Bible and Spade 16.3 (2003).
Copyright © 2003 by Bible and Spade, cited with permission.
Sixth of Six Parts
By Charles Aling
We do not know how many years Joseph
(Prime Minister). It is very interesting that he evidently held two key titles,
Vizier and Chief Steward of the King. This is relatively unusual in
Significantly, the best known examples come from the Middle
Kingdom, exactly the period of Joseph's career. While none of officials
holding these two posts can be identified with Joseph, it is probable that he
was the first to do so and set a precedent.
Aling: Joseph in
Two deaths are recorded near the end of the Book of Genesis,
that of Jacob and of Joseph himself. Both men were embalmed, or
mummified. Today, the popular view is that this was a mysterious
process about which we know little or nothing. Such is not the
case. With the large number of mummies preserved in museums,
we would be poor scientists indeed if we could not reconstruct
this procedure. What then were the basics of mummification? (see
1984, and on the popular level,
Two things were essential to the mummification process. First, the
body was dried. A great deal was accomplished in this regard by the
dry climate of
soldier who had died in
sand without any kind of embalming treatment at all. His hair was well
preserved, as were his teeth, and there was a good deal of skin
remaining, too. The Egyptians aided this natural drying process, however.
They packed the body with a powdery substance called natron
(basically sodium carbonate and sodium bi-carbonates). This
is found naturally in several locations in
It is important to realize that a liquid solution was not used, but
rather that the body was packed in this dry powder for a period of many
days. The exact length of time in the natron varied according to which
period of Egyptian history the mummy belonged and according to
the amount being spent on the process. Presumably, a rich family
would spend more on preserving their family members.
A second thing necessary for mummification was the removal of
the vital organs of the body. If these are left inside the person, they will
speed decay. Thus, the Egyptian embalmers removed all of the
abdominal organs except the heart, and also removed the brain.
This last procedure created a problem, however. The Egyptians
were concerned about the body retaining its identity, and they did
not want to harm the head or face in any way. They resolved this problem
by unraveling and removing the brain through the nose with a sharp hook
of some kind. Gruesome as this may sound, it worked rather well.
After their removal, some of the organs were wrapped and placed inside
containers in the tomb with the mummy. It was expected that they would
be needed for a happy life in the next world!
91a Bible and Spade 16.3 (2003)
There were of course, certain religious ceremonies that went
along with the mummification process. Joseph, I am sure, would
not have wanted any of these done for him, and, if he had any
say in the matter, they were not done. But, after all this was
accomplished, the body would be skillfully wrapped in spiced
linen and placed in a coffin.
Next, the mummy would be entombed. In Joseph's case,
had been left to remove him from
family went out of that land. It is, therefore, useless to look for
grave of Joseph in
time of the Exodus.
A final observation on Joseph's life and career: According to
Genesis 50:26, Joseph was 110 years old at the time of his death.
age is interesting, since in ancient
the perfect age at which to die (Aling 1981: 51, note 25).
What happened to the Jewish people after.loseph's death? At
first nothing happened. In the early verses of Exodus chapter 1,
however, we see that a king rose up who knew nothing of Joseph.
This personage was, I believe, a Hyksos Pharaoh.
The Hyksos were a foreign people from Syria-Palestine who
the northern portions of
Intermediate Period, ca. 1786-1570 BC.
That this king was a Hyksos is shown by a number of things.
The Hebrew of Exodus 1:8 indicates a negative kind of rulership.
Also, Exodus 1:9 states that the king had a fear that the Hebrews
would outnumber his people. It is not realistic to believe that the
Jews would ever become more numerous that the native
minority like the Hyksos.
Finally, in Exodus 1:11 we are told that the Hebrews, as slaves,
labored at two cities: Pithom and Ramses. Pithom is not located
yet with certainty, and is in any case not important for our
But Ramses was the great delta capital under the Hyksos first
and then later under King Ramses II of the 13th century BC. In
Dynasty 18, ca. 1570-1325 BC, little or no major work went on
there.* It seems certain, then that the Hebrews worked at Ramses
during the Hyksos period.
The bondage of God's people lasted for many years. Joseph's
accomplishments were forgotten for the time being, but were
remembered and recorded in Jewish records, were to be written
of by Moses, and were also to be rehearsed by uncounted
generations to come.
Aling: Joseph in
As Joseph was not forgotten by the Jewish people, he is not
forgotten by us. It is hoped that these brief articles have helped
to make him a real person, set against the background of Egyptian
history and civilization.
1984 Egyptian Mummies. Princes Risborough, Aylesbury, Bucks,
Aling, Charles F.
Davis, John J.
1986 The Mummies of
Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries.
This material is cited with gracious permission from:
Bible and Spade and Dr. Charles Aling
Associates for Biblical Research
PO Box 144
report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: