Richard Lepsius.

Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, and the peninsula of Sinai online

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mote from the Nile sufiered, when it retreated, froin a

JOSErn ly egtpt. 481

Bcarcitv of water. It appears from wliat has been observed
above, that it was chiefly Ramses who completed the Egvp-
tian system of canals, although it is very probable that the
great transformation in the condition of the ground which
it occasioned had been already commenced by his fiither,
SeiJiosU. It is well known that the fertility of Egypt alone
depends upon the proper and well-maintained regulation of
the overflowings. Since the time of Moris- Amencmha, who
was the first to bestow any considerable attention upon it,
the country liad degenerated, owing to its long foreign rule,
and had but just risen again to complete independence under
the mighty Pharaohs of the ISth Dmasty. It is quite con-
ceivable that such comprehensive and tedious undertakings
for increasing the general prosperity, as a universal construc-
tion of canals, especially in the Delta, could only have been
first undertaken by the earlier kings of the 19th Dniasty,
Sethosi.s and Ramses, who were both of them favoured by
long reigns. Tlierefore until that time, a general tailure of
the crops and a famine might have very frequently occurred,
at a low or even a moderate rise of the water, and perlmps
happened for several successive years. Strabo^ relates that,
before tiie time of the Prefect Petronius, owing to the
water-works being neglected, famine broke out in Eg}'pt if
the Xile only rose 8 ells, and 14 ells were necessary for a
particularly good year ; whereas, by his improvements, it was
only necessary for the Nile to rise 10 ells to produce the
best harvest, and if it rose but 8 ells no scarcity ensued.
Pamine broke out in Egvpt in the Arabian times also Irora
the same reason-. Thus the famine-years in the time of
Joseph may be explained to have occiured in the reign of
Sethos ; this event may even have called attention to the
necessity of a better water regulation in the country.

In the following chapter Herodotus says, that the King
Sesostris '' divided the land between all the Egyptians by
giving an equal-sized square portion to each, from which he

^ xvii. p. 788.
Maqrizi in Quatremt-re. M^m. ii. 318, 401.


afterwards derived his income by laying an annual tax upon
it. But when the river carried away a part of any person's
portion, he showed it to the king, who sent people to inquire
and measure how much smaller the piece of land had be-
come, in order that he might pay the tax for the remainder
according to the commands." This is essentially the same
arrangement which is ascribed to Joseph, the minister of
Pharaoh. Herodotus had already^ mentioned in an earlier
passage that the priests paid no taxes, but even received
their daily sustenance besides, exactly as it is related in the
Mosaic accounts.

Diodorus- says of Sesoosis, that he " divided the whole
country into thirty-six parts," which the Egyptians called
Nomes; over these he placed Nomarchs, who had the
charge of the Eotal Eevenues, and "ruled everything
besides in their provinces." Therefore here again there
was an entirely new division and government of the coun-
try, in which the taxes to the king are not forgotten.
Afterwards (c. 57) he adds also, that he raised many great
mounds, and upon them transplanted the towns which were
situated too low (^fTWKio-ej/) . The fresh regulations in the
country, and especially the new canals, necessarily created a
great number of towns and villages for the management of
the grounds which were portioned out, and were now partly
cultivated for the first time. To this we may most naturally
refer the remark in the Hebrew account that Pharaoh " re-
moved them to cities from one end of the borders of Egypt
even to the other end thereof." (Qen. xlvii. 21.) Diodorus
(c. 56) also mentions the hard taskwork which thence became
necessary, and that in consequence of it the " Babylonian
prisoners, who could no longer bear the toilsome labour, re-
belled against the king."

In the very valuable description of the manner in which
the Egyptian administration had subsisted under the old^
kings of the country, which is drawn from the most ancient

* ii. 37. = i. 54. 3 i. 72^ 74. Compare c. 71.

josi-rn IX EGYPT. 4S3

sources, Diodonis again mentions (c. 73, 7-i) the arrange-
ment of the Xomes, and a division of the property, by
which one-third belonged to the priests, one to the king, the
other to tlie warriors ; and how all the cultivators of the soil,
for a small reward, only performed task-service for the three
orders who possessed laud. It is here also expressly men-
tioned, that the priests were exempt (dreXets) from taxation^.
But it seems that it is only from the Mosaic narrative we
learn that the universal statute of the taxes imposed on the
remaining possessors of the land was fixed upon exactly the
fifth part of the produce ; this narrative here, as well as in
other points, confidently completes our knowledge of those

