Joseph in Egypt: A Myth
I confess: I don’t believe in the biblical story of Joseph. Quite aside from the fanciful notion that Joseph built the pyramids for grain storage (as alleged by Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson), I don’t believe in the Bible character himself—any more than I believe in Prometheus, Rama or the Yellow Emperor of Chinese mythology.
You perhaps recall the story. But I should not assume that, of course. (I am struck by how unfamiliar most of my students, at a highly competitive New England university, are with the Bible. This is in part because they come from all over the world, including countries where the Bible has minimal cultural impact. But even those born and raised in the U.S., and perhaps identifying as Christians or Jews, often seem lacking in a basic knowledge of both the Old and New Testaments.)
So to review the tale: according to the Book of Genesis, Joseph was a great-grandson of Abraham, who had been called by God out of the Land of Ur on the Euphrates (in what is now southern Iraq )to Hebron on the West Bank of the Jordan River where his tomb is supposedly located.
He is of course the patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike as in some way their religious ancestor, who had walked and talked with God, and to whose descendants, according to the Bible, God had promised the Holy Land forever. (Many people, including perhaps most Christians, assume that today’s Jews are Abraham’s biological descendents.)
Abraham died, the Bible tells us, at age 175, leaving the birthright to the land to his son Isaac. Isaac, who died at age 180, was succeeded by his son Jacob (also known as Israel) who had 12 sons, among them this Joseph. Jacob is supposed to have passed away at age 147.
(I mention these numbers simply to underline the implausibility of the whole account. Archeologists studying ancient Egyptian skeletons have found that the life expectancy in the region around the time these biblical figures are supposed to have lived was 33 years for men, 29 for women. Believers who convince themselves that the extraordinary life-spans attributed to early biblical figures—Adam is supposed to have died at age 930, Methuselah at 969, Noah at 950—simply show that “people lived longer way back then” are just not aware of, or not interested in, the objective study of history or prehistory. They live in a fantasy world.)
Joseph, the eleventh son, is favored by Jacob above his siblings and given the famous “coat of many colors” (Genesis 37:3). He has dreams in which his older brothers all bow down to him (and he rather foolishly relates these dreams to his brothers). Jealous, they set out to murder him. But they reconsider at the last minute and instead sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelite slavers bound for Egypt.
(These slavers according to the Bible were descendents of Ishmael, another son of Abraham, by the Egyptian slave girl Hagar, thus a half-brother of their grandfather Isaac. Many view as the “father” of the Arabs in the same way as Isaac is the ancestor of the Jews. This is pure folklore, but does convey the truth that both Jews and Arabs are Semitic peoples, along with the ancient Akkadians, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Moabites, Edomites, Nabateans, etc.
There are of course European Jews with more or less Semitic DNA. And there are many people regarded as “Arabs” for linguistic and cultural reasons but probably having little Semitic blood; most Moroccans for example have a mix of Arab, Berber and Andalusia blood. But surely the Judaeans of Roman times were close cousins of the Semites of the Arabian Peninsula at the time.)
In Egypt, Joseph is purchased by the captain of the pharaoh’s guard, who regards him with favor and makes him head of his household staff. The captain’s wife likes him too—too much—and tries to seduce him. Spurned, she accuses Joseph of sexual assault and he is sent to prison.
But God remains with Joseph. In prison he meets two high-ranking officials who have displeased the pharaoh. Joseph is able to use his gift of dream interpretation to predict the future of both. Word of his gift reaches the pharaoh, the world’s most powerful man, who has been having troubling dreams that his occultists can’t explain. Brought into his presence, Joseph explains that the pharaoh’s dreams foretell seven years of plenty, followed by seven of famine.
Asked what to do, Joseph advocates the obvious commonsense solution: the pharaoh should “lay up grain” during the fat years…for food in the cities” (Genesis 41:35). The pharaoh, concluding that there was “no one as discerning and wise” as this imprisoned slave from Canaan, then frees Joseph and places him in charge of the whole country (Genesis 41:40).
