By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Many people in our world have the mindset that the Bible is not true. Oh, they may believe that it is a “good book,” and that it has some “good stories.” Yet when pressed if they believe that it is the inspired Word of God as it claims to be (2 Samuel 23:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:13; Jeremiah 1:9-10; 2 Peter 1:20-21), many would answer in the negative.
Now, some in the church would say, “Well, they are just lost and we know better, so let’s not fool with them.” Indeed, I have heard some Christians make such statements (although not in those exact words). After all, they reason, people should just know better! Others may claim that we have more important things to do than try and reach unbelievers. One gentleman told me, “Mark, I have better things to do than try to convert unbelievers, like mowing my grass.”
When such attitudes are prevalent among Christians, there is a problem!
You see, Jesus commands Christians to give a defense of the hope that is within us (1 Peter 3:15). We are to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Paul commands us to prove all things and to hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). That is one of the reasons why so many of my articles and sermons deals with the subject of Christian Evidences: because the Word of God commands such!
With that in mind, I want to share with you some of the incredible evidences that archaeology has provided in helping to confirm the truthfulness of one of the most incredible persons mentioned in the Bible: Joseph, the son of Jacob.
Who Was Joseph (Genesis 37-50)?
One of the most thrilling and heart-wrenching Bible stories is that of Joseph and his “coat of many colors.” Sold into slavery by jealous brothers (who then took his coat of many colors and tore it, dipped it in blood, and told their father he had been killed by a wild beast), Joseph was taken to Egypt where he was then falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison. Near the end of two years, Joseph had developed quite a reputation as an interpreter of dreams. The Lord God warned Pharaoh (through his dreams) that there would be seven years of great abundance in the crops and fields of Egypt, followed by seven years of great famine that would sweep through the entire Earth.
However, Pharaoh could not understand the meaning of the dreams! It was then that he was told about Joseph. When Joseph explained the meaning of the dreams, Pharaoh set him in charge to build and prepare great storehouses to stock with grain and flour so that when the seven years of famine finally hit, people would be able to come to Egypt for food. Indeed, Joseph was made the second most powerful man in Egypt at this time!
Yet the story gets deeper and more tangled. When the seven years of famine finally hit, guess who ends up coming to Egypt looking for food? Joseph’s brothers! They don’t recognize him, and the Book of Genesis tells us of the incredible and beautiful reconciliation that took place when Joseph finally forgave them of their horrible wickedness. So great is his mercy that Joseph allows his brothers to bring all of their families to the land of Egypt, to settle in the land of Goshen (Genesis 45:10).
Critics of the Bible, of course, have said for years that the Egyptians would never make a Hebrew the second most powerful man in the land. To many, the thought is preposterous, and the Bible is often dismissed out of hand as a reliable document at this point. Therefore, it is with this thought in mind that we will begin studying and learning of the findings of archaeology in regard to these matters.
The Joseph Coins
One of the first things to bring to your attention deals with several coins which were found in Egypt which bear incredible testimony to Joseph. Grant Jeffrey gives us the details:
“”Recent research conducted on previously overlooked Egyptian coins confirms the biblical story of Joseph and his role in government service in ancient Egypt. In 2009, archaeological authorities from the Egyptian National Museum announced that a cache of ancient coins had been “rediscovered.” Initially discovered almost a century earlier, the coins had been in storage. They were uncovered in the vast storage vaults of the national museum and the Antiquities Authority. Cairo’s Al Ahram newspaper reported that the coins bear the name and image of the biblical Joseph.21 The cache of more than five hundred coins had been set aside decades earlier in the belief that they were miscellaneous objects of worship and likely of no significance. However, scientists re-examined the coins using recently developed technology and discovered that a number of them dated to the time of ancient Egypt. Most of the coins were engraved with the year they were minted and their monetary value and the effigies or images of the pharaohs ruling Egypt when the coins were minted. Researchers concluded that the “Joseph coins” originated in the period when Joseph served as Pharaoh’s treasurer—during the seven years of plenty and seven years of famine (see Genesis 41:41–45). Biblical history suggests a date for Joseph’s high position in the Egyptian government that coincides with the date of the minting of the coins in the cache (approximately 2000 B.C.). Amazingly, some of the coins bear both Joseph’s name and image.” (Grant R. Jeffrey, The Signature Of God: Conclusive Proof That Every Teaching, Every Command, Every Promise In The Bible Is True, 69-70 (Kindle Edition); Waterbrook Press)
While many skeptics of the Bible refuse to acknowledge the importance of these finds, the evidence speaks volumes to the authenticity and credibility of the truthfulness of the Bible.