Now if the arrangements we have cited, which in fact so
essentially changed Egypt, that their introduction could not
fail to occupy an important place in the monuments of that
time, and to be thus handed down to posterity, were ascribed in
the Greek account to Sesosteis-Sesoosis, wc should, in the
next place, be uncertain whether Sethos or his son Eamses
was meant. It is not in itself improbable, that works demand-
ing so much time, and the extensive alterations in the poli-
tical circumstances, might fully occupy two such long reigns
as those of both the kings mentioned ; and of the canal
works especially, we know that at least two particular canals
of considerable importance were completed by Eamses, east
and west of the Delta, and towns were built beside them.
But since it can now hardly be disputed that those events
could not have taken place either earlier or later than
under these two reigns, which embraced more than a cen-
tur}', it appears to b^ perfectly justifiable to suppose that
the first and most essential steps to this reform were taken
in the reign of Sethos, because, according to the genealogical
calculation of time in the Bible, Joseph must have lived and
acted in the first half of the reign of Sethosis. The succes-
sion of kings in the Mosaic accounts also perfectly agrees
with this. "\Ve here read of only tliree Fharaohs during
that time. Joseph came to Potiphar in Egypt in the reigu

* Compare also Strabo, xvii. p. 787, upon the taxes to the king.


of the first, and rose bj liis wisdom to be first minister of
the king. This Pharaoh was Sethosis I., with whom the
Manethonic lists begin a new Dynasty. By means of the
new improvements introduced and regulated by him, the
country was saved from the years of famine which had
hitherto been constantly dreaded, and the power of the king
was increased and strengthened.

" And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and his whole
race," "jS'ow there arose up a new king over Eg^^t,
which knew not Joseph^." Sethosis had reigned more than
fifty years, and Joseph must have lived in the first part
of his reign. It is therefore conceivable that the new
King Eamses II. knew nothing more of him, or wished to
know nothing more, and therefore might not on his (Jo-
seph's) account have favoured the rapidly increasing popu-
lation of the Israelites in EgA'pt. "We therefore see that it
was incorrect to explain the words of the account, which
are only correct when taken in their simplest signification,
that a new Icing arose — by understanding that by this the
commencement of a new royal house is intended after a
long and indefinite period. The birth of Moses, and his
education at the court of Pharaoh, happened under this
King Eamses II., and indeed in the latter part of his reign
of sixty-six years, in which the times of Joseph were still
more forgotten, and the hard oppressions and persecutions
of the Jews prevailed. This king, although of a Theban.
family, resided equally, and perhaps in those times, evea
more at Memphis than at Thebes, as the later Saitic, Bubas-
tic, and other dynasties also by no means forsook the old
palace in Memphis. There exists, therefore, no grounds for
imagining the youth of Moses to have been spent at Thebes
rather than at Memphis.

But when Moses had slain the Egyptian, he fled to Midian.
" And it came to pass in process of time, that the King of
^gyp died ; and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the
bondage^." The third king, therefore, succeeded the Pha-
raoh of the Exodus, Mei^ephthes, the son of the great
» Exodus 18. 2 Exodus 11. 23.

rzniOD feom: AEBJiHi:ii to moses. 485

Eamses, the same under whom, aa we believe we have pointed
out, the Exodus really happened, and from whom the new
Sothid period, which began in his reign, likewise received its

If, in the same manner, we go still farther back in the
Hebrew accounts from Joseph to Abraham, we find this
period also only occupied by three generations, which would
fix it, according to the views we have exhibited, to about 90
or 100 years.

According to tlie chronology hitherto adopted, Abraham's
visit tu Eg}'pt would also have happened in the time of the
Hyksos. But this is partly opposed by the same objections
which we mentioned when speaking of the immigration of
Jacob. Abraham also comes to the court of a Pharaoh,
therefore of a native EgA^Dtiau ruler, and, in accordance with
the Manethonic chronology, the visit of Abraliam would have
happened under Tuthmosis lY. or Amenophis III., therefore
in the middle of the 18th Dvnasty, after the Hyksos had
been already expelled by the 17tli Dynasty, first into the
lowest country of the Delta, and then from their last fortress,

