Strona główna Moses and Pharaoh in the Bible, Qur'an and History
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Moses and Pharaoh in the Bible, Qur'an and History

Malaysian ed.
Islamic Book Trust, Kuala Lumpur; The Other Press
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Moses and Pharaoh in the Bible, Qur'an and History
Maurice Bucaille
The Other Press, 2008
ISBN: 9675062053, 9789675062056
230 pages

Pages missing or not available:






Copyrighted materia]


Islamic Book Trust
Kuala Lumpur

Copyright© 1994 Dr Maurice Bucaille
ISBN 978-967-5062-05-6 (Paperback)
ISBN 978-967-5062-06-3 (Hardcover)

First published 1994

NTT Media scope Inc,
Tokyo, Japan.

I bis Malaysian edition 20 OH

Islamic Book Trust
607 Mu tiara Majestic
Jalan Othman
46000 Petal ing Java
Selangor, Malaysia
u'in. iht hooks, com

Islamic Book Trust is affiliated to The Other Press.


The Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea [Gustav Dor

Printed ip Malaysia by

Academe Art and Printing Services, Kuala Lumpur.



Part I: The Bible
1. History of the Biblical 1 exts: Legitimization oi the Search for
Correspondences with History.. 18
2. Entry into Egypt during the Rule of the Hylcsos...

■ ■■frHISifiiBE

Biblical narrations of the history of Joseph and Jacob.,...32
Historical data about the Hylcsos in Egypt.......___35
A trace of the name Jacob expressed in hieroglyphs.... 39
Other Egyptian features of the biblical narration....40
The place where the first Hebrews dwelled in Egypt .... 4]
Reflections about several details ol the narration. .44
The biblical narrations of the first Hebrews in Egypt as a "‘Mosaic'46
The happy times of the stay of the Hebrews in Egypt....... 47
Other hypotheses about the date of entry of the Hebrews into Egypt 49
3. The Oppression; Arc the Oppressed Hebrews Mentioned in the
Fovfsrian Texrs^



L/l.I ll. 1 1


L- A L Jj




■BB+Bi-BB + -l!-r-rBi-.arraBriiarBB-r‘l + 4 i+-l+-la+-iBB



Principal biblical narrations of the oppression__............ 52
Comparisons with secular data of life in ancient Egypt...; ....... 53
Did the Hebrews rank among the “Apiru?”........... 55
4. Birth of Moses—Construction of the City of Pi-Ramesses.58
The interest in knowing when Moses lived
The biblical narrations in the modern editions.. 60
Comments suggested before the deciphering of the hieroglyphs., 61
Modem archaeology in search of Pi-Ramesses and Pi thorn
Pi-Ramesses and history............66
Comments on several bin Seal teachings______68


5. Youth and Exile of Moses: Contemporaneity of Moses and
Ramesses II .........,.,
A historical survey,.****.72
The biblical narration corroborated with the historical data ..**73
Seeking new data: the medical investigations of
Ramesses IPs mummy
An alleged spiritual influence of Ramesses II upon Moses _80
A contribution brought by the Jewish tradition besides the
biblical texts ,.....*.83

6* Return from Exile: the Stela ofthe Fifth Year ofMerenptahs Reign . 86
The narration of the return of Moses *
*...*..... 86
Age of Moses when he initially spoke to Pharaoh........ 87
Some aspects of Merenptah s reig ......*.*..
The Stela of the Fifth Year ofMerenptahs Reign: the debate
about the word “brail"...*....89
The interpretations given to the word “brail .90
How Merenptah laid waste to Israel according ro the stda ..93
7. The Plagues of Egypt...........96
Prelude to the narration of the plagues of Egypt...
Flague number 1. Blood ....*******..
Plague number 2. Frogs...*.....*.99
Plague number 3, Gnats —.......100
Plague number 4, Swarms of flies .*..,,*,.*...100
Plague number 5- Death of the cattle
Plague number 6. Boils and sores .....101
Plague number 7. Hail........
Plague number 8. Locusts.....*..*....102
Plague number 9. Da r kness .* *-.«.* ..**** * * * *........ *. ■ * .**.**........... ...** 10 3
Plague number 10. Death of the first-born.*.103
Comments on the plagues of Egypt..*.*.103

8. The Exodus: the Final Event of Merenptaffs Reign...107
The biblical narration.*.......107
Remarks made by several commentators... 109
How numerous were the Hebrews fleeing Egypt?....,...,...1 I I
Where might the fleeing Hebrews have approached the “sea?”
What was this “sea?” ......} 1 2
The death of Pharaoh during the Exodus.,...1 20
Pharaoh Merenptah, whose remains have illumined past events 124
Teachings of the Old Testament and historical events....130
9. Other I lypotheses Concerning the Date of the Exodus...*.,.132
Erroneous conclusions deduced from mistaken historical and
archaeological data.......,.133
Erroneous conclusions deduced from debatable chronological
assertions of the Rible ....137
Could the Exodus have occurred during Ram esses IPs reign?... 141
Could the Exodus have occurred during the 15th century B.C,?.143
10. Champollion in Debt to the Bible..,.....


Two preliminary steps toward the discovery.148
The day of the deciphering: September 14, 1822....... 149

Part II: The QuCan*,........153
1. Essential Facts and History of the Text.....1 55
History of the Quranic text.......... 162
2. The Entry into Egypt: Joseph......


The narration of the story of Joseph....,.....,,.......168
Differences between the Qudanic and the biblical narrations 1 70
Brief summary of comments by Muslim exegetes...,,..172
Two details unnoticed by the Muslim commentators.174


3- Oppression of the Hebrews........17?

4, Birth* Youth and Exile of Moses........... 180

7 Q 1
Exile of Moses.*....
The burning bush: the mission of Moses. .183
■ ■■■■ir + ff11'11



5. Moses and Pharaoh...186
Dialogues between Moses and Pharaoh..186
M oses and the magicians ot Pharaoh...
.+.*.+.., 188
The cataclysms which affected Egypt.189
The circle of intimates close to Pharaoh.....191
Who was the pharaoh concerned at that time?.... 193
Fhc Exodus.

■ ■ I- + T + -I + h + Vfi ri ■ i

P fc A * ■ « a ■ ■ * fc * -I I m m a -m a I h b B + R r k I ■ * * i I i i H h i

The narration.......
How numerous were the Hebrews fleeing Egypt?_
What action caused the death of the pursuers?.........
fhe medical investigations of Merenptah s mummy
Part III: General Survey of the Research; Comparison of
Both Narrations......



T General Survey of the Research and its Results......206
First conjectures.......,................. 206
Some risky and unconvincing hypotheses.... 207
How have the previous failures called for new means of study?. 21 1
2. Comparison between the Biblical and Qur anic Narrations..... 213
Major correspondences between the biblical narrations and
modern knowledge ......... 213
Special characteristics of the Qur anic narration.. 21 5





Copyrighted material



The Holy Scriptures of the three monotheistic religions relate
events which happened after Abraham instituted the beliefin one unique
God. These events, whose main aspects are shared by rhe Bible and the
Qur’an, have a special significance when they concern the period of
Moses, who, as an apostle of Monotheism, rose up against the despotic
authority of “Pharaoh,” a symbol of polytheism and an oppressor of the
Hebrews. Thus, their history in Egypt, narrated by the Holy Scriptures,
is the topic which reveals the greatest number of aspects shared by the
Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities.
This common history began when the family of Jacob, grandson
of Abraham, settled in Egypt, where they were reunited after their sepa¬
ration from Joseph. For he, after having involuntarily endured cruel cir¬
cumstances, had dwelled in this country a long time before becoming an
important administrator. All this happened in a period of Egyptian
history when the rulers of the country were nor traditional monarchs,
hut invaders controlling most of Egypt. These rulers were more favor¬
able to foreigners than the previous autochthonous sovereigns, allowing
the Israelite community to be more easily integrated, at least lor a
certain period of time. But when the successors to the previous rulers,
who had been driven back to the South, progressively acquired control
of the prosperous lands of rhe North, the community of Hebrews who
had settled in this part of Egypt were finally greatly afflicted by the change
in ruler. After the happy times, there occurred a painful enslavement.
Then the Hebrew community longed to be free, regain physical and spiri¬
tual liberties and return to the land of their ancestors; the Exodus from
Egypt, conducted by Moses, allowed such achievements.
Therefore, it is easy to understand that the Exodus took a very
important place in the history of Judaism; its yearly commemoration,
from the beginning, was ritually celebrated with a special solemnity that
suited its historical and religious significance. Later on, the Prophets,
despite their Israelite descent, did not pronounce their teachings only
for the education of the descendants of Abraham, Their teachings were
ecumenical. For Christians, they were the messengers of divine precepts,
before God gave a mission to one of them, Jesus, in order to promote a


Mosks and Pharagj f

New All iance. 1 he stage is the advent of Islam, continuing this
series of messages: the Qur'an evokes Abraham, Moses, the Prophets and
Jesus in numerous pages of its text and with many details, emphasizing
the spiritual roots of Monotheism. Unfortunately, this fact is very often
forgotten in the West by many people, despite the development of Western culture; moreover, it may be deliberately overshadowed thanks to
the false assertions by those whose aim is to lead people to believe that
God for the Muslims is not the same as God for the Jews or the Christians.
Consequently, when one lacks prejudice, a comparative

study of

the biblical and Qur’anic narrations concerning the history of the de¬
scendants of Jacob-Israel, from Joseph to the Exodus, brings forth infor¬
mation which reveals correspondences as well as discordance between
both Scriptures. We will later see the importance of clarifying the facts
concerning these aspects.
As to the documentation about the stay in Egypt of the Hebrews
and Moses, the sources at first were almost exclusively the Holy Scrip¬
tures, since a book like Judaic Antiquity by Flavius Josephus (I st century
B-C.) only provided data of the last centuries before Christ, and his
sources were mainly biblical. Thus, the interest lies in an attempt to find
documentation outside the Holy Scriptures, since their teachings are nor
able, by themselves, to give the details which might locate in time the
events they relate. In fact, before modern times, how could one have
suggested precisely placing the religious events in an Egyptian history
which was then badly known?

