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Egyptians Prove Jewish Presence in Ancient Middle East

Dr. Richard L. Benkin

While most of the world occupied itself with their leaders at the United Nations and other venues, where their meetings and pious statements will have little or no real impact; they missed what could perhaps be an earth shaking scientific discovery: Egyptian scientists found ancient Egyptian coins that bore the name and image of the Jewish biblical sage, Joseph.

According to the Jewish holy book, the Torah, Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham, the first Jew, who rose to become most powerful person in Egypt after the Pharoah by saving the Egyptians from a famine. It was Joseph who brought the Israelites from their ancient homeland in modern-day Israel to Egypt. The saga of Jewish slavery in Egypt, followed by their defeat of the Egyptians at the hands of God, their freedom, and under the leadership of Moses, their return to Israel, is the central narrative of Jewish religion and history.

The discovery was reported in the leading Egyptian daily, Al-Ahram, and translated into English by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). The importance of the find is that it debunks those who claim that the narrative was a myth, in large part, to deny that the Jewish people had any historical presence in the Middle East before modern times. It is ironic that these finds by Egyptian scientists help provide proof positive that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.

According to the article, “The researchers discovered the coins when they sifted through thousands of small archeological artifacts stored in [the vaults of] the Museum of Egypt. [Initially] they took them for charms, but a thorough examination revealed that the coins bore the year in which they were minted and their value, or effigies of the pharaohs [who ruled] at the time of their minting. Some of the coins are from the time when Joseph lived in Egypt, and bear his name and portrait.” The scientist noted that along with Joseph’s image the coins bore his two names: Saba Sabani, the Egyptian name Pharaoh gave him when he became Egypt’s treasurer; and his “original name, Joseph.” That is, his Hebrew name, which reinforces the Torah’s narrative that Joseph was a Hebrew and not an Egyptian or member of some other tribe. Thus, the coin establishes the Jewish people’s presence in the Middle East in ancient times.

“Research team head Dr. Sa'id Muhammad Thabet said that during his archeological research on the Prophet Joseph, he had discovered in the vaults of the [Egyptian] Antiquities Authority and of the National Museum many charms from various eras before and after the period of Joseph, including one that bore his effigy as the minister of the treasury in the Egyptian pharaoh's court… This [find] prompted researchers to seek and find Koranic verses that speak of coins used in ancient Egypt, [such as]: “And they sold him [i.e. Joseph] for a low price, a number of silver coins [Koran 12:20].”

“The researcher also pointed out that the coins made of precious metals or stones usually had a hole in them, like a woman's ornament, allowing them to be [worn] around the neck or on the chest. Some of them, which bore images of gods and texts from various prayers or incantations, were treasured belongings that were placed into the bindings of mummies or placed [on the chest, close to] the heart. The coins were scarab-shaped. What made the discovery possible was the fact that 500 of these coins were [recently] discovered in the Museum of Egypt.”

But we have to return to the Joseph coins for the most compelling evidence. In the Torah, Joseph gains Pharaoh’s confidence by interpreting two dreams that God sent to Pharaoh in his sleep. None of the Egyptian wise men or magicians could interpret them. Then Pharaoh’s cup bearer told him that he met a Hebrew who was imprisoned with him and that the Hebrew youth had the power to interpret dreams that no one else could. That Hebrew was none other than Joseph.

“Thereupon Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was rushed from the dungeon… And Pharoah said to Joseph, ‘I dreamed a dream, but no one can interpret it. Now I have heard said that for you to just hear a dream is to know its meaning. Joseph answered Pharaoh saying, ‘Not I! God will bring peace to Pharaoh.” (The Torah, Genesis 41: 14-16).

Pharaoh then told Joseph the dream. Seven healthy cows emerged from the Nile and began grazing on its banks. Soon, however, seven lean and ugly cows came forth from the Nile, and they devoured the healthy cows. Joseph told Pharaoh that his dream meant that Egypt is about to experience seven years of bounty; but they will be followed by seven years of famine that could overcome the abundance of the years of plenty. He told Pharaoh that the dream was a message that God sent so Egypt could prepare for the famine while it was experiencing abundance. So, Pharaoh then appointed Joseph to be his treasurer and gave him total freedom to do whatever was needed to carry out God’s wishes and save Egypt from the famine, which Joseph did.

According to Al Ahram, the scientist working on the project “identified coins from many different periods, including coins that bore special markings identifying them as being from the era of Joseph. Among these, there was one coin that had an inscription on it, and an image of a cow symbolizing Pharaoh's dream about the seven fat cows and seven lean cows.”