(As in the case with most myths, there is some basis of truth in this one. The Nile River Valley was the grain basket of the ancient Mediterranean world. Its fertile soil, highly predictable growing season, abundance of farm animals for labor and dung, and suitability for the “basin irrigation” system dating back to around 3000 BCE, allowed for the cultivation of wheat and barley on a huge scale, and the production of bread and beer, plus the raising of figs, grapes and other familiar components of the Mediterranean diet. Wheat from here fed Rome by the time of Julius Caesar, when Egyptians were known as the world’s most skilled agriculturalists.
And we know that the ancient Egyptians systematically stored grain on a wide scale. In 2008 a University of Chicago archeological team at the excavation site of Tell Edfu in southern Egypt found “grain bins” consisting of “at least seven round, mud-brick silos” dating to the 18th century BCE, when the town was a major administrative center. The bins, it’s been suggested, served both as repositories of grain for townsmen’s food and as banking facilities in a pre-monetary society where grain served as a universal equivalent. So it would not be strange for a Hebrew fiction-writer of the eighth or ninth century BCE to associate the Egypt of Joseph’s time with agricultural bounty and efficient grain storage and to integrate these into a lively tale.)
In the story Joseph—having become governor, subject only to Pharaoh himself— personally oversees relief efforts and grain sales in a famine year. One day he’s moved to see, among those seeking to buy grain, his ten older brothers who had arrived from Canaan. Concealing his identity, he questions them, jails them, but then sends them home with grain as well as a refund of their payment, demanding that they return with their youngest brother Benjamin (whom Joseph longs to see).
When they eventually do return with Benjamin, Joseph reveals himself to them as their brother, and forgives them for selling him into slavery. (It had all, after all, been God’s plan to save the House of Israel!) Jacob himself is brought to Egypt where he dies, like all his sons. His death, at age 147, so upsets the Egyptian people for some reason that they grieve for 70 days. Joseph returns his father’s corpse to Canaan (Genesis 50:7-14). Thereafter Jacob’s progeny becomes a great nation within Egypt, “more numerous and powerful” than the Egyptians themselves (Exodus 1:9).
Joseph himself dies in Egypt at age 110 after living over nine decades in the country.
It’s a grand tale featuring divine favor, vicious sibling jealousy, enslavement, sexual temptation, betrayal, imprisonment, prophetic dreams and the ability to interpret them, a rags-to-riches story, a long-delayed reunion between father and son, and the power of forgiveness producing a happy ending. It’s a fit theme for Thomas Mann’s great novel, Joseph and His Brothers (1943), the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Weber rock opera Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1969), or the made-for-TV movie Joseph in Egypt (1995).
But no, I don’t believe this story. None of it. It’s a myth. Not a legend, mind you, which would suggest the story has some shred of historical evidence behind it. (Like the legend of Roland, or Pocahontas, or William Tell, which have some roots in reality.) No, a myth, with no evidence behind it at all.
The story is set in what by biblical chronology would be about 1600 years before the lifetime of Jesus. That’s actually over 500 years before the Hebrew script even existed, before the earliest known examples of proto-Hebrew writing. It’s about 1000 years before the likely composition of the biblical Book of Genesis itself.
Of course the devout believer can say, “It was all passed down by oral tradition” even before the emergence of a literate community. They can argue that in any case the Holy Scriptures were composed under “divine inspiration” and so must accurately depict historical events. Faith proves it’s all true. (End of conversation.)
But I would simply repeat—even, maybe especially to the close-minded faith-based person—that the Joseph story is a work of fiction, produced by normal humans with normal life spans and placed by them in the mouth of an imagined divine author.
It is fine of course for people to read and appreciate such stories, which are in fact part and parcel of U.S. historic culture. The whole narrative about the Israelites in bondage in Egypt, led out by the heroic Moses to the Promised Land of Canaan, has particularly inspired the African-American church since the period of slavery. But if seekers to high office in the 21st century indicate that they actually believe this stuff as real history, they reveal a lack of critical reasoning ability.
Ben Carson, the Joseph Myth, and the Rejection of Science
Which brings me to Republican presidential hopeful and recent short-lived frontrunner Ben Carson. I will not address his claims of a violent, bullying childhood in his autobiography published in 1992, recently challenged by reporters. (I will merely suggest that someone willing to invent facts in his own past is probably likely to invent facts about the general human past, for whatever utilitarian reason.)
