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According to the ancient historian, Mantheo, the fifteenth dynasty of Egypt were a people known as the Hyksos, literally the "rulers of foreign countries" or, as sometimes been translated "the Shepherd Kings."

These Hyksos were the rulers of Egypt roughly 1700 BC, were clearly not Egyptian, and centered in and around Goshen - all facts that line up with the time period and story of Joseph.

Still, scholars do not think this is archeological "proof" of Joseph. Why is this the case?

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3 Answers 3

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Boy is that wikipedia article riddle with citation needed around the part mentioning Joseph.

The thing that points to Joseph being of the Hyksos, looks to be what I thought was the best evidence against it. If you didn't think of this yourself, permit me to state the obvious, The evidence is in where the bones went. Joseph wanted his bones buried where they came from, so unless they, and everyone else, forgot where they came from, they buried him in the wrong place. But if they came from Canaan and went back to Canaan then that's rather appropriate.

However, and with the help of the only reference to Hyksos on Vatican.va translated into English, the key is in the revulsion that the Egyptians felt towards Joseph and his brothers.

Genesis 43:32 (DRA)
32 And when it was set on, for Joseph apart, and for his brethren apart, for the Egyptians also that ate with him, apart, (for it is unlawful for the Egyptians to eat with the Hebrews, and they think such a feast profane:)

If there is evidence of revulsion (or evidence of future subjugation) then yeah, that could be the historical Joseph story. But if there's no evidence for this, then they're separate folks.

Which may be the reason some are hesitant to jump on the Joseph as Hyskos bandwagon.

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...reason I totally am jumping on the "Joseph is Hyksos" bandwagon. [I thought I better finish your thought. ;-] –  Jon Ericson Feb 21 '12 at 22:59
I should note, that I had no idea what a hyksos is before looking this up. I just figured I'd search vatican.va and see if the Pope said anything about the matter. –  Peter Turner Feb 22 '12 at 17:09

Well, there are still no records of Joseph himself. From an objective perspective, these Hyksos could only be considered proof of the possibility of Joseph, not of Joseph himself. Yes, there is a record which says that it is quite possible that the stories of Genesis and Exodus represents some sort of mytho-symbolic truth, but that does not mean that the details of the stories are accurate by any means.

We have proof of George Washington, we do not have proof of the cherry tree. While it is possible that a cherry tree was chopped down by Washington, there is not definitive proof.

I use Washington here as a matter of illustration. I am not stating that Genesis and Exodus are wrong, merely that they do not hold up to what are now considered modern standards of evidence.

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As an archaeologist of Central Europe and adherent of processual paradigm, I'd argue that it's (almost) impossible to prove existence of a person archaeologically. But here we can join study of historical texts with archaeology and ignore the boundaries between these two disciplines. Archaeology itself without aid of written texts can say very little on ethnicity and even less about fates of exact individuals (unless we have the body; post-procesuallism tries to change it, but its approach is not very exact).

As the wikipedia article on Hyksos says, they probably came from Kanaan and are thought to be multiethnic (some of their names are not semitic, but seems to be indoeuropean - but indoeuropean Hittites lived in Canaan too, so it's no problem). This makes the theory of Hyksos as Joseph and his relatives (plus lots of other people not mentioned in Bible) quite plausible.

On the other hand, from "quite plausible" is a long way to "proved". "Joseph" is not mentioned in any Egyptian text we have. We don't know all the kings of 15th dynasty, so he could have been lost somewhere around Sakir-Har or Khyan. If we take into account the biblic legend of Joseph being more powerful than the pharaoh, he might have been the same person as Yaqub-Har. But all these are wild speculation, nothing worth solid scientific theory or even claim to prove anything.

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