The Joseph Canal
Another great evidence of the credibility of the story of Joseph in the Bible comes from an ancient canal in Egypt which dates back to the time of Joseph himself. In fact, what makes the canal so astonishing is that it is literally named The Canal Of Joseph! Bill Cooper informs us:
“And what shall we say of the common assertion amongst modernists that no Egyptian monument exists which bears the name of Joseph? Well, we can always point out the fact that about 80 miles south of Cairo, there lies the still- flourishing town of Medinet- el- Faiyum. It is a lush and fertile area, famed for its ‘gardens, oranges, mandarines, peaches, olives, pomegranates and grapes’. It has been like this for well over 3,000 years, and owes its lush fertility to a 200 mile- long canal which still conveys to it the waters of the Nile in a constant year- round flow. It is an astonishing feat of engineering which to this day is known throughout Egypt as the ‘Bahr Yusuf’ – the Joseph Canal. This has always been its name. Moreover, the people of Egypt are perfectly happy to tell you that it was built by the Joseph of the Bible who once was Pharaoh’s ‘Grand Vizier’. 14”. (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Genesis, 2040-2046 (Kindle Edition))
Yet, there is more.
Evidences Of The Seven Year Famine And Mention Of Joseph By Name
The archaeological evidence regarding Joseph also includes references to the seven years of abundance and to the seven year famine mentioned in Genesis. Ancient inscriptions from non-Hebrew grave have been unearthed which not only mention these facts, but even discuss Joseph himself! Consider the following (emphasis added, M.A.T.):
” “We dwelt at ease in this castle a long tract of time; nor had we a desire but for the region-lord of the vineyard. Hundreds of camels returned to us each day at evening, their eye pleasant to behold in their resting-places. And twice the number of our camels were our sheep, in comeliness like white does, and also the slow moving kine. We dwelt in this castle SEVEN YEARS OF GOOD LIFE—how difficult for memory its description! THEN CAME YEARS BARREN AND BURNT UP: when one evil year had passed away, then came another to succeed it. And we became as though we had never seen a glimpse of good. They died and neither foot nor hoof remained. Thus fares it with him who renders not thanks to God: His footsteps fail not to be blotted out from his dwelling.” (Charles Forster, Sinai Photographed (London: Richard Bentley, 1862); quoted in Jeffrey).
“In thy name O God, the God of Hamyar, I Tajah, the daughter of Dzu Shefar, sent my steward TO JOSEPH, And he delaying to return to me, I sent my hand maid With a measure of silver, TO BRING ME BACKA MEASURE OF FLOUR: And not being able to procure it, I sent her with a measure of gold: And not being able to procure it, I sent her with a measure of pearls: And not being able to procure it, I commanded them to be ground: And finding no profit in them, I am shut up here. Whosoever may hear of it, let him commiserate me; And should any woman adorn herself with an ornament From my ornaments, may she die with no other than my death.” (Rule and Anderson, Biblical Monuments, 9; also quoted in Jeffrey).
Please notice the clear connection to the ‘seven years’ of goodness and great abundance, and how those were followed by the “years” of famine and death. This is a clear confirmation of what the Bible tells us about the seven years of abundance and famine (Genesis 41:25-36). Observe also that Joseph is mentioned by name by a woman of great power who sends a servant to him to procure flour.
The findings of archaeology continue to demonstrate the accuracy of Scripture.