I won’t address Carson’s comments on how Nazi gun control abetted the Holocaust and how Obamacare is the worst thing to happen to the U.S. since slavery. Or his thesis that most people finishing an AP U.S. history course would “be ready to sign up for ISIS” because of its supposedly “anti-American” content. Or examine his thesis that many men go into prison straight but leave gay (with an acquired, curable condition). And I won’t dwell on reports coming from his own staff about his complete ignorance of contemporary world affairs (which I suspect may soon do him in).
I won’t dwell on how Dr. Carson (whose training surely required firm grounding in evolutionary theory) now calls evolution an “absurd myth,” or how he calls the big bang theory a “fairy tale” invented by “high-faluting scientists”— encouraged, indeed, by Satan! And although some in the press (appropriately) mock him for such statements, the fact is, such views are generally respectable among people in this country.
Sadly (and embarrassingly) a Gallop poll taken in 2012 found that 46% of Americans believed in “Creationism.” As a country with a large “creationist” population the U.S. ranked high in an Ipsos/Reuters poll in 2011—behind Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia, and Brazil but way up there over the Europeans and East Asians. In 2013 a poll showed that 79% of people in this country believed that human beings have developed with the “guidance of God.” (That was down from 83% in 2004.)
Change is afoot. Belief in religion in the U.S. is generally declining, following the European lead. In 2007 only 16% of people in this country polled said they had no religion; in 2014 (according to a Pew poll) it was up to 23%. (That’s 56 million people, the second largest community after Evangelicals.) The self-defined Christian population among us declined from 78% in 2007 to 71% in 2014. (It is even lower among young people.)
Still the fact remains that Ben Carson is as of today the second or third highest polling Republican presidential candidate, and his support is based among Evangelicals. These are folks who accept the Bible literally, overwhelmingly believe that “God gave the land of Israel to the Jews,” mistrust public education for its corrupting impact on their children, and particularly disdain higher education as a bastion of liberal-homosexual-communist-atheistic propaganda.
It would be easy to assume that Carson is cynically playing to his audience, and doesn’t believe everything he says. But one is struck by how complex and contradiction-ridden the human mind can be. Here’s a mind than can earn advanced medical degrees and at the same time a mind shaped by faith in stories written down in Hebrew, maybe 2800 years ago, that are no more credible than the epics of Homer. Carson’s mind has apparently been shaped by the teachings of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which upholds the “infallibility and inerrancy” of the Bible.
It is indeed possible for a person to believe (as tens of millions do in his country) in Seven-Day Creation, Adam and Eve, the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark (and the destruction of all living things except for those in that boat circa 4000 years ago), the Tower of Babel which led to the origins of all languages, the Ten Plagues visited on Egypt at the time of Moses, the parting of the Red Sea to allow the fleeing Israelites to cross, Balaam’s talking donkey (Numbers 22:28), the miraculous conquest of Canaan including the fall of the walls of Jericho when Joshua’s men sound their trumpets and the conquest of Jerusalem after God causes the sun to remain stationary for hours in the sky to aid Joshua’s attack (Joshua 10:12-13), etc. while yet doing pioneering work in the field of brain surgery.
(One should note, by the way, that brain surgery has a long history. It was successfully practiced in Cappadocia by 6000 BCE, Egypt by about 3000 BCE and both Britain and Peru about 2000 BCE by physicians whose religious beliefs were surely as myth-based as Carson’s. Their operations appear to have been generally successful. In other words, you don’t need a rational modern worldview to follow a known procedure and operate on brains.)
One can be quite astute in one scholarly field and absolutely uninformed about others. Carson was Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore from 1984 to 2013. He is currently professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins. But he seems deeply ignorant about human history, or even how to go about investigating historical events. One part of his brain can think critically about how brains work. Another part of his brain apparently cannot think critically about the complexities of human society evolving through time.
