05 April 2010

Letter from Lhasa, number 164. (Osman 2003): The Hebrew Pharaohs of Egypt

Letter from Lhasa, number 164. (Osman 2003): The Hebrew Pharaohs of Egypt

by Roberto Abraham Scaruffi

Osman, A., The Hebrew Pharaohs of Egypt. The Secret Lineage of the Patriarch Joseph, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, U.S.A., 2003.

Ahmed Osman

(Osman 2003)

If the Torah was written after the Egyptian phase, it was because a new population now without land and landlords needed an identity or a new identity or a reformulation of its identity. Metaphors, imprecision and historical reports inevitably mixed. The Torah was inevitably imbued with Egyptian customs and practices. Jews had been slaves, alias proletarians, but also part of the ruling class and pharaohs, or parents and relatives of pharaohs. Now they had gone away, perhaps during a time of crisis and catastrophes. While the Jewish people recreated the Egyptian gods, Moshe or “Moshe” needed to invent a God considerably better than the Egyptian gods and the divine image of the Egyptian pharaohs. Or, perhaps, Jews had already one god needed to be reaffirmed. Actually, we’ll see that also the Egyptians turned toward monotheism. Left the comforts of the Egyptian life, the new now nomadic tribe needed some strong justification for the uncertain life it was facing. Or, perhaps, the breaking with Egypt was dramatized. Religions link to God although, first, they link people together.

“I believe that Joseph was by inheritance a prince of Egypt as well as the last Hebrew patriarch and was sold into slavery more than two centuries later than is generally accepted. The Pharaoh who appointed him as a vizier was Tuthmosis IV (c. 1413-1405 B.C.) the eighth ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty, who was very young – in his mid-twenties – when he died. He was succeeded by his son, Amenhotep III.

“(...) There are indications that, in addition to the two sons we know of from the Bible, Joseph had a daughter. I believe that, against the advice of his priests, Amenhotep III married this daughter and made her, rather than Sitamun, his Great Royal Wife (queen).”

(Osman 2003, p. 2)

“I do not accept that the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt lasted 430 years: it could not have been for more than a century, and I place the time of the Oppression and Exodus much earlier than is generally accepted – the Oppression during the reign of Horemheb (c. 1335-1308 B.C.), the last ruler of the Eighteen Dynasty and the Exodus during the short reign of Ramses I (c. 1308-1307 B.C.), first ruler of the Nineteenth. Finally, I do not believe that, at the time of the Exodus, Moses brought the bones of Joseph out of Egypt to bury them again in Palestine. In my opinion the remains of the Hebrew patriarch have never left Egypt and they are to be found today on the first floor of Cairo Museum in the shape of a mummy, largely forgotten and ignored, named Yuya.”

(Osman 2003, p. 2-3)

One night, the author bumped again, but now he read what there really was, in Genesis 45:8:

“It occurs when, at a time of famine, Joseph’s half-brother make the second of two visits to Egypt to buy corn. On the first occasion, Joseph had concealed his true identity from the kinsmen who sold him into slavery: this time he revels himself to them, but says reassuringly: “So then it was not you who sent me hither, but God: he hath made me a father to Pharaoh...” A father to Pharaoh! I found it difficult to believe that I had read those words so often in the past without attaching any real importance to them.”

(Osman 2003, p. 4)

...Yuya’ tomb.

“Proving that Joseph and Yuya were the same person would clearly be a formidable task that meant challenging conventional scholarship, the accepted notion that the tribe of Israel spent 430 years in Egypt, and the Bible’s insistence that Moses brought the bones of Joseph with him for reburial when he led the Exodus out of Egypt. Yet I felt my intuition in the small hours of a cold winter’s night would prove to be true – and might perhaps explain the almost mystical quality of the enmity that scars relations between Egypt and Israel.”

(Osman 2003, p. 6)

“The tomb of Yuya and his wife, Tuya, was found in 1905, (...).”

(Osman 2003, p. 8)

“Unlike his wife, Tuya, who had conventional Egyptian looks, Yuya was remarkably foreign in appearance, as Arthur Weigall recorded in his book The Life and Times of Akhenaten, published in 1910: “Ha was a person of commanding presence, whose powerful character showed itself in his face. One must picture him now as a tall man, with a fine shock of white hair; a great hooked nose like that of a Syrian; full, strong lips; and a prominent, determined jaw. He has the face of an ecclesiastic, and there is something about his mouth which reminds one of the late Pope, Leo XIII. One feels on looking at his well-preserved features, that there may be found the originator of the great religious movement which his daughter and grandson carried into execution.”

“This was a reference to Tiye, the daughter of Yuya and Tuya, whom Amenhotep III made his Great Royal Wife, and their son, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), who was close to the temples, destroy the gods of Egypt and establish in their place a monotheistic God, like the God of Israel (see Chapter 8).”

(Osman 2003, p. 15)

Biblical sources are an open, not at all univocal, field.