Sot for many centuries, historical knowledge was poor- One may
quote; voyages related by Herodotus {5th century B.C.), Diodorus of
Sicily (1st century B*C.)S Germanicus—related in the Annals by Tacitus
(German icus visited Egypt at the time of Jesus)—scattered documents
of the Ptolemaic period, like the lists of kings of Egypt by Manerho (3rd
century B.C*) quoted by Flavius Josephus. Therefore, the books of the
Bible and additional commentaries were the main sources of informa¬
tion about ancient Egypt for a long time* Later on, the Christian
missionaries carried our inquiries whose results were not unimportant in
their time. Following the stays in the country of the first archaeologists
(17th and 18th centuries) the main surge of historical knowledge dates
back to the Expedition in Egy pt oi Napoleon Bonaparte (1798). For the
latter was accompanied by a cohort of young scientists; their findings



were published in the famous book Description of Egypt, Such was the
prelude to the works oi ChampoElion and his deciphering of hieroglyphs,
Today* the positioning in history of the stay of the Hebrews in
Egypt has not only benefit ted from the classical archaeological investiga¬
tions and linguistic knowledge, but, in addition, from discoveries in other
disciplines which were promoted by researchers who worked outside the
field of classical Egyptology. When the formers' results were corrobo¬
rated with the teachings of the latter, they opened new horizons for
historical precision.
Nevertheless, long before the teachings of modern Egyptology and
its recent correlative developments, the ancient editions of the Bible gave
some useful information. Contrary to modern editions that modify the
orthography of certain names, the perfect conservation in the past of
original names must be emphasized, for it had happy consequences. In
the last chapter of the biblical part of the present work, 1 shall evoke
howr Ch ampollion was abi e to take advantage of the orthography
“RAMESSESC naming the city built by rhe enslaved Hebrews, in the
editions of the Bible that had appeared in his time.
Today, the name of this king is unfortunately written uRAMSES/1
The editions of the Bible which appeared in the 17th or the 18th centu¬
ries in France, as well the old Latin 'Vulgate,” contained the accurate
transliteration of the hieroglyphic name. When, in 1822, Champollion
saw this hieroglyph for the first time* he was able to read it in a flash and
to decipher the key of the old Egyptian language. Ill this way, the bibli¬
cal name, quite indirectly, led to the blossoming of modern knowledge
concerning ancient Egypt through the understanding of hieroglyphs. I
am unaware, however, of any study carried out by an Egyptologist who
has emphasized this fact, which is clearly deduced from the writings of
Champoilion himself. There ate authors who consider the quotation of
the Bible from this perspective to be puerile—its content being labeled
historically unreliable-—while the hieroglyphic data cannot be doubted.
It is a fact that we must question the value of certain deductions
concerning the history of the Hebrews that would be draw n exclusively
from the biblical teachings; the Holy Scriptures cannot, by themselves,
establish this history with complete accuracy. For example, numerous
commentators on the Bible had suggested that, if a major event, like the
Exodus, might have been located in time, it would be easy to deduce the

dare of the entry into Egypt, through a subtraction involving the
duration of the stay there. Unfortunately, certain books of the Bible
contain teachings about the date of the entry which contradict others
about the duration of the stay.
One cannot level reproaches at the old commentators who did not
have at their disposal the data we today possess. Nevertheless, their lack
of critical thinking is obvious: by comparing contradictory biblical data,
they might have realized that their hypotheses were very fragile. The gath¬
ering of multiple secular data cannot help but discover incompatibilities
which were aroused due to the use of incomplete critique.
If one had taken only such contradictions into account one would
have easily succumbed to the temptation to consider that the biblical
narrations express mere myths: unfortunately, in our days, more and
more people have taken the plunge. It would be more reasonable to try
to detect the degree of historical authenticity of the relared events in the
light of modern secular knowledge, when one is assured-through a careful study—that the data of the latter are well established lor every stage
of the history which is submitted to the corroboration. The mistakes
have been numerous when authors only took a major event (like the
Exodus) into consideration, supposedly located it in time and drew
conclusions about other episodes. By doing so, many errors have been
made; for example, some authors made inferences from the excavations
on the site of Jericho—whose results now appear to be without signifi¬
cance to this point—or from an absolutely illogical interpretation ot the
hieroglyphic word “brail” that was engraved on the famous Stela ofthe
Fifih Year ofMermptahs Reign (Merenptah was the successor of Harnesses II).
Another cause of error is to accept the oral traditions quite unre¬
servedly, For example, while the Bible teaches that the duration of the
stay of the Hebrews in Egypt wras 430 years, there is a tradition whose
metaphorical interpretation had led some to suggest a stay of 210 years.
Consequently* in the first case, the Exodus is said to have occurred during
the 13th century B,C., and in the second during the 15th century R.C.
Another example: the entry7 into Egypt is almost unanimously supposed
to have taken place during the 17th century B.C., while a tradition
supposing that the Hebrew's had built the great Pyramids of Egypt (they
date back to the 27th or 26th century B,G.) would lead one to think


that the event had happened more than one millennium earlier; the lat¬
ter deduction is untenable.
Unfortunately, certain commentators are attached to the defense
of traditions to such an extent that some of them do not take firmly
established data of history into the slightest account. Thus, a well-known
specialist in the history of ancient. Israel, who holds that the Exodus oc¬
curred during the 15th century B.C., is naturally obliged to admit that
the Bible suggests the impossibility of this event before the reign of one
of die Ramesses. Since Egyptology undoubtedly has established that—
among eleven “Ramesses' of the 19th and 20th dynasties—the first
so-named was king of Egypt during the last years of the 14th century
B.C., the thesis of this author is untenable. Nevertheless, for him, this is
not a valid objection: why could not a “Ramesses” unknown to histori¬
ans have reigned before...?
Among the statements that cannot be defended about the Exodus,
we must mention what was held concerning the crossing of the whole
width of the Red Sea. We will emphasize the fact that, when the
teachings of the Bible are logically examined, such a long route could
not have been taken by the fleeing Hebrews.
I cannot refrain from discussing certain passages of the Bible which
are not tenable when one possesses a critical mind. I take the liberty of
doing so with regard to several statements that seem to be particularly
untenable. For instance, can we believe that 600,000 men with their
families took flight en masse from Egypt, led by Moses* when such a
considerable crowd would have, in ail likelihood, exceeded the popula¬
tion oi the whole country at the time? Perhaps such an assertion
suggested itself to a biblical writer whose aim was to magnify the event
by means of figures.
Statements of this kind call attention to the history of the biblical
texts, a complex history that ! shall try ro summarize. When one is
objective, the awareness of this history shows that the lack of authenticity
of certain scriptural narrations may be easily explainable. Such a reflec¬
tion—for those who have no preconceived ideas—is far from leading
one to relegate all the biblical statements to the field of mythology. On
the contrary, when a small number of assertions of this kind are put
aside—because they arc in contradiction with historical data—there

Mosks and Pharagj f


remain teachings that appear in close harmony with history. Conse¬
quently, one cannot take literally all that one reads in the Old Testa¬
ment* We must remember that the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965)
was so wise regarding this point as ro mention, in its document concern¬
ing The Revelation,” that the books of this part of the Bible, besides
divine teachings, may contain “imperfect and obsolete matters.” The
document was ratified almost unanimously. It seems, nevertheless, to
have shocked numerous believers who, in the past, had been educated
on the basic principle according to which the Bible is the Word of GodC
In my Christian high school, such was the teaching that the boys received.
With regard to the events of the stay of the Hebrews in Egypt, we
have every reason to think that they occurred from the 1 7th century B.C.
to the 13th century BX1 In order to arrive at such a conclusion, we
could not be satisfied by finding several apparent correspondences
between history and certain religious events of this period which have
been studied independently from one another.
A careful study requires that all the events, from the entry info
Egypt to the Exodus can be logically inserted in the series of historical
changes which secular knowledge has uncovered. When chronological
deductions are drawn concerning different stages, in harmony with
history, the general conclusions of the study have the maximum chance
of being accurate.
In the past, instead of examining the stay of the Hebrews in Egypt
in its entirety, the commentators mainly drew their attention to the
major terminal event, the Exodus. In order to locate it in time, most of
them searched archaeological data related to the settlement of the
Hebrews in the Promised Land, By subtracting the 40 years' period of
the journey through the wilderness—a biblical chronological evaluation
supposed to be beyond question—they thought to be in a position to
locate the Exodus in time, and consequently Moses* Unfortunately the
results of the excavations in Palestine appear now to be quite inaccurate
and totally unreliable* Today, ior this reason, we must admit that all the
results of the previous attempts of location in time were approximative,
most of the authors suggesting quite different periods of the 13th century
R.C Simply because more than three quarters of this century were taken
up by the reigns of Ram esses II and Merenptah, to assess—like they
did —that the Exodus took place during one of these reigns is not



satisfactory and by this line of reasoning, the problem of the location in
time remains no closer to solution. What we know of the events which
occurred during the reign of one or the other pharaoh is nor usually
taken into account by the authors. How could they deduce something—
to be compared with history—concerning Moses* his birth* his educa¬
tion in Egypt, his long life which was interrupted by an exile from this
country, and his later return, before the Exodus, from such a fragile back¬
ground premise?
Twenty years ago, the question was still: who was the pharaoh of the
Exodus, the ph;iraoh who lust his life during the pursuit of the Hebrews?
Then, I w'ondercd if it might be advisable and profitable to try to un¬
cover signs of the participation, or the impossibility of participation, in
the Exodus of the kings of Egypt who reigned during this century. A
way was offered to the researcher: the investigation of their mummies.
For me, it was clear that the Bible strongly suggests the death of the
pharaoh who pursued the fleeing Hebrews, On the other hand, what 1
knew of the results of the mummification process in ancient Egypt led
me to think of the interest of such a research endeavor. As a surgeon, it
wo uld be easy for me to apply modern medical investigative techniques
to the mummies of the kings who had reigned during the 13th century
FLC, which were kept at the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, If their exami¬
nation led to the discovery of detectable signs, it might he possible to
find out how these pharaohs ended their days. Of course, such research
implied carrying it out at Cairo, and that it would be permitted....
Since I am not a specialized researcher in Egyptology> very likely I
would never have been fortunate enough to he allowed to conduct it
without the occurrence, in 1974, of an event having absolutely no
connection with this purpose. The latter was strictly connected with my
medical practice. Then, f had the opportunity at that time, in Paris, to
present my plan to the First Lady of Egypt, the wife of President Sadat,
emphasizing its interest, with a view to having a better knowledge of the
history of the Hebrews; the identity of the pharaoh of the Exodus was
then still in discussion. Several mouths later, by the kind permission of
President Sadat, the first investigations began in the Mummies Room of
the Museum with the participation of Egyptian collaborators. Later, a
dozen other collaborators belonging to diverse medical disciplines were
associated with the research. The scope of the investigations was more

Mosks and Pharaoj f


extensive than the previous American explorations of mummies, which
had been performed essentially by the use of X- rays.
The first results were reported in 1976 in my book, The Bible, the
Quran and Science (French edition published by Seghers, Paris) and, at
the same time, to the French National Academy of Medicine and other
learned societies, among them the French Society of f orensic Medicine.
The investigations into the causes of death had particularly attracted the
attention of two of my collaborators: Professor F, Ceccaldi, Head of the

Police Forensic Laboratory in Paris, and his Assistant at that time,
Professor M. Durigon. Later on, more detailed results were reported in
my book, Les Mo m i es des Pha ra a ns et la Medecin e (L ibrairic S c g u i c r,
publisher, Paris, 1987)- This edition won a 1988 History Prize from the
Academic Framjaise; after its translation to English, it was published by
St. Martin s Press, New York, in 1990, under the title: Mummies oj the
Pharaohs: Modern Medical Investigations.
In order to obtain comparative data concerning certain medical
findings, wre extended the research to mummies of the kings of Egypt
who reigned during other periods. The research put us in a position to
bring data concerning certain points to light, in such a way that today
many hypotheses suggested by biblical commentators before 1976
cannot be upheld. As far as the Exodus is concerned, for example, as l
will emphasize in chapter 9, Harnesses II could not have been in a posh
tion ro be ar the head of the Egyptian army pursuing the Hebrews, Since
he was suffering from a disease which rendered him disabled—as shown
by X-rays—he would not have been able to participate in the pursuit.
Harnesses 11 could nor have played the least part in the Exodus, On the
other hand, we may state without reservation that his successor,
Merenptah, was obviously injured by multiple blows resulting in severe
lesions which were rapidly or instantaneously lethal. Without exclnd mg
death in water, emphasized by commentators of the Scriptures, the medi¬
cal study has shown that the wounds we re provoked by considerable
violence. At this point, we must remember that the Bible teaches us that
the charioteers pursuing the Hebrews were overthrown in the water, into
which they went down like “stones" or “lead” (Chapters XIV and XV of
the book of Exodus), Today, concerning this aspect of the Exodus, the
medical data exactly corroborate details of the biblical teachings; these
medical data were not known before 1976.