The City Of Avaris
We see that the land of Goshen was also called Rameses by Moses (Genesis 47:11). Remember that Joseph lived around 1800 B.C., and Moses was writing around 14446 B.C. (Some four hundred years later). In Moses’ day, it was well known that the city of Rameses was built upon the remains of the city of Avaris in the land of Goshen. What is truly incredible is that we know from archaeological discoveries that the inhabitants of Avaris were Hebrews:
“”Joseph as you recall was second only to Pharaoh during his days and was put in charge of building grain storage and supply cities in order to make it through the seven years of famine. This practice evidently continued even after Joseph’s day. One of the supply cities mentioned in Exodus 1:11 is Raamses. There is a city in early Egyptian records named Avaris, which later was annexed and became part of Ramesses II royal city of Pi- Raamses. A branch of the Nile river passed through Avaris and it had a port for the loading and unloading of supplies for use among the other cities along the Nile. The interesting thing about Avaris was that it was a major city of the “shepherd kings” whom some refer to as “Hyskos” while others refer to them as “Asiatics.” You see Joseph brought his father Jacob and his brothers, who were shepherds, into the land of Egypt and they were given the land of Goshen in which to raise their flocks. Pharaoh also made them the chief herdsman over all his livestock . They basically were allowed to live independently in Goshen as subject to Joseph, who was second only to Pharaoh. After Joseph died this arrangement continued. Israel had their own rulers in the land of Goshen subject only to Pharaoh. And the capital of their kings appeared to be the supply city of Avaris, which later became part of Raamses. One really neat artifact found from one of these shepherd kings was a scarab with the words “Jacob- El” which can be translated “Jacob’s God.” This confirms their relationship as being descendants of Jacob (Israel).” (John Argubright, Bible Believer’s Archaeology: Historical Evidence That Proves The Bible-Volume One, 671-683 (Kindle Edition); LaSalle, Illinois)
This ancient city of Avaris contained some incredible finds! Please remember that the Hebrews were shepherds by trade (Genesis 46:28-24), and the city of Avaris was known to be populated by the “shepherd kings.” Further, there were definite indicators that the people of this city were worshippers of “Jacob’s God.”
Consider also that we know there was a large Hebrew population living in the land of Egypt at the time Scripture says that Joseph was there. One of the evidences about this comes from the languages that were known and used (and recorded in writing) at that time and in that land:
“There is no doubt that there was a significant Semitic population throughout Egypt during the New Kingdom (see chap. 3).Because of the preponderance of epigraphic evidence for a Syro-Palestinian presence in Egypt from the mid to late second millennium B.C., even the most skeptical historian cannot dismiss the fact that both the Bible and Egyptian sources agree on this situation.42 Even as far south as Thebes there was a significant number of Semitic-speaking people during the Empire period.43 The names of Semites have even turned up among the workers of Deir el-Medineh in western Thebes.44” (James K. Hoffmeier, Israel In Egypt: The Evidence For The Authenticity Of The Exodus Tradition, 3689-3697 (Kindle Edition); New York, New York; Oxford University Press)
Yet there is still one more incredible piece of evidence to consider regarding archaeology and the amazing account of Joseph.
The Tombs Of Avaris
Recently, a filmmaker named Timothy Mahoney wrote an absolutely fascinating book entitled Patterns Of Evidence: The Exodus (which is also available on DVD). Mahoney has been a lifelong student of archaeology and the Bible. He has searched for years for any evidences that the account of the Exodus is true. While many “scholars” told him that there were no archaeological evidences of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, he was amazed to discover a great deal of evidence to the contrary which had been overlooked, for one reason or another, by many in the “scholarly” field.
