“Find out the striking anachronism that would make the historicity of the story of Joseph in Ancient Egypt an impossible theory”
…by Dr. Ashraf Ezzat, Egypt
Throughout my life, I have heard too many weird stories that my mind just couldn’t perceive them all as true. One of the weirdest and most unbelievable of them is the story of The Exodus. I could have dismissed it like any other story/tale of the remote past that didn’t necessarily warrant any scrutiny or investigation to validate its authenticity or historicity, had it not been a biblical story, and had I not been Egyptian.
The challenge is that The Exodus is a biblical story, and it may be the most dramatic story ever told in the Bible. The Exodus, I dare say, is the bedrock upon which all the Judeo-Christian faith is built, and maybe also the Islamic.
If the story of the Exodus was distorted or tampered with, then all Israelite tales that followed will be deemed fake. Stories like the conquest of the Promised Land and the establishment of the Kingdom of David and Solomon in Palestine will be undermined and shaken to the core. In my research, (in collaboration with high profile scholars and historians) we argue that the geography of the biblical stories – and most importantly that of the Exodus – had long been tampered with and changed in the ancient biblical records.
If properly exposed, that scenario – which we support its validity with evidence-based findings in my book – will render the Bible, that is tucked under many warm pillows, into an ancient text of mass deception.
Most Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that the story of The Exodus is a true historical event. Most importantly, they also have no doubt whatsoever that the story of Moses and Pharaoh took place in Ancient Egypt, and this is where all those devotees went wrong.
According to our investigation, if the story of Moses and Pharaoh was really a true historical event, it must have taken place in Ancient Arabia and not Ancient Egypt.
The Story of The Exodus is an ancient Arabian tale, and everything about it is Arabian: its vocabulary, its cultural, geographical and even its ethical milieu.
In the field of script writing, and before embarking on crafting his story, the scriptwriter must create the right “milieu” for his story/film.
The “milieu” is the general ambiance that distinguishes the story and sets it apart by a unique dialogue, location and cultural background.
For example, in a film/novel like “Titanic” you’d expect the script – that will create the right “milieu” for the story of the sinking of that giant ship – to include and make use of the following relevant items:
- Most of the location must be filmed in a set similar to the architecture/interior design of the luxurious Titanic steam liner.
- The North Atlantic Ocean must be omnipresent in the script/filming.
- The story must set off from Southampton port in England and heading for New York in America.
- Most of the actors must speak English (in the early 20th century accent and vocabulary).
- The wardrobe of the characters must reflect the old vogue costume of the 1910s.
- The names of the main characters of the story must be British and in accordance with the late 19th – early 20th century archive of popular names.
- The dialogue of the main characters (the elite and common) must reflect the cultural/social backdrop of the era that preceded the First World War.
The script/film is eventually judged by how true the script writer/film director has been in recreating the story/event. In other words, by how authentic the milieu of the script has been in reflecting the true/original story of the sinking of the Titanic.
According to the Hebrew Bible the story of The Exodus starts some 260 – 300 years earlier with the selling of the Patriarch Joseph as a slave. Although our research presents a strong argument against Egypt being the land on which all the Israelite stories took place, (including that of Joseph), but that aside for now and instead let’s dig for the milieu of the story of Joseph.
Genesis – 37, tells the story of Joseph and his funny dream, how he was the favorite son of his father, the attempt to kill him by his envious brothers, dumping Joseph in a hole/cistern in the barren desert, Joseph picked up by a Midianite, his brothers watching an Ishmaelite caravan growing near, Joseph sold to the Ismaelites/Ishmaelites and when their caravan – carrying myrrh and frankincense reached a town named “Mizraim” – and no Mizraim is not the Hebrew word for Egypt as you have been fed— Joseph was again sold to Potiphar, the head of the town’s guards.
Let’s look at Joseph’s story as a film script. Let’s dig through the text and try to find specific key words that will help us build up its geographical and cultural milieu and even the probable time during which this story could have happened.
To give an example of our methodology, let’s examine the following text from Genesis – 38:
“Judah chose a wife for his firstborn son Er. Her name was Tamar. Er angered the Lord. So the Lord took away his life. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go sleep with your brother’s widow. Do your duty for her as a brother-in-law, and produce a descendant for your brother.” But Onan knew that the descendant wouldn’t belong to him, so whenever he slept with his brother’s widow, he wasted his semen on the ground to avoid giving his brother a descendant. What Onan did angered the Lord so much that the Lord took away Onan’s life too.”