More recently, in 1987, an archaeological finding of the utmost
interest, as far as the history of the Hebrews is concerned, was publ ished
by the Biblical Institute of the Vatican, Rome, in the review, Orientalia.
Professor], Pedant, from the College de Prance, Paris, in his yearly sum¬
mary of archaeological findings in Egypt, reported that the German
Archaeologists of the Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim, had excavated the
site of the city named TERamesses” in the Bible* The excavations had
begun in 1980 in the Nile Delta, where the city of Pi-Ram esses was built
by the enslaved Hebrews, according to the Bible* Having discovered
vestiges on which the name of the king, Sethos I, had been engraved, the
German archaeologists had, using this, suggested that the beginning ot
the building of the city dated back to the reign of this pharaoh, around
1300 B.C* Thereafter rhe city became the northern capital of his son
and successor, Ramesses II. This finding led us to refer to a passage of
the Bible which relates this construction in a description of the enslave¬
ment, including the narration of the birth of Moses.
In the present work, wrc shall mention the chronological correspon¬
dences between this detail and the biblical teachings concerning die life
of Moses, the death of an Egyptian king during his exile and his old age
before the Exodus: between all these facts of the biblical narration and
the events of Egyptian history, we discover many parallelisms*
So, data from sources of secular knowledge which are so widely
diverse as medicine and archaeology were able to yield indirect ch ronological deductions in close conformity to one another. Moreover, after
we had obtained this result about the 13th century B.C., wc succeeded
in completing the correspondence as to the insertion in history of the
stay of the Hebrews in its entirety, Le., the period of time which had
elapsed from the entry into Egypt, under the rule of the Hyksos, to the
Exodus, the final event of Mcrcnptah's reign: the 430 years of the stay in
Egypt, according to the Bible, appear in harmony with the historical data
concerning both political events.
The last point that had to be cleared up was the problem of the
concordance of the thesis which is held in rhe present work with some
data from several Egyptian documents. These documents are rare, but
they do exist, notwithstanding that certain authors claimed that the history
of the Hebrews in Egypt left no trace in the Egyptian texts, since the
Scriptural narrations concerning the Hebrews are nothing more than legends.


Mosks and Pharaoj f

1 lie truth lies in the fact that there are texts which contain hiero¬
glyphic names like ‘7trail" [Jacob" and a possible mis-transl iteration of
the word ‘Hebrew' as “Apiru" in old Egyptian- Each of these words will
he discussed in the corresponding chapter. It wall be stated that, in the
old Egyptian texts, there exist: a mention of the name of Jacob in the
titulary of a Hyksos king of the middle of the 17th century B.C., numerous
mentions of the "Apiru” as being lorced laborers—-a wo rtl which might
designate enslaved Hebrews or other slaves, as well—a mention of
'hrail, "as a human community not possessing a land and having lost its
"posterity seed" during the reign of Merenptah. Each of these hierogiyph ic words appears with a meaning in harmony with events related in
the Bible and with precise chronological correspondence between them
and historical data located in the same time- The commentators have,
until now, given diverse opinions concerning them, which might be
revised in the l ight of what is revealed by recent secular knowledge.
1 he first part of the present work refers to the Rible. Among the
teachings of the Bible, I have tried to distinguish between what is not
decisive with a view to strictly establishing chronological correspondences
and what seems to me to be crucial in a corroboration with modern
knowledge whose aim is to locate the events in time. It appears to me
that five biblical teachings might be described as being, in themselves,
able to contribute to the establishment of a perfectly coherent chrono¬
logical correspondence between the teachings and secular knowledge. In
the Bible, they are concisely expressed, to such an extent that wre might
give an account ol them in 15 lines.
The second part of the present work deals with the Qur anic
narrations concerning the events of the stay of the Hebrews; the same
criteria are used in corroboration with the secular data. For each stage of
the stay in Egypt, a parallel study of the biblical and QuEanic texts is
made, mentioning the particularities of one and the other. At first, wc
must note that none of the events related in the Bible and considered to
be crucial for the chronological insertion is found in the Qur an. Conse¬
quently, if we had absolutely no knowledge of the five biblical passages
that are evoked above, an attempt of location in nine of the history of
the Hebrews, like the Qur'an narrates it, would have been unsuccessf ul.



Does this mean that the Qur'an docs not contain teachings which
arc full of interest when one corroborates them with the diverse data
of secular knowledge related to the same religious events? Not at all.
On the contrary, rh e second part of the present work will show
that one cannot find in the Qur an several biblical assertions whose
unlikeliness or obvious incompatibility with modern secular data is dem¬
onstrated. Moreover, some inaccuracies in the Bible—thar are supposed
to have been, unfortunately, introduced by certain writers of [lie Bible
in order to give special characteristics to certain events—are not found
in the Qurkm: the latter relates them with highly significant details which
appear in close conformity with the knowledge of our days.
I imagine that such findings might bring some surprise. Certain
results of the comparison of boch texts are even more stupefying* So, I
have been very much impressed by what the Qur an teaches us about the
destiny—not mentioned in the Bible—of die body of the pharaoh who
perished in the Exodus. Since wc have every reason to think that the
mummy discovered in 1898 belonged to Merenptah, it is of the utmost
interest to refer to the Quranic rexr which had predicted its future during
the 7th century Ad). Also, how can we explain that rhe Qur'an mentions
the name of a person closely associated to Pharaoh, of which an accurate
transliteration of the hieroglyphics is given in Arabic, while it is not, of
course, present in the Bible* Such a finding cannot receive a human
explanation according to what we know of the Old Egyptian in our days,
and what the men knew of this language through die past centuries.
The present work does nor deal with theoretical or speculative
views; it copes with facts. Any objective researcher who wants to master
the differences between both Scriptures may tesr the accuracy of what is
emphasized through rhe data of secular knowledge. When one possesses
the means, given by the latter, posing the question of the compatibility
of the scriptural teachings with modern knowledge Is commanded by a
quite natural way of thinking, logical reasoning. The results of the study
of the events here concerned not only illuminate the stages of this long
history, but provide us with examples of the interest of searching for
compatibility. Finally, how could one uphold that the Scriptural
narrations of this period, so rich in consequences for human history, only
contain legends?

Copyrighted material

Part One

The Bible

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Mosrs and Pharaoi f

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I he Bible


,.kperspioium est, in questionibus rci histoncae, ... hlstorlae
tcstimonia valere prac ceteris, eaque esse quam
studiosissime et conquirenda et excutienda ... Qua pro peer
Sciipturae sacrac doctori cognitio naturalium re rum bono
cm subsidio, quo huius quoque modi capriones in divinos
Lib ros ins truer as facilius detegat et refella l
Litterae Encyclical S.S. Dj\i Leon is PP, XIII
De studits Scripturae Sacme
Pro v identissim us Deus
**dt is obvious that* when a historical matter is concerned***
the value of die historical testimonies is more eminent than
ah rhe others; these testimonies must be searched for with
the maximum at care**. Consequently, the awareness of die
occurrences will bring an efficient help to any teacher of
the Holy Scripture; through the latter, indeed, he will be
in a better position to disclose and. disprove any kind of
sophisms put forward in a debate against die Holy Books.
Extract From The Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII
Providentissi mus Deus; I he Study of the Holy Scripture
Published on November 18, 1893
(Publisher: Maison de la Bonne Presse, Paris, Acres de Leon Kill 1893,
tome IV, p.33.)


Mosks and Pharaoj f

1. History of the Biblical Texts: Legitimization of the
Search for Correspondences with History
Our aim is to insert religious events in history, as far as one is able
to according to our knowledge. Our research is limited to the events as
they are narrated by the Holy Scriptures, without any intent to try to
enlighten on any spiritual aspect. Nonetheless, a precise location in time
of a religious event may contribute to revealing data that is useful in
clarifying such aspects* In this way, certain dieses concerning the alleged
influence of Akhenaten upon Moses—and vice versa—became totally
unlikely, when it was established that a period of time had elapsed
between the two of them which made it impossible that interferences of
this kind might have played a pan. The insertion of the life of Moses
into history appears of great interest from this point of view,
Such research would be easier, if we only had a single unique text
of the Bible, without variations. Unfortunately, there are many versions
which have been published in the Christian world, and the text that we
possess today is considered as having drawn from several versions* Only
a “middle of the road ’ text can be used. Consequently, when we com¬
pare the narrations with secular knowledge, some divergences are found.
The real causes of their existence are explained by the history of the
biblical texts, of which a summary will be given.
The greater part of the modern text of the Bible—as far as the Old
1 estament is concerned—is based on the Masoretic text, i.e., the
Hebrew text whose passages were completed or corrected by extracts from
the Greek version which is called “SeptuagintC for it was written by
seventy Jewish authors at Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy
Philadetphus (287-247 B.C.}* This text was accepted by the Evangelists
and the first Christians. During the centuries which followed, the “Fathers*
who were the early Christian writers, discussed parts of this text: then,
new versions were written in Greek, like the Codex Vaticanus, kept at the
Vatican, and the Codex Sinaiticu$> today at the British Museum, London,
both dating back to the 4th century A.D. About one century later, Saim
Jerome ordered the use of the Hebrew text to produce a Latin version,
which was called the “Vulgate' and became the authorized
version of the Roman Catholic Church* Many other versions were

