Tiberian Hebrew takes its name from the Jewish community of Tiberias and is the oldest form of pronunciation that scholars know today. (See Coetzee, 1999; Hebrew Given Names, 2012; Tiberian Hebrew, 2013.) 

The phonetic similarity between (Ye)hosep and (Im)hotep is striking, especially considering that we do not know with certainty how either name was actually pronounced 3700 years ago. A further similarity of the two names is claimed by Metzler (1989, pages 7-9, fn. 10), who says that an original spelling form of “Joseph” isIhosep,” and “Imhotep” may be spelled Ihotep. The variant spelling “Ihotep” appears in a long inscription of the tomb of sixth-Dynasty Weni, who mentions the Gate of Ihotep, a place near the coast of the Mediterranean (Horne, 1917, page 39). 

This leaves only the “s” and “t” phonetic difference between the two names. The Egyptians of Joseph’s day may have simply pronounced his name as if it was an Egyptian one. It would have been an honorable name; many pharaohs included “hotep” in their names, including one at the beginning of the 2nd Dynasty, well before Imhotep (Hotep, 2010). Ironically, this name similarity between Joseph and Imhotep is one that Möller (2002, pages 87-90) does not include in his extended list. The two names have different meanings, however, because they come from different unrelated languages. “Joseph” means “ let him add” (Strong, 1894, #3130). “Imhotep,” on the other hand, means “He who cometh in peace” (e.g., see Hurry, 1926, pages 95-96, for a discussion of the name, “Imhotep”).’

The second similarity between the two men was the seven year famine, not just in Egypt but worldwide [refer Chapter XXXIII Manasseh & Ehpraim]. The third, was the attribute of wisdom. Pharaoh Djoser praised Joseph’s wisdom [Genesis 41:39]. Imhotep had the same reputation. Asante, 2004, page 67 states: “[Imhotep] is before all of the great names in antiquity and stands near the top of the ancients in terms of his display of genius.” 

The fourth similarity is that both characters were Seers. Joseph had prophetic dreams  regarding his family and the fate of the Pharaoh’s butler and baker [Genesis 37: 5–11; 40:5–22]; as well as the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine [Genesis 41:25–32]. While Imhotep was renowned as a seer and bore the title: “Greatest of Seers in Heliopolis” [Parsons, 2011]. 

A fifth and notable similarity is the lifespan of Joseph. Joseph lived to be 110 years old [Genesis 50:22, 26]. According to Habermehl, living to 110 was ‘traditionally considered to be an ideal lifespan throughout the history of ancient Egypt, and appears repeatedly in the manuscripts (Loza & Milad, 1990; Rowling, 1961; Taylor, 2001, page 39). It would be highly unlikely that this could be a coincidence.’ Nigel Hawkins states that Imhotep lived to the same age citing, Is biblical Joseph the Imhotep of Egypt, A Kolom, 2009 as a reference. Hawkins provides further similarities in his article, Joseph, son of Jacob (Israel), was Imhotep, of Egyptian History, 2012: 

‘Similarities between Joseph and Imhotep’

Imhotep – Egyptian recordsJoseph – Bible
Imhotep is appointed Administrator by Pharaoh Djoser during the periods of seven years famine and seven years of bountiful harvests Joseph is appointed Administrator to Pharaoh for the seven years of plenty then of famine
Minister to the King of Lower Egypt Pharaoh made him ruler over all the land of Egypt
Administrator of the Great Palace Thou shalt be over my house
Not of royal blood; attained position by ability From another nation and religion, not of royal blood, attained position by ability
Not appointed by Pharaoh Djoser until he had reigned for some time Appointed well after Pharaoh ruled Egypt
Given the status of “son” to Pharaoh Granted the status of “son” to Pharaoh
High Priest in Heliopolis Married to Asenath, daughter of Poti-Pherah, High Priest in Heliopolis – by custom, would succeed father-in-law
Builder and architect Builder of grain storehouses such as at Sakkara step-pyramid
Exalted by Pharaoh Djoser as of godly character And Pharaoh said, ‘a man in whom the spirit of God is!’
“I need advice from God” Noted as saying, “It is not in me; God shall give Pharaoh an answer”
Had great medical skill – was compared to the Greek God of Healing Had doctors under his authority – worked by miracles, dreams and signs from God
Decided the tax rate during the seven years of famine; also not to apply to priests Decided the tax rate during the seven years of famine; also not to apply to priests
Realizes when he is dying – dies at age 110 Realizes when he is dying – dies at age 110

Imhotep is attributed with a number of skills, attributes and actions, such as with being the first person to be documented as an acting physician; he is credited as the first architect; he was a poet and a philosopher and may have even invented the papyrus scroll. Following his death, he was given the status of a deity. Very few non-royals or commoners have been afforded that honour. 

Imhotep is thought to be the architect of the first Pyramid after the Giza complex; the step pyramid at Saqqara. On the foundations of the Step Pyramid in Sakkara is carved the name of Pharaoh Djoser and “… Imhotep, Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt, Chief under the King, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary Lord, High Priest of Heliopolis, Imhotep the Builder…” He is also credited with the use of columns in architecture. 