“More recently, Professor Donald B. Redford of Toronto University, in his book A Study of the Biblical Story of Joseph, has concluded that all the historical indications relating to Joseph and the Descent, including every reference to Egypt and Egyptian names, locations and titles, are pure inventions of the biblical editor, who wanted to justify the Exodus by bringing Joseph and the Israelites into Egypt. His conclusions mean that Joseph as we know him never existed.”

(Osman 2003, p. 17)

“(...) Further evidence that the Old Testament, even in its final, complete version, existed in more than one form, was provided by discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls – fragments, and sometimes complete scrolls, from the books of the Old Testament, dating back to the second century B.C. – in Qumran in 1947. Scholars were surprised to discover that, although most of the Dead Sea Scrolls agreed with the Hebrew text tradition, some of the material they contained reinforced the Greek text – the Septuagint, which is older than the Hebrew Massoretic text – as well, while others differed from both, indicating that at the time, the second and first century B.C., there were more than two versions of the Old Testament text in circulation among the Jews of Palestine.”

(Osman 2003, p. 18)

An exodus, alias a great escape or great migration, needs to be justified in some way. If one wants to establish, in some way, a new nation, one needs to provide some tale or story or ex-post “history” founding it in the people’s imaginary. One needs to create a tradition. Such are sacred books. “God told. We have written that. It is not important whether that be fully or really historically founded. We believe in it because we believe in it.” Faith come and must come before reason, in this field. Nations are, first of all, founded in minds and in practised routines.

The behaviour of the biblical Abraham [Abram] was a bit odd, according our days’ standards, when he temporarily migrated to Egypt. In practice, he sold his wife Sarah [Sarai] and he got her back, and he was expelled from Egypt, when the Pharaoh did not want her anymore. Back from Egypt to Canaan, he brought with him wealth, power and circumcision (an Egyptian custom). Had he become and Egyptian official? Had he sold not only his wife but also his tribe? Perhaps he did not sell tribe and wife but only hired them. However that circumcision’s custom is a power link with Egypt, an act of eternal submission. After the Egyptian sojourn, Sarah became princess. In fact this is the meaning of Sarah. According to the Bible, she would have generated kings, typical not of nomadic tribes but of settled populations. That was another innovation followed their Egyptian sojourn. Was their son Isaac, actually son of the Pharaoh? Until then, Abraham was not sterile [he had had and he will have children from other women] but he seemed such with Sarah. According Talmud there was no resemblance between Abraham and Isaac. In fact, a derided Abraham wanted to kill Isaac. Sarah died, when, or a bit later, she listen the news. Something saved Isaac. Egypt? Or simply, Abraham overcoming people’s derision. The Gospel of Saint John, through the Jesus confrontation with rabbis, remembers this dualism between God (the Abraham’s final behaviour) and Devil (the popular common sense). It remembers also the Rabbis consciousness that part of them were descendants not of Abraham but of the Pharaoh.

There is information about Joseph both in the Torah and in the Koran although with some difference.

“From the point of view of Egyptian history, the biblical Joseph is a misty figure. No record of the name Joseph or that of any other member of his family has been found, and there is, to date, only the record discovery of the name Israel. In contrast, we know a good deal, from his tomb and other sources, about Yuya – when he was alive, his family, the post he held.

“I believe that Tuthmosis IV (c. 1413-1405 B.C.) was the Pharaoh who appointed Yuya to the post of vizier. Tuthmosis IV seems to have been an Egyptian counterpart of Jacob and Joseph, a dreamer (see Chapter 9).”

(Osman 2003, p. 49)

“Yuya, who had married an Egyptian woman named Tuya, possibly of Royal blood (...), continued to serve as vizier when Tuthmosis IV died and was succeeded by his son, Amenhotep III (c. 1405-1367 B.C.), Amenhotep III, who was only twelve years of age at the time, broke with Egyptian tradition by marrying first his sister, Sitamun, and then Yuya’s daughter, Tiye – herself thought to have been only about eight – and making her rather than Sitamun his Great Royal Wife (queen).”

(Osman 2003, p. 50)

“Further evidence that Yuya lived during this period, and died during his son-in-law’s reign, is provided by the objects found in his tomb with Amenhotep III’s name on them – the jewel box, the chest and the alabaster vase – and the absence of any gifts from the ruler who succeeded him, Akhenaten.”

(Osman 2003, p. 52)

After various other historical deductions, the author concludes this chapter 6 on Joseph/Yuya as A Father to Pharaoh:

“If this is the correct interpretation, and we assume for the sake of argument that:

“1. Yuya was sixty when he died during the reign of his son-in-law, Amenhotep III.

“2. He could not have died before the Princess Sitamun was at least fifteen years of age, because of the evidence of the three chairs.

“3. Akhenaten served for a time as co-regent with his father and Year 26 of Amenhotep II is the earliest date this co-regency could have begun.

“It follows that:

“4. Yuya died at some time between 1393/2 and 1379/8 B.C.

“5. He was born at some time between 1453/2 and 1439/38 B.C.”