Therefore only about 200 years had passed between
Abraham's journey into Egypt and the time of the Exodus.
But what gave occasion to the number four hundred and
thirty years, so expressly stated in Exodus xii. 40, and which
appears, in comparison with the round statement of
400 years in Gen. xv. 13, as more exact, and, at aU
events, not an unmeaning number ? We have already ex-
pressed our opinion that the round and indeterminate
numbers, as well as the larger calculations, were only
adopted at a later period m the writings of the Old Testa-
ment. The number 480 or 440 years between the Exodus
and the building of the Temple appeared to us to depend
upon a calculation of 12 or 11 generations of 40 years each.
But in the 430 years may, perhaps, lie the first indication of
the early- conceived idea mentioned above, that the Israelites
were the Hyksos. Eor the number would, in fact, be most


perfectly explained if it was referred to the residence of
these Semitic races in Egypt.

"We shall, namely, point out, in the second part of the
chronology, that the long contest between the Egyptians and
the Hyksos, mentioned by Manetho, occurred during the
17th Dynasty from Aiiosis to Tuthmosis III. The former
completely broke the foreign dominion, and drove back the
Hyksos to the northern part of the Delta ; but it was Tuth-
mosis who first succeeded in sending them out of their last
stronghold of refuge, Abaris. Thence arose the confusion
that has so generally prevailed concerning these two kings.
The one as much as the other might be regarded as the con-
queror of the Hyksos. Manetho specified the whole time
of the residence of the Hyksos in Egypt, up to their depar-
ture from Abaris, to be 511 years. But it must also have
appeared from his narrative, and have been a fact specially
known to the priests from their history, that the real domi-
nion of the Hyksos in Egypt was terminated by Amosis.
If we now subtract the time from Amosis to Tuthmosis,
which was 80 years, from 511^, exactly four hundred and
ihirty years remain for the dominion of the Hyksos in
Egypt^. If, therefore, in the present day, the opinion can
in any way be maintained and defended that Abraham (or
Jacob) was King Salatis, and entered Egypt not as a peti-
tioner, but as a powerful and conquering enemy, and that
his seed was first conquered and driven away in the time
of Moses by the native kings, the relation of the above-
mentioned numbers would certainly appear as one of the
most important proofs of it. It cannot, however, be argued
that an admission which appears, according to our present

^ Even if we take into account the months also, subtracting 80
years and 8 months from 510 years and 10 months, we shall obtain 430
years and 2 months.

_ ' I do not, however, lay more importance upon this agreement than
it deserves. The coincidence of this number with the Hebrew periods,
originating in a different manner, may certainly have first caused it to
be_ believed that the Hyksos were the Jews. I am the less inclined to
reject this opinion, as we shall see below that the Hebrew number
may also be explained in a different manner.


criticism, perfectly impossible, must have appeared equally
80 in ancient times. An impartial apprehension of the pre-
sent, and a faithful rendering of the past, was the vocation of
an ancient annalist or historian ; it is only thus that they are
of importance and worthy of consideration in our inquiry.
Criticism was completely out of their sphere, historical aa
well as philological ; and when, nevertheless, we do meet
with it, it is generally very unsatisfactory, and even from the
most distinguished writers, astonishingly feeble. The school
of professional Alexandrian critics is by no means excepted.
AVe find the most striking examples of this, particulariy in
the Christian chronologists, who were not wanting either in
abundance of authorities, nor in extensive learning and honest
intentions. But we have actually seen, from the example of
Josephus, as well as from earlier and later authors, how the
opinion above mentioned, of the identity of the Ilyksos with
the Jews, really gained admittance from various very super-
ficial foundations, and yet Josephus belonged undoubtedly to
the most learned antiquarians who we can place under our
observation here. AVe ought not, therefore, to be surprised
even if we find this view again stated at an earlier period in the
arrangement and combinations of the Hebrew historical books;
and this appears, in fact, to be very probable, by the number
430 years, which can neither be applied to the three genera-
tions of Jacob, nor to the six from Abraham to Moses.

The calculation also verifies itself still further. It was an
early opinion that Joseph came to Eg}'pt in the reign of the
ehepherd King Apliophis. This is expressly said by Euse-
bius and Syncellus ; and the various changes in the position
of Aphophis, who is difterently placed both by Josephus and
Africanus, appear, upon a closer investigation, always to origi-
nate from the same reason, namely, in order to place Joseph
under Aphophis. The correct position of Aphophis, according
to Manetho, was undoubtedly at the end of the 16th Dy-
nasty, as we find it stated by Africanus^. Joseph stood, ac-
cording to the generations, exactly between Abraham and
* Bockh is also of this opinion, Manetho, p. 227.