written, among them the Aramaic and Syriac (Peschitra) which arc more
or less complete.
The Hebrew text was composed after oral tradition had transmit¬
ted the narrations of the events of the religious history during many cen¬
turies. One must admire that memory of the events was able to retain
the occurrences when one is aware of the time that elapsed between the
events and the writing of the texts. At least, regarding the main facts
which will be corroborated by secular knowledge in our days, we note
that there is not a great difference—except in details-—between the
Hebrew text we now possess, like the authorized version of the Rabbinate,
and the Septuagint, the Greek version of the 3rd century B.C.
Apart from the experts, generally, there is a great ignorance about
the periods when the texts of the Hebrew version were composed. Many
people do not know that the basic text in this language, the Masoretie
one, dates back to 820-850 A.D,, and that it contained only the
Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). The present
printed versions are published in conformity with the edition of 1524
by Jacob ben Hayyim which appeared in Venecia (Italy). In addition,
there were o th er versions whose basis was not the Masoretie text. The
discoveries made from 1947, in the Qumran Caves in Palestine, of texts
which date back to the 1st century A.D., showed only several variations,
as far as we know today. There is no text that would be more ancient
than the Septuaginr (3rd century B.C.) which might give useful teach¬
ings about the events that are related here and concern what occurred
between the 17th and the 13th centuries B.C.
What are the opinions of the Christian commentators about the
multiplicity of texts, which is readily admitted today, in contrast to v/hat
was accepted before? Phis multiplicity is full of consequences regarding
the historical value of certain texts, in connection with the existence of
writings intermediate in time between the occurrence of the events and
the definitive approval of a textual tradition.
Not being an expert on this point, I should like to base my
remarks on the conclusions of specialists of biblical criticism, like the
Christian commentators o f th e French Ecumenical Translation of the
Bible, published by Lcs Editions du Cerfi Paris, first edition, 1975- More
than one hundred Roman Catholic and Protestant exegetes participated


Mosks and Pharaoj f

in the editing of this work. They wrote what follows in pages 10 and 11
of the Introduction:
The books of the Bible were composed by authors or writ¬
ers who were considered to be transmitting the word of
God to their people.*., A part of their writings was inspired
by the traditions of their community. Before their final
recording, what they had composed was communicated to
the members of the latter, so that their Scriptures wear the
marks of the reactions of their readers. I hese marks are
made of changes in the texts, notices and even more or less
complete recastings..,* The most recent books may be the
result of new interpretation and updating of more
ancient books.
In this way, the commentators admit the existence of deliberate
changes over the course of time by revisers who had special reasons for
modifying a text or adding precise details that appeared to be advisable.
Consequentlyj the texts that we possess in our days may contain details
or passages which are the result of choices that were made by men, as the
most appropriate for the specific use of their community.
Until the 17th century A.D., the texts that narrate the stay of the
Hcb rews in Egypt were unanimously considered to have been written by
Moses himself They formed the collection of books which received the
Hebrew- name of "The five books of the Torah" or "Law” or
‘'Pentateuch-” These five books are: Genesis, relating to the events from
the Creation to the death of Joseph, son of Jacob; Exodus, containing most
of the teachings concerning Moses and the departure of the Israelites from
Egypt; Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, collections of laws and
narrations of the journey through the wilderness and death of Moses.
How was this collection of texts composed through the centuries?
A good general view of the history of the texts seems to have been given
by E. Jacob, Professor at the University of Strasbourg (France) in his
book The Old Testament {Presses Universitaires de France, Publisher,
Paris, 1970, Quesais-jef collection), E. Jacob is somewhat skeptical about
the historicity of the events as they are narrated. He emphasizes that there


was at first a folk tradition that relied entirely upon human memory as
passed on through the families or religious authorities:
I t is probable that what the Old Testament narrates about
Moses and the patriarchs only roughly corresponds to the
succession of historical facts, The narrators, however, even
at the stage of oral transmission, were able to bring Into
play such grace and imagination to blend between them
highly varied episodes, that when all is said and done, they
were able to present as a history that was fairly credible to
critical thinkers what happened at the beginning of
humanity and the world.
After the Jewish people settled in Canaan at the beginning of rhe
12 th century B.C., writing was used. Then, there was a concern to keep
a large written record of contract letters, lists of personalities (judges,
high city officials, genealogic tables), lists of offerings and plunder. In
this way, archives were created which provided documentation for the
later editing of definitive versions resulting in the books we have today.
In bis “General Introduction to the Pentateuch,” for the publica¬
tion of the Bible in separate volumes edited by the Biblical School of
Jerusalem (Editions du Cert, publisher, Paris, 1962), bather dc Vaux,
Director of this school, has clearly explained the complexity of the sources
at the origin of the definitive texts. He has separated and classified rhe
following sources:
•the Yahvist version situated in the 9th century B,C.

(origin: Kingdom of Judah),
•tiie Elohist version, probably a little more recent
(origin: Kingdom of Israel),
•Deuteronomy, from the 8th century B,C. for some
(E. Jacob), from the time of Josiah (7th century B.C.) for
bather de Vaux
•the Sacerdotal version front the period of the Exile in
Babylon or just after the Exile (6th century B.C.).
Israeli experts in biblical criticism note that the Jewish tradition
upholds the thesis that Moses had composed the Pentateuch by himself.
Today, nevertheless, after the works of Julius Wei [hausen (1 874),. one


Mosks and Pharagj f

admits the existence of separate writers for the Yahvist, Elohist and
Sacerdotal versions and Deuteronomy: "AM these versions would have
been revised alter the Exile/ (Professor G. Nahon)


the narrations of the stay of the f lebrews in Egypt, they w ere

undoubtedly written during a period of three centuries; moreover, each
of their main sources is heterogenous. In 1941, A. Lods was able to
distinguish 3 sources for the Yahvist version, 4 !or the Elohist version, 6
for Deuteronomy and 9 for the Sacerdotal version, without taking into
account what was added by 8 writers. The multiplicity of the sources
explains the existence of discrepancies. Father de Vaux gives examples of
the interweaving of elements coming from diverse versions: in addition
to the disagreements evoked in this book s Introduction, there is the
well-known overlap of the events narrated concerning Joseph and the
plagues of Egypt, Consequently, certain details of these chapters reveal
contradictions and impossibilities. Nevertheless, such delects could not
lead one to deny any value for teaching to biblical statements, when they
perfectly agree with historical facts and archaeological findings which
allow discovery of indisputable data, or with mentions in rhe hieroglyphic
texts which corroborate certain narrations of the Holy Scriptures.
Besides the Pentateuch, there are other books of the Bible which,
through statements concerning events other than the stay of the Hebrews
in Egypt, contain chronological data about the former that situate them
in relation to the alleged time of the Exodus. So, it may bring to light
contradictions with teachings extracted from versions that preceded
them. Such is the case of the book of I Kings and the book of Judges.
Then references about the time of the Exodus cannot be accepted, as
will be further explained.
In the Christian world, until the 17th century, Moses was consid¬
ered as being the author of the Pentateuch. Then an objection was raised
to this point. Previously, nobody could uphold a thesis different from
what Paul deduced from the words of Jesus himself about Moses
(Gospel of John, 5:46-47) and from what Paul had declared in his letter
to the Romans (10:5): "Moses writes that the man who practises the
righteousness.,..” When Father Richard Simon, Member of the Oratory,
published Critical History ofthe Old Testament, he was considered as having
defied the statements of Jesus and Paul: "Moses writes....” For, he had
emphasized the chronological difficulties, the repetitions, the


confusion of the stories and stylistic differences in the Pentateuch, 1 he
book caused a scandal. Rossuet (the famous Bishop) was the head of those
who got indignant about what he had termed

an amount of

irreligiousness and a fortification in favor of the licentiousness." As a
result, the book was destroyed; Father Simon was expelled from the
Society of the Oratory; he vainly tried to defend his thesis through an
intensive work but sadly ended his life in a village of Normandy; his last
work, a translation of the New7 Testament, had been forbidden and all
the means of censorship used against him by the Archbishop of Paris,
Today, Father R, Simon is considered as having been the one to inject
new life into the study of the Holy Scriptures. Nevertheless, it was not
until 1753 that a new critical study of the biblical text had really
appeared; it was not the w ork of a member of the Church—a medical
doctor had promoted it!
Jean Astruc was a physician, from the University of Paris, private
doctor of King Louis XV, 80 years after Richard Simon, he studied the
book of Genesis through a critical reasoning and published in 1753 his
Conjectures on the Original Writings Which It Appears Moses Used J o
Compose the Book ofGenesis. What John Astruc brought to modem biblical
studies had so much value that the Director of the Biblical School of
Jerusalem, Father de Vaux, in his Introduction to the translation of the
book of Genesis in 1963, wrote that John Astruc must be regarded as
the 'Linventor' of the 'Documental Theory” or '"1 henry of the Sources”
for the Pentateuch, since he demonstrated their multiplicity.
One might think that the acknowledgement of this disparity of
elements used in the composition of the texts could lead any impartial
exegete to distinguish between what was corroborated by secular knowl¬
edge and what was nor, all that with a view to discovery and emphasis of
the historical interest of a scriptural teaching.
Sometimes, this interest is stressed, like by Father de Vaux in his
comments on the book of Genesis: “The biblical narrations concerning
the patriarchs relate true events; they should not be suspected when they
are corroborated by history and archaeology.” (p.34) Unfortunately, in
the page which follows, one can read that, for this exegete, as far as the
origins of the world and Man are con cerned, the data of geology, pale¬
ontology or prehistory are not considered as having any value, so much
so that their use is severely condemned by the same author: Uf one had


Mosks and Pharaoj f

to confront the Bible with data of these sciences, the result would be an
unreal conflict or an artificial concordance" (in French: "concordisrne
[active"). T1 le contradiction is obvious between the two points and the
author seems to dread finding out about certain attempts at comparison
between the Bible and science. Such an unmoving attitude may have
regrettable consequences, as when, half a century ago, Father Teilhard
de Chardin, who showed the compatibility of his belief in the God
Creator with his findings in t he field of paleontology, was obliged to
keep silent, because his search for correspondences was not accepted by
Christian authorities.
These dismissals of logical thinking suggest many questions about
the concept of the usefulness of secular knowledge juxtaposed to the
teachings of the Holy Scriptures, particularly when this concept is
expressed by religious authorities of high rank. In a bulletin edited by a
Vatican Institute in 1 985> the part that might be played by logical
thought was denounced, bv emphasizing “the evil that afflicted the Chris¬
tian thought at the end of the last century, being the search for corre¬
spondences" (between Holy Scriptures and secular knowledge). T he
latter was described as: excessive attempt to put in accord two parts or reality,
i.e.j the religious truth and the scientific truth, both of which
concern autonomous and independent fields. Consequently,
the danger of opposing them is as great as the danger of
putting them in accord.
These lines were written about one of mv works which was severely crith
cized for my search for correspondences between the Holy Scriptures
and secular knowledge, from a general point of view and particularly
regarding my comments on the Qur an. The author of this judgment
belonged to the Vatican Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies
(PTS. AT). More recently, the review fslamo-Christiana, edited by the
same Institute, expressed an even more radical opinion about the use of
secular knowledge for this same purpose, the author stating that "he was
personally convinced of the absurdity of any search for correspondences,
when one studies the Bible or tire Qur'an." { hlamo-Christiana, \ 990, NoT V

