Biblical Archaeology Review 44:4, July/August 2018

Pharaoh’s Man, ‘Abdiel: The Vizier with a Semitic Name

By Alain Zivie

The purpose of this article is to introduce ‘Aper-El, the “vizier and father of the god,” to the readers of Biblical Archaeology Review. This man was indeed a prominent character of New Kingdom Egypt. His floruit was in the last decades of the 18th Dynasty, under the reigns of both Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), corresponding to the famous Amarna period in its broader definition (c. 1391–1353 B.C.). Usually known under the Egyptian spelling of his name, ‘Aper-El or ‘Aperel (but certainly not ‘Aper-el, as we find sometimes, because El is the name of a divinity and as such requires a capital letter), his fame expands beyond the circle of Egyptologists. This Egyptian man also piques the interest of specialists of the Near East and the Late Bronze Age, as well as of Biblical scholars and historians of religion, for two reasons: first, because of his Semitic name containing the name of the god El, known also from the Bible, and, second, because of his connection with the pharaoh Akhenaten, too often presented as the “creator” of monotheism.

The name ‘Aper-El is written in Egyptian ‘Aperiar (‘pri3r), with iar (i3r) being an Egyptian spelling for ial (i3l). Let us also note that the name can be sometimes shortened to ‘Aperia (‘pri3). We recognize in the second element, i3r/l, the Egyptian way of writing “El,” the name of a prominent Syro-Canaanite god, which later became a designation of God in the Bible (also appearing in its plural form, Elohim). But in its singular form, the name was used in other Biblical names, many of which are still in use today, like Daniel, Raphael, etc. As for the first element, ‘aper (‘pr), even if it recalls an Egyptian verb meaning “to equip,” it is an attested way of writing a non-Egyptian word: the Semitic ‘abed (‘abd, ‘abdou), or “servant.” Therefore, the name of ‘Aper-El (or ‘Aperel) was in fact pronounced something like ‘Abdiel (‘Abdi-El), and it meant “the servant of the god El” (not “the servant of God”!). As for the shortened form ‘Aperia, it could have been pronounced something like ‘Abdi or ‘Abdou.1 In that respect the vizier’s name can be compared with theophoric names from Egypt’s New Kingdom, referring to other Syro-Canaanite names associated with the element ‘abed written ‘aper: ‘Aper-Reshef (‘Abdireshef), ‘Aper-‘Astarté (‘Abdiashtoret), ‘Aper-Degel (‘Abdidegel), etc.2 Therefore, we shall call the subject of the present article ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El)—and shall turn to the question of his identity and supposed origins later. First, a short presentation of his tomb, his career, and his family and time is necessary.

With its exceptional contents, his tomb at Saqqara is not only the main source for our knowledge of ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El), but the only one.3 ‘Abdiel was buried with his wife and one of his sons, probably the elder one, in Saqqara, the main necropolis of Memphis. His rock-cut tomb (hypogeum) is located almost at the southeast corner of the cliff, in the zone known as the Bubasteion, a part of the necropolis known in Pharaonic time as the “escarpment of ‘Ankhtawy” (dhnt nt ‘nkht3wy). Being the first of a series of tomb entrances on the same side, the tomb is referenced as Bubasteion I.1 (I for the upper level of tombs, 1 because it is the first on a line going westward). The tomb had been entered by British archaeologist William Flinders Petrie in 1881, who copied some signs visible in accessible parts of the chapel (level 0). Among other unpublished notes, Petrie’s copy is kept by the Griffith Institute in Oxford, where I consulted it, shortly after entering the tomb in 1976 and beginning my study of its decors and inscriptions slightly more than a century after the visit of Petrie. This hypogeum and others close to it—and all of the Bubasteion with its New Kingdom rock tombs, which had been reused later as cats’ catacombs—were revealed to have been completely ignored in spite of their outstanding interest and their importance for our knowledge of the Amarna period in its broader sense. So began the resurrection of the vizier ‘Aperia (‘Aper-El), as he was usually called after this exploration. It became a real archaeological adventure.4

The next step was the exploration, excavation, and preservation of his tomb, a task to which this writer has been completely devoted since 1980 with the French Archaeological Mission of the Bubasteion (MAFB), supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of course, all the work has been done in close connection with the Organization of Egyptian Antiquities, which became the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Antiquities, headed since 2011 by the Ministry of Antiquities.

