Biblical Archaeology Joseph

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. (1 Peter 3:15)

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Passages concerning Joseph

David Rohl deals extensively with Joseph and even believes that we have discovered Joseph's residence and tomb in Goshen as well as a statue of Joseph himself.

Coat of many colors | Joseph's administrative programs | The 7 year famine | Pharaoh gains control of Egypt | Joseph's home in Goshen | Joseph's tomb and removal of the coffin | Statue of Joseph | Table of Contents




Coat of many colors

It was common at the time of Joseph to wear a "coat of many colors." There is archaeological evidence for Midianite traders and that they wore coats like this.

From the Bible From Archaeology

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. (Gen 37:3)

So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. (Gen 37:28)
There is a rock-cut tomb in middle Egypt that dates from just before the time of Joseph. On the interior wall there is painted a scene of Asiatics entering Egypt carrying goods to sell to the Egyptians. There is text accompanying the scene. They wear colorful striped garments which numerous commentators have likened to Joseph's 'coat of many colors.' These were Midianite caravaneers like the ones who brought Joseph into Egypt. (pg 359-360)

There is a twice-life-size statue (probably of Joseph himself) found in his tomb in which he is wearing a coat of many colors. (pg 366)

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Joseph's administrative programs


From the Bible From Archaeology

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine." (Gen 41:35-36) There is evidence of Amenemhat III's preparation for the floods. (pg 343)

There is a building with 3,000 chambers. (pg 344)
And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. (Gen 41:33-34)

Three regional departments were set up to oversee the agricultural labor, conscript labor and the storage of grain supplies for redistribution to the Egyptian population during periods of famine. (pg 348)

Avaris [in Goshen] is the site of one of the 3 regional departments. (pg 356)

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The 7 year famine


From the Bible From Archaeology

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. . . . (Gen 41:53-54)

Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. (Gen 41:34)
There is archaeological evidence for a famine preceded by bumper harvests at the time of Joseph. (pg 335)

For 60 years starting with King Amenemhat III the Egyptians monitored the level of the Nile inundation near the 2nd cataract (rapids). (pg 335)

What was different about the inundations to require that they should be so closely monitored? There was a very drastic rise in the Nile flood levels in the reign of Amenemhat III. (pg 337-338)

In Amenemhat's 12th year the flood levels rise 27 feet above the 'good' flood level. There would be 3-4 times the volume of water which would have led to famine. The water would wash away villages, break down dikes and causeways and take longer to subside so the fields can't be made ready for planting season. (pg 340)

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Pharaoh gains control of Egypt


From the Bible From Archaeology

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
So Joseph bought all the land in Egypt for Pharaoh. The Egyptians, one and all, sold their fields, because the famine was too severe for them. The land became Pharaoh's, and Joseph reduced the people to servitude, from one end of Egypt to the other. (Gen 47:20-21)

"You have saved our lives," they said. "May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh." (Gen 47:25)
The local chieftains found their own grain silos exhausted and were forced to sell their land holdings to the Pharaoh. The power of the governors of Egypt was broken and Pharaoh became the sole authority in Egypt — the evidence for this is that the grand tombs of the governors of Egypt ceased to be built. This signals the diminution of the authority of a semi-independent nobility and the return of political control to the kingship. (pg 342)

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Joseph's home in Goshen


From the Bible From Archaeology

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
So Joseph settled his father and his brothers in Egypt and gave them property in the best part of the land, the district of Rameses, as Pharaoh directed. (Gen 47:11) Archaeologists have found the residence of Jacob built and planned in the tradition of his original homeland. The tombs located in the garden contained Asiatic grave goods confirming that the occupants originated in the Levant. It is dated to the time of Jacob's arrival in Egypt. (pg 355-356)
Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father's family. He lived a hundred and ten years. (Gen 50:22) Joseph had a large Egyptian-style palace in Goshen and it was likely the focal point of Israelite settlement. It clearly belonged to a very important official. This is built directly over Jacob's dwelling and can be ascribed to the period following the death of Jacob when Joseph was of mature years (perhaps about 50) and, no doubt, occupied with the administration of his own large estate bequeathed to him by the grateful Pharaohs. (pg 354-356)

There are twin suites (for Manasseh & Ephraim and families) attached. (pg 356)

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Joseph's tomb and removal of the coffin


From the Bible From Archaeology

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. (Gen 50:26) Joseph's palace had a garden tomb. (pg 358)

Joseph was buried in a coffin within his own tomb. It is the largest sepulchre found at Avaris [in Goshen]. (pg 361)
Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place." (Exo 13:19) The body was removed but without signs of the grave having been plundered. (pg 361)

There was a careful clearance of the vault rather than the usual ransacking. This reopening of the tomb took place while the chapel was still in use. Moses extracted Joseph's remains to take them to the promised land. (pg 363)

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Statue of Joseph


From the Bible From Archaeology

Page numbers from "Pharaohs and Kings" by David Rohl
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. (Gen 41:14) There is a twice-life-size statue in Joseph's tomb. The statue is clean shaven instead of the usual beard of the Asiatics. (pg 363)

After the Exodus, some vengeful individuals attempted to destroy the statue. The nose was smashed off. The eyes were gouged out. There are blows visible on the top of the head. It is not hard to imagine the men of the town descending upon the tomb of Joseph so as to vent their wrath in memory of the disaster that caused Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. (pg 364)

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 Revised: Nov 11, 2000