By applying textual analysis and comparative ethics to the above text we could come to realize some of the social and ethical norms of the Israelite Patriarchs and even their god. The analysis reveals a very primitive social conduct of some nomadic tribe, struggling to survive in a cruel desert controlled by a god that is no less cruel.
Also a prominent social norm that was clearly portrayed in the text is the right/duty of a brother to sleep with the wife of his late brother. The goal of that unusual conduct (compared to modern ethical norms) was to support the tribe by increasing the number of its members. That goal was achieved by keeping the women of the tribe breeding all the time, and by all means possible.
That socially and ethically accepted norm – a prototype of polygamy – was historically common in Ancient Arabia and Sub-Saharan African lands.
Also interestingly, the name “Tamr/Tamar” was a very popular ancient Arabian name for females. Tamar means “palm dates”, the symbolic/characteristic fruit and tree of all Arabia and Yemen.
In the text of Genesis 37–38 we will find some interesting key words that will help us identify the milieu of that biblical story. Actually, there are heaps of key words, but here are some of the most telling ones:
“Flocks, Shechem, Joseph/Youssef, Dothan, cisterns, wild animal, cistern out in the desert, caravan of Ishmaelites, camels carrying myrrh and frankincense, Midianite merchants, Ishmaelites, killed a goat, Shelah, Onan, Tamar, Hirah, Adullam, Kezib and shepherd’s staff”.
The words “flocks, wild animal, camels, goat and shepherd” clearly indicate that the biblical verses describe a nomadic milieu. In other words, some tribes living in the arid desert herding goats and camels.
The “camel” is one exceptional key word, for Ancient Arabia is where single-humped camels were first ever domesticated in history, and that was not before the 9th–10th century BC. In other words, camels had no business in not just the story of Joseph but in the whole book of Genesis.
By the way, Ancient Egypt did not know camels and surely was not a nomadic culture. Camels were introduced to Ancient Egypt after it was conquered by Alexander The Great in 332 BC. And when I say Ancient Egypt, I mean Egypt and the territories it had control over, from Nubia in the South upwards to Palestine in the Eastern North. Yes, Palestine, where (according to the Bible) most of the Israelite stories have allegedly taken place.
At this point in our research we encountered a striking anachronism that would make the historicity of the story of Joseph an impossible theory, for according to the biblical timeline Joseph was sold as a slave around 1546 BC.
Historically, the caravan of camels on which Joseph was taken to Mizraim (mistaken for Egypt) could not have existed before the 7th century BC, for two reasons:
Firstly, and as we mentioned earlier camels were first domesticated in Ancient Arabia and Yemen in the 9th century BC. Secondly, the Ancient Incense Route that carried spices, frankincense, myrrh, ivory and textiles from Ancient Yemen (where the biblical Midian is located) all the way northward to Mesopotamia and Syria started around: 7th -5th century BC.
Therefore, with those historically verified facts in mind, we are talking about some 800- year- gap between the biblical timeline of the story of Joseph and its (plausible) historical milieu/backdrop.
In his best-selling book “The Bible Unearthed” Prof. Israel Finkelstein, an Israeli archeologist by the way, confirmed that all the Israelite stories (including that of Joseph and Moses) could not have been written down/composed before the 7th century BC. Finkelstein’s discovery doesn’t only cast doubt on the biblical timeline, and when the Israelite stories were first written down, but also whether those stories reflected real history in the first place.
That scholarly verified conclusion of Finkelstein will surely add more evidence to our thesis/research that Ancient Egypt was not the land of the Israelite Exodus, nor Palestine their Promised Land.
If the story of Joseph couldn’t have happened before the 7th century BC, that would necessarily shift the Exodus in this new historical timeline to the mid-4th century BC, in other words during the Greek rule of Egypt, another impossible theory.
Back to the milieu of Joseph’s saga gleaned by the language and key words in his story as told in the book of Genesis:
- The names “Youssef (translated in English as Joseph), Shelah, Onan, Tamar, Hirah and Adullam” are all genuine Arabian names that were common in Ancient Arabia and Yemen.