While studying about the aforementioned city of Avaris, he interviewed scholar David Rohl. Please consider the following from that interview:
“So is there a connection with Joseph at Avaris?” I asked. Rohl said, “Well, after this house of Jacob – if we can call it that – is built, eventually it’s flattened, and on top of it an Egyptian palace is constructed. The palace is classic Egyptian architecture this time, but the occupant was not Egyptian. “The palace had courtyards, colonnades, audience chambers. There was even a robing room. It obviously belonged to some high official of state who was very, very important to that state. Because when somebody gets a palace like this given to them, it means they’ve been honored for what they’ve done for the state.”…Rohl had a glint in his eye as he relayed the next piece of the story. “Now in the garden behind the palace, the archaeologists found 12 main graves with memorial chapels on top of them.” “You have 12 graves?” “We have 12 graves.” “And why would that be significant?” “Well, think about it. How many sons did Jacob have?” he asked. “He had 12.” “How many tribes were there?” “Twelve tribes.” “Exactly. And what’s also amazing is the palace had a façade, a portico with 12 pillars, just like these,” Rohl said, pointing to the grand columns standing in the hall behind us. “So you’ve got 12 sons, 12 tribes, 12 pillars, and 12 tombs.”…“Interesting,” I said, contemplating the possible connection. “Yes. Is that all a coincidence?” He paused and smiled, knowing there was more to come. “Now, one of these 12 graves was very special because it was a pyramid tomb. This in itself is extraordinary because only pharaohs and queens had pyramid tombs at this time. Yet the person buried in this tomb was not a king. Even so, he was honored with a king’s burial….“And inside the chapel of the tomb was a statue. What we know from the statue is that this man had red hair; he had pale yellow skin, which is how Egyptians depicted northerners. He had a throw stick across his shoulder, a unique symbol of office made for this Asiatic official living in the land of Goshen. And on the back of his shoulder we see the faintest remains of paint – of colored stripes from a multicolored coat. And that matches exactly with the story of Joseph in the Bible. The multicolored coat is a gift, which shows that he was the favorite of the father. And it almost becomes his insignia, this coat. It’s the thing we remember about him most of all.” (Timothy P. Mahoney with Steven Law, Patterns Of Evidence: The Exodus-A Filmmaker’s Journey, 1787-1820 (Kindle Edition); St. Louis Park, MN; Thinking Man’s Media)
Whose tomb had been found? There is only one answer: the tomb of Joseph.
Yet perhaps what is most startling about the discovery of this tomb is what is NOT found therein. Do you remember what the Bible tells us about the death of Joseph? The Prophet had some very explicit instructions for his descendants regarding his burial:
Genesis 50:24-25-And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”. 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
Later, when the children of Israel fled Egypt in the Exodus, we are told:
Exodus 13:19-And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”
Joshua 24:32-The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.
With these things in mind, it is fascinating to learn the following about that tomb in Avaris:
“By now I knew him well enough to tell that his next point would be really dramatic. “The crucial clue for me, which says that this man with the multicolored coat is Joseph, is found in the story of Exodus. When Joseph is on his deathbed, he tells his brethren that when they leave they must take his body with them to the Promised Land. But what matches the story even more incredibly is that that pyramid tomb was empty when the archaeologists found it. There was nothing in it at all apart from a few fragments of this smashed statue. There were no bones; there were no mummy beads, no coffin wood, nothing. It was cleaned out.” “Was it a grave robber?” “No! What grave robber is going to take the bones? Bones are intrinsically of no value whatsoever. Nobody takes the bones. Only people who are treating the body with reverence take the bones. The body was taken out, and all the grave goods were taken out.” “So what do you think happened?” “I think this is the tomb of Joseph – the pyramid tomb of Joseph – honored by Pharaoh with a colossal statue. When Moses decided to take the people out of Egypt, he made sure he fulfilled that promise to Joseph, to take the body out of the tomb and take it to Shechem and bury him in the Promised Land.” (Timothy P. Mahoney with Steven Law, Patterns Of Evidence: The Exodus-A Filmmaker’s Journey, 2066-2078 (Kindle Edition); St. Louis Park, MN; Thinking Man’s Media)
My friends, there are many people who will tell you that the Bible is a book of fairy-tales that some ignorant goons made up over vast eons of time.
The next time you hear such claims, remember that the facts tell a different story! The Bible IS the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and several lines of evidence (including the evidences of archaeology) PROVE this fact. I encourage you to build your life on the Word of God; for it is the only sold foundation upon which to build (Hebrews 11:1).
The central message of the Word of God is that God loves you, no matter what sins you have committed (Ezekiel 18:23). This love is powerfully demonstrated by the fact that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sins of mankind on the Cross (Matthew 20:28). Jesus there tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9); our sins were laid upon Him at the cruel hill of Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). He died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He has promised to save everyone who will come to Him and obey His plan of salvation (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 5:8-9). Will you not today, as a believer (John 8:24), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess your faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10), and be buried with Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-4) to have your sins washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16)?
Or if you are a child of God but have left the Lord (Galatians 5:4), won’t you please today repent of your sin and come back to the Lord in prayer (Acts 8:22)? He promises to forgive erring Christians who come back to Him in repentance and confession (1 John 1:9). So why not return today?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.