Joseph The Patriarch

After studying the Bible and Egyptian history for a quarter of a century in the hope of establishing a link between a major biblical and historical figure, I shared the general view, which held that Yuya, a non-Egyptian, was not of any special importance.* It was only in what in retrospect seems a moment of inspiration that I changed my view. It happened one night when, unable to sleep, I made myself a pot of tea and sat down to read, as I often did, the Old Testament. The claim by Joseph the Patriarch in the Book of Genesis that he had been made "a father to Pharaoh" seemed to leap off the page. It is a claim that nobody else in the Bible makes—and, although I was aware of it, Yuya is the only person we know of in Egyptian history to claim the same title, it ntr n nb tawi, the holy father of the Lord of the Two Lands (Pharaoh's formal title). It occurs once on one of Yuya's ushabti (royal funeral statuette No. 51028 in the Cairo Museum catalogue) and more than twenty times on his funerary papyrus.

Could Joseph the Patriarch and Yuya be the same person? My quest for the evidence was to unlock many of the mysteries of biblical history. Among other things, it made it clear that the biblical story of Joseph the Patriarch must be dated to the Eighteenth Dynasty (when we know Yuya lived). In the light of what can be established about the later Exodus— when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt on the first stage of their jour-ney to the Promised Land—it became clear that of two periods (four generations or four centuries) that the Old Testament gives us for the

*Some scholars believed he was a Marianu warrior.

Israelite Sojourn—the length of time they spent in Egypt—four generations is correct. This conclusion also demolishes the belief many scholars cling to, despite the evidence, that the Israelites' arrival coincided with the Hyksos conquest of the Eastern Delta, which began in 1683 B.C. and lasted for just over a century. Furthermore, the evidence points to the possible identity of the missing name in the list of the 70 Israelites said to have made their way down from Canaan initially to settle in Egypt.

Yuya is a particularly important figure because it was the marriage of his daughter Tiye to Amenhotep III, the Pharaoh served by Yuya, that restored the link between the Israelites and the royal house of Egypt, which had been severed nearly a century earlier when his great-grandfather, Tuthmosis III, sent the pregnant Sarah back to Canaan.

The tomb of Yuya and his wife, Tuya, was found in the Valley of the Kings in 1905. The site of their tomb was in itself considered to be a matter of some surprise. While both Yuya and Tuya were known from Egyptian historical sources, neither was considered to be of particular importance. Nor, as far as anyone was aware at the time, were they of royal blood, which one would expect to be the case if they were buried in the Valley of the Kings.

Yuya's tomb was the only one to be found almost intact in Egypt until the discovery of Tutankhamun's 17 years later. The two mummies lay in their coffins. Originally, Yuya's mummy (Plate 4) had been enclosed in three coffins and Tuya's in two (Plate 5), but earlier tomb robbers had evidently taken out the inner coffins and removed their lids. When Yuya's body was lifted, a necklace of large beads, made of gold and lapis lazuli and strung on a strong thread, was found behind his mummy's neck. The thread had apparently been broken in the robbers' quest for anything of value. Both mummies were so well preserved that it seemed to Arthur Weigall, one of the archaeologists involved in the dig, as if they might open their eyes and speak. Yet today, more than 90 years later, Yuya's mummy lies inside one of his inner coffins on the first floor of Cairo Museum, unseen by the millions of tourists who visit the museum each year.

Identification of Joseph the Patriarch as Yuya does not rest solely on the fact that each claimed the title "a father to Pharaoh." Here for reasons of space only some of the main points of evidence can be summarized (a more detailed account is to be found in my earlier book, The Hebrew Pharaohs of Egypt).

Yuya Was a Foreigner. Joseph, too, was a foreigner. Many scholars have commented on the fact that unlike his wife Tuya, who had conventional Egyptian looks, Yuya was remarkably foreign in appearance. Arthur Weigall made the point in his book The Life and Times of Akhenaten, published in 1910:* "He was a person of commanding presence, whose powerful character showed itself in his face. One must picture him now as a tall man, with a fine shock of white hair; a great hooked nose, like that of a Syrian; full, strong lips; and a prominent, determined jaw. He has the face of an ecclesiastic, and there is something about his mouth that reminds one of the late Pope, Leo III."

