|Exploring Ancient History - The First 2500 Years
PART 4: EGYPT AND ISRAEL TO THE EXODUS
Israel Comes to Egypt Everyone is familiar with the story in the Bible of how Jacob and his children came to Egypt where Joseph was. But history books do not tell when this occurred. Nor do they explain how this event fits into the history of Egypt. The coming of the Israelites had an important and lasting effect on the history of ancient Egypt and, as this chapter will show, upon the course of events in the entire ancient world.
When the Israelites came to Egypt in proceeding with the story, notice what Joseph told his brothers after revealing his identity to them in Genesis 45: "For these two years hath the famine been in the land: and yet there are five years, in which there shall neither be earing nor harvest .... Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, 'Thus saith thy son Joseph ... thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen ... and there I will nourish thee; for yet there are five years of famine ...'" (verses 6, 9, 11). This statement indicates that the Children of Israel came into Egypt in 1726 in the autumn after the summer harvest had failed for two years in Palestine (Compendium, Vol. I, p. 65). This was 239 years before the Exodus.
On the way to Egypt, Jacob and his family stopped at Beersheba to offer sacrifices to God. There, in a night vision, God spoke to Jacob and told him that later he would again bring them up out of Egypt. (Gen. 46:1-4). So here was another important prophecy telling of major developments in the history of the Children of Israel. These promises from God became an important part of the family tradition of the Israelites.
The chapter goes on to name the sons and grandsons of Jacob who accompanied him into Egypt. This list of names totals (66) (verse 26) but, when Joseph, his wife, and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, are added, the total was (70) (verse 27). In other words, the immediate family of Jacob in Egypt totaled this number. In addition, however, there were Jacob's daughters and the wives of his grandsons, as well as any servants they might have had. So the entire group that entered Egypt was well above this figure of 70! All these Israelites would require a considerable territory in which to dwell. God had provided for their needs well in advance. God promised the Israelites an inheritance in Egypt over two centuries earlier. Notice what he told Abraham in Gen. 15:18: "In the same day the Eternal made a covenant with Abram, saying, unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."
Other scriptures in the Bible make plain that the "River of Egypt" is the Nile. (Joshua 15:4, 47 and I Kings 8:65.) Some modern critics insist this does not mean the Nile. Instead, they claim this term refers to a dry river in the midst of the Sinai Peninsula which flows only in the winter. But the Bible plainly declares that it is the river of Egypt, not the river of the Sinai Peninsula. There is only one river of Egypt, the Nile.
If God had not given Abraham's descendants dominion to the river of Egypt, then what right have his descendants — the British and other modern day Israelites — had to build the Suez Canal? Why was it wrong for Nassar to have taken over the Suez Canal unless it belonged to Israel in the first place by authority from God who owns the entire earth?
The very fact that God used Israel to build the Suez Canal is in itself proof that the Children of Israel should possess the land of Egypt to the Nile!
The Land of Goshen God, then, had told Abraham that his descendants were going to control land or territory to the river of Egypt, the Nile. How was this promise fulfilled? The answer is found in the account contained in Genesis 45-47. Notice what the Egyptians themselves promised the Children of Israel because of what Joseph did for them. At Pharaoh's command, and under his authority, Joseph told his family, "And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen ...." (Gen. 45:10).
Jacob and all the family of Israel were permitted to dwell in the land of Goshen. But where is the land of Goshen? This question merits serious discussion because this area is invariably misplaced on Bible maps today. Modern scholars think it was a small, semi-desolate area east of the Nile, halfway between the Nile and where the Suez Canal is today. This is supposed to be the land with which God blessed Jacob. Because critics have assumed this small, arid plot to be the land of Goshen, they cannot believe that there were 600,000 Israelite men, beside women and children. A total of some two to three million people at the time of the Exodus. The area they think was Goshen could not possibly support this many people with all their cattle. But, of course, the fact is that the scholars have simply not understood where the land of Goshen is.
The Bible reveals the true location of Goshen. Read Gen. 46:28-29: "And he (Jacob) sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen." Jacob was coming down into Egypt from Beersheba in Palestine. "and they came into the Land of Goshen. And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up (northward) to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him." Notice that Joseph was not in the land of Goshen. Joseph dwelt near the Pharaoh in Memphis, the capital of lower Egypt. Memphis may still be visited today. It is just west of the Nile, a few miles south of modern Cairo. Joseph, then, "went up to meet Israel His father." He went up to Goshen. He was going NORTH. Therefore, as the Bible makes plain, the land of Goshen was north of the capital of Egypt at this time.