(What does this say about Carson’s ability to understand the course of events in Southwest Asia during this century so far, and the causal relationships between the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003, the subsequent proliferation of al-Qaeda groups from Nigeria to Yemen to Afghanistan, the ongoing Iraqi civil war, the division of Iraq into three, the rise of ISIL, the U.S.-Gulf states-Turkish effort to topple the Syrian government, the Russian intervention in defense of the Syrian state, etc.?)
But to return to Dr. Carson and his “theory” about Joseph. During the time the latter is supposed to have lived—again, centuries before the invention of the Hebrew alphabet, centuries before the earliest appearance of Chinese characters—Egyptian scribes were producing a voluminous literature. We know a great deal about Egypt from records of the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BCE), Second Intermediate Period (1650-1550), and New Kingdom (1550-1069).
But these sources make no mention of any grand minister of foreign origin named Joseph or his leadership in famine relief. Indeed they make no reference at all to a large minority group originating in Canaan ever becoming enslaved in Egypt (as the Genesis narrative describes), eventually escaping the country led by someone named Moses after a series of ten plagues.
They do make reference to the Hyksos, a people who ruled northern Egypt from around 1650 to 1550. The artifacts left by this people suggest an Indo-Aryan ethnicity, although some scholars argue for a West Semitic (Amorite) origin. Some argue that these are (indeed, must be) the biblical Israelites but few historians or archeologists credit this view.
You’d think that, if they really happened, the contemporary Egyptian scribes would have thought the story of the celebrated Exodus from bondage worth recording. You’d think they would have recorded the plagues described in the Book of Genesis many centuries later. But Egyptian records are in fact silent. They mention no “Israelites” or “Hebrews” in Egypt at all, much less describe their dramatic flight from Pharaoh’s army across a miraculously parted Red Sea.
Israeli archeologists acknowledge that there is no evidence for the biblical story of Joseph in Egypt. There’s no evidence for the idea that the ancestors of the Jewish people spent several centuries in “Egyptian captivity” before being led out by Moses to the “Promised Land” (that as you recall they conquer, aided by God’s miracles, slaughtering all the Canaanites at God’s command). This is all myth.
There is even precious little historical evidence for an ancient state of Israel under kings named Saul, David, and Solomon as described in the Bible. There are virtually no clear references to a great King David in a kingdom of Israel in the tenth century BCE in any surviving records of neighboring peoples. There may have been a tribal leader in that period, one David of a “house of Israel” in the general area. But there is still meager evidence for a fabled “kingdom” of David.
Does Carson follow the scholarship on this? Or does he think it all too “high-faluting” to require his attention as he proposes his “theory” rooted in unquestioning Bible belief?
A kingdom of Israel seems likely to have emerged as a state in the ninth century, followed by Judah by the eighth century BCE. They probably emerged out of the interaction of numerous Semitic tribes who had come to settle in Palestine over centuries. When the Bible refers to the Twelve Tribes of Israel—meaning the tribes descending from all twelve of Jacob’s sons (who in the story arrived in Canaan after the Exodus)—it perhaps acknowledges implicitly that a people who, by the Persian and Hellenistic periods, had developed a collective identity as Judeans were in fact of diverse origins. These origins might have ranged from Abraham’s “Land of Ur” to the Nile Delta or at least the Sinai Peninsula.
The Israeli archeologist Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University has written that the Biblical patriarchs were fictional and that neither the Exodus from Egypt nor the conquests of Joshua ever occurred. Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles told his congregation in 2001, “The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has researched the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way that the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.”
(Religious and secular Jews in both the U.S. and Israel are far more likely to question the literal truth of these texts than Christians, especially Evangelicals and Adventists.)
When Carson’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church upholds the “infallibility and inerrancy” of the Bible, it means literal interpretation.
Dr. Carson believes (or says he believes, since his fans really want him to) that all the Bible stories really happened.
Just to underscore how unusually awful that is: compare George W. Bush, who while he effectively exploited Evangelicals’ support in 2000 and 2004 (calling Jesus his “favorite philosopher,” etc.), told ABC’s Charles Gibson in December 2008, “I’m not a literalist.” The Bible is “probably not” literally true, he told Gibson, hastily adding: “But I think you can learn a lot from it.” Of course by this time he was about to leave office and could afford to offend some erstwhile supporters.