Henri Naville, the Swiss Egyptologist, took the view that Yuya's "very aquiline face might be Semitic." Other scholars and experts in particular fields have voiced reservations about whether it is possible on the basis of appearance alone to argue that Yuya was a foreigner. However, there are other indications—his name, for instance, which was not known in Egypt before his time and proved difficult to render into hieroglyphics—which point to this having been the case.

Yuya's Name. Eleven different versions of Yuya's name are to be found on his sarcophagus, the three coffins and other funerary furniture—Ya-a, Ya, Yi-Ya, YuYa, Ya-Yi, Yu, Yu-Yu, Ya-Ya, Yi-Ay, Yi-a, Yu-y. Yet what was the name the craftsmen were trying to inscribe? Egyptian names usually indicated the name of the god under whose protection the person was placed— Ra-mos, Ptah-hotep, Tutankh-amun and so on. The evidence suggests that, despite the years he spent in Egypt and the high office he held, Joseph remained aloof from Egyptian religious worship. It seems therefore a reasonable assumption that, by the time Joseph died, Egyptians must have realized that he would not accept the protection of any Egyptian gods, only mat of his own God, Yhwh (Jehovah) or Yhwa (the final h is read as an a in Hebrew), and what they were trying to write, following Egyptian tradition, was the name of his God.

*My own account of the life and times of Akhenaten, the soil of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiye, Yuya's daughter, forms the basis of a later chapter.

Generally speaking, ancient Egyptian did not use vowels, although some consonants were used as long vowels. In the case of Yuya's name, long vowels were used because with foreign names no one could be expected to know the correct form of the reading.*

Yuya's Burial. The way Yuya was buried points to his not having been Egyptian. His ears, unlike those of most royal mummies of the Eighteenth Dynasty, were not pierced, and the position of his hands, the palms facing his neck under the chin, is different from the usual Osiris form—Osiris was the Egyptian god of the underworld and judge of the dead—in which the dead man's hands are crossed over his chest. Yuya, as far as I am aware, is the only Egyptian mummy to be found with his hands in a different position.

Yuya's Insignia of Office. Yuya's tomb contained Pharaoh's ring and a gold chain. Pharaoh gave Joseph three objects as a sign of his office: "And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck" (Genesis 41:42). There were two attempts to steal small objects from Yuya's tomb, one in ancient times, just after the burial, and the other just after the tomb was opened in 1905. The ring might have disappeared because of either robbery, but we do have written evidence that one existed in the tomb. Yuya, like many other ministers, was "bearer of the seal of the king of Lower Egypt" as well as "bearer of the ring of the king of Lower Egypt." The honor bestowed on Joseph by the presentation of a gold chain was a custom mentioned in texts before the New Kingdom (the period from the sixteenth to the eleventh centuries B.C., the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties), but it is not until the reign of Tuthmosis IV (c. 1413-1405 B.C.), the father of Amenhotep III, that such a presentation was produced by the artist on the tomb walls. Receiving gold was looked upon as one of the high

*The two parts of Yuya, "Yu" and "Ya," are both short. The letter "J" in both Egyptian and Hebrew, and even German, is read "Y" in English, so these parts are read "Ju" or "Jo" and "Ja," which is a short form of the Israelite God "Yahweh" or "Jehoveh." The biblical story tells us that Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name on his appointment as his minister, which starts with "Zef" or "Sef." This was actually a real Egyptian name, and the Egyptian historian Manetho, who wrote an account of Egypt's history in Greek for Ptolemy II to be part of the Alexandrian library, confirms that Amenhotep III, who appointed Yuya as his minister, had a minister called "Sef." So we have both of the two elements of Joseph's name, the Israelite "Yu" and the Egyptian "Sef," related to Yuya. The Hebrew and Arabic name for the Patriarch is "Yosef" or "Yusef."

est distinctions of the time, and, as we saw earlier, Yuya had a gold necklace that had fallen inside his coffin and come to rest under his head when the thread was cut by robbers.

Chariots. Yuya's tomb contained a chariot. In the biblical account of Joseph's life we find three references to chariots. At the time of Joseph's appointment as minister we are told that Pharaoh "made him ride in the second chariot he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee ..." (Genesis 41:43). Again, when Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt, "Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet Israel (Jacob) his father, to Goshen . . ." (Genesis 46:29). Finally, when Joseph set out after Jacob's death to bury his father in Canaan, "there went up with him both chariots and horsemen ..." (Genesis 50:9).