Now move ahead to Genesis 47:5-6. "And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell: and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle." Take careful note of what Pharaoh said to the Children of Israel: "the land of Egypt is before you, the BEST of the land, the land of Goshen." Pharaoh Amenemhe III was actually giving the Israelites one of the richest portions of all Egypt. God was fulfilling the promise made to Abraham.
Now since this territory was to extend all the way to the Nile, the land of Goshen could have been nothing less than the entire eastern Delta region, one of the lushest portions in all Egypt. This is where God wanted his people to settle and grow into a great nation.
The Israelites' Occupation There is another phase of this story that should be emphasized. Pharaoh Amenemhe, in granting this area to Jacob's family, had a certain service in mind which he wanted the Israelites to render him. Turn back to Genesis 46:33-34: Here Joseph was instructing his father what to say to the king when they meet: "And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say, What is your occupation? That ye shall say, Thy servants' trade hath been about cattle from our youth even until now, both we and also our fathers: that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians." Egyptians often hired foreigners to tend their cattle. So the purpose was to have the Children of Israel dwell in the land of Goshen to tend cattle there. Remember what Pharaoh said to Joseph in chapter 47, verse 5, about his family: "If thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over by cattle." This was Pharaoh's fee for granting the land of Goshen to the Israelites.
Pharaoh's cattle were in the land of Goshen. He wanted the Israelites to care for them there. Amenemhe knew that if Joseph could bless all Egypt as he had done, Joseph's family would also be bound to bless his own stock. So his motive was not altogether unselfish. But, in doing this, the Egyptians granted the right of the Children of Israel to this territory. So, by command of the Pharaoh, all the land of Goshen was given to the Children of Israel as partial fulfillment of God's promise that Abraham's seed should extend to the river of Egypt, to the Nile.
The Land of Rameses Now move ahead to Gen. 47:11. "And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded." Back in verse 6, "the best of the land" was called "the land of Goshen." Obviously the land of Goshen and the land of Rameses were the same area.
But this name Rameses at this point in Genesis has caused problems. Perhaps the greatest difficulty in reconciling the Bible with the history of ancient Egypt has been this very reference to the land of Rameses. Puzzled scholars have assumed either that the book of Genesis was a late document which inserted the name of Rameses in place of some lost original name, or that the name is original and the account of the Exodus took place after Rameses and not in the manner described in the Bible. Neither of these explanations is correct.
Historians have been puzzled by the fact that the name of Rameses should appear on so many of the building blocks that went into the early buildings of the Third and Fourth Dynasties. Their mistaken and illogical explanation is that Rameses the Great (773-707) had his servants take time out centuries later to carve his name on all these stones. It never occurred to them that there might actually have been a Rameses who assisted in the erection of those fabulous monuments centuries earlier in the days of Jacob!
Here is the answer to the historians' problem. Long before Rameses the Great was born, there were several kings, not known by modern historians, with some form of the name Rameses. The record of these kings of the Delta, foolishly rejected by all historians today, is the key to this enigma in the Bible! These names were preserved by Syncellus in the Book of Sothis which contained a genuine list of kings from Manetho. Manetho does not include them among true Egyptian dynasties because their seat of government, though originally from Tanis or Zoan in the Delta, was early moved to the island of Crete. Zoan, however, probably remained a secondary or subsidiary site of government. This list of names may be found in Waddell's "Manetho", page 235. Dr. Hoeh has reproduced the names of these kings down to the year 1299 B.C. in Vol. I of the Compendium, pages 96-97.
In further defining the territory included in the "land of Rameses," here are some more facts. In the days of Jacob Egypt was a vast Mediterranean power. Remember the story of Sesostris the Great. From one of the earliest areas settled by the Egyptians was the island of Crete — Caphtor in Hebrew — came the Philistines (Jer 47:4; Amos 9:7). The Philistines descended from Mizraim, father of the Egyptians (Genesis 10:13-14). Ruling over the Egyptians and Philistines in Crete and the eastern Nile Delta was this little-known dynasty of Egyptian kings mentioned above. The first name in the king list is Mestraim or Mizraim who ruled 2254-2219.
At the time Jacob came to Egypt with his family, the Cretan king of this dynasty, who was subject to the jurisdiction of Amenemhe III, was Rameses (1774-1715)! Because of Joseph's service to the Egyptian government, the Pharaoh transferred title to the land of Rameses from the line of Rameses to the line of Israel — and that included not only Goshen, but Crete. (Is it not significant that centuries later the title to Crete passed to the British throne on which a descendent of Jacob sits?) So, amazing as it may seem, the land of Rameses included not only the eastern Delta in Egypt but also the island of Crete.
