Daily Archives: February 7, 2009

Travel to Egypt

Because of a severe famine in Canaan, Abraham traveled to Egypt and sojourned there (Genesis 12:10). Joseph was sold by his brothers and eventually became a slave in Egypt (Genesis 37:28). Jacob and his family, at least 70 persons, went into Egypt and settled in the land of Goshen (the eastern Delta) during a time of famine in Canaan (Genesis 46; Acts 7:11-16).

What do we know outside the Bible about travel to Egypt during the Patriarchal age (the Middle Bronze age)? It is clear that foreigners traveled to Egypt. In the tomb of Khnum-hotep III at Beni Hasan, about 169 miles south of Cairo, there is a painting showing 37 Asiatics of the desert bringing gifts to Egypt and desiring trade. This tomb painting is dated to about 1890 B.C.

Here is a description of the painting given by J. A. Thompson in The New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology:

One picture shows thirty-seven seminomadic tribesmen from Palestine, from the land of Shutu (central Trans-Jordan), led by Absha, their chief. The men were beared, and the women used bands to hold their long hair in place. Their clothes were multicolored, the men wearing short skirts and sandals and the women having calf-length dresses, which they fastened at the shoulder by means of a clasp. Instead of sandals, the women had shoes on their feet. One of the men carried a lyre, and on one of the donkeys were two bellows, indicating that at least some members of the group were traveling metalworkers.

Egypt has many shops selling papyrus sheets. Some have tomb paintings. I am told that the Abu Simbel Papyrus store in Giza is the only one that has permission to sell a painting of the Asiatics arriving in Egypt. This looks better than any tomb painting one might see today while visiting a tomb. This papyrus painting shows only a portion of the 37 travelers making their way into Egypt. The Asiatics are wearing multicolored clothing. The person to the right in white is an Egyptian.

A portion of the Beni Hasan painting showing Asiatics arriving in Egypt.

A portion of the Beni Hasan painting showing Asiatics arriving in Egypt.

Click on the art for a larger image that might be suitable for use in a PowerPoint presentation.