The first of these references suggests that Joseph had a responsibility for the chariotry. Alan Richard Schulman, the American Egyptologist, has made the point, in an article published in the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt in 1963, that "in the later 18th Dynasty two ranks are attested which indicate that such a technical nuance"—chariotry as distinct from infantry—"has come into being: Adjutant of the Chariotry, the earliest occurrence of which is known from the Amarna period (of Yuya, who was appointed as Adjutant (Deputy) of His Majesty in the Chariotry as well as Officer for the Horses) . . . which dates, most probably, to the early years of the reign of Amenhotep III." Thus the first person in Egypt to be appointed to the position ascribed to Joseph in the Bible was Yuya, the minister to Amenhotep III.

The fact that a chariot was found in Yuya's tomb is another indication of his position. It was the custom in ancient Egypt to place in a tomb objects that had a special significance in the life of the dead person. This particular chariot is too small to have been Yuya's, yet too big to have been a model. It is possible that it belonged originally to Tuthmosis IV* when he

*Although we have no written evidence to confirm it—none of the titles found in the tomb of Yuya (Joseph) mentions Tuthmosis IV—strong indications exist that it was this king who first appointed him as his minister, and his son, Amenhotep HI, confirmed Yuya in the post. While in the case of Joseph the Book of Genesis does not make this clear, the Talmud states that the Pharaoh who appointed Joseph died before him and Joseph continued in office during the reign of his successor: "And it came to pass ... that Pharaoh the friend of Joseph died . . . Before his death Pharaoh commended his son, who succeeded him, to obey Joseph in all things, and the same instructions he left in writing. This pleased the people of Egypt, for they loved Joseph and trusted implicitly in him."

was the young crown prince or to the young Amenhotep III, who was only about 12 when he came to the throne. This would explain why, although ornamented in gold, it was not inscribed.

"Bow the Knee." Pharaoh ordered citizens to "bow the knee" before Joseph (Genesis 41:43). The expression "bow the knee" is an English translation of the Hebrew word abrek. It is an imperative, meaning "do obeisance," that entered Egyptian vocabulary during the Eighteenth Dynasty and was not known before that time.

Yuya's Wife. While it is easy to see how the name Joseph could have been transcribed into Yuya, the transformation of Asenath into Tuya, the wife of Yuya, can only be a matter of conjecture.* However, it is a fact that it was a common practice at the time for Egyptians to have several names, some of which were kept secret. Tutankhamun had three names in addition to the one we know him by. It was also the custom to use pet names as well as abbreviated forms for longer and more complex names. Some allowance must be made, too, for the fact that many centuries passed between the events described and the time they were set down in the Bible. To use a simple analogy, if the Tudor era of English history was far more remote than it is and, as in the case of Egypt, vast quantities of the relevant documents had been destroyed, it might prove difficult to establish that Queen Elizabeth I and Good Queen Bess were the same person.

The Cattle of Goshen. Two more of Yuya's titles provide a further link with the biblical story of Joseph. After the Israelites had arrived in Egypt, Pharaoh is said to have told Joseph: "in the best of the land of Egypt make thy father and brethren dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell; and if thou knowest any men of activity among them, then make them rulers over my cattle" (Genesis 47:6). One of the titles found in Yuya's tomb was Overseer of the Cattle of Min, Lord of Akhmin (a town on the east bank of the Nile, in Upper Egypt), and a second was Overseer of the Cattle of Amun.

Yuya's Lifespan. Of Joseph's burial in Egypt, the Book of Genesis says: "So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him

*The Egyptian origin of the name Asenath for Joseph's wife is "Nes-net," which means "belonging to the goddess Nut." Nut was the sky-goddess.

and put him in a coffin in Egypt" (50:26). From the medical report made by Sir

Grafton Elliott Smith, the anatomist who examined Yuya's mummy after its discovery, we know that Yuya was probably not less than 60 at the time of his death.