Moses. According to tlie Eg^^tian clironolog)^, the first Dy-
nasty of the Hyksos reigned 259 years, the second 251 years,
therefore Aphophis, the last king of the 1st Dynasty, reigned
in the middle of th-e time of the Hyksos. This was probably
the first idea which supported the opinion of the exact divi-
sion of the 430 years into two equal halves, and the belief
that Jacob came to Egypt in the time of Aphophis, Jacob's
entrance, or the end of the first 215 years, accordingly hap-
pened in the seventeenth year of the Aphophis ; Joseph was
exalted by Pharaoh 9 years earlier, therefore in the eighth
year of Aphophis.

But the correct Egyptian statement, that the Hyksos first
departed in the reign of Tuthmosis, had been already misun-
derstood in the time of Josephus. He placed the Exodus of
the Hyksos and of the Jews under Amosis, and made the whole
17th Dynasty of 251 years precede Amosis. It was impos-
sible, therefore, that he could place Joseph under Aphophis.
He could as little make the entrance of Abraham happen at
the same time as that of the Hyksos, for he gave 511 years for
the residence of the Hyksos, 430 for that of the Jews. But
lie nowhere says either that the Jews entered with the
Hyksos, as they departed with them, or that Jacob or Josephus
came to Egypt in the reign of Aphophis. He appears rather
to have believed that the first and not the second entrance of
Ae Jews into Egypt, therefore the entrance of Abraham hap-
pened in the time of Aplwpliis ; and thus that the tradition,
which was no doubt known to him, was so to be understood.
He must, at least, have thought that the entrance of Abraham
really took place in the fii-st Hyksos Dynasty, although, in-
deed, not under the last, but under thefourth king. Accord-
ing to my opinion, this was the reason why Josephus made
Aphophis thefourth king of the Dynasty.

Airicanus, the most faithful among the reporters, did not
admit aU these calculations, or seek to explain the Manethonic
calculation, and to make it agree with his own, but let the
contradictions stand, and therefore simply gave the Mane-
thonic tradition, even when he did not understand it, and


could not correct the mistakes which were handed down to
him. We therefore find the correct position of Aphophia re-
tained "by him.

Eusebius on the other hand, and his uncertain authorities,
again wished to mediate and to explain. In his account we
find the first year of the 16th Dynasty placed contempora-
neous with the first year of the life of Abraham, which ia
evidently an arbitrary proceeding, and one that necessarily
drew otlier changes along with it, which are met with plen-
tifully in the numbers substituted for those of Manetho.
His 17th Dynasty names the four first kings of the Mane-
thonic 16th Dynasty, and Amosis follows immediately after.
In order to fit in again with the later history, it was neces-
sary to abridge considerably the 16th and 17th Dynasties.
The numbers of Eusebius, as they appear in the Canon,
clearly state that he only counted seventy-five years from the
first year of Abraham to his entrance into Canaan and Egypt,
and again 430 years from that time to the Exodus of Moses.
This happened, therefore, in the last year of X/v^fpr;?. The
same is given in the codex A of Sjiicellus, p. 72, D. If we
here again calculate 215 years to the entrance of Jacob,
or 224 to the exaltation of Joseph, we arrive at his reign of
ApnoPHis, as was intended. But in codex B, and in the
Armenian translation, the two kings, Athoris and Chen-
cheres, who are correctly placed in the Eusebian Canon, are
omitted, and undoubtedly by the oversight of Eusebius him-
self, not of Syncellus. Thence the Exodus was placed in the
reign of Achencheres, in place of Chencheres. The simi-
larity in the names themselves appears to have led to the
oversight ; thus Syncellus found the text. Kow, if we count
back from Achencheres 215 or 224 years, we come to Archies,
the predecessor of Aplwph is. Sjnicellus knew of no better way
than to transpose Archies and Aphophis, as we find to be really
the case in tis text of Eusebius, p. 62, A ; this of course can
no longer be reconciled with the emendations of the codex A,
which were added in a later passage out of Eusebius. No
doubt seems to be left by this explanation of the numbers.