The Bible


pp, 264-265} This method, considered as "dangerous” in 1985 and
“absurd” in 1990—how will ir be labelled in reviews of the present work?
Thank heaven, there are other Christian thinkers whose opinions
concerning the same topic are absolutely different when they draw their
attention to the use that the modern man is able to make of his reasoning
and of secular knowledge in a reflection about the Scriptures,
In, during recent years, the book God and Science {Dieu et
la Science) by Professor Jean Guitton and 1. and G. Bogdanov, (Grasset,
publisher, Paris, 1991) became a best-seller. It deals with questions about
the existence of God at first, hut for a long while, J. Guiuon emphasizes
the interest of logical reasoning and secular knowledge for the study of
the Bible, similar to that evoked by this book*
]. Guitton is very well known in France as a member of the
Academic Franchise and as having been a friend oi the late Pope Paul VI
and tlie only layman who was invited to speak before the Second Vatican
Council (1 962-1 965), He wrote his memoirs in 1988, entitled A
Century, a Life (Unsiede, line vie), published by R. Laffont, Paris. In this
book, lie comes back to what he had previously said about his thought
as a young philosopher during the years preceding the Second World
War, by repeatedly evoking what he wrote in another book that appeared
half a century ago.
Among many other studies, his book Portrait of Mr. Pouget (Portrait
de Mr. Pouget) (Desclee de Brouwer, publisher, Paris, 1941), is considered
by the author to be the most important of all of them* He has written
about this book; "If my works had to be destroyed except one, I should
Like that one would preserve this book. It was the first that 1 wrote; it
would have been better for me ro end up in writing it.”
Mr. Pouget was a priest, member of the Lazarist Society, who was
professor in a seminary in Paris between 1888 and 1905 and considered
as a "well of erudition,” despite his becoming progressively blind. Fie
was a spiritual guide for J, Guitton, In. the chapter of the memoirs of the
latter devoted to Mr. Pouget, the author has quoted many statements by
this priest: “Reason alone is governing my thought.*** 1 he true defense
of religion is live use of a critical approach..*. The rational methods in
our studies arc necessarv for all of us and for everything.,.,” j. Guitton
perceived that these general principles could bring great benefit ro the

Mosks and Pharagj f


attempt to strengthen the Faith* hoping that* "in the future, such a way
of thinki ng might be useful to a new discovery of the Faith.11
Through the book by J. Guitton, w ho was then a witness, one knows
something about the unique meeting of Mr* Pouget and H. Bergson in
1933 and what the latter said to the priest:
It would be highly desirable to study many important ques¬
tions, particularly what concerns the Bible, the new views,
w i th out preconceived ideas, leaving apart the ancient
speculative theories and the statements of those who claim
to know, by only holding one's attention to the facts. For,
it is a deplorable method when one studies a question by
having the only care of demonstrating something and
showing that Mr, So-and-So is wrong.It seems to me that,
until now, the religious questions have not been studied in
such a spirit.
Th is old book by J, Guitton was published during the Second
World War when the author was prisoner, i.e., in very bad conditions
for promoting these ideas. Nevertheless, eminent personalities at the time
stated their admiration for this courageous priest, emphasizing their
interest in the use of reason, at a time when a crisis in the Christian
world began to be perceived. On the contrary, Mr. Pouget was condemned
by high authorities of the Roman Catholic Church to abandon his
teaching of the Old Testament, which appeared to them to be dangerous.
Moreover, the comments on the New Testament by Mr. Pouget were
also condemned, because they were in contradiction with the prevailing
opinions of his time.
In spite of this disapproval, as j. Guitton emphasized, very7 impor¬
tant persons expressed their feelings as H. Bergson had done, among
them: Alain, the philosopher, Daniel Halcvy, Francois Mauriac and
Albert Camus, J. Guitton had expected that this book of his reflections
about Mr. Pouget would have the same destiny as a bottle which is
thrown into the sea... destined to provoke no favorable reactions, for
they wo uld not be in line with the conventional standards of the Chur ch.
And, when the memoirs of j, Guitton appeared in 1988, among many
comments, as far as 1 know, only one drew attention to the hook about


Mr, Pouget, published in 1941, and emphasized that, since the
Pentateuch is a “ mosaic of documents,' the critical method of the Lazarist
priest 'had brought an original support able to impress the intelligence
in the modern times,” After half a century, it appears that a revolution
in the way of thinking about these matters has not yet occurred....
Perhaps, nonetheless, in certain facts which quite recently came to
widespread knowledge, there is hope of a change coming from the solemn
decisions of Pope John Paul IL Would it be possible that they might
thwart the trend of opinion condem ning any appeal to critical reasoning
about the Holy Scriptures, which, as we have seen previously, remains
deep-rooted in some circles of the Vatican itself?
In order to have a better understanding of this change, we must
know the origin and the development of an extremely severe crisis in the
Catholic Church, which begins to be divulged in our days, after having
caused many disturbances in recent decades.

It was in connection with the enlightenment by secular knowledge,
particularly that of history, of the biblical narrations. The evolution of
this crisis shows such a number of contradictions in Papal decisions on
the same subject, that one might doubt the likelihood of what will
follow, if the documents relating the facts were not rigorously authenti¬
cated by the highest authorities.
The first source is a very recent book by Professor}. Guitton, Portrait
of Father Lagrange; (Portrait du Pere Lagrange published by Editions
Robert Laffont, Paris, 1992). At first, we are given to know that Pope
John Paul II himself asked the author to write it: j. Guitton quotes a
paragraph of a letter of the Pope dated December 12, 1990: “The aim of
the book that you are writing about Father Lagrange is to prepare his
canonization. I put you in charge of this work.” 1 he research of J.
Guitton has for its main subject the decisive role played by Father
Lagrange concerning the study of the Bible in the light of history,
What will follow is not only based on the data of this book, but, in
addition, on the contents of a long preface to an edition, dating back to
1966, of the main work of Father Lagrange, The Historical Method {La
Methods Fiistorique> published by Lcs Editions du Cerfi Paris). 1 he
author of the preface is Father de Vaux, then Director of the Biblical
Schoo 1 of Jerusalem.


Mosks and Pharagj f

Father Lagrange, a Dominican, had been appointed in 1890 by
Pope Leo XIII the founder of this School, which was presented as
‘a permanent scientific institute" whose aim was to centralize the secular
discoveries that might be useful to position the biblical events in history.
He was immediately accused of being responsible for the worst
deviandes by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. For having delivered lec¬
tures about his theses—although with an extreme discretion—-at the
beginning of this century, he immediately brought upon himself the
wrath oi several religious orders, like the Order of Jesuits: a member of
the Society of Jesus wrote a bonk that severely condemned Father
Lagrange, In addition, the General Superior of the Society of Jesus
addressed a formal warning to all the members of the Order against the
historical method, and, in order to combat the theses of Father Lagrange
with more efficiency, the Pontifical Biblical institute was founded in
Jerusalem under the direction of a Jesuit. In his book, J, Guitton has
emphasized that the personal hostility of this director against Father
Lagrange had led him "to repeat ro everybody who could hear it that he
will break his rival of the Biblical School At the same time, the General
Superior of the Dominican Order successively prohibited reprints of a
previous limited edition of the above quoted book by Father Lagrange,
and ordered him to stop the delivery" of lectures in the future.
To the clever moves on the part of the opponents who were at the
top of these two religious orders, Pope Pius X added his quite resolute
personal action . This Pope was afraid of what was called ‘ 1 modernism";
he considered it to be "heresy" and, in 1910, in a solemn document,
called “Motu Proprio" in Latin, he ordered every religious teacher to
take an oath against modernism and, in 1912, the Pope s seal was
affixed on a decree which prohibited any introduction into the seminaries
ol the writings of Father Lagrange "even in order to consult them/* All
that ended up in the ousting of Father Lagrange from his School.
J. Guitton, in deeply distressing terms, relates ihe end of the life of the
persecuted Father: the latter, in 1912, had written to a friend, that, from
that time on, he was “a wreckage at the order of his General Superior ’
(], Guitton, op.cit. p.90)* He died in 1938.
Thus, occurring one after another, the approbation of the opposi¬
tion, incitement to attack and the final condemnation by Pope Pius X
has been aimed at a priest who wanted to arouse a revival of credibility


for the biblical narrations, through the use of critical reasoning. None¬
theless, Pope Pius X was canonized by Pope Pius XII: in this way, the
persecutor became.,, a Saint*
Today, as written in the above quoted letter to Professor J. Guitton,
Pope John Paul 11 intends to ordain Father Lagrange as a Saint. T his
leads J, Guitton to write:
What was condemned as a “heresy1' in J 906 is proclaimed as
being—now and lor the future-—the doctrine of the Church and
the method to be followed, In other words, those who, in 1906,
were '‘modernists'* now appear as having been precursors.
As for Father de Vaux, when he was in 1966 director of the Biblical
School of Jerusalem, he had already expressed his view in the above
quoted Preface, about the ’method of Father Lagrange b ' Today, the
historical method is the one which is followed by all the exegetes who
are working seriously” (quoted by J, Guitton, op.cit. p.72),
1e is a fact that several chapters oi the present work will show that

the use of the historical method (unfortunately restricted to partial
inquiries) has been unable to position in history certain episodes of the
stay of the Hebrews in Egypt, due to the insufficient search for demon¬
strative correspondences between the episodes. Nonetheless, the prin¬
ciple of inquiries of this kind is highly valuable and, according to what
we know about the painful story of Father Lagrange, one must put the
following question: would it be intellectually honest to condemn some¬
body, who is not an exegete, when he brings results of his personal
research which, joined to many other data of secular knowledge, allow
an answer, in a positive way, to the question: what are the correspondences
of the Holy Scriptures with history?

There is an obvious discordance between die opinion of Father dc
Vaux about the search for the harmony of the Holy Scriptures and secu¬
lar knowledge and what he has later written concerning the method of
Father Lagrange. We must know that the publication of the first one


Mosrs and Pharaoi f

had received the “permission of editing” in Trench from the four hierar¬
chical superiors of the Father in 1951 (June 14 to October 23), during
the Pontificate of Pius XII who, in 1954, canonized Pius X, the resolute
persecutor of Father Lagrange. As to the quite favorable opinion of Father de Vaux about the excellent use of critical reasoning in the histori¬
cal method of Father Lagrange, ir dates hack to 1966. How can such an
obvious about-face be explained? Simply by the fact that, between the
years 1951 and 1966, more exactly from 1962 to 1965> the Second
Vatican Ecumenical Council had proclaimed a declaration concerning
the Scriptures which had caused a great fuss: the Pope John Paul II, of
course, followed its conclusions by legitimizing the theses of Father Lagrange.


