Joseph in Egypt: Part 6: Aling

Bible and Spade 16.3 (2003).

Copyright 2003 by Bible and Spade, cited with permission.



Joseph in Egypt

Sixth of Six Parts


By Charles Aling


We do not know how many years Joseph served as Egypt's Vizier

(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

Egyptian history.

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 Egypt: Pt 6 90


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

Adams 1984, and on the popular level, Davis 1986)

Two things were essential to the mummification process. First, the

body was dried. A great deal was accomplished in this regard by the

naturally dry climate of Egypt. I remember seeing a photograph of a

Roman soldier who had died in Egypt and who had been buried in the

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

chemical is found naturally in several locations in Egypt (Lucas 1962:


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,

instructions had been left to remove him from Egypt when his

family went out of that land. It is, therefore, useless to look for

the grave of Joseph in Egypt, since his body left Egypt at the

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.

This age is interesting, since in ancient Egypt 110 was considered

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

ruled the northern portions of Egypt in the so-called Second

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

population of Egypt; but they certainly could outnumber a ruling

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

discussion here.

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 Egypt: Pt 6 91b


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.




Adams, Barbara

1984 Egyptian Mummies. Princes Risborough, Aylesbury, Bucks,

England: Shire.

Aling, Charles F.

1981 Egypt and Bible History. Grand Rapids MI: Baker.

Davis, John J.

1986 The Mummies of Egypt. Winona Lake IN: BMH.

Lucas, A.

1962 Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries. London: Edward





This material is cited with gracious permission from:

Bible and Spade and Dr. Charles Aling

Associates for Biblical Research
      PO Box 144
      Akron, PA 17501

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