Did Abraham Change Egypt -- By: Michael A. Harbin

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 28:2 (Spring 2015)
Article: Did Abraham Change Egypt
Author: Michael A. Harbin

Did Abraham Change Egypt

Michael A. Harbin

During my last trip to Egypt, our guide made several statements that challenged me. One of the most significant was his assertion that Abraham was the man who changed Egypt.1 I was rather dubious. As we learned during the trip, our guide, Mido, was not just a guide, but was also finishing his PhD in archaeology at the University in Cairo. He was also a Coptic Christian who took the Bible seriously. Still, I must admit that his assertion about Abraham seemed somewhat overzealous. Since my return, I have done some research on his assertion and discovered that it is not an unfounded premise. But, while there is supporting evidence, the strength of the evidence is still debatable. In this article I want to look at three key points which underlie his thesis. But before we do that, we need to provide some background.

Abraham And His Trip To Egypt

Abraham’s trip to Egypt is presented as having taken place not long after he arrived in Canaan in Genesis 12. In Genesis 12:4, we learn that Abraham was 75 when he left Haran to go to Canaan. If Abraham was born in 2166 BC (based on an early date for the Exodus of 1446 BC), this means that he arrived in Canaan in 2091 BC.2 In Genesis 16:16 we learn that Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born, and Genesis 16:3 states that he was in Canaan ten years prior to being given Hagar (an Egyptian) “as his wife.” Given this data, the window in which he made his trip to Egypt would have been approximately 2090–2080 BC, and based on the Genesis text it would seem most likely to have been during the early part of that decade. If that is so, then this would have been during the First Intermediate Period of Egyptian history, which is dated approximately 2134–2040 BC.3

The First Intermediate Period is a time during which Egypt was divided with competing dynasties. The Old Kingdom essentially had passed away with the end of the Sixth Dynasty following the death of Pepy II, circa 2150 BC. The next half century or so was a period of turmoil. Manetho, the Egyptian historian from the third century BC, characterized the subsequent Seventh and Eighth Dynasties as a period of “many short-lived kings.”4 By about the middle of the 22nd century BC things seem to have stabilized somewhat, although Egypt was still divided. In the north we find the Ninth and Tenth Dynasties c...

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