Entry into Egypt During the Rule of the Hyk sos
Every chapter of the present work deals with a period of the stay of
the Hebrews in Egypt, this period being inserted in the history of the
country, in a manner as precise as possible. Naturally, the arguments
coming from secular knowledge that are put forward for this purpose arc
not equally viable in determining the various periods concerned. Forexample, it turned out that our knowledge about the 13th century B,C.
could lead us to rind more correspondences than could that about the
17th century B.C., which is the period when, in all likelihood, the first
Hebrews settled in the Nile delta. Thank heaven, after the collection of
arguments concerning the periods of the stay that followed.particu¬
larly the time of the departure of the Hebrews from Egypt—the thesis of
the beginning of their settlement four centuries earlier is strengthened.
Nevertheless, in favor of this thesis, there are straightaway solid his¬
torical propositions, corroborated by the existence o( a hieroglyphic docu¬
ment concerning a Hyksos king to whom the name of Jacob is associated.
For a long time, specialists in Egyptology and commentators on
the Bible, who did not yet have at their disposal the secular data we to¬
day possess, concluded that the settlement in Egypt of Joseph and his
family had occurred under the rule of the Hyksos.
Two authors must be quoted regarding what they had suggested
from this point of view in the past, more precisely between 1920 and I960.
1 athcr RJ\ Mai Ion was, as far as I know, one of the most learned
members of the Catholic Church, greatly concerned about the search
for correspondences between biblical and secular knowledge. His long
study, which might have been censured today by those whom [ have
quoted in the preceding chapter, was, nonetheless, published in 1921 by
the Vatican Biblical Institute; numerous pages of his work are devoted
to the entry in the Hyksos period into the history of Egypt and to the
administration of the country at that time by Joseph. Later, in 1959,
Professor Pierre Mon ret dealt with the same topic in his book, Egypt and
the Bible {I/Egypte et la Bible, published by Delachaux cr NiestUf
Neuchatel (Switzerland)); P. Mon ter, whose excavations on the site of
Tan is had brought to light a considerable amount of data related to the
Lsraelo-Egyptian history, had already stated that there was little chance
of error in situating the period of entry in the rime of the rule of the

Mosks and Pharagj f


I lyksos, and rhe .settlement, on a land of the Nile delta that the Bible
called land of Harnesses” (through an anachronism). For P. Montet,
the acceptance of the Hebrews was in dose conformity with the politics
of the rulers of Egypt at this time.

Biblical narrations of the history of Joseph and Jacob
The hook of Genesis, chapters XXXVII to L (except chapter
XXXVIII, devoted to another topic) narrate this history. A summary is
given here, derails that would not be useful to our purpose were they left
out, Wc note their interest as casual mentions of the life in Egypt; for
example, the part played by the dreams, which must be evaluated by
raking account of the attitudes of mind that were very common around
37 centuries ago.
The brothers of Joseph were jealous of the preference of their fa¬
ther for him. Being seventeen years old, shepherding the flock with them,
he was called by his brothers "the dreamer”; for he had dreams, told
them to his brothers, and they hated him all the more. When they were
out at pasture with Joseph, they threw him into a pit. Traders who passed
by drew Joseph up and afterwards sold him in Egypt to Potiphar, an
officer of Pharaoh. Meanwhile, the brothers of Joseph said to their fa¬
ther that he had been devoured by a wild beast and—as a proof—showed
the robe he had worn, which had been stained with blood from an animal.
At Potiphar s house, of which Joseph became an overseer, the
young man was good-looking and Ins master's wife cast her eyes upon
him. He would not listen to her. One day, she caught him by his gar¬
ment, but Joseph left his garment in her hand and fled. Potiphar s wife
said that Joseph had insulted her and Joseph wfas put into prison.
There, Joseph met two of the king's prisoners, his butler and baker,
who also had dreams; Joseph was able to interpret them. One of them
later remembers this ability of Joseph after having been liberated from
prison; when Pharaoh has dreams, he says to Pharaoh that a young
Hebrew in the prison had known how to interpret them.
Then Pharaoh ordered to release Joseph who was able to give him
an interpretation of his personal dreams. This suggested to Pharaoh that
such capabilities as Joseph had might be useful to the administration of


the country. For the dreams of Pharaoh were related to the organization
of the supplies tor the country; then, the authorities worried a great deal
over these p rob! ems, being always threatened with famine. Having de~
duced that “none is so discreet and wise" as Joseph, the pharaoh decided
that Joseph would be over his house and his people, and set him over all
the land of Egypt. Joseph, who was thirty, knew how to gather the food
supply, storing it up in every city in great abundance. It turned out
that the brothers of Joseph came to Egypt in order to buy grain;
Joseph was able ro recognize them, while they could nor imagine that
he was their brother.
The Bible narrates that Joseph, in order to lead them to confess
their crime against him (the abandonment into a pit), used cunning; it is
not necessary at all to detail this for our purposes here.
Chapter XLV of Genesis relates what, in the end, Joseph claimed
to his brothers one day: “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?J (Genesis
4.5:3). Then, Joseph invited Jacob and his brothers to settle in Egypt, in
the land of “Goshen/
Thus, the first Hebrews (Jacob, 70 men and, in addition, their
wives and children entered into Egypt after Joseph (Genesis 46:27).
And wc must note that the Bible says: “Joseph settled his father
and Ins brothers, and gave them possession in the land of Egypt, in the
best of the land, in the land of Harnesses, as Pharaoh commanded." (Gem

csjs 47:1 1)
This passage contains two anachronisms about these words:
Ram esses and Pharaoh,
1) The events related in these chapters cannot have occurred
in a time when the sovereign of Egypt was called Pharaoh,
There is absolutely no doubt that, in the language of
hieroglyphs, “pharaoh" was used to designate the person
of the king of Egypt after circa 1370 B.C., he., during the
reign of Amenophis IV, The biblical author, in the Greek
version (Sepmagint), and the Hebrew version as well,
named the king using a word which appears in texts a long
time after the events related here. In several preceding
chapters of the book of Genesis, we find the same error.
2) The land of Harnesses was situated in the eastern part of
the Nile River delta, where today one knows that the


Mosks and Pharaoj f

northern capital of the Ramesside period was erected, Le.?
during the 13th century B.C, The first king whose name
was Harnesses ruled Egypt in the end of the 14th century
B,C., while the events related in this chapter date back to
the 17th century B.C.
Further, in the present work, we will state that, from a geographi¬
cal point of view, there is no contradiction between “land of Goshen”
and ' land of Harnesses.” Nevertheless, “land of Harnesses” is an anachro¬
nism. For today we know that the Hyksos, when they ruled Egypt, had
built their capital at Avaris, in a part of the Nile River delta which is
precisely located in our days where the excavations of the German ar¬
chaeologists in [he year 1980 have also located the northern capital of
the Ramesside period {13th century B.C,). In his History of the Ancient
Egypt (Histoire de VEgypte Ancienne, published by Fayard, Paris, 1988),
Professor Nicolas Grimal has shown a map of this region, which explains
the origin of the chronological confusion of the biblical writer: his
memory had kept the name of Harnesses and he applied ro the Ramesside
period the events which occurred four centuries earlier. It is in the “land
of Harnesses^ which, later, the enslaved Hebrews were still dwelling.
The biblical narration comes to an end with the settlement of Jacob
and his family and the wise administration of the country by Joseph,
who provided sufficient supplies. Seventeen years after his entry into
Egypt, Jacob died (Genesis 47:28)- he was then 147* according to the
Bible. But one may wonder if the biblical writer did not over-evaluate

the age of Jacob. 1 lowever that may be, Jacob was mummified accord¬
ing to the prevailing habit in Egypt, and he was buried in Canaan, As for
Joseph, maybe his great authority in Egypt led the biblical author to write
that he died when he was 110 (Genesis 50:22); he was also embalmed, A
certain amount of doubt hangs over these extremely long lives; no de¬
duction could be drawn from them.
Nonetheless, the biblical narration contains details that seem to be
significant, as renowned commentators have noticed: these details bring
data to light that uphold their chronological hypotheses about the entry
into Egypt. Thus, 1 should like to quote the remarks of Andre and Renee
Nefier in their Biblical History ofthe Israelite People (Histoire Biblique du
Peuple dlsraeh published by Adrien Maisonneuve, Paris, 1962). They
are concerned with chapters XLV and XL VI of the book of Genesis: the

chariots were the means of transport used by Joseph when he went to
meet Jacob and his family on their way to Egypt (46:29), {Another pas¬
sage of Genesis mentions the horses (47:17), then used in Egypt), A.
and R, Neher have written about the horses:
7 amed horses were unknown in Egypt during the Old and
Middle Kingdoms, The Hyksos introduced them into the
country; they were used not only as mounts lor riders, but
for pulling chariots. T he pharaoh who sent chariots to meet
Jacob is naturally a king who reigned after the Middle
Kingdom: there is every chance that he was a Hyksos,
I mention this derail as a noticeable element to be taken into account.

Historical data about the Hyksos in Egypt
As far as we know, it is most Likely that the entry of the Hebrews
into Egypt could not have occurred before rhe end of the Middle Kingdom, i.eM before the beginning of the L 8th century B.C, Moreover, as it
will obviously appear at rhe end of this chapter, to situate this entry dur¬
ing the New Kingdom would be incompatible with established histori¬
cal data; nonetheless, several authors held such a hypothesis. Therefore,
the one and unique period when a man coming from Palestine might
have had real possibilities of becoming a very important person in
Egypt is the intermediate period between the Middle Kingdom and
the New Kingdom.
At the end of the Middle Kingdom, when literature had reached a
high point (for didactic writings and novels, as well), and architecture
and statuary had come to a peak, Egypt, was ruled by a succession oi
kings without authority, whose reigns were of very short durations, T heir
political power was extremely weak. Those who ruled the country were,
most of the time, governors not belonging to the establishment. 1 hen,
the frontiers of the country were opened to skillful conquerors who were,
at the same rime, clever and possessors of great material power: such were
the Hyksos coming from Palestine.


