Dating the Joseph Story (Part 2)

Herein lies the craziest chain reaction of historical coincidences (?) ever

So, in my last post, I told you that we would go over some of the interesting “funny things” that occur in history if you place Joseph’s life during the 12th Dynasty of Egypt. Let’s take a trip down some of the highlights of that list (yes, there are far more than what I’m going to mention!).


Funny Thing 1: Senusret III, a pharaoh Joseph could have served under using this dating scheme, is famous for taking the land and power from the Egyptian nomarchs (you may remember them from my blog series on Ancient Egyptian history; they’re like regional governors) and centralizing the government. This is exactly the sort of thing that happened in Genesis 40, when the Egyptian people had to sell all their land to the government in exchange for food during the famine.

Funny Thing 2: During the time of Senusret III, a canal was built in the area of the capital, Itjtawy (one of many built during his reign). This is one of the things that would have happened in Egypt under Joseph’s leadership, to prepare for the prophesied famine. It still exists today. Guess what its name is. Bahr-Yussef.

Funny Thing 3: Okay, going forward quite a bit in time. At the beginning of the Exodus story, we are told that there came a line of Pharaohs who did not remember Joseph and all he did for Egypt. If we go forward in the historical timeline using this 12th-Dynasty-based chronology, we see that the Second Intermediate Period eventually occurs – mentioned in an earlier blog post. It is a time wherein Egypt was conquered by an Asiatic people called the Hyksos. They ruled for about 100 years before the native Egyptians overthrew them.

Theoretically, this would also be about the time that the Egyptians also began oppressing the Hebrew people. And why wouldn’t they? The Egyptians had been completely overthrown by an ethnic group very similar in appearance and language to the Asiatic Hebrews. After such years of turmoil, they would have no memory of Joseph and no desire to treat anyone even remotely like the Hyksos kindly.

Funny Thing 4: You may remember Hatshepsut, the woman-pharaoh I talked about in a previous post, of whom we lost all record for centuries because her successors tried to obliterate her name from history. Looking at the Moses story, we see that he was saved and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter during a time when the Egyptians had ordered a form of genocide on the Hebrews. Using these dates, guess who the Pharaoh’s daughter would have been at the time Moses was born? Moses whose “let my people go” routine really messed up Egypt.

Yes, it was Hatshepsut. The one whose memory the Egyptians tried to erase.

Guess when they tried to erase it? Not until decades her death. Exactly when the Exodus would have taken place.

Funny Thing 5: You know those Ten Plagues of Egypt? You know the last one, the one from which Judaism derives the Passover? This was the plague of the death of the firstborn son. I’m not about to get in an argument over God’s decisions, but I’ll say this. The firstborn son of Thutmose III, who would have been the pharaoh at the time using this dating scheme, died.

Funny Thing 6: One of the weirdest events in Egyptian history is “that one time Pharaoh Akhenaten decided to make Egypt monotheist”. If we use our 12th-Dynasty-chronology, Akhenaten lived about a century after the Exodus, which would be the time that the Hebrews were slowly setting up in the land that would eventually become Israel. Did Akhenaten (and his wife, the famous Nefertiti) see the Hebrews “magically” become a successful and conquering people after “magically” leaving Egypt after the Ten Plagues and then decide that emulating their monotheism might not be such a bad idea? It’s an interesting proposition. By the way – Akhenaten’s monotheism, which was the worship of the solar disc, called the Aten, didn’t stick. His son, Tutankhaten, brought the old religion back and changed his name to Tutankhamun. Yes, that Tutankhamun.

Funny Thing 7: There are a series of letters written to the Pharaoh of Egypt during the time period mentioned above called the Amarna Letters. (Most would therefore have been written to Akhenaten). Many are written by rulers in Canaan, telling the Egyptian Pharaoh that these darn people called the ‘Apiru/Habiru (both translations have been used) are taking over completely everything. What would the Biblical Hebrews have been doing at this time, according to the timeline we’re using? Taking over completely everything.

One more thing. The etymology of the word “Hebrew” in the Hebrew language itself relates to the idea of wandering. The word “‘Apiru/Habiru” was a word historically used to apply to a wandering social class. What were the ancestors of the Jewish people doing before they showed up in Canaan and started taking over completely everything? Wandering in the desert.


Honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about how the history seems to line up so nicely, but I think I have written enough for now! I hope you have enjoyed these examples of why my placement of Joseph during the 12th Dynasty of Egypt seems logical to me. If you have any questions or want more information, please comment below!

(Do you have any questions you want me to answer? Topics you want me to cover? Comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter @headdeskliz .)

Published by headdeskliz

Elizabeth Jacobson is the author of Not by Sight: The Story of Joseph. She lives and teaches in sunny California and loves fantasy, science fiction, and historically-based Christian fiction. She has multiple other titles in the works.

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