One of the most famous and mysterious figures in all of ancient Egyptian history is a figure called Imhotep.
He was an architect; physician; sage; and the chief minister to the Pharaoh, Djoser. In fact, historians believe he was the first man ever elevated to that level. Oh, and did I mention he was considered a god?
The Egyptian historian, Manetho (3B.C.), described Imhotep this way:
“…during his [Djoser of the 3rd Dynasty] reign lived Imouthes [ Greek for Imhotep], who, because of his medical skill has the reputation of Asclepius [the Greek god of medicine] among the Egyptians and who was the inventor of the art of building with hewn stone.”
Imhotep is credited as being the architect of the first Egyptian pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Sakkara. Excavations were conducted revealing the remnants of a statue, and this inscription was found on its base:
Imhotep, Chancellor of the King of Lower Egypt, Chief under the King, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary Lord, High Priest of Heliopolis, Imhotep the Builder, the Sculptor, the Maker of Stone Vases…
Imhotep is a legend in ancient Egyptian history and mythology. And when we compare his accomplishments with those of the Joseph of the Hebrew Bible, we begin to see a stunning similarity:
And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; and he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 41:37-45 KJV
This is only the beginning of the evidence; evidence which clearly points to Joseph and Imhotep being one and the same.
In 1889, renowned Egyptologist, C.E. Wilbour, discovered an inscription near Elephantine, Egypt. Over the following seventy five years, historians worked to decipher the inscription, and to understand what it meant for the history of Egypt. What they uncovered is a confirmation of the Biblical account of a seven year famine in Egypt, and a ruler subject only to the Pharaoh who saved Egypt from disaster, resulting in Egypt becoming the greatest empire of its time.
This inscription, known today as the “Famine Stela,” meaning “hungry rock,” was inscribed nearly a thousand years following the Biblical account of the Egyptian famine, but a look at the stories of each make it clear that they’re connected. The Egyptian inscription begins by describing the sheer terror the Pharaoh feels when he learns of the famine:
I was in distress on the Great Throne…
Compare this with the start of the Biblical record:
And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh. – Genesis 41:8 KJV
Next, as Pharaoh is terrified by the famine, the inscription goes on. Unsure what to do, he consults with Imhotep, asking him to consult with the Egyptian god, Ptah, known as the “Creator” god:
“… I asked him who was the Chamberlain…Imhotep, the son of Ptah…`What is the birthplace of the Nile? Who is the god there? Who is the god?’ Imhotep answers: ‘I need the guidance of Him who presides over the fowling net’…”
The Genesis account tells that when Pharaoh inquired of Joseph. Joseph refused to take credit for any revelation, but that only the One True God could make the meaning of the dream clear:
And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace. – Genesis 41:16 KJV
The inscription then tells that Pharaoh had a dream. In it, the god Khnum came to Pharaoh and told him that the Nile would overflow its banks, brining seven years of great plenty after a seven year period of great famine. This is in reverse order of the Biblical prophecy, but again, this was recorded nearly one thousand years after the events, and Egyptian history is loaded with inconsistencies. What is important, is that this Egyptian inscription connects seven years of plenty with seven years of drought.
In the Famine Stela, Imhotep told Djoser that seven years of great plenty were coming. He told him that during those seven years, Egypt must be wise, and that Djoser should take advantage of the plenty to build the wealth of Egypt. Egypt should tax the population, storing up provisions the whole time. And this tax should exclude the priests of Egypt. Again, this parallels the Biblical account:
Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine. – Genesis 41:34-36
Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion assigned them of Pharaoh, and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: wherefore they sold not their lands. – Genesis 47:22 KJV
Only a fool would conclude that these aren’t the same event, being described from two different perspectives over a thousand years removed. Are there other connections to between the two?
Imhotep was a priest of the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis. Heliopolis was the capital city of the Egyptian province of Goshen. The Bible mentions this city by another name: On. After Joseph was elevated to second only to Pharaoh, he was given a wife. Her father was the priest of the capital city of Goshen:
And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 41:45 KJV
Historians note that during the reign of Djoser, the pharaoh of the “Famine Stela,” great wealth flooded into the coffers of Egypt, resulting in its tremendous rise to prominence. One thing that contributes to this belief, is that it is during Djoser’s reign that the first pyramids were built. Imhotep is the one who built them. And he is the one who also transitioned Egypt from mud bricks to hewn stones. What was the first pyramid built, and where did he build it?
It is the Step Pyramid in Sakkara. It is the massive administrative complex of Imhotep, and it is lined with silos and chambers for grain storage. It is the first complex of its kind in Egypt.
For decades, archaeologists looked for the burial place of Imhotep in this complex but never found it. They assumed that because this was Imhotep’s greatest achievement, it would be where he was buried. They’ve never found his mummy. But they did find his tomb.