Mosks and Pharagj f

At first, they settled in northern Egypt and progressively penetrated
rh rough the southern part, where the previous autochthonous monarchs
had been repelled. In the North, in the eastern part of the Nile River
delta, the Hyksos built: their capital, Avar is. This city has left vestiges
that are considered by archaeologists as being of the utmost importance
for history. So, bather de Vaux, in his book Ancient History of Israel
(His to i re A nci en n e d hra el, published by J, Gabalda, Paris, 1971) has
mentioned the high value of the excavations carried on hi this region, on
the site of Tell Ed Dab’a, not far from Qantir: there, vestiges of Palestin¬
ian origin; and remnants of the 1 lyksos period have been uncovered,
like scarabs wearing the name of a Hyksos king, for example. On the sire
of Tan is, close to the preceding one, in 1863, the French Egyptologist
A. Mariecte discovered the famous stela which is called Stela of the Year
400: it showed that, four centuries before the visit, during the reign of
Hereinheb, of a ^Seth-Priest” (who waif become Sethos I, the father of
Ram esses II), the Hyksos were settling there: the event, necessarily, oc¬
curred during the third quarter of the 14th century B.C,, and, conse¬
quently one deduces thar the Hyksos settled on this sue during the third
quarter of the 18th century B.C.
The history of the Hyksos has been divided into two periods: the
first one, called 'Period of the six great Hyksos" whose duration would
have been 108 years according to the ' Turin Papyrus,1 and the second
one, when the authority of these rulers reached Upper Egypt, during
about 40 years* Then, despite this territorial expansion, the I lyksos kings
would not have had the same great power; among the last kings we note
Khyan and Apophis, whose names are mentioned in monuments in the
southern part of the country (like ar Djebelein, ro the south of Thebes).
Precisely in Upper Egypt (at Thebes, for example), several traditional
Egyptian monarchs had taken refuge, as vassals of the former. Later, they
rebelled against the Hyksos rulers, like the kinglet Sekenenre, who be¬
came famous in history, because his mummy— that could be seen, be¬
fore 1979, in the Mummies Room of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo-—
showed several broad lacunae of the front, marks of severe blows received
in the course of a battle against the Hyksos, Finally, circa 1380 B.C., King

expelled ihc Hyksos from Egypt and founded the 18rh dynasty.

This long domination of the Hyksos over Egypt is explained ar
first by an obvious material superiority; the Hyksos had introduced the


use of war-chariots drawn by horses (the taming of horses was then new
in Egypt); their tight weapons (in bronze) were much more efficient than
those of the Egyptians (in copper). Such a supremacy left impressive
memories in the minds of the Egyptians for a long time after the libera¬
tion of the country. Moreover, such a recollection was utilized by sonic
demagogue rulers, in order to give a wrong idea of the Hyksos period:
they extolled the courage of the liberators or prided themselves on hav¬
ing restored traditional power and religion, as Queen Hatshcpsur did,
more than one century later,..,

In fact; die Egyptian religion was never abolished by the Hyksos,
but their invasion had become a classical literary theme: at the time, the
scribes copied novels describing past events by deliberately blackening
them, though the Hyksos did not deserve such a bad reputation* On the
contrary, as soon as they invaded Egypt, they adopted the gods of the
country, Re and Seth particularly, while joining to them Semitic {among
them the Syrian) deities; they realized a fruitful mixing of cultures,
adopted the royal protocol, chose Egyptian names, utilized the adminis¬
trative system of the previous sovereigns, as bather dc Vaux emphasized:
...referring to the case of a great treasurer of the Hyksos
who had selected for himself an Egyptian name and tide,
besides another one who had kept his Semitic name. Since
the Hyksos had maintained the same procedures for the
administration of the country as the preceding rulers, they
were able to preserve a certain degree of political unity,
without having been prepared for such achievements in
their country of origin.
The benefit for Egypt was considerable. The same author rejects
the statements of certain demagogue sovereigns who presented the rule
of the Hyksos like a disaster for Egypt, as follows:
Agriculture was not neglected, commercial activities con¬
tinued and even became more developed between the Nile
River delta and Palestine. I here was no change in the reli¬
gion: Queen Hats heps ut and Manetho, the historian, were
wrong for having said that the Hyksos only accepted the


Mosks and Pharaoj f

god Seth, since they introduced Re into their royal proto¬
col. The cultural fife was not interrupted: very important
literary and scientific texts date hack to this period* The
Hyksos domination brought two main benefits to Egypt:
at first, it obliged the Egyptians to abandon their arrogant
pretension of being an untouchable people, living in a di¬
vine country, apart from barbarian peoples: in this way,
the awakening of a national and fighting spirit was pre¬
pared for the future. Moreover, Egypt came our of her iso¬
lation and had connections with other kinds of cultures,
The Hyksos in Egypt were like a bridge between Africa
and Asia* Without supposing the role they would indirectly
play in the future, the Hyksos had prepared the way
for the political conquests and cultural influence of the
New Kingdom,
In his book History of Ancient Egypt (op.cit,) Professor Nicolas
Grimal emphasizes the especially high capabilities or the Hyksos as build¬
ers, disseminators of Egyptian literature and “inventors of new7 processes
of government that, later, will be successful for every conqueror who
adopts them, unlike any other.5' The Egyptologists who took special
inrerest in the study of the Hyksos, like Professor J, Vercoutter, stress
the tact that their process of administration was largely open to foreign
civil servants.
A parallel is to be drawn between these opinions of historians about
the 1 lyksos and the teachings of the Bible about the capabilities of Joseph*
One may suppose that the capabilities of the latter were developed very
effectively, since the governors of the country were excellent administra¬
tors and their attention had been attracted by the features of Joseph at
this point. In addition, these rulers of Egypt were open-minded to such
an extent that they gave high responsibilities to a young man coming
from a foreign country. The exceptional destiny of Joseph, as the Bible
narrates it, is explained by the facr that the story of the son of Jacob took
place in a period of Egyptian hisiory which is quite exceptional, as well.

A trace of the name Jacob expressed in hieroglyphs
Since the end of the 19th century, specialists in Old Egyptian have
been aware of the existence of the word "brail”which appeared m a hi¬
eroglyphic text- Despite the fact that this quotation is unique, knowl¬
edge of it is widespread. On the contrary, the quotation of the name of
Jacob in the same language is not so well-known: nevertheless, Jacob
was similarly expressed in the titles of a Hyksos king of the 15th dy¬
nasty, who reigned during the 17th century B,C,
We must take into account that the Hyksos, who were respectful
of the Egyptian religious customs, kept on using the names of local gods
for their titles; in this way, the name of a sovereign expressed religious
facts, exactly like it did for the traditional sovereigns of the country*
Thus, the king MERUSERRE



had a first titular name which means: "‘The one who loves the power of
(god) Red But it is the first element of the entire name, as for Ramesses
II, where the first element was: “The (god) Re gave birth to him,” pre¬
ceding four other expressions, each of them having a religious sense. For
King MERUSERRE, one knows only what follows the first element, two
words: YAKUB HER, whose orthography is alphabetic and would not
leave us in uncertainty about the translation: “Yakub (Jacob) is content
(or satisfied)/1 One cannot know the reason for it, the more so since we
are nor aware of the last elements of the entire name: we may suppose
that they would have been useful to a more complete understanding*
Some specialists in Old Egyptian seem not to have taken an ap¬
proach that would have taken biblical history into account in their inter¬
pretation of the word Yakub” as Jacob* From a purely linguistic point
of view, they discuss the meaning of

Her/ assuming that it might not

have the classical meaning that is reported here: maybe it would have


Mosks and Pharagj f

been transliterated from the Semitic word “EL” whose sense is deity11
and would become “Her” in hieroglyphs; through such an alteration
uYakub Her” would have a different meaning.
Nevertheless, we must draw special attention to wrhat we know
about this Hyksos king of the 15th dynasty: he reigned circa 1650 B.C.,
as is accurately stated in a reference to the dare of his quarrel with a
kinglet of I hebes thar is confirmed by texts. Also, it is most likely that
we can situate a little before this precise time the entry of Jacob into
Egypt, according to the general results of the present study. At the very
least, the mention of the word "Yakub" in a titulary of a Hyksos king—
unique in hieroglyphs—means that the Hyksos aristocracy had just then
introduced the name of Jacob as a kind of patron. Despite the absence
of a rigorous demonstration from a linguistic point of view, we may sug¬
gest the possibility of an additional correspondence between the biblical
teaching and the history of this time.

Other Egyptian features of the biblical narration
The reason Joseph was discharged from an unmerited imprison¬
ment was his ability ro interpret dreams, when the king became aware of
this talent, The dreams of the king were related to a threatening famine:
they concerned seven cows, sleek and fat, and seven others, gaunt and
thin. It might have been sometimes very difficult for the high authorities
of the country to be able to provide food supplies, so scant were the
lands appropriate for agriculture in the Valley oi the Nile, and, even more
difficult, to supply a neighboring region, like Canaan, the country of
Joseph s family, from which his brothers came in order to find supplies
when they were in need.
In Egypt, sometimes the situation was very bad. Of course, every
year, around July 19 (according to our calendar), the Nile floods brought
waters and promises of a satisfactory harvest to come. Despite the fact
that the texts do not mention extremely great irregularities in the Nile
floods with severe consequences for agriculture, ir was better, for a wise
administrator, to plan to take a part of the produce of the land during
the years of plenty, as Joseph would order for one fifth of the harvest
(Genesis 41:34-36). In fact, no Egyptian document relates such wise


general measures that brought the important final result of sole owner¬
ship. But the likelihood of such a precaution is in conformity with what
the threat of famines suggested.
The book of Genesis contains two chapters (XL and XII) dealing
with the worried dreams of the king. To give such a significance to the
dreams is not strictly proper only to Egypt, since, in these rimes, for all
people of this part of the world (among them, Phoenicians), dreams had
played a great role before the raking of decisions. In Egypt, th eir role
was particularty important at this point.
The Bible contains interesting data about the embalming of Jacob
(Genesis 50:2-3): "Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to
embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel.

(Israel is the sec¬

ond name of Jacob in the Bible). "Forty days were required for ir, for so
many are required for embalming.” These lines state that Joseph had
submitted himself, like Jacob, to the Egyptian secular customs. The de¬
tail concerning the duration of the embalming process draws special at¬
tention, for the Egyptian rexis do not bring to light much data related to
this point. Resides the '40 days

mentioned by the Bible, Diodorus of

Sicily (1st century B.CL) related a technical stage of 30 days' duration for
mummification that is very dose to the biblical account: very likely both
data are not far from reality.

