Coins from Era of Biblical Joseph Found in Egypt

MEMRILogoMEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) Special Dispatch – No. 2561 September 24, 2009

According to a report in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, by Wajih Al-Saqqar, archeologists have discovered ancient Egyptian coins bearing the name and image of the Biblical Joseph. Following are excerpts from the article:

JosephEraEgyptianCoins“Koranic Verses Indicate Clearly That Coins Were Used in Egypt in the Time of Joseph.” “In an unprecedented find, a group of Egyptian researchers and archeologists has discovered a cache of coins from the time of the Pharaohs. Its importance lies in the fact that it provides decisive scientific evidence disproving the claim by some historians that the ancient Egyptians were unfamiliar with coins and conducted their trade through barter.

“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.

“There used to be a misconception that trade [in Ancient Egypt] was conducted through barter, and that Egyptian wheat, for example, was traded for other goods. But surprisingly, Koranic verses indicate clearly that coins were used in Egypt in the time of Joseph.

“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…

“Dr. Sa’id Thabet added that he had examined the sarcophagi of many pharaohs in search of coins used as charms or ornaments, and that he had indeed found such ancient Egyptian coins. 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; and they attached no value to him. [Koran 12:20].’ [Also,] Qarun [2] says about his money: ‘This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge which I have [Koran 28: 78].'”

“Studies… Have Revealed That What Most Archeologists Took For a Kind of Charm, and Others Took For an Ornament… is Actually a Coin”

“According to Dr. Thabet, his studies are based on publications about the Third Dynasty, one of which states that the Egyptian coin of the time was called a deben and was worth one-fourth of a gram of gold. This coin is mentioned in a letter by a man named Thot-Nehet, a royal inspector of the Nile bridges. In letters to his son, he mentioned leasing lands in return for deben-coins and agricultural produce.

“Other texts from the time of the Third Dynasty, the Sixth Dynasty and the Twelfth Dynasty mention a coin named shati or sat, whose value was equal to that of the deben. There is also a picture of an Egyptian market showing trade being conducted through barter, but one of the vendors puts out his hand, asking the buyer for a deben in return for the goods.

“Studies by Dr. Thabet’s team have revealed that what most archeologists took for a kind of charm, and others took for an ornament or adornment, is actually a coin. Several [facts led them to this conclusion]: first, [the fact that] many such coins have been found at various [archeological sites], and also [the fact that] they are round or oval in shape, and have two faces: one with an inscription, called the inscribed face, and one with an image, called the engraved face – just like the coins we use today.

“The archeological finding is also based on the fact that the inscribed face bore the name of Egypt, a date, and a value, while the engraved face bore the name and image of one of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs or gods, or else a symbol connected with these. Another telling fact is that the coins come in different sizes and are made of different materials, including ivory, precious stones, copper, silver, gold, etc.”

“500 of These Coins Were [Recently] Discovered in the Museum of Egypt – Where They Were [Originally] Classified as Charms and Stored Carelessly in Closed Boxes”

“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, where they were [originally] classified as charms and stored carelessly in closed boxes.”

“One Coin… [Had] an Image of a Cow Symbolizing Pharaoh’s Dream about the Seven Fat Cows and Seven Lean Cows”

“The researcher 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, and the seven green stalks of grain and seven dry stalks of grain. It was found that the inscriptions of this early period were usually simple, since writing was still in its early stages, and consequently there was difficulty in deciphering the writing on these coins. But the research team [managed to] translate [the writing on the coin] by comparing it to the earliest known hieroglyphic texts…

“Joseph’s name appears twice on this coin, written in hieroglyphs: once the original name, Joseph, and once his Egyptian name, Saba Sabani, which was given to him by Pharaoh when he became treasurer. There is also an image of Joseph, who was part of the Egyptian administration at the time.

“Dr. Sa’id Thabet called on Egypt’s Antiquities Council and on the Minister of Culture to intensify efforts in the fields of Ancient Egyptian history and archeology, and to [promote] the research of these coins that bear the name of Egyptian pharaohs and gods. This, he said, would enable the correction of prevalent misconceptions regarding the history of Ancient Egypt.”