Smith was unable, judging by facial appearance alone, to decide the exact age, but

Henri Naville, who translated Yuya's copy of the Book of the Dead, wrote in his subsequent commentary upon it in 1908: "the artist wished to indicate that Iouiya

(Yuya) was a very old man when he died: therefore he made him quite a white wig it

As the average age to which people lived at the time was about 30, Ancient Egyptians considered old age to be a sign of wisdom, and those who attained long life were looked upon as holy figures. Both Joseph and Yuya were considered wise by Pharaoh. Of Joseph he said: "there is none as discreet and wise as thou art" (Genesis 41:39). Yuya is also described on his funerary papyrus as "the only wise, who loves his god." The age Egyptians ascribed to those who lived to be wise was 110, irrespective of how old they actually were when they died. Amenhotep, son of Habu, an Egyptian magician in Yuya's time, was said to have lived 110 years although the last information we have about him puts his age at 80. Since 1865, when the British scholar Charles W. Goodwin suggested that the age the biblical narrator assigned to Joseph at the time of his death was a reflection of the Egyptian tradition, this idea has become more and more accepted by Egyptologists.

The Use of Money. In the Old Testament narration Joseph's brothers are said to have used money to pay for provisions but, before sending them on their way, Joseph restored "every man's money into his sack" (Genesis 42:25). It used to be thought that money did not come into use in Egypt until around 950 B.C. and the authors of the Genesis story were reflecting the customs of their own era when they referred to money rather than payment in kind. However, recent studies have found evidence to support the idea that, at least from the reign of Amenhotep II (c. 1436-1413 B.C.), sixth ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty, pieces of metal—gold, silver and copper, of a fixed weight or value—were used as a means of exchange. Abd El-Mohsen Bakir, the Egyptian scholar, makes the point in his book Slavery in Pharaonic Egypt that a reference in a legal document of the Eighteenth Dynasty indicates that "two debens [about 90 grams] of silver" were paid as the price of a slave. The role that money played in the brothers' grain purchase again conforms with the situation in Egypt during the New Kingdom.

The Many-Gated City. According to the Koran, before their second visit to Egypt, accompanied by Benjamin (Joseph's younger brother), Jacob advised his sons not to enter the city by one gate:

Further he said: "O my sons! enter not All by one gate: enter ye By different gates ..."

Chapter 12:67

The same story is found in Jewish traditions: "His brothers, fearing the evil eye, entered the city at ten different gates" (Midrash Bereshith Rabbah 89).*

As this was to be the brothers' second visit, it is reasonable to assume that Jacob could not have known anything about the city except through hearing details of his sons' previous trip. Which city had they visited? The evidence suggests that their encounter with Joseph took place at Thebes, the capital of the Eighteenth Dynasty kings on the Upper Nile. Thebes was known throughout the ancient world as "the city with many gates" and the Greek poet Homer mentioned it around the eighth century B.C. as "the hundred-gated city." This does not refer to entrances through the city's walls, but to gates belonging to its temples and palaces.

Identification of Joseph as Yuya provides further support in the form of chronology for my earlier identification of Tuthmosis III (David) as the father of Isaac. Joseph is thought to have arrived in Egypt and been appointed to his first post as a minister during the brief reign of Tuthmosis IV (c. 1413-1405 B.C.). His father Amenhotep II ruled slightly longer (c. 1436-1413 B.C.). Even the combined total of their reigns, 31 years, does not provide sufficient time for Isaac to father the twins Esau and Jacob, Jacob to father Joseph, and Joseph to arrive in Egypt as either a teenager or grown man. The problem is resolved, however, once Tuthmosis III, who ruled for 54 years (c. 1490-1436 B.C.), is introduced into the equation.

*These traditions were transmitted orally before being written. The biblical narrator left some of it out either because he did not know it or did not regard it as important or suitable.


The Book of Genesis makes no mention of Joseph having fathered a daughter as well as the two sons, Manasseh (Anen) and Ephraim (Aye), who were already with him in Egypt at the time the tribes of Israel made their Descent from Canaan to join him. This is not to say that he did not have a daughter. It has been suggested that she is the seventieth name missing from the list of Israelite immigrants in the Book of Genesis.

Her absence from the list may be simply explained by the fact that it was the practice for biblical scribes to omit women's names unless they had played a significant role in the story being told, a practice that often suggests the Hebrews fathered only male descendants. A more plausible explanation, once the identification of Joseph as Yuya is accepted, argues that Joseph's daughter in her turn is to be identified as Yuya's daughter Tiye (Plate 10) who, despite being half-Israelite, became Queen of Egypt, and that, to mask the Israelite-Egyptian connection, when the Book of Genesis was set down in writing many centuries after the events it describes, her name was excised from the Old Testament as a result of bitter memories of the Exodus—bitterness that still survives in politics today.