From several points of view, this tomb is exceptional, as were its discovery and the difficulties and the risks of its excavation. Other tombs of the same period, of great artistic and historical interest, have been discovered close to ‘Abdiel’s (‘Aper-El’s): particularly Bubasteion I.19 of the artist Thutmes (or Thutmose), who painted and engraved his own tomb and who was found to be the creator of the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti, presently kept in Berlin,a and of Maïa (Bubasteion I.20), the foster mother of Tutankhamun, who was found to be the princess Merytaten, the elder daughter of Akhenaten and sister of the king, who sat briefly on the throne and functioned as a kind of regent before her brother was crowned.5

The tomb is large and deep with four levels corresponding to the chapel (level 0) and the funerary apartments (levels -1, -2, and -3) connected by stairs and shafts. The chapel includes a poorly preserved rectangular room with unfinished decoration, which opens onto a large square room separated into three parts by the presence of four square pillars also hewn from the rock. These partly decorated pillars suffered a lot of damage, and the southeast one is now completely missing due to Late Period transformations. The ceiling was decorated, as was the rear wall, which includes three rock-cut niches. The main niche, in the middle, had been painted first on its three sides, and later the bottom had been engraved.

After a short stair and the first funerary apartment level -1, which was hewn as a passage turning toward the west, a deep shaft of some 26 feet led to level -2, consisting of a rectangular room off of which open seven small rooms that were used as storage places for ceramic vessels, including grain and wine jars (not to speak of later human inhumations). This level had been “visited” before us and suffered extensively. Moreover rock collapses had occurred, the last one between two seasons of excavation, so that a huge work of consolidation had to be done with the help of a French civil works company (now Vinci) working on the Cairo subway. The marl clay had “melted” in many places because of the water from the plateau above. But it was worthwhile to continue excavation and take some risks because during our first exploration, we had noticed another shaft in a lateral room on level -2, visibly leading to a fourth level—level -3. The shaft had a depth of some 26 feet, like the previous one. Once excavated and emptied, the floor of level -3 appeared, with a few steps, leading through a gallery to a small room that contained the remains of later, largely destroyed inhumations. Our disappointment was great, but the excavation permitted us to notice that there was still another room—hidden on purpose under false steps at the entrance of the gallery. The remains of the official seal of the necropolis (a jackal with nine prisoners, as in Tutankhamun’s tomb) were still visible. That was the funerary room, which had been “visited” in antiquity, but never more after that.

After its long and painstaking excavation, the funerary room of the vizier ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El) at Saqqara (tomb Bubasteion I.1) was construed as having contained the remains of three persons and an abundance of exceptional funerary equipment, which reflects the prominence of the characters for whom it was prepared and attests to its own high archaeological and artistic value.6

The vizier, his wife, and one of their sons had been indeed buried in this hypogeum. They had been mummified. But due to the wild ancient plundering of the room and the burials, and also because of water damage, we found only the skeletons, identified with certitude by the study of the coffin fragments and inscribed objects associated with each burial. This identification has been confirmed by a close study of the human remains, performed in the mission’s former lab at the site of Saqqara. The anthropological and radiographic analyses revealed interesting elements about the age, condition, etc., of this small family.7 But we presently have no indications about the space of time that could have separated these successive burials—unless they were buried (or reburied) at the same time. The lack of thematic or artistic differences between the coffins and the funerary material gives the feeling that they were all prepared more or less at the same time.

The study of the rich and often superb material—inscribed or not—discovered in the funerary room continues to bring new insight into the reigns of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten), and their aftermath, during which this family had its floruit. It must be emphasized here that the quality of many pieces of the equipment found in this Memphite tomb, and particularly the coffins, is comparable to similar objects discovered in the Theban tomb, Kings Valley 46, of the parents of the queen Tiy: Yuya and Tuya. The condition of many elements of this material, and particularly the wooden coffins, was alas bad and in some cases even hopeless. The room had been plundered in antiquity and had suffered damage from water and humidity for centuries. Nevertheless, with its conservators and the support of the Inspectorate of Saqqara, the French Archaeological Mission of the Bubasteion (MAFB) succeeded to give meaning to many fragments and to restore some wooden objects, including some coffins lids.