“Dubya” Bush was/is surely religiously delusional. (He told Palestinian leaders in 2003 that he was “driven with a mission from God,” and that “God told me to smite Osama bin Laden, so I invaded Afghanistan. Then he told me to smite Saddam Hussein, so I invaded Iraq.”) He was more than bad enough—a war criminal, undoubtedly. But even Bush wasn’t wedded to Christian fundamentalism the way Carson is.
Carson’s “Personal Theory” about the Pyramids
So let us examine Carson’s comments on Joseph in Egypt, and at his understanding of the (real) function of the Egyptian pyramids.
At a 1998 Commencement speech at Andrews University, (“the flagship educational institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church”), Dr. Carson touched on this issue. (You can find the talk on Youtube.)
“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain. Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But you know, it would have to be something awfully big [when] you stop and think about it. I don’t think it would just disappear over the course of time, to store that much grain. And when you look at the way the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, that would have to be that way for a reason and you know, various scientists have said well you know there were alien beings that came down they had special knowledge and that’s how they were…[sentence ends inconclusively]… You know doesn’t require an alien being when
God is with you.”
Seventeen years later he repeated this to CBSN this month, explaining, “you wouldn’t need hermetically sealed compartments for a sepulcher; you would need that if you were trying to store grain over a long period of time.”
So Carson has a “personal theory” about the Joseph story, first revealed to a student audience, that stands in sharp opposition to the understanding of what Carson calls “all the archeologists.” That suggests either (a) a well-thought-out analysis based on an engagement with the empirical facts, justifying such bold iconoclasm; or (b) hare-brained amateurish, fanciful speculation accompanied by butt-headed, sneering, hypocritical, opportunistic anti-intellectualism.
The Andrews University crowd may well have assumed that such a distinguished, accomplished graduation speaker actually knew something about ancient Egypt. (And maybe they supposed that what “all the archeologists think” was laughable, rooted as it is in secular science.) But Carson was making it up as he went along.
(On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” political analyst Eugene Robinson ridiculed Carson’s Joseph theory. “I think there are a lot of follow-up questions we can ask about history, about his personal theory about history, and how all this stuff happened…” Joe Scarborough likewise made fun of Carson, suggesting he be asked how old he thought the world was.)
Okay, let’s take this “theory” seriously, for just a minute. Not that it deserves it as an intellectual contribution, but because it is submitted soberly by a man whose curious popularity (among the most anti-intellectual component of our population, shaped as they are by biblical literalism) stems from his combination of academic attainment and intellectual demeanor on the one hand, and his Bible-based rejection of modern science on the other.
Let’s take it seriously as just one illustration of how politics in this country wallows not only in cavil obedience to the One Percent but also in abject deference to still-pervasive religious delusion.
Some perspective, concerning objective reality: the great pyramids of Egypt were (as I understand it) constructed between the 27th century BCE (that of Zoser) to the 16th century BCE (that of Ahmose I). The Bible story of Joseph is set around 1600 BCE, after the heyday of pyramid construction. To broadcast a “personal theory” about the pyramids as grain silos constructed from the mythical Joseph’s time is to insult the intelligence of the audience including the likely voters. (But hasn’t that become the norm?)
Carson also suggested in his speech cited above that “scientists” have taught that the pyramids were created by alien beings. That ought, in a rational world, kill his candidacy right there.
Carson was plainly referencing the ridiculous but then-fashionable New Age book by the Swiss nutcase Erich von Daniken Chariots of the Gods, published in German in1968 (after one-time Nazi screenwriter Wilhelm Ultermann thoroughly re-edited it). It argued that the Egyptian pyramids as well as other ancient monuments were either created by visiting space aliens or created with their technical help.
Egyptologists and scientists in general in fact rose in protest of the book and associated film, noting their intellectual sloppiness and arguing that humanity doesn’t need to explain its achievements by positing extraterrestrial help.
But in his commencement talk Carson implied that “scientists” were actually the ones peddling that nonsense, to which he oddly responded by declaring that you don’t need “an alien being when God is with you.” That is to say, Carson himself (having dissed the serious scientific community) introduced the extraterrestrial element himself—in the form of God, being with Joseph, acting through him to build those pyramid granaries.