If, as we saw earlier, it was Tuthmosis IV who appointed Yuya (Joseph) initially to the post of minister, this sequence of events would make sense of what happened after the death of Amenhotep Ill's father in 1405 B.C. when Amenhotep III (Plate 9) was only about 12 years of age. In accordance with Egyptian custom he married his sister, Sitamun, to inherit the throne, but shortly afterward married Tiye, the daughter of Yuya and

Tuya, and made her rather than Sitamun his Great Royal Wife (queen). At the time of these marriages Sitamun is thought to have been about three years of age and Tiye eight.*

The childhood romance between Amenhotep HI and Tiye can be explained by the posts held by both her parents, which meant that the two children grew up together. As a minister to both pharaohs, responsible for the chariots, a similar unit to the king's guard, Yuya would have been required to live in the royal residence. This was also true of his wife, Tuya, who was the king's "ornament" (khrt nsw), a position that might be said to combine the duties of a modern butler and lady-in-waiting, and could also indicate that she had been the king's nanny. It has also been suggested that Tiye was acceptable as a bride for the young king because Tuya, her mother, was herself of royal blood. Arthur Weigall makes the point in his book The Life and Times of Akhenaten that she "may have been . . . the grand-daughter of Tuthmosis III [David], to whom she bears some likeness of face" (Weigall here refers to Tuya's mummy). This view is supported by three titles found in her tomb— "favoured of the good god (the king)," "favoured of Horus in his house (the king in his palace)," "favoured of Horus, Lord of this land"—and the fact that Tiye, the daughter of her marriage to Yuya, is often referred to as "royal daughter." This, Weigall argues, would also help to explain why she and Yuya were given such a fine tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

The fact that the marriage of Amenhotep III and Tiye took place early in his reign is established by two of five commemorative scarabs (sacred beetles—see Plate 6) issued by the king and discovered in the latter part of the last century. The first, reporting the marriage, reads in part: "Live . . . King Amenhotep [III], who is given life, [and] the Great King's-Wife Tiye, who liveth. The name of her father is Yuya, the name of her mother is Tuya. She is the wife of a mighty king whose southern boundary is as far as Karoy and northern as far as Naharin." The mention of Karoy in the Sudan and Naharin in northern Iraq essentially establishes Amenhotep Ill's empire as stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates. No date is given here. That the

*Some scholars have argued—wrongly, I think—that Sitamun was the daughter of Amenhotep III and Tiye rather than the infant sister he married to inherit the throne. Without going into all the details, the latter view is reinforced by the inscription on a kohl (powder) tube, which probably came from Sitamun's palace at Thebes and is now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York. It reads in part,"King's Great Wife (Sit-Amun)," suggesting she is challenging Tiye over a title Sitamun felt should rightly have belonged to her.

marriage took place early in his reign is clear, however, from the second scarab, relating to a wild-cattle hunt that took place in the king's Year 2 (1404 B.C.). Here Tiye is described as "the Great Royal Wife."

After their wedding, Amenhotep HI presented Tiye with the frontier fortress of Zarw (in the area of modern Quantara East of the Suez Canal) as a kind of summer palace so that she could be near her Israelite relatives, settled at Goshen (beyond Egypt proper, because shepherds were still "an abomination"). Goshen was in those days linked with the fortress of Zarw by water. The last of the above scarabs describes the construction of a pleasure lake for Queen Tiye at Zarw in Year 11 (1395 B.C.) of Amenhotep Ill's reign. Six versions of the scarab have been found. Although there are some minor differences, they all agree on the main points of the text, which runs as follows:

Year 11, third month of Inundation (first season), day 1, under the majesty of Horus . . . mighty valour, who smites the Asiatics, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Neb-maat-Ra, Son of Ra Amenhotep Ruler of Thebes, who is given life, and the Great Royal Wife Tiye, who liveth. His Majesty commanded the making of a lake for the Great King's Wife Tiye, who liveth, in her city of Zarwkha (kha signifies city). Its length 3,700 cubits (about 1,020 yards), its breadth 700 cubits (200 yards).* His Majesty celebrated the feast of the opening of the lake in the third month of the first season, day 16, when His Majesty sailed thereon in the royal barge Aten Gleams.

The Egyptians had three seasons, Inundation, Winter and Gathering, each of four months, with the year beginning in mid-July. Thus the third month of the first season would be October of the king's Year 11, 1395 B.C.