Another factor needs to be brought in at this juncture. Ancient Egypt was a feudalistic world. In feudalism the great king, or Pharaoh, was Amenemhe III. He leased portions of land out to his princelings and lords (who, then, leased parts of their land to others of still lower rank). Thus Amenemhe, though having leased Goshen and Crete to the lesser king, Rameses and his family, still had the authority to transfer the title from one to another. And this is what he did, transferring the right to the area from Rameses to Jacob.
A "Rule of Twelve" In Manetho's king list for Dynasty XII we discover something very interesting and significant for this period in Egypt's history. During the years 1722-1700 he lists as rulers "others" including Dodecarchy, which means "rule of twelve." (Compendium. Vol. I, p. 91)
Think of what this means: just at the very time when Joseph is in Egypt, we discover a rule of twelve men. Who could these men be? Obviously they must have been in agreement and harmony with one another since the country did not fall apart at this juncture. The logical conclusion is that these men were brothers. These twelve men could be none other than Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Jacob, the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel.
As stated earlier in this chapter, Joseph appears as a ruler in both Dynasties III and IV under the name "Suphis." And these dynasties were parallel with Dynasty XII. And so here, in the king list for Dynasty XII, we find another reference to Joseph in addition to the fact that the "River of Joseph" was also built at this time. Here is additional proof that Dr. Hoeh's reconstruction of ancient history is correct in every significant detail.
Now notice carefully when this rule of twelve began — in 1722. This was two years before the end of the seven years' famine of 1727-1720. Amenemhe III not only placed Joseph in high office in Egypt. He did the same for his brothers. He already knew the wisdom and skill of Joseph. At this crucial period, with many problems developing in the latter years of the famine, he placed the whole family of Israel into the administration of Egypt to aid in handling all the mounting difficulties that existed. The Israelites had come to prominence in the leading government of the ancient world.
Israelites and the Egyptian Empire This information on the Dodecarchy provides a new perspective about the activities of the Children of Israel at this time and the decades following. Naturally. If these twelve patriarchs ran the country, they must have sent out individuals to serve in positions throughout the vast Egyptian empire which Sesostris III had established. So even at this early time many Israelites were gaining experience as colonists in far-flung areas on the fringes of the civilized world. Many of these descendants of Jacob were probably sent out in the days when the twelve patriarchs ruled and never returned to Egypt to form a part of the main body of Israelites. Hence, in the years of the oppression and at the time of the Exodus, not all Israelites were in Egypt! This helps explain the many traditions of Hebrews migrating to seemingly unusual areas such as Scythia (southern Russia) later.
Many years before, Israelites had established colonies there as part of the business they were performing for the Egyptian government. One of the areas that Sesostris the Great had brought under Egyptian dominion was the land of Canaan. This is clearly indicated in the Bible in at least two instances.
The first is found in I Chronicles 7:21-22. Read this scripture carefully. It speaks of Ephraim, the son of Joseph, and lists his children. Ephraim, remember, was the son of Joseph born in Egypt. This is where he lived. Yet this passage in Chronicles speaks of one of his sons being slain in Canaan by some Canaanites while Ephraim was still alive. So here were Israelites in Canaan centuries before the Exodus.
Undoubtedly they were there under the authority of the Egyptian government which exercised dominion in that region.
The second instance is in Genesis 50 in the story of the burial of Jacob (verses 1-15). Notice especially verses 7-9: "And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, and all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it "was a very great company." The remainder of the story goes on to record the burial of Jacob near Mamre in southern Palestine. (The date of Jacob's death was 1709. See Gen. 47:28)
Here we find the story of a great company of Israelites and Egyptians moving into Palestine with no problems involved as there might have been if this had been unfriendly territory. Apparently, to Egyptians and Israelites both, they were not really leaving Egypt at all in undertaking this journey. This account implies that the Canaanites recognized the dominion and authority of Egypt, that the land of Palestine was considered a part of Egypt. When the Canaanites saw this great company approaching, they did not consider it a foreign invasion and prepare themselves for war. They just quietly observed the proceedings (verse 10). Here, then, is another indication in the Bible of the existence of a great Egyptian empire in the days of Joseph, a factor which is confirmed by Herodotus and others.
In concluding this chapter, turn back to Gen. 46:8 and 13. Here is the account of the Children of Israel coming into Egypt, the listing of Jacob's sons and grandsons. Pay attention to verse 13. Here it is recorded that Issachar had a son named Job. Is it the same Job renowned for his trials and patience? The story of the Israelites in Egypt in this period is not over.