With a thorough study of the fragments of coffins discovered in the room, we can state that each member of the family had been buried in three wood anthropoid sarcophagi, fitting into each other, most probably kept in rectangular wooden coffins. Some of them were gilded, and the inner coffins of each character were particularly richly decorated with glass inlays, similar to the coffins of Yuya and Tuya. But note that ‘Abdiel’s wife had three coffins, while Yuya’s wife had only two!

Among the most important and often gorgeous artifacts discovered in the tomb are the inscribed stone canopic jars (four for each person); an ivory spoon for cosmetics, taking the shape of a gold fish (tilapia nilotica); a stuccoed wood support for a wig, representing the head of a young woman with big earrings;8 and a wood votive cubit, mentioning many titles, positions, and honorific epithets of ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El) himself.9 Some of these objects are now exhibited in the Imhotep Museum, built at the entrance of the site of Saqqara. As for objects and jewels made of or including gold, whether complete or fragmentary, they have been transferred to the Egyptian Museum, Cairo, where they are exhibited.10 A diadem, found close to the skull of the vizier and composed of colored beads and elements of gold, is particularly remarkable.11

As we discovered from the inscriptions on his tomb and his funerary material, ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El) had several titles, corresponding to very important functions and to the highest rank at the court and in the state. The most used one is “chief of the town, vizier” (mr niwt tj3ty), which is usually rendered as “vizier.” But he also held the title, often mentioned just before his name, of “father of the god” (it ntjr), with “god” referring to the Egyptian king. This title implies a real proximity to the sovereign for whom its bearer was a kind of senior adviser and refers to a king whom the bearer had known as a child and helped to educate. Two other prominent men, once generals of the chariotry, held the title “father of the god”: Yuya, the step-father of Amenhotep III, and Ay, who became king after Tutankhamun, but neither had been vizier.

We must also note that ‘Abdiel had been during his career a “general of the horses,” that is, of the chariotry (mr ssmwt), according to a title on an object discovered in his funerary room—here again, like Yuya and Ay. Moreover his (elder?) son Huy also became a prominent officer of the army, “general-in-chief” (mr msh‘ wr).

Most interesting among his titles, also mentioned on the same object, are “chief in the entire land” (mr pr m t3 r-djr.f) and “child of the kap” (khrd n k3p), often translated as “child of the nursery” but better rendered as “child of the palace.” The holder of this last title had grown up or had been educated in the palace (the private part connected with the harem) with the future king. As far as we know, no other vizier is known as having been a “child of the kap.”

As already mentioned, ‘Abdiel had held the title of general of chariotry. Therefore, it is interesting to note that in the same inscription, he is also called “messenger of the king,” usually rendered by “ambassador of the king” (wpwty nsw), a function that could have had a link to his military rank and expeditions.

Two other important titles must be mentioned. They are found in the chapel of the tomb, but are not well preserved, and their complete reading is not absolutely certain. The first one is “director of the foster fathers and mothers of the children of the king” (mr mn‘w/wt msw nsw). It indicates that ‘Abdiel was responsible for the officials or wives of officials, the royal foster fathers and mothers who were in charge of feeding and educating the princes and princesses. This could be connected to the title of “father of the god [the king],” which ‘Abdiel bears in many inscriptions.

The second title was found close to the previous one in the chapel and reads “first servant of Aten in …” (b3k tpy n Itn m …); the end is not readable. That title would prove that ‘Abdiel had an early—potentially already under Amenhotep III—and high connection with the cult of Aten, perhaps first in Memphis and later in Akhetaten, the new “sacred” capital founded by Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). All these titles and functions attest to a personal link between ‘Abdiel (and perhaps his elder son as well) and one or, more likely, two pharaohs, the father and son Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV.