These scarabs suggest that Queen Tiye enjoyed an idyllic marriage to an immensely rich, powerful and indulgent husband, happy to grant her every wish, even to presenting her with a summer palace, so that she could be close to her Israelite relatives in Goshen, together with a pleasure lake. However, the man at her side on that October day, when they were enjoy-ing a kind of second honeymoon, could foresee—because his wife was not the heiress and only half-Egyptian—a serious crisis ahead over his line of

*One of the scarabs, a copy of which is in the Vatican, gives the breadth as 600 cubits and also mentions the names of the queen's parents, Yuya and Tuya, indicating that they were still alive at the time.

succession if his wife's expected child proved to be a boy, a crisis that would not be easy to resolve, even for Amenhotep III. Today, 3,500 years later, he still enjoys the reputation of someone who was infinitely wise. Amenhotep III was Solomon.

Solomon is presented to us in the old Testament in a number of guises: King of Israel, who succeeded his father, David, in the tenth century B.C.; the son of David and Bathsheba, adulterous wife of Uriah the Hittite; commander of a vast army of men and a host of chariots ("a thousand and four, hundred" and "twelve thousand horsemen" according to I Kings 10:26); overlord of a vast empire that underwent decline during his reign; the husband of Pharaoh's daughter; and the lover of "many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh" (I Kings 11:1).

Here we find ourselves facing a similar situation to that encountered earlier in this book where the old Testament presented us with two contrasting characters for David—a mighty warrior who created an empire stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates (Tuthmosis III, c. 1490-1436 B.C.) and a modest tribal chief who lived in the tenth century B.C.—and events separated by five centuries that are lumped together as if they happened at the same time. Now we have to deal with two Solomons. To examine briefly some of the attributes ascribed to him in the Book of I Kings:

• Solomon cannot have succeeded his father David in the tenth century B.C. because David (Tuthmosis III), as we have seen, lived five centuries earlier and was, in fact, not his father but his great-grandfather;

• In the old Testament one often comes across accounts where the oral memory of ancient events is retold in a fictionalized form with different characters and a different time-scale. I believe the David (Tuthmosis III)-Bathsheba-Uriah story found in the Book of II Samuel should be seen as another version of the David (Tuthmosis III)-Sarah-Abraham story, related in the earlier Book of Genesis, in which—to refresh memories in the matter— the king married Sarah and, on discovering that Sarah was Abraham's wife, sent the couple back to Canaan where the pregnant Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the king's son.

The David-Bathsheba-Uriah story is set in the fortress of Jerusalem while Tuthmosis III was staying there during the siege of Megiddo (Armageddon), the first military encounter of his campaign, shortly after

Hatshepsut's death, to restore the Egyptian empire stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates. It is said that he made inquiries about the identity of Bathsheba after seeing her bathing. Despite being told that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was serving with the king's forces at Megiddo, David sent messengers to bring her to his house where "he lay with her" (II Samuel 11:4).

As a result of this liaison, Bathsheba became pregnant. In the hope of disguising his guilt, David had Uriah brought to Jerusalem, but the warrior refused to sleep in the comfort of his own home while the king's army suffered the hardships of living in tents outside besieged Megiddo. David therefore sent him back to the front accompanied by the order: "Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle . . . that he may be smitten and die" (II Samuel 11:15). Once Uriah had met his death, David married Bathsheba, who bore him a son.

Up to this point, both stories are remarkably similar. Both Abraham and Uriah are foreigners, Abraham a Canaanite in Egypt, Uriah a Hittite in Jerusalem. In each case their wives are made pregnant by a king and give birth to a son. The fate of the two "children of sin" is different, however. In the case of Abraham we have a hint of moral disapproval of the circumstances that led to the birth of Isaac: he is said to have been tempted by God initially to offer Isaac as "a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:2), but after Abraham responded to the temptation Isaac's life was spared and Abraham took a ram "and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (22:13).

In the case of David we find a more precise moral judgment. We are told that after David had caused the death of Uriah and married Bathsheba, who bore him a son, "the thing that David had done displeased the Lord. And the Lord sent [unto David] Nathan [the prophet] who said to David, . . . Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah with the sword, and has taken his wife to be thy wife. . . . Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house ... the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die" (II Samuel 11:27,12:1,9-10,14).