The place where the first Hebrews dwelled in Egypt
In our comments on the biblical narration, we have situated the
place where Jacob and his family dwelled, when they entered into Egypt,
In the eastern part of the Nile River delta, close to Avaris, capital of the
Hyksos, official seat o( the administration directed by Joseph: we had
come to this conclusion despite apparent discordance between the bibli¬
cal texts that we possess today.
At first sight, chapters XLV to XLVII of the book of Genesis do
not bring anything other than confused data. On the one hand, wc suc¬
cessively notice the promise of Joseph of giving a residence to Jacob and
his brothers in the land of Goshen (45:10), the arrival of the latter in the
same land of Goshen (46:28-29), and the welcome of the king to the
same place (47:6). On the other hand, the Bible says that "Joseph settled


Mosks and Pharaoj f

his father and his brothers*., in the land of Harnesses as Pharao h had
commanded.” (Genesis 47:11) The translations of the Hebrew text given
in English and in French, as well as those of the Christian commenta¬
tors, are contradictory as far as the place of residence is concerned.
One may well wonder what is the situation of the land of Goshen
in relation to the land of Ramesses, Moreover, when one has a certain
knowledge of history, the mention of “Harnesses” in that time appears as
being anach rations* The same confusion is noticed in the text of the Re¬
vised Standard Version of the Bible, published in Great Britain. Most of
the time, the comments about these points arc missing or quite vague.
So, in the translation edited by the Biblical School of Jerusalem, pub¬
lished in 1962, Father de Vaux has written about the land of Ramesses:
“The city of Ramesses was identified with Fanis or Qantir.... The link
between the land of Ramesses and the land of Goshen is loose....” (p.205)
When these lines were written, the author was not yet definitively aware
of the precise location of the city of Ramesses. Today, we know that this
city was built on the site of Qantir, in the Nile delta, at a distance of a
little more than 20 kilometers from Fanis. As to the Gink" between the
land of Goshen and the land of Ramesses, an answer may be given today.
Goshen is not mentioned in any ancient Egyptian document. 1 he
dry of Goshen in Judea is not a possibility: Jacob and his family could
not have been settled there, far from the Nile delta. But in his book
Ancient History of Israel (op.cit.), which appeared in 1971, Father de Vaux
discusses data which are particularly interesting when we refer to the
Greek version of the Bible, the Septuagint. In the verses of this version
mentioning the place of Goshen, we read: “Gesem of Arabia” (Genesis
45:10 and 46:34). This does not mean at all that a land oi the Arabic
Peninsula is concerned. For we know that* in the Greco-Roman Period,
(the period when the Septuagint was written, precisely during the 3rd
century B.C.), Goshen was a province of the Nile delta with Faqus as its
county seat, In verses 28 and 29 of chapter XLVI of Genesis, the
Septuagint calls it “Heronopolis,” a sire on which, much later, the en¬
slaved Hebrews built the city of Pithom, according to the book of Exo¬
dus, Moreover, in these verses, the Septuagint specifies that Jacob and
his family made there a stopover “on their way to the land of Ramesses.”
In Genesis 47:11, the Greek version said that their final destination was
the land of Ramesses.


The mention of this stopover and this final destination in the
Septuagint (chapters XLV1 and XLVII) appears as being of the utmost
importance in locating the first Hebrews point of entry into Egypt: this
mention does not exist, as far as I know, specified with enough empha¬
sis, as ir should be, in any French or English edition of the Bible. A
distinction should have been made between the stop on the way {Goshen)
and the final destination (land of Ramesses); otherwise, the confusion
that results does not allow us to recognize the interest of reading in the
Bible the mention of the two places- It was even worse when one re¬
ferred to editions that appeared before modern times, like the famous
edition translated under the direction of Lernaitre de Sacy {17rb cen¬
tury), when the exact meaning of Ramesses was unknown. Today, as far
as the final destination is concerned, we must refer only to the last teaching of the narration (47:11): "Joseph settled his father and brothers and
gave them property in the best part of the country, the land of Ramesses,
as Pharaoh had ordered/
Does all this not suggest that the translators introduced confusion
due to a lack of reference to the oldest text which is known, he., the
Septuagint? Father de Vaux has emphasized that the data of the Greek
version allow us to specify the location of the land of Goshen in the
Wady Tumi lac, not far from the Bitter Lakes: thus, we can discern what
the route to the land of Ramesses was. Moreover, from recent excava¬
tions carried out by German archaeologists in the eastern part of the
Nile River delta, one can deduce that the land of Ramesses was in the
neighborhood of the ancient Avaris, the capital of the Hyksos rulers.
Consequently, today there is no doubt about the place where the first
Hebrews dwelled in Egypt.
Today, the region of "Goshen'1 and the sites of the “land of
Ramesses" and "Avaris” have been located with great precision. An ex¬
cellent survey of the archaeological findings concerning these places has
been recently published in the American Egyptological Review KM. 7h
edited in San Francisco, CA., U.SA. (Winter 1991-1992 issue^ pages
20-27). Glen V. McIntyre, under the title: "Locating Per-Rameses” has
written a remarkable article. The maps joined to the text allow us to
easily follow the way that the first Hebrews entering into Egypt took,
according to what %ve read in the Septuagint version of the Bible.


Mosks and Pharagj f

Reflections about several details of the narration
What follows can not modify the conclusions concerning the time
and place of the dwelling of the Hebrews, The interest of these reflec¬
tions lies in the fact that they question literally accepting certain asser¬
tions of the biblical text when th ev seem to be in contradiction with

secular knowledge.
At first, from a general point of view* there might be errors com¬
ing from a writer or a copyist. In the biblical narration that is concerned
here, when Genesis mentions (41:23) the “seven cars... blighted by the
east wind," this suggests a reflection: when one knows something of die
Egyptian climate, and if one supposes that, 37 centuries before, the re¬
gime of winds would have been the same as today, one must remark that
the devastating wind conics from the South and not from the East. Is ir
not well-known in the Nile River delta?
We have noticed that the word “Pharaoh'’ here designates a sov¬
ereign of Egypt. We know that such a designation was right in the time
of Moses, but modern linguistic studies have shown the meanings of the
word in older times: “Pharaoh” began to point out indicate “the great
house” that was the residence ol the sovereign during the Old Kingdom,
circa 2400 EEC.; later, the word designated the person of the king him¬
self, but not before Amenhotep IV, circa 1370 RXh (J, Vercoutier).
Therefore, in the biblical narration, here the use of “Pharaoh” is an
anachronism: under the ru ]c of the H yksos, there was no “Ph araoh A
Very likely, the biblical writer used the word “Pharaoh

because such

was the custom in his time.
There is another anachronism for which the biblical writer is not
responsible {at least, for the texts composed before the period of the Ro ¬
man occupation of Egypt); it concerns the mention of camels as beasts
of burden in the caravan of the Ish'maelitcs whom the brothers of
Joseph met, according to the biblical version, in describing his sale to
caravanecrs (Genesis: 37:25-30), It is well known today that the camel
was not then tamed. The Bible mentions elsewhere goods carried by asses
(for example, when the brothers of Joseph brought grain from Egypt to
Ca naan in Genesis 44:3).
The camel, and the dromedary as well, were utilized as beasts of
burden only when the Romans occupied Egypt (likely not at the


beginning of this period): this is a notion whose confirmation was pro¬
vided to me by the late Andre Lhote who studied this matter in North
Africa; Andre Lhote wrote a hook about this topic entitled Camel
and Dromedary in North Africa and Sahara (Le chameau et le
dro m a da, i re en Afrique du No rd et au 3 aha ra> published by G ro u p e
Media international, Paris).
hi any document concerning ancient Egypt, there is not the least
sign of such a use oi this means of transport, which is the most conve¬
nient for arid regions. One cannot find an Egyprian bas-relief daring
back to the period before Christ, showing camels utilized as beasts of
burden: for exam pie, in the great temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt, the
famous bas-relief representing the bartle of Qadesh, shows that the means
of transport used by the armies of Ram esses II were horses, oxen and
asses; one easily imagines that going as far as the river Orontes (North
Syria), situated several hundred kilometers from Egypt, during the 13th
century R*C,, the pharaoh would have appreciated possessing a means of
transport much more suited to a far-reaching expedition than what is
represented in his Nubian Great 1 cm pie.
In the Bible, there are other mentions of camels used as beasts of
burden, for example in chapter XXIV of Genesis, we hnd 16 mentions
of such a means of transport used during the time of Abraham. [ here is
no doubt that anachronisms of this kind are the result of additions to
the text that date back


the Roman period, when the camels appear to

be an excellent means of transport in these countries. St), additions to
the original text were made in the Greek version, the Septuagint, com¬
posed during the 3rd century B.C., by somebody who later introduced
mentions of camels as beasts of burden, in Genesis (12:16 and 30:43),
in conformity with their use in his time: he described past events by
making them as plausible as he could, very hkdy with the best intention.
If we did not have a substantial knowledge of the history of the
biblical texts and the existence of compositions made up at different pe¬
riods in the course of time, we might draw erroneous conclusions about
the value of the narrations from a historical point of view. When one is
objective and without any prejudice in these matters, one must take con¬
siderations of this kind into account, in order to avoid wrong judgments
concerning the Bible,


Mosks and Pharaoj f

The biblical narrations of the first Hebrews in Egypt as a “Mosaic*
As in the case of the Pentateuch itself* scriptural study shows that
the composition of these narrations is the result of an amalgam of an¬
cient traditions which were gathered by a unique writer* Consequently*
they contain contradictions; among them the specialists mention, for
example: in one version, Joseph is sold by his brothers to the Ish maelities;
in another Joseph is found in a pit and taken off by the Midianities in
one version, Joseph is the slave of an anonymous person who puts him
in a jail; in another version, he is a servant of Potiphar, who was a
high-ranking man.
According to Father dc Vaux, the biblical text of these chapters
was composed by gathering elements from the Yahvist version and from
the Eloliist version, each of them keeping rheir proper relations of di¬
verse episodes or events*
So, the Yahvist version relates: the story of the wife of Potiphar
(Genesis 39:7-20); the story of the episodes concerning Judah and Ben¬
jamin, two brothers of Joseph (Genesis* Chapters XLIII and XIJV; and
the description of the measures concerning agriculture taken by Joseph.
(Genesis 47:13-26)
The Elohisr version relates: the interpretation of dreams (Genesis
40:2 and 41:32); Joseph s behavior, full of generosity, towards his broth¬
ers; and the death of Joseph. (Genesis 50:15^26)
As to the other parrs of the narration, Father de Vaux says chat the
specialists do not agree about what belongs to one version or to another:
they have less and less precise opinions as the narrations come to the end
of the book.
We must remember that an interval of one century exists between
the Yahvist version and the Elohist version; moreover, three centuries
after the Elohist version, the writer of the Sacerdotal version assembled
the previous narrations and composed another definitive text. Thus the
multiplicity ol composition explains the existence of discordance, errors
and anachronisms.


The happy times of the stay of the Hebrews in Egypt
In the hypothesis of an entry into Egypt during the 17rh century
B.Q, in all likelihood, the happy times for the Hebrews would not have
ended when Joseph died, and, most probably, he would have died be¬
fore the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt.
The whole country was then again in the power of the traditional
rulers, when Ahmosis founded the 18th dynasty, circa 1580 B.Ch, the
date of the beginning of the New Kingdom. This political change leads
us to pose the question: What were the consequences for the He¬
brews, free in Egypt until that rime? What would have been the du¬
ration of the happy times for them, during the 18th dynasty, before
they became enslaved?
'There is no teaching in the Bible about the time which elapsed
from the death of Joseph to the oppression. If the whole stay of the He¬
brews lasted 430 years, very likely there would have existed a happy pe¬
riod preceding oppression, but we have no valuable information about it.
We might also ask ourselves: why the Hebrews did not follow the
Hyksos when they left Egypt, since they had been so warmly welcomed
by them in the past? They might have dreaded that the new rulers of
Egypt would feel resent