No inscription has been found, either on the tomb itself, or in the material discovered in the funerary room, which mentions the father and the mother of ‘Abdiel or the parents of his wife. We know neither their brothers nor sisters. But that fact is not so exceptional, even with high-ranking people like them, during this period. This is almost always the case with the high officials’ tombs of Akhetaten (Tell El-Amarna), which are chronologically and “politically” close to ‘Abdiel’s tomb. But here, too, we must be wary of quick conclusions. In Akhetaten’s tombs, the situation is more radical; even the wives and children of the owners are generally not mentioned, which is not the case with the vizier’s tomb at Saqqara.

There are different spellings of the name of ‘Abdiel’s wife, buried with him in the tomb. In the chapel, she is named Uriai (Wriai). Because we also found a mention of the name Tauret (T3wrt), “the great one,” on the funerary material, her complete name could have been a reference to the goddess (with the hippopotamus shape) Thueris—sometimes shortened to Wriai, without the feminine article ta. Close to Uriai’s remains, we discovered a golden ring with the figure of the goddess Thueris. It could have been used as her personal seal. At the same time, it is not completely impossible that the vizier’s wife also had (or possibly first had) the name Mut (Mwt), sometimes shortened to Mutuy or Tui. Of course this name became totally excluded in the Amarna period, because it refers to the goddess Mut, who was ostracized like the god Amun.

As mentioned above, one of ‘Abdiel’s sons, probably the elder one, was also buried in the tomb. His name was Huy (Hwy), which is usually an abbreviation of the name Amenhotep or Amenophis (Imnhtp), similar to the name of the kings Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (later changed to Akhenaten). But in its complete spelling, the name referred to the main god Amun, who was defaced everywhere with the triumph of the god Aten during the Amarna period, even in the royal name “Amenhotep.” We find a clear confirmation of this fact on an inscription of the inner coffin of ‘Abdiel’s son: his name was first written “Amenhotep,” but was later modified and replaced by the shortened form “Huy,” eliminating the overt reference to Amun.

We can see that this man occupied the highest military functions, as he was a general of the chariotry (“director of the horses”) like his father at a certain stage, and a “scribe of the recruits” (ssh nfrw). He even ascended to the rank of “general-in-chief” (mer mesh‘a wr). In another field of activity, he had the title of “director of all the works of the gods.” Moreover, we observe that the chapel of the tomb mentions him in several places, not only as the one who “makes the name of his father live”—as is a typical role for a son in Egypt—but almost as a co-owner of the tomb with his father. We observe indeed that the two west pillars of the hall are devoted to ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El), and that the northeast one is entirely devoted to “the general-in-chief Huy, son of the vizier ‘Aper-El.” It is likely that the southeast pillar was also associated with Huy, but we cannot find a confirmation because it had been destroyed by ancient rock collapses and replaced by a big masonry filling in a later period.

We have a feeling that the father and the son held their respective positions almost at the same time. So the tomb which was initially only for ‘Abdiel also could have become the tomb of his son, perhaps because the son died rather early (around the age of 35 according to the study of his remains).

There were other children in the family. Tauret’s skeleton indicates that she had been a mother several times. This is also confirmed by a defaced representation in the central niche of the chapel, which shows that the family had included several children, at least one daughter and three sons, counting Huy. The two other sons, probably younger, were pursuing important careers, too. They are represented in the first room of the chapel, on the southwest pillar, and in the central niche, where they occupy a central place. They are symmetrically depicted performing rituals in front of ‘Abdiel. On the east side, we see the vizier and his son Seny (Sny, perhaps a shortened form of Sennefer), who is a steward (mr pr) with other titles and epithets connecting him to the king and seems to follow his father’s civil career. On the western wall of the niche, ‘Abdiel, who is shown wearing a wig and not in the apparatus of a vizier, appears with another son: Hatiay (H3ti3i), certainly a diminutive, in front of him. This son was a first servant or high priest (hm-ntjer tpy) of Nefertum, the god son of the Memphite triad. This title perhaps denotes a still minor role due to his young age. (After all, the most important gods of Memphis were the two elder members of the triad, Ptah and his wife, Sekhmet). All this shows that these two sons were already at least young adults. But it is not clear if they occupy such a place in the chapel’s niche because the elder son, Huy, had already died by the time the tomb’s decoration took place.

