Painted wooden stela showing the deceased (right) making an offering to Re-Harakhty. From the tomb of Aafenmut in Thebes. (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Alice C. Linsley
Joseph (Yosef), the favored son of Jacob, is an enigma. Joseph's elevation to a high position in Egypt and his marriage to Asenath of Heliopolis, a Horite Hebrew shrine city, suggest that he was a rightful heir to something back in Egypt. However, everything in Genesis about Jacob points to a late attempt to reshape the material to fit the Jewish narrative. We are told that Jacob's 2 wives, Leah and Rachel, were sisters. How did that affect the status of their first-born sons: Reuben and Joseph? Certainly, in the narrative's present form, Joseph does not fit the pattern of a sent-away son. He fits the pattern of a cousin bride's son who goes to serve as a high official in the territory of his maternal grandfather.
He was the son of a Horite ruler, Jacob/Yacob.
He was designated to rule, as evidenced by the Canaanite Y in his name - Yosef, a sign of divine appointment to rule.
He was already Egyptianized before going to Egypt. Egypt's cultural influence and military control of Canaan lasted from c. 2000 to 1200 BC. Joseph lived in Canaan during that period.
The present account of Joseph likely comes from a source dating to the later Neo-Babylonian period (c.700-300 BC). The purpose is to explain the assignment of land holdings in Canaan. However, this story of Zelophehad's daughter petitioning Moses for their inheritance comes before the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Zelophehad's holdings were with the clan of Manasseh which had deep roots in Egypt. However, this does not serve the Deuteronomist's narrative. This later source would have us believe that all the Hebrew people left Egypt, never to return there.
Joseph's story serves as the transition from the patriarchal narratives to the Exodus. After his death, he was mummified as a high-ranking Egyptian and buried in Goshen, adjacent to Avaris. Avaris was founded by Amenemhet I, the first king of the 12th dynasty. Archaeological and anthropological evidence indicates that the settlers of Goshen were people from Canaan who shared many features of Egyptian culture. This would be expected if Abraham's people were Horites, a priesthood devoted to Horus of the Two Crowns.
During the Second Intermediate Period, coinciding with the time of biblical Joseph, the Egyptians experienced an influx of Canaanites. These Semites had settlements in Tanis, Avaris and el-Yehudiya. The Egyptians called the chiefs of these settlements "Hyk Khase", the origin of the term Hyksos.
Horite ruler-priests were careful to marry chaste daughters of priests. It is not a coincidence then that Joseph married Asenath, daughter of the "priest of On" (Gen. 41:45), called Heliopolis (city of the Sun) by the Greeks. Asenath's father was a Horite Hebrew priest and the Horite priestly lines intermarried. If the sons of Horite priests married the daughter of Horite priests, their sons were also in the caste of priests.
Asenath, Joseph's wife, was probably Joseph's cousin. Her first-born son likely belonged to the Heliopolis shrine, whereas Ephraim, Joseph's younger son belonged to the House of Jacob. This explains why Jacob gave him the blessing (not birthright) that pertained to the first-born (Gen. 48:14).
Moses' two older brothers - Aaron and Korah - would also have married the daughters of priests. Korah's descendants are praised in 1 Chronicles 26, where they are grouped with the gatekeepers of Obed-Edom. Obed-Edom is a connection to Ruth, who named her first-born son Obed. Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David. This picks up the Messianic thread, pointing us back to the Horite expectation of the Son of God who was coming into the world.
Joseph's Horite Hebrew Ancestry
Horite Hebrew ruler-priests married the daughters of Horite Hebrew priests. About 75% of the women named in the Old Testament are daughters of priests. This was the practice among the royal priestly lines of Abraham’s people. By every indication, Joseph was as thoroughly immersed in the Horite Hebrew religion as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses.
The Horite caste of ruler-priests was devoted of Horus, the son of the High God, whose emblem was the sun. His queen mother was Hathor, the patronness of metal workers. Heliopolis was one of the shrines dedicated to Ra and Horus or Re-harakhty, that is, Horus of the Two Horizons (East and West). During the New Kingdom (c. 1539–1075 BC) the great temple of Re at Heliopolis rivaled that of Amon at Thebes, and the Horite Hebrew priesthood of Heliopolis wielded great influence.
Traditions Concerning Joseph's Burial
In Goshen/Avaris, Joseph had a large Egyptian-style palace built over Jacob's dwelling. The palace enclosure had a garden tomb, the largest sepulcher found in Goshen. Joseph's body would have been mummified and wrapped in cloth. He may have been buried according to the custom of his Nilo-Saharan ancestors, with the body on its left side, head to the south, facing west.
According to Scripture Joseph requested that his body be removed to Canaan. Most claim that his tomb is near Nablus in Palestinian territory, a site regarded as holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Tomb is located at the eastern entrance to the valley that separates Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. It is about 750 feet north of Jacob's Well, on the outskirts of Nablus, near biblical Shechem.
There is another Islamic tradition that places Joseph’s tomb in Haram al-Khalil in Hebron, in the tomb of the Patriarchs. This is the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a heavy rectangular building that encloses the underground Cave of Machpelah which was explored in 1967. This is the land and cave in Mamre that Abraham purchased for the burial of Sarah.
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, Joseph's Tomb at Nablus was to be accessible to Jews and Christians. However, following peace talks at Camp David in September 2000, Arafat initiated his intifada in the West Bank. In October 2000, Fatah gunmen attacked the tomb repeatedly, killing two and injuring dozens, prompting Israel to evacuate Judaism's third holiest site on October 6, 2000. The attackers burned Jewish prayer books and repainted the white dome roof Muslim Green, transforming Joseph's resting place into another Muslim holy site and anachronistically pronouncing Joseph a Muslim.
Joseph does not fit the typical picture of an Israelite or an Arab. He was Horite Hebrew, a ruler-priest caste of devotees to Re, Hathor, and Horus. He married Asenath, the daughter of a Horite Hebrew high priest. She grew up at Heliopolis on the Nile.
Rachel – Joseph (oldest) and Benjamin (youngest)
Asenath – Manasseh (oldest) and Ephraim (youngest)
Tamar – Zerah (oldest) and Perez (youngest)
In each case, the younger son was tagged as an ancestor of the Messiah. However, this does not mean that the older son was not an ancestor of Messiah since the Hebrew priestly lines intermarried. The elevation of the youngest son is a common theme in the Bible: David was the youngest son of Jesse. Abraham was the youngest of Terah's 3 sons; Haran, Nahor, and Abraham.
Related reading: Joseph and Judah: Instruments of Deliverance; Ancient Canaanite Inscriptions; The Urheimat of the Canaanite Y; Moses' Horite Hebrew Family; The Pattern of Two Wives; Hebrew, Israelite, or Jew?; Sent-Away Sons