Historians note the sizeable building projects of ancient Egypt, particularly the pyramids and scratch their heads wondering where the non-slave labour came from and how the Pharaoh’s got their subjects to perform this labour prior to the Israelite slaves. The answer is found during the seven years of famine, when the people of Egypt consecutively sold everything they had, from their animals, their land and finally themselves, to the pharaoh for food [Genesis 47:13-26]. The people agreed that they would be pharaoh’s servants because he had saved their lives [Genesis 47:19, 25]. From Joseph’s time onwards, the pharaohs could commandeer the people to work as required, because he legitimately owned them. 

Thus the first of these great Egyptian building projects was Djoser’s pyramid complex at Saqqara, famously designed by his architect, Imhotep (Edwards, 1988, page 34). The scale of this building project is impressive, even compared to the Giza Pyramids. Edwards [pages 51-52] describes the Saqqara complex as “one of the most remarkable architectural achievements produced by the ancient Egyptians.” Habermehl continues: “He also notes that it is a matter of discussion how such a ‘high degree of architectural perfection’ could have been produced without a long process of development first taking place. 

The pyramid as an architectural element had been previously known only on a small scale, as in a 1st Dynasty tomb that was a pyramid with its top cut off and a traditional mastaba (tomb structure) built over it (Temple, 2010, figure 36; Watson, 2011).” 

The timing of Pharaoh Djoser being able to conscript manpower for this and other projects, coincides with Imhotep and thus indicates he is one and the same with Joseph. These projects would come at great cost, yet the Pharaoh had become incredibly wealthy thanks to Joseph’s storing of grain in the years of plenty; coupled with the ongoing 20% tax instituted by Joseph meant a high annual income pouring into the king’s coffers. This sudden wealth of Djoser again indicates that Joseph was Imhotep.   

With regard to medicine, Nigel Hawkins states: “[Imhotep] is known as the founder of Egyptian medicine, and he is famous for not incorporating magic into his medical treatments, he diagnosed and treated over two hundred diseases, he extracted medicine from plants and he is also known to have performed operations and dentist work. He knew the circulation of the blood system and he knew where each vital organ was placed and what its uses were. He became the god of medicine and healing, [as] when the Greeks invaded Egypt they worshiped him and built him temples because they [recognised] in him their own god of healing named Asclepius.” Historian Mantheo wondered whether Imhotep was even a real person, so impressive were his abilities and achievements, saying he had “so many outstanding qualities and talents… a very special person [who] appears in the history of Egypt.” Though Joseph’s great Grandfather Abraham visited Egypt, it was most likely Joseph who introduced circumcision to the Egyptians who practised it from the III Dynasty onwards. 

Anciently, Egyptians may have used a form of embalming, though records indicate according to Hawkins “that before Imhotep, the bodies of Egyptian royalty were not embalmed. Instead, they were entombed in early Egyptian structures called mastabas, (or mastabahs), oblong structures with flat roofs and sloping sides built over the opening of a mummy chamber or burial pit. Djoser appears to be the first king to have be embalmed, Jacob (Israel) was embalmed by Joseph and buried in a coffin and Joesph himself was embalmed and given a royal Egyptian burial. The Biblical account suggests that only Joseph’s bones were preserved as was the practice in the early dynasties of the Old Kingdom. Preservation of the whole body was not practiced until the Era of King Tut (New Kingdom).” 

In recognition of Joseph and Imhotep being the same person, neither of their mummified bodies have been unearthed. The known facts regarding the burials of Imhotep and Joseph, strongly support the contention that they were the same person. Nigel Hawkins: “Imhotep’s coffin in Sakkara – with innumerable Ibis birds mummified in the adjoining galleries (Imhotep was called “Ibis” because of his reputation for healing – a large number of Ibis birds were sacrificed to him at his funeral in Sakkara); many clay vessels bearing the seal of Pharaoh Djoser were near the coffin; and the coffin is oriented to the North, not East, and is empty. 

Joseph would have been buried at Sakkara, his coffin orientated to the North – indicating he did not believe in the gods of the Egyptians (who were buried facing East, the rising sun); the coffin would also be empty as Joseph’s bones would have been taken by Moses with the Hebrews during the Exodus [Genesis 50:25, Exodus 13:19].” 

The embalming of Joseph’s father, Jacob, took place during the III Dynasty, as Jacob died in 1670 BCE, 17 years after moving to Egypt in 1687 BCE [Genesis 47:28]. Jacob, as the father of Joseph, would have received the best embalming of the time, which took 40 days for the complete preparation [Genesis 50:2-3]. In the era of the Old Kingdom, mummies were generally poorly preserved, consisting of little but bones [Taylor, 2001, page 48]. Therefore, the reference to Joseph’s bones being taken out of Egypt along with the Children of Israel, would support placing Joseph’s death during the Old Kingdom period. 

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