One of the main characteristics of the tomb is its direct connection with the Amarna period, which is the center of much interest and many heated debates. But it is difficult to situate precisely the full career of the tomb’s main owner, ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El), within the reigns of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). The man could have lived most of his adult life under and served both kings. As for his elder son Huy, he would have served mainly or solely the pharaoh Amenhotep IV. There would not have been a strict symmetry between the fathers, ‘Abdiel and Amenhotep III, and the sons, Huy and Amenhotep IV. Things cannot be so simple, especially as the history of the Amarna period in its broader definition (from the last years of Amenhotep III until the reign of Tutankhamun) is not so firmly established. In that context, the tomb Bubasteion I.1 of Saqqara certainly constitutes a new and welcome source of information on the Amarna period, but as it is, this information is still unclear. We do not yet have a complete idea of the role that ‘Abdiel played during that period, even if it was evidently a very important one.

The few precisely dated elements discovered in the tomb include a royal cartouche partly defaced on a wall of the chapel. It could have been Nebmaâtrâ, the praenomen of Amenhotep III, but the question remains open. Among the many objects of the funerary material, clear cartouches of Amenhotep III have nevertheless been discovered (with, in one case, the cartouche of his wife, Queen Tiy). Clay sealings referring to Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) were also found in the disorder of the plundered funerary room. Moreover, we discovered wine jars with hieratic dockets mentioning the general Huy associated with year 10 of the reign of Akhenaten,12 giving a terminus ante quem for the life of Huy. Finally, we must stress that the funerary apparatus of the three persons buried in the tomb forms a very coherent ensemble. There is no real difference of style, and further it refers to the Osirian funerary tradition as it appears from the coffins, etc.—as if the Amarna crisis were not so pregnant in that Memphite tomb, except for changes like the name of Amenhotep transformed to Huy on the son’s inner coffin. All that is surprising, more so as we face burials which perhaps did not occur at the same time.

In any case, one fact seems clear: ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El) had been particularly close to the two kings, Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten). He had played an important role at the side of the first sovereign, but he also must have continued to work for and with the second one, in spite of the changing political and religious circumstances—perhaps because he had supervised the foster fathers and mothers of Amenhotep III’s children. So, with ‘Abdiel, the Amarna crisis does not prevent us from discerning a kind of continuity in Egyptian politics, even if some paradigms changed. It is also clear that the role of ‘Abdiel during this period is not acknowledged as it deserves. After all, he is the only attested high official of this period who had been vizier, “father of the god,” and “child of the palace.”

Taking all that data into account, we can qualify ‘Abdiel with the title of “Pharaoh’s man”—or even, perhaps more precisely, “the Pharaohs’ man,” referring to Amenhotep III and IV. But perhaps he died too early in the reign of Akhenaten, possibly like his elder son, to play a role at the end of the Amarna period, unlike his contemporaries (and possible rivals), the two future kings Ay and Horemheb. It is difficult to admit, but we have apparently no other mention of this man in spite of his importance.13

But we must take also into account that he may have been known under another name, a shortened name, or a nickname. Elsewhere he may be mentioned by this other name, as often happens in Egypt for New Kingdom officials, particularly during the Amarna period in its broader definition. (We also have examples of double names in other tombs of the Bubasteion). In that respect, a path of research is by now being explored by this writer, which may soon lead to an interesting identification. However, because there are still facts to check, I shall refrain from any possible identification without a solid basis, if not real evidence.14

It is noteworthy that ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El) is often presented in scholarly literature as a “foreigner.” Of course, this affirmation is founded solely on his name. But a non-Egyptian name does not imply that the individual was a “non-Egyptian.” Rather it denotes a foreign origin, or the foreign origin of the individual’s father and/or mother, which is not the same. In the case of our vizier, we can say that everything in his tomb (the names of the members of his family, funerary apparatus, gods mentioned, etc.) is Egyptian and only Egyptian.

Nevertheless, a foreign origin or foreign connections of the vizier is not totally excluded. But at the same time, we must remember that “oriental” names, particularly Syro-Canaanite ones, could be appreciated in the cosmopolitan New Kingdom, even in the royal family (e.g., a daughter of Ramesses II was named Bint’anath, “Daughter