Imhotep Appointed Later in Djoser's Reign
There are several other items concerning Imhotep which continue to fit the
Biblical account. We know that the pharaoh of Joseph had been king for an
unknown period of time when Joseph was finally brought to him to interpret his
And the evidence shows that Imhotep was not Djoser's vizier earlier in
his reign- in fact, no mention is made at all of Imhotep on Djoser's earlier
monuments. Imhotep was not the architect of Djoser's tomb built at Beit Khallaf,
which was probably undertaken soon after he became king. In this earlier tomb,
which is similar to the preceding dynasties as Sakkara, there are clay sealings
of jars which record Djoser's name, his mother's name, and the names of numerous
other officials from his reign- but not Imhotep's, which indicates that he
hadn't been appointed to his position yet. The standard practice was for the
pharaoh always to appoint men to office as soon as he took the throne, with
family members being the highest ranked.
All available information about Imhotep continues to point to his
identification with Joseph. For example, in some inscriptions, his titles
indicate that he was not a member of the royal family, but a "self-made man".
This was unique because the son of the pharaoh was usually the vizier.
Imhotep was also the "priest of Heliopolis", the Biblical "On". Now in the
story of Joseph, we learn that his father-in-law was the "priest of On" at the
time of Joseph's marriage:
GEN 41:45 And Pharaoh called Joseph's name
Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah
priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.
was old enough to marry Joseph at this time, it follows that her father was
probably at least in his forties. And in ancient Egypt, the people didn't live
too much longer than about 50. At his death or disability, it follows that his
son-in-law would be assigned his position, especially if that son-in-law were so
highly regarded by the pharaoh as Joseph was.
If Joseph became the "Priest of On", was he being unfaithful to the true God?
Absolutely not- the pharaoh had recognized the power of the God of Joseph, and
even though the Egyptians remained idolaters, Joseph made them aware of his God
and was unswerving in his loyalty to Him. The "Priest of On" was not termed the
priest of a particular god- but the title instead seems to indicate a position
of high honor and political importance.