(Osman 2003, p. 55-56)

After a meticulous historical discussion, the author reaffirms:

“The other indications that Joseph lived in Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty, rather than more than two centuries earlier during the Hyksos period, are inevitably fragmentary, but so compelling that it seems remarkable that nobody has gathered them all together before and drawn from them the obvious conclusion. To place them in the same chronology as the story of Joseph in the Pentateuch and the Koran.”

(Osman 2003, p. 72)

“The journey that Joseph’s brothers made down to Egypt to buy corn at the time of famine provide further evidence that these journeys took place during the period of the Eighteenth Dynasty rather than more than two century earlier.”

(Osman 2003, p. 82)

“If the brothers had appeared at the time when the rulers were the Hyksos, the majority of whose followers were also Canaanites, they could hardly have been accused of spying.”

(Osman 2003, p. 83)

“After the brothers have denied the charge, Joseph demands that his younger brother, Benjamin, be brought down to Egypt, and twice swears an oath (...):


“This form of oath did not exist in Egypt before the Eighteenth Dynasty and the New Kingdom.”

(Osman 2003, p. 83)

...When Joseph used an interpreter...

“Canaanite was the language of the Hyksos rulers and, had they been dealing with a Hyksos vizier, the brothers would not have expected him to need the service of an interpreter. Nor would they have conducted in his presence what was clearly meant to be a private conversation if they had had any suspicion that he might understand what they were saying.”

(Osman 2003, p. 83-84)

“The role that money played in grain purchase in the biblical story of Joseph therefore again conforms with the situation that existed in Egypt during the New Kingdom.”

(Osman 2003, p. 84)

For temporally positioning the biblical account, the author uses other evidence, or what for him his decisive historical evidence.

Again, the author discusses the confused and contradictory account of the Torah at the light of historical-archaeological evidence:

“There is no suggestion anywhere that the Israelites ever moved from the place where they first settled, Goshen in the eastern delta.

“The whole story of their banishment to a remote region where they would not give offence to the Egyptians consequently makes sense only if they arrived in the country when the seat of power was in Thebes, the better part of four hundred miles away. As for their proximity to the Royal residence at the time when Moses was born, this is simply explained: it was the king, not the Israelites, who moved. The later rulers of the Eighteenth Dynasty made their capital in the delta instead of Thebes. Tutankhamun, for instance, spent most of his life at Memphis – and finally, as we saw above, the first three kings of the first three kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Ramses I, Seti I and Ramses II, made Zaru, now called Pi-Ramses, their northern residence.

“The one important question remaining is: How long did the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt last – four centuries or four generations?”

(Osman 2003, p. 102-103)

“The contradictory accounts given in the Old Testament about the length of time the Israelites spent in Egypt are one of the reasons that have misled scholars into accepting the Hyksos period as the right time for Joseph’s appearance in the country.”

(Osman 2003, p. 104)

“It is impossible to examine the lives of Joseph and Yuga without also being struck by the remarkable number of similarities between them.”

(Osman 2003, p. 112)

“The rule of Yuya’s descendants – the Amarna kings, Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), Semenkhkare, Tutankhamun and, lastly, Aye, who is generally regarded as Yuya’s own son – saw one of the most extraordinary episodes in Egyptian history and was followed by another after the Amarna Age had ended. Firstly, Amenhotep IV closed down the temples and attempted to destroy the traditional gods of Egypt, replacing them with a monotheistic god, Aten, and changing his own name from Amenhotep IV to Akhenaten: then after Horemheb, the last king of the Eighteenth Dynasty, had replaced the Amarna kings, a concerted attempt was made to wipe out of Egyptian history as if they had never existed.”

(Osman 2003, p. 129)

“Given the complexity of Egyptian religious ideas and the long time they took to develop, where lie the roots of upheaval in belief during Akhenaten’s reign, the worship of one God who had no image? It is generally thought to have its origins with Yuya. Yet where would Yuya acquire these revolutionary ideas, so far removed from the centuries-old religious beliefs of Egypt – unless he were Joseph, himself a believer in a monotheistic God?”

(Osman 2003, p. 132)

...back to Abraham and Isaac:

“Abraham’s action can be explained only by the fact that he was trying to destroy a son who did not even look like him, who, according to the Talmud, “all the people of the world suspected not to be his own son” – an heir to him who was, at the same time, an heir to the Pharaoh of Egypt.”

(Osman 2003, p. 146)

After further discussion and evaluation of sources, the author concludes

“This means that the original biblical text written by Moses must have been in Egyptian. It was later used, together with some material transmitted orally, to compose the earlier written Hebrew texts around the ninth and eight centuries B.C., all of which have been lost.”

(Osman 2003, p. 149)

The advantage of this book is that it adjusts the biblical and para-biblical narrations to archaeological and historical evidence, instead of the opposite.

Osman, A., The Hebrew Pharaohs of Egypt. The Secret Lineage of the Patriarch Joseph, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, U.S.A., 2003.