Monday, May 13, 2013

Connecting the Dots: Joseph & the Hyksos

Last week I told you I am a Thinker. I also am an amatuer story teller. And history is the surikya to my bread.  (I was going to say butter, but I never butter my bread. Surikya is an Indonesian spread. Amazing!) I love history. I love seeing how events, people and places intertwine to tell a story. I really enjoy making connections between the events, people, and places.

As I study and teach about various historical periods, I like to call the intertwining of the people, places and events a dot-to-dot. It could probably even more accurately be termed a web. But, I like dot-to-dot. More basic, less intrigue. One of my favorite historical dot-to-dots is between Martin Luther and Christopher Columbus.

What really blows my hair back is when historical "fact" agrees with the Biblical account. These facts are often known as Biblical proofs. I believe without a doubt that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. There are no mistakes. Every word and story is true. But, it is kind of fun when secular history supports Biblical stories.

Secular history such as: over 100 cultures having a flood account in their tradition. That is not a coincidence. I'd go as far as to say it is truth based on facts that have been distilled and changed through the ages. Even though there are differences in the why's and wherefore's, the fact that there is that many flood accounts, actually lends credence to the Biblical account.

I also think Greek mythology could have it's roots in the ideas of pre-flood world. Sons of God and daughters of men. Giants.

Here's more secular history that supports a Biblical story...

We all know the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. Even if you aren't a Bible reader, you have probably seen Joseph's Technicolor Dream Coat or Prince of Egypt.

The storyline goes something like this:

Favored (almost) youngest son, hated by his bros, sold into slavery in Egypt by said bros. Slave to Potiphar. Imprisoned. Dream interpreter. Prince of Egypt. Famine. Reconciliation with family.

But, have you ever dug into some of the weird things that come up in the story? Things like Joseph eating a meal with his brothers, and the Egyptians, yet they are all eating at three separate tables. (Joe, Egyptians, Bros) Because Egyptians didn't eat with Hebrews. It was an abomination to the Egyptians. That's pretty harsh language there. (Genesis 43:32)

How about the whole shepherd/sheep thing? Not only is eating with Hebrews an abomination to the Egyptians, but so is the whole social-economic class of shepherds. (Genesis 46:34)

What about Pharaoh's immediate acceptance of Joseph? Joseph interprets a dream, and voila', second most powerful ruler in Egypt. That is quite the reward for dream interpretation. Apart from God working, of course. God moves king's hearts on a regular basis.

But, the fact that is the real interesting one is found in Exodus 1. A new king rose up who didn't know about Joseph. He was concerned about this group of Hebrews inhabiting a chunk of land in Egypt. He was very concerned that if the Egyptian's enemies decided to go to war against Egypt, the Hebrews would join forces with the enemies. And because of their sheer numbers, the Hebrews would overwhelm the Egyptians. Cue Moses and that whole story.
At the British Museum

What does Egyptian history have to say about this set of oddities? Possibly quite a lot.

As you study Egyptian history, you will notice that Egypt was ruled by foreign powers a few times. The Romans via Julius Caesar, and then Octavian and subsequent Caesars. But, the Romans came into power in Egypt only by defeating Cleopatra-the Ptolemy line. Greeks put in power by Alexander the Great over 300 years previous.

But, if you dial back another 1500-1800 years, you will read about another invasion of Egypt. The invasion of the Hyksos-the Shepherd Kings. No one is really sure where the Hyksos came from, but it is known that they were a Semetic tribe-desceneded from Shem, just like the Hebrews. They ruled in Lower Egypt (which is actually the term for the part of Egypt closest to the Mediterranean Sea). The brought many advancements to Egypt, including chariots. They ruled in Egypt for around 200 years.

They were eventually run out of town, and the Egyptians took over ruling themselves again.

So, here is my conjecture, based on known history. I wouldn't swear it on a stack of Bibles, but it isn't a stretch to connect these dots.

What if the period of history of Joseph and the famines took place during the Hyksos period?

What if the reason the Egyptians despised shepherds and eating with Hebrews tied in with their gall of being ruled by this foreign Hyksos power?

What if the king who didn't know Joseph, didn't know that period of history because it happened when the Egyptians weren't ruling themselves?

What if that Pharaoh had a reasonable fear of the Hebrews and their enemies because of the recent re-establishment of Egyptian supremacy?

Joseph's Pharaoh seems much less into the Egyptian gods than Abraham's Pharaoh or Moses' Pharaoh. Did you ever get that sense? He acknowledged God when Joseph interpreted his dreams.

Potiphar was called an Egyptian. Why make that distinction? Pharaoh was called the King of Egypt. He was never called an Egyptian. Is that because it is the obvious assumption? Or is it an intentional omission?

What if??? Doesn't it give you shivers?

Either way, it doesn't change history and it doesn't change the truth of the Biblical account. Joseph and the famines really happened. Moses really led the Israelites out of Egypt. The Hyksos really ruled Egypt for a chunk of time.

But, if this A plus B equaled C, isn't it fascinating?

You know, as we look at history, it is helpful to remember that these are not just world events that happened. This is God's story that He is working out for His glory. God is sovereign. He is the Ruler over all people, nations, places and time. He is using all to work out His plan of glorification and redemption.

And, that is truly awesome!

What do you find most interesting about the stories of Joseph and Moses? Do random facts blow your hair back too? Or am I the only weird one?