These condemnations were followed by the promise that the awaited child, which proved to be very sick, would not survive. This unnamed boy died on the seventh day and David "comforted Bathsheba his wife, and Went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son: and he called his name Solomon . . ." (12:24).

Hermann Gunkel, the distinguished German biblical scholar, dismisses the whole story of Uriah and his wife as having no historical basis. This is not the case. The names used in these fictional accounts based on real events usually point to the identity of the original historical characters and, as a rule, provide evidence that we are dealing with fact disguised as fiction. This is clearly the case with the name Uriah. It is composed of two elements—Ur, a Mesopotamian word meaning "city" or "light," and Yah (iah), which is the short form of Jehovah, the Israelite God. The meaning of the name could therefore be "Jehovah's light." Yet he is described as being a Hittite. How can we accept that a Hittite, a traditional enemy of Egypt and the Israelites, could be a worshipper of the Israelite God and one of the heroes of David's army? Nor do we have any information to explain the sudden appearance of this foreigner and his wife in Jerusalem, where they seem to have had their home.

To look at the matter from another point of view, Ur, the first part of Uriah's name, relates him to the birthplace of Abraham. The first reference to this in the Bible describes how Abraham and Sarah "went forth ... from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan" (Genesis 11:31). This could mean either "a city of the Chaldees" or, if the word Ur was used as a proper noun, "Ur of the Chaldees." Whatever the situation regarding this early reference, later on Ur certainly became a proper noun indicating the birthplace of Abraham. Thus the name Ur-iah relates the invented character both to the God of Abraham and to the city of Abraham's origin.

We have a similar situation with the name Bathsheba. Here again we have two elements—Beth, meaning "a girl" or "a daughter," and Sheba, an area to the south of Canaan that takes its name from the local well, Beer-Sheba. The name Beth-Sheba can therefore be interpreted as "a girl (or daughter) of Sheba," which was the area in which Sarah and Abraham settled after their return from Egypt.

The statement that Solomon commanded a vast army and was overlord of a huge empire that underwent decline during his reign finds no historical support in the tenth century B.C., by which time the empire founded 500 years earlier by Tuthmosis III, the great-grandfather of Amenhotep III, had ceased to exist. The description of Solomon as the husband of Pharaoh's daughter also cannot be true. He would have had to be a member of the royal house of Egypt rather than King of Israel before he was able to marry an Egyptian princess.

We know from the Amarna letters—the foreign archives of the Eighteenth Dynasty, a period of rule that lasted roughly from 1575 to

Pharaoh's Queen 53

1335 B.C.—that it was not the custom of Egyptian kings to give their daughters in marriage to foreign rulers. The reference to marriage to Pharaoh's daughter reflects the fact that Amenhotep III married his infant sister, Sitamun, as was the Egyptian custom, to inherit the throne.

The Old Testament also assures us that Solomon was both rich and extremely wise: "So King Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom" (I Kings 10:23). The best-known story about the wisdom of Solomon is the dispute between two mothers over the parenthood of a child, to be found in I Kings 3:16-28. Each of the women, who lived in the same house, gave birth to a baby boy. One of the babies died, however, and both women claimed the surviving child as her own and eventually came before the king with their dispute. Thereupon Solomon ordered the child to be cut in half with a sword, and one half to be given to each woman. This immediately helped to identify the real mother, who tried to save the boy's life by asking for the child to be given to the other woman.

It is hardly to be believed that the king, who had professional judges and officials, would involve himself personally in such a dispute between two women, who are described in the Bible as harlots. In fact, I believe that we are dealing here with another story that is being told with a different cast: the real story concerns the circumstances surrounding the birth of Moses and Pharaoh's threat to kill him, which will be the subject of a subsequent chapter.

Solomon's reputation for wisdom, as well as the name by which he is known, does not rest on resolving a dispute over the motherhood of a child, but on the masterful way he—or, rather, Amenhotep III—ruled Egypt and the vast empire founded originally by his great-grandfather, Tuthmosis III (David), an empire that encompassed "all the kingdoms from the river (Euphrates) unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt" (I Kings 4:21). An important element of his rule was his marriages to "many strange women"—princesses from neighbouring states with whom, because of these marriages, Egypt enjoyed peaceful relations and avoided costly wars.

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  • jukka
    Is Joseph's name in the archives of ancient Egypt?
    3 months ago

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