Giza Plateau – The Great Pyramids and Sphinx
The Giza Plateau is just west of the city of Cairo in Egypt. Giza is home to the famous Great Pyramids and Great Sphinx. All of these wonders of the ancient world were completed during the Old Kingdom of Egypt, in the latter half of the 3rd millennium BC, and would have been standing when Abraham came to Egypt to escape a famine.
Giza Plateau – Evidence of Nomadic Visitors
South of the Giza Plateau in Beni Hassan, a famous wall painting with text showing a journey into Egypt survives. Dated to about 1870 BC, it depicts 15 pastoral, nomadic Semites entering Egypt just like Abraham, and in the same general time period. Although there is no mention of the Great Pyramids and Sphinx in the account about Abraham going to Egypt, or even later when Joseph and his family are in Egypt, they likely all saw these wonders. However, since it is a necropolis -- a graveyard -- it plays no significant role in their lives. Abraham does go to see the Pharaoh at his palace though, which at this time would have been at the city of Itjtawy, possibly located around Lisht, a Middle Kingdom royal cemetery south of the Giza Plateau. Here, Abraham may have encountered the Pharaoh and seen the two pyramid complexes of Amenemhat I and Senusret I, which still stand. Abraham did not stay long, however, and returned to the land of Canaan where he raised his son, Isaac.
Interestingly, there is an ancient Egyptian text about a man who had a lifestyle similar to that of Abraham. Called “The Tale of Sinuhe,” it was written around Abraham’s time in about 1900 BC. It is the story of a man from Egypt who goes to the Levant and becomes a nomad chief living in tents, moving from place to place, raising livestock, commanding a small force of men, and having various adventures.
Giza Plateau – Connection to the Exodus Account
The Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau may have an interesting connection to the Exodus story -- an inscription on the front, commissioned by Thutmose IV, says he received a divine promise that the kingship would be given to him. It describes a dream Thutmose IV had after falling asleep at the Great Sphinx. In his dream Harmakhis, god of the Sphinx, told him that he would become Pharaoh even though he had not expected to become the ruler. The inscription suggests that Thutmose IV, son of Amenhotep II, did not have a natural claim to the throne, forcing him to fabricate a divine promise in order to solidify his legitimacy as the next Pharaoh. Perhaps Thutmose IV was not the natural heir to the throne, but the death of his older brother, the first born, allowed him to gain power.
The ruins of the Giza Plateau also contain the funerary town of Queen Khentkawes of the 4th Dynasty. Though earlier than the time the Israelites were in Egypt, this funerary town contains houses of three types -- mansion, large, and small -- that the Israelites would have been familiar with and even lived in at times.
Giza Plateau – Memphis and Beyond
Just south of the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile is the ancient capital of Memphis. Memphis was one of the oldest, largest, and most important cities in Egypt. It covers an estimated 1136 acres and was originally called Ineb Hedj, meaning “white walls.” The current name of Memphis comes from the Greek transliteration of the name for the pyramid of Pepi I, which was called Men-nefer, “enduring and beautiful.” Memphis was the first capital, and was strategically situated where the Nile began to branch out. At Memphis, there are several temples and palaces, including a palace of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Merenptah. Moses may have walked the halls of a similar palace during his days in Egypt.