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King Djoser’s Dream or Prophet Joseph’s Prophecy? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Do you remember the strange dream recounted by the King of Egypt to Prophet Joseph? ‘The king said: ‘I saw in a dream seven fat kine, whom seven lean ones devour, and seven green ears of corn, and seven (others) withered. O ye chiefs! Expound to me my vision if it be that ye can interpret visions,’ [Surat Yusuf: 43].

Prophet Joseph interpreted the dream saying that Egypt will experience famine for seven years. This story is mentioned in the Holy Quran.

It seems that Prophet Joseph’s prophecy came true. Archaeologists discovered a Pharaonic inscription on a large rock on the banks of the River Nile in the heart of Sehel Island situated to the south of Aswan, the last of Egypt’s southern governorates. This inscription won a lot of acclaim among Egyptologists for a number of reasons. The inscription portrays an important event and the written text on it dates back to the reign of King Ptolemy II, the second of the Ptolemaic kings to rule Egypt after Alexander the Great marched into Egypt in 332 BC.

The inscription depicts the story of a famine that struck Egypt during the reign of King Djoser, the first king of the Third Dynasty of the Old Kingdom (2649 BC). The famine occurred because of the low Nile waters and low floods that lasted seven years. The king became more and more agitated and matters deteriorated across the country. The king then asked the high priest to investigate the matter in order to find a solution.

The king then received a report confirming that the city of Abu (present-day Aswan) is the place that controls the flow of the Nile water. The story goes that in a dream, King Djoser saw Khnum, the god of the source of the Nile River in Elphantine (Aswan), who appeared to the king to remind him of his power and control over the Nile water and the river’s source. When King Djoser woke up, he realized that Khnum was the one controlling the Nile water and that he had to appease him. So he allocated vast areas of fertile agricultural land to his worshippers where they could practice worshipping Khnum.

There are two different opinions amongst researchers regarding this inscription: the first viewpoint, which is shared by the famous French Egyptologist Gaston Maspero, states that the entire story was concocted by the priests of Khnum in the Elphantine area. The second view is that the story is in fact an old one and that the way this inscription is written expresses Old Kingdom vernacular. For this reason, people of this view believe or strongly assume that the story is of ancient origin and was written on stone or another material but was exposed to damage over time.

This interpretation is still acceptable among Egyptologists today. The style of writing confirms that this inscription comes from an ancient text that perhaps dates back to King Djoser’s era.

What concerns us now is that some experts have tried to link the story of the famine, which lasted around seven years in the days of King Djoser, to the story of Prophet Joseph, who witnessed, whilst in Egypt, seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine, and yet, managed to steer the country out of danger by taking certain measures and precautions.