As though the ancient Egyptian ruling class could not (like other elites throughout the ancient world with the means at their disposal to mobilize large labor forces) have produced great tombs for their advertised purpose—to glorify the dead rulers—but must instead have built grain storage houses directed by a miraculously promoted foreign slave whose wise actions were inspired by the very creator of the universe.
It is silly, too silly for further comment except for a concluding observation.
It is one thing to say, “Leave the candidate’s religion out of it,” citing the constitutional provision against applying any “religious test…as a qualification to any office.” (Carson apparently disagrees with this himself; two months ago he told a reporter, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.” He added that Islam is not consistent with the U.S. Constitution. This comment drew fire from Mitt Romney among others who accused Carson of attacking freedom of religion and the principle of the separation of church and state.)
It is one thing to be religiously tolerant. It is another thing to say that a candidate’s understanding of history (shaped by religious mythology) should not be a qualification for office; or that his or her ability to grasp historical timelines and causal relationships over time should not be a qualification for office. A candidate’s pompous pronouncements about things he or she does not understand should not be viewed with indulgence. Expressions of stupidity should always be fair game.
When the candidate combines religious fundamentalism, Islamophobic intolerance, a penchant for falsifying a personal past plus the above-described historical cluelessness, he or she should be dropped even by the naïve supporters who think new presidents drawn from the pool the system serves up every four years really bring meaningful change.
Electoral Democracy in America: Myth and Farce
Real change can only come about when the masses see through the electoral farce—manipulated as it is by the One Percent and their media thralls (who work tirelessly to generate enthusiasm over the campaigns while downplaying news stories of far more significance)—and instead of meekly complying with the voting ritual designed to validate the Wall Street-governed bipartisan status quo engage in the meaningful street politics that are the historical wellsprings of real progress.
Years ago Carson told his Andrews student audience that Joseph was one of his favorite figures in the Bible. Perhaps he was already harboring
presidential ambitions, yearning to be like his hero, that outsider-administrator who straightens out the governance of the world’s most powerful state. Maybe that’s why Carson wants to posit Joseph as the builder of pyramids—the most spectacular monuments of antiquity—and to see them as structures constructed under God’s inspiration to serve the state and feed its people, insuring political stability. Maybe Carson, in his quietly muddled brain, conjures up visions of grandeur for himself à la Joseph in Egypt.
(Carson’s U.S.A. rarely suffers from famine—and were it to do so, the globalized imperialist economy would probably supply ample food. But it surely suffers from an absence of rational economic planning, which might serve the needs of the hungry here and some who, like Joseph’s brothers, might venture here in search of sustenance. )
I doubt that he’ll get the nomination. Wall Street will ultimately conclude that he’s too fringe and flakey to defeat whichever Democrat wins the nomination. But it will be grateful to Carson for generating interest in the electoral farce and steering his supporters in due course to the polls for a somewhat more suitable nominee. I doubt that Trump will get it either, although I become less confident on that point as he retains his numbers regardless of the nonsense and venom he spews.
My point is not to trash either Carson or Trump in favor of some other announced candidate; all the leading competitors are in their current positions precisely because they embrace the underlying tenets of capitalist imperialism (which is precisely the problem). None of them deserve your support, or the time you might devote to engaging in the secular ritual of voting (by which you, in the end, are voting for voting itself—recognizing it, legitimating it—endorsing by your participation the bogus notion that “the people choose their leaders”).
By engaging in that rite next year—-supporting Trump or Carson or Rubio or Cruz or Clinton or Sanders—one will vote not so much for a candidate as for the system itself, shaped as it inevitably is by the concentration of wealth used to create public opinion (through the corporate media and five companies that control 80% of what you encounter as “news”), and by the open coffers of Wall Street to virtually “mainstream” politician (including the “socialist” Sanders).
To suppose that the system based on such egregious inequalities and brutality can peacefully accommodate the changes people really want is as irrational as to suppose that a Jew named Joseph was the prime minister of Egypt 3600 years ago and built the pyramids to store grain.