Lastly, Sjncellus, who follows the false Sothis, places the
Exodus in the last year of Misphbagmfthosis, calculates
from here backwards 215 years, and passing over the 2nd
Hyksos Dynasty, which Sothis and Eusebius had already
placed before the 1st Hyksos Dynasty, arrives at the fourth
king of the latter. Therefore, as in Josephus, Aphophis is
placed there.

All these circumstances are easily explained when the aim
and the issue of the matter is known. But the orierinal
grounds why Aphophis, the last king of the 1st Mane-
thonic Hyksos Dynasty, was regarded as the Pharaoh of
Joseph and Jacob, is alone apparent by the simple relation
which we have found subsisting between the Hebrew and
the Manethonic numbers.

I do not believe that a sound critical examination can con-
eider so many and such universal agreements and confirma-
tions to be accidental, or the result of an artificial correction,
which, at all events, would of necessity be easily pointed out,
the more so as, with the exception of a few individual points,
my restoration of the Manethonic chronology was principally
determined before my journey to Egypt.

We therefore believe, that by means of a new path, namely,
the Manethonic chronology, we have found the key to the
relative portions of time in the Old Testament, so far a3
these are connected with Egypt ; and in an inverse manner
we may now consider the agreement that subsists between
the chronology of the Hebrew history (both the true chro-
nology represented in the genealogies, and the false one,
which was afterwards erroneously adopted) and the Eg}'ptiau
numbers upon which the chronology was originally founded,
to be indeed strongly confirmatory of the authenticity of these
last, as they appear according to our restoration of them.

It is very evident that our carrying back the Old Testa-
ment chronology to its natural relations, as far back as Abra-
ham, must be not merely of chronological, but of truly his-
torical importance in the highest meaning of the term. The
prolongation to above a hundred years, contrary to all hia-


torical experience, of tlie thirtr-yeared generations of the
immediate ancestors of Moses, who lived in the midst of the
Egyptians, the length of whose lives was exactly like oiir
own, must either appear an intentional miracle, or make U3
doubt the simple historical reality of the persons themselves,
and of the events concerning them. The superhuman duration
of life, considered as a miracle, would appear to be entirely
without a purpose ; besides, in the Old Testament itself it is
never viewed as such. The Psalmist^ on the contrary,
considered as we do, a life of eighty years as a great age.
Therefore the most distinguished, and most earnest inquirers
of the present day were led to the opinion, evidently from
the numbers, that the history of the three patriarchs, Abra-
ham, Isaac, and Jacob, was less strictly liistorical, but only
brought before the reader, as it were, three representations of
long epochs of about a century each-. It was likewise
necessary to regard the register of generations in the time
of the Judges as defective, and extremely shortened, because
in no other manner could they fill up the long period of 480
years. In order to make this abbreviation more probable,
tlie genealogy of Hainan was referred to as the only one
which was presen-ed perfect^, while we, on the contrary,
consider it a double one.

Now according to our view of the subject, this apparently
80 well-founded doubt of the real continuity of the events, and
of tlie historical character of the contents, in as far as they de-
pend upon the chronolog}', entirely disappears, and I seo no
longer any reason to consider the accounts of the great per-
sonality of Abraham, of the non-prominent activity of Isaac,
the opulent life of Jacob, and the remarkable fate of Joseph,
chiefly as typical, and as it were only slightly connected with
the historical reality*. For although we must still make a
considerable ditference between the character of the history

' Ps. xc. 10.

' So Ewald, Gesch. d. Volks Israel Bd. i. p. 30, 339 &c. Bunsen,
JEgypten, i. p. 215, 22.'3. (Trans, vol. i. p. 171, 181.)
' Ewald, i. p. 31. Compare Bunsen, i. p. 220.
* Ewald, i. p. 354, 387, &c.


of Israel before and after the building of the temple, yet
it cannot be denied that the agreement we have pointed out
between the true chronological thread, as it is represented to
us bj the genealogies, and the Egyptian history, as well as
the confirmation of so many notices respecting Egypt, from
the time of Moses and Joseph, establish a far greater his-
torical character for the Hebrew accounts, as far back as
Abraham, than would have ever been allowed them by a strict
criticism, had we been obliged to ascribe to the old authori-
ties themselves the numbers which were inserted at a later

[After some notice concerning the times before Abraham,