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The Great Famine of 2350–2000 BCE

The Great Famine was the background for the story of Joseph and his brethren in Egypt. It lasted about 150 years and it is normally not taught with ancient history courses. It was perhaps the single event which had the greatest impact on history. It is also the background for the story of the plagues of Moses. The 400 years that separate Joseph and Moses is a biblical redaction. They both existed under the same pharaoh, Pepi II. I personally do not consider Joseph and Moses to be historical characters as portrayed in the Bible, but for those who do, this would have been the era in which they existed.

Egypt was protected from the worst of such uncertain calamities by its unique irrigation system. Famine in their lands drove Libyans and the Bedouin of Sinai and the Negeb to graze their flocks on the borders of the Delta, at the same time Joseph’s brethren went into Egypt. The evils caused by famine—poverty, social upheaval, and anarchy—brought others in their train, among them plague and sterility. A deep and lasting impression was left on the ancient Egyptians by the trauma of those times, so that in later literary works, such as the Prophecy of Neferti and the Admonitions of Ipuwer, when the writer wished to depict mankind tormented by intolerable miseries, he chose the sufferings of this period.

A papyrus called the Admonitions of Ipuwer describes a catastrophe similar to the Exodus. The author complains of a lack of authority, justice, and social order—as if the central authority no longer had the will or power to keep control. He also complains about barbarians and foreigners in a way that makes the country appear to have been invaded. No one is planting crops because of future uncertainty. The public offices have been broken into. Records of who is a serf and who is a master have been taken. The pharaoh’s granaries have been looted by the people. Every household has some dead. The southernmost districts are not paying taxes. Ipuwer complains that the Nile has strangely turned to blood and says, “If one drinks it, one rejects it as human (blood) and thirsts for water.” He writes, “Grain is perished on every side.” Pepi II ruled over Egypt during this time. He was made a pharaoh at age six and reigned for ninety-four years. He decentralized the government by giving wealth from his treasury to local governors. According to Manetho, his successor was Merenre II. Merenre reigned for one year and was supposedly followed by Queen Nitocris, who was “braver than all the men of her time, the most beautiful of all women, fair skinned with red cheeks.” At this time anarchy broke out in Egypt and would last 140 years. The end of the Sixth Dynasty is marked as 2181 BCE.

Herodotus [ii, 100] claims that before the legendary Nitocris the ruler was her brother, to whom he assigns no name. This ruler was slain by a conspiracy of Egyptians who then turned the kingdom over to Nitocris. She subsequently devised a plan for vengeance. Nitocris created an underground chamber and invited those responsible for her brother’s death to a feast. When the party was gathered, she opened up a flood gate and killed those responsible with the waters of the Nile. She then set herself on fire to escape punishment. There are no historical records to support this passage of Herodotus or the existence of this queen. However, it would be safe to say that if there was a ruler in Egypt during this period of anarchy, his or her reign would have been short-lived.

If we put the pieces together, we discover that Merenre is the pharaoh of the supposed Exodus, who in reality was killed by his own people. The drowning of the Egyptians in the Nile is signified by the “paw” of Cetus crossing the Eridanus. This is a common element in both stories. Nitocris sets fire to herself, another element of the Eridanus, which is also known as a “river of fire.”

The story of Moses infers that the first pharaoh reigned for a long time, and the second one—the pharaoh of the Exodus—for a short period of time. That would coincide with the reigns of Pepi II and Merenre II. According to a midrash, the Pharaoh of the Exodus was named Adikam. He had a short reign of four years before drowning in the Red Sea. The Pharaoh who preceded him, and whose death prompted Moses’ return to Egypt (Exodus 2:23, 4:19), was named Malul. Malul, we are told, reigned from the age of six to the age of one hundred. This is an extremely close match. Only one pharaoh in all of Egypt ruled for that long and exact a period, and that was Pepi II.

In Egypt there was a celebration known as the Festival of Intoxication. According to the Egyptian tale, Hathor was bent on destroying mankind. Ra tricked her into drinking beer laced with mandrake and red ocher. He then flooded Egypt with this drugged beer. Hathor, believing the drink to be blood, consumed so much that she passed out.The red element of the flooding of Egypt reminds me of the plagues of the Great Famine when the Nile “turned to blood.”

This is most likely the origin of the Dionysus/Bacchus rituals, which would culminate in a drunken orgy. Aristotle claimed this was the origin of plays.

Diodorus, writing in the first century BCE, declares “the rite of Osiris is the same as that of Dionysus and that of Isis very similar to that of Demeter, the names alone having been interchanged” (Persian War, I). And again, “Osiris is the one whom the Greeks call Dionysus.” Plutarch reiterates that Osiris and Dionysus are identical (Isis and Osiris), and declares that the public ceremonies of Osiris in Egypt and those of Dionysus in Greece are the same. The conclusion would be that the Great Famine caused a feeling of impending doom, which led to a profligate society characterized by drinking and promiscuity. This would have remained in the culture both as a religious celebration and as a representation in the stars. The phrase “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die” easily could have originated in this time period.

It is speculated that the Osiris/Dionysus cult of the drunken feast was initiated with King Sesostris (also Senusret), who ruled Egypt from 1971–1926 BCE. In Greece, the cow-horned Demeter was associated with Dionysus and assumed the role of Hathor as the initiator of destruction. Demeter attempted to destroy mankind with a great famine when her daughter Kore was abducted. The cause of the Great Famine is conjectured by some to have been a series of gigantic meteor collisions with the planet Earth. Such meteors strike the Earth about every 3000 years. One strike occurred circa 500 CE. A subsequent strike is predicted for 3000 CE. It is not important that the Great Famine was caused by meteor strikes, only that ancient man associated the two events. Most scientists believe the Great Famine had other causes and the strikes were coincidental.

Ancient astrologers claimed that a comet in the constellation Draco scattered poison all over the Earth. The Egyptian goddess Hathor, who attempted to destroy the Earth, is represented by the constellation Draco in the planisphere of Denderah.

What is significant about this event is that it was at the close of a “World Age,” or time of an equinox change, which saw the destruction of Egypt as a world power (Taurus, the passing World Age) and the rise of Babylon (Aries, the New World Age). Because of this event I would conjecture that equinox precession became associated with changes in world leadership and destruction; hence, the Book of Revelation written at the conjunction of two World Ages.

Draco became the serpent which represented Satan. In Revelation we have a prediction of the same scenario. The star “wormwood” will destroy large portions of the Earth just as it did before. This will release the armies of Gog and Magog—the armies of the north—i.e., of Draco, the northern constellation. Rome is considered Babylon for astrological purposes; the Bible makes that metaphor clear.

Rome was expected to fall, as Egypt had, at the collapse of the previous equinox precession. In the new equinox, Pisces will rule, as the Jews believed Israel was represented by Pisces. This is why Israel fought Rome against overwhelming odds. They believed in the astrological forecast that Rome would fall and be replaced by their own nation. All they needed was a messiah to lead them. Because Jacob (Israel) called Esau (Edom, Rome) “lord” eight times, Rome would have exactly eight rulers of Israel.
However, Israel did not conquer Rome and this led to changes in their views about astrology. When Josephus declared that Vespasian ruled by Divine Providence he was in fact declaring that Rome would rule Pisces. Others declared that “there was no star [constellation] for Israel.”

A compromise was reached. Pisces would represent the Hebrew people, not their territory. Thus (according to some theories), the Jews as a people (and not as Israel), would control the world for the next word age.