A few good men

marinesposter14A few good men, that’s what he needed.

Gideon was the least of the least of his family. At least that’s the way he thought of himself. A descendant of the patriarch Joseph through the eldest son Manasseh, you’d think Gideon’s family would be doing well. But instead, when it came time for the family blessings to be handed out, Joseph’s younger son Ephraim had gotten it instead. By the time Gideon’s generation came along, his family was fairly well impoverished.

But then, at this particular time in Israel’s history, the whole nation was impoverished. (Read Judges chapters 6 and 7 for the story.)

Raiders, Midianite marauders from the other side of the Jordan River would wait until Israel’s crops were mature, then come in and steal everything. They would move in with their camels and their tents, take whatever they wanted and when it was used up they would move out again. There were so many of them, just their camels were “as the sand by the seaside for multitude.” (Jdg. 7:12)

The Lord picked Gideon, the least likely choice, to put a stop to the Midianite raids. And one of the fascinating facts in this story is the way he went about it.

Gideon started out with 32,000 men, a good sized army. But God said it was too many – they would take the credit themselves. He told Gideon to send those who were fearful back home, leaving 10,000.

That was still a fair number. But God said, it’s still too many. He gave Gideon a method by which to choose who should stay and fight, and who should go back home.

Men who drank water by kneeling and bending over to drink directly from the water had to go home. Men who drank by cupping their hands and bringing water to their lips, could stay. In the end, only 300 could stay.

marinesposter13Why make this distinction? It’s a question of wisdom. Common sense. Strategy.

If you’re drinking from a cupped hand, you can see what’s around you. You can see if someone is coming. You can hold a sword in the other hand, and you can stand, walk, run and fight.

If you’re kneeling and face down in the water, you can’t see anything around you. Your back is exposed. Both hands are on the ground supporting your body weight while you bend over to the water. You can’t hold a sword. You can’t stand, walk, run or fight, at least not until you get back up. By then an enemy could have killed you.

Wisdom, common sense, strategy. Gideon took those few, those 300 men and totally defeated the marauding enemy. Of course, they were so few, they had to use God’s tactics as well as his strategy. That’s a fascinating story all by itself.

Side note:

I’m sure you know the difference between strategy and tactics. Derived from the Greek strategos, military strategy deals with the planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement and disposition of forces, and the deception of the enemy.

Tactics, on the other hand, are specific techniques for using weapons or military units in combination for engaging and defeating an enemy in battle.

Choosing the few, the wisest 300 was strategy. Having them break pitchers and blow trumpets at the enemy instead of fighting with swords? That was tactics. God is excellent at both.

In the times we live in today, I think God is looking again for a few good men. And women…


Some of us are snoopy. Curious. We poke into things, eavesdrop, not from any perverse motives, we just want to know. The apostles were a bit like that too.

“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3)

Jesus answered, “Watch out that no one deceives you… you will hear of wars and rumors of wars… nation will rise against nation… there will be famines, and earthquakes… many will turn away from the faith… many false prophets will appear and deceive many people…” (24:4-11)

“There will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now, and never to be equaled again.” (24:21)

The apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts. 1:6)

That wasn’t any of their business, Jesus said – more tactfully, of course. “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (1:7)

The other day I was re-reading these verses, meditating about how things look in the world today. A lot of the front-page news sounds a lot like those verses in Matthew. I asked the Lord a question that I didn’t really expect an answer to, “When is all this going to happen, really?”

I knew Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Okay, I have no way of knowing when the gospel has been preached in the whole world. Nobody does. I was just being my normal snoopy self, asking a question I expected the Holy Spirit to ignore.

But he didn’t ignore it – he answered it. “When the last sheep is in the fold.” But when he said that, he didn’t show me a mental image of sheep, but a mental image of warriors. Suddenly I knew that God is assembling an invasion force in heaven (see He knows when the last person on earth who will accept his invitation by his deadline has done so. His deadline is described in Matthew 24:14.

I don’t need to know that date, I just need to be ready by that date.