- The mention of Ismaelites (translated in English as Ishmaelites) has strongly confirmed the Arabian origin of the story.
- It is widely known (through oral tradition and historical records) that Ismael is the forefather of all Arab tribes (including, believe it or not, the Israelite tribes).
- Through literary analysis of the biblical verses we could easily detect a deeply embedded (Arabian) culture of slavery and slave trade.
- The Arabic word for slave is Abd. Do you know what its transliteration in Hebrew is? It is also Abad (in the Hebrew Bible you’ll find it all over the place). This should come as no surprise, for Hebrew, as far as phonetics are concerned, is one of the tongues/dialects of the ancient Arabian language, just like the story of Joseph is one of its ancient folktales.
- The alternative to killing Joseph (in the story) was by simply abandoning him so that he could be picked up and sold as a slave.
- This scenario is so revealing of how widespread the culture of slave trade was in Ancient Arabia where this story occurred.
- As we have elaborated above, the mention of camels and camel caravans have helped identify Ancient Arabia as the theatre/homeland of the story of Joseph.
In ancient Egypt, young lost children were never captured and sold as slaves; for simply slave trade was not common in Ancient Egypt. Most importantly, the land of the Nile never had public markets for the trade of slaves, as we have explained the true story of slavery in Ancient Egypt in length in this essay and video.
If Ancient Egypt had no public markets for the trade of slaves, then we have to wonder, how on earth was Joseph, the Israelite Patriarch, ever introduced in Egypt?
Regrettably, for information about biblical archeology, most people rely on biased – and obscenely funded — scholars and archeological expeditions who did nothing but mess up the ancient history of the Near East just to corroborate their preoccupied biblical beliefs and prejudices. Those orthodox biblical archeologists and scholars have twisted facts and planted fake artifacts to sustain their (false) conviction that all the Israelites’ stories took place in Ancient Egypt and that Palestine is their so called Promised Land.
Biblical scholars and archeologists will always deny any other explanation to the historicity of the biblical stories.
Though many of the Biblical historians are well aware of the Arabian origin (not the Palestinian one) of the Israelite history but they will only talk about it behind closed doors.
That denial of fact reminds me of those who will never accept, till this very day, that The Titanic has long sunk and is now lying in the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Equally regrettable, is the fact that no (orthodox/academic) scholar of biblical history is willing to investigate the cultural, anthropological and geographical underpinning of those stories. Only few independent researchers have dug deep into that biblical context, so deep that the real (Arabian) milieu of the biblical tales began to reveal before their investigative eyes.
As the milieu of the story of Titanic helped us recreate/revisit one of the worst maritime disasters in modern times, so did the milieu of the story of Joseph, the Arabian geography and culture that produced one of the most pivotal, and yet most misinterpreted, stories in the Bible.
For more articles and videos by Ashraf Ezzat visit his website
The author is an Egyptian, born in Cairo and based in Alexandria. Ashraf Ezzat joined the staff of Veterans Today in 2009.
Graduated from the faculty of Medicine at Alexandria University but keen not to be entirely consumed by the medical profession, Dr. Ezzat invests a lot of his time in research, documentary filmmaking, and writing. He is a regular guest lecturer at the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the national museum of Cairo.
History of the ancient Near East and specifically of Ancient Egypt has long been of special interest to him.
In his writings, Ashraf Ezzat approaches ancient history not as some tales from the remote times but as a contributing factor in our existing life; and to him, history is as relevant and vibrant as the current moment.
In his research and writings, Dr. Ezzat is always on a quest trying to find out why the ancient wisdom & spirituality had been obstructed and diminished whereas the Judeo-Christian teachings and faith took hold and prospered.
Dr. Ezzat has written extensively in Arabic tackling many issues and topics in the field of Egyptology and comparative religion.
He is the author of Egypt knew neither Pharaoh nor Moses, a kindle book published in 2015 and available on amazon.
In 2013 his short film, The Pyramids: Egyptian Genesis
The following documentaries were screened at many international film festivals in Europe.
In 2020 the documentary film: SEA OF LOVE: Transforming Journey to Egypt (Documentary)
Dr. Ezzat is working now on his upcoming documentary “Egypt knew neither Pharaoh nor Moses”.