Did Pharaoh Believe in The One and Only God?


Center for Tanakh Based Studies

By Don Kerschner

Gen 12:10 And a scarcity of food came to be in the land, and Aḇram went down to Mitsrayim to dwell there, for the scarcity of food was severe in the land.

Gen 12:11 And it came to be, when he was close to entering Mitsrayim, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See, I know that you are a fair woman to look at.

Gen 12:12 “And it shall be, when the Mitsrites see you, that they shall say, ‘This is his wife.’ And they shall kill me, but let you live.

Gen 12:13 “Please say you are my sister, so that it shall be well with me for your sake, and my life be spared because of you.”

Gen 12:14 And it came to be, when Aḇram came into Mitsrayim, that the Mitsrites saw the woman, that she was very fair.

Gen 12:15 And Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her before Pharaoh, and the woman was taken to Pharaoh’s house.

Gen 12:16 And he treated Aḇram well for her sake, and he had sheep, and cattle, and male donkeys, and male and female servants, and female donkeys, and camels.

Gen 12:17 But יהוה plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Aḇram’s wife.

Gen 12:18 And Pharaoh called Aḇram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not inform me that she was your wife?

Gen 12:19 “Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? And so I was going to take her for my wife. Look, here is your wife, take her and go.”

Gen 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him, and they sent him away, with his wife and all that he had.

By back-tracking to Gen. 12; 10-20, it can be noted that through the great plagues YHWH inflicted on Pharaoh and his house there can be little doubt that Pharaoh regarded Abram’s Elohim as more powerful than himself, and sent Abram away with his wife and all that he had.

At this time in Egypt’s history, ruling Pharaohs didn’t inherit their power from a family dynasty. Instead Pharaohs arose from competing areas or provinces ruling from cities in the province in power at the time. Fairly complete records of preceding dynasties were kept, however that would have likely passed on this encounter with YHWH.

Now, fast-forward to Gen. 50:

Gen 50:1 And Yosĕph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him, and kissed him.

Gen 50:2 And Yosĕph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Yisra’ĕl.

Gen 50:3 And forty days were completed for him, for so are completed the days of embalming. And the Mitsrites wept for him seventy days.

Gen 50:4 And when the days of weeping for him were past, Yosĕph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If, now, I have found favour in your eyes, please speak in the hearing of Pharaoh, saying,

Gen 50:5 ‘My father made me swear, saying, “See, I am dying, bury me in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Kenaʽan.” And now, please let me go up and bury my father, and return.’ ”

Gen 50:6 And Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.”

Gen 50:7 And Yosĕph went up to bury his father. And with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Mitsrayim,

Gen 50:8 and all the house of Yosĕph, and his brothers, and his father’s house. Only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds they left in the land of Goshen.

Gen 50:9 And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great company.

Gen 50:10 And they came to the threshing-floor of Ataḏ, which is beyond the Yardĕn, and they lamented there with a great and very heavy lamentation. And he observed seven days of mourning for his father.

Gen 50:11 And when the inhabitants of the land, the Kenaʽanites, saw the mourning at the threshing-floor of Ataḏ, they said, “This is a grievous mourning for the Mitsrites.” That is why its name was called Aḇĕl Mitsrayim, which is beyond the Yardĕn.

Gen 50:12 And his sons did to him as he had commanded them,

Gen 50:13 for his sons brought him to the land of Kenaʽan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Maḵpĕlah, before Mamrĕ, which Aḇraham bought with the field from Ephron the Ḥittite as property for a burial site.

Gen 50:14 And after he had buried his father, Yosĕph returned to Mitsrayim, he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father.

Certainly, as Yoseph rose in stature to become vice-regent, it would be more than likely that Pharaoh would have been told of Yoseph’s fathers, and reminded of their Elohim and his Name. The promise to Abram concerning Canaan would also have been told to Pharaoh. The details of Yaacob’s embalming and burial bear this out. At this time in Egypt’s history, embalming was only performed on royalty or highest ranking officials, as in Yoseph’s case.

The 70 days allotted for Yaacob’s embalming, the coffin (in all probability a carved sarcophagus of cedar wood from Lebanon shaped to approximate his body with a portrait attached to the head area), the entourage accompanying Yoseph to Canaan, the seven-day mourning at the time of burial, all, are reserved for a person of equal or greater status than Pharaoh; a firstborn, a head-of- state! This, I believe, is further evidence that supports modern day Israel’s claim to HaAretz (The Land [of Israel]).

Embalming was considered necessary to deify and prepare the deceased for the after-life. An interesting side note here is that the Egyptian’s concept of afterlife was not the ethereal heaven of Hellenistic belief, but of a world-to- come, on this earth.

The details of Yoseph’s embalming are not given, but it can be safely surmised, I believe, that his burial would be very much the same as for Yaacob’s.

Now we come to the Pharaoh that “knew not Yoseph”. Much has been discovered archeologically to support an immigration of a people known as Hyksos into Egypt just prior to this Pharaoh. He would have no regard for any history that would diminish his prominence. There is evidence of a very arrogant Pharaoh whose reign would coincide with this time frame. His name very likely was Apophis. The dating for the Pharaoh “that knew not Yoseph” and the ensuing Exodus has been a source of contention and much discussion for many, many years. “YHWH Exists” is the most comprehensive compilation of work on this that I know of. I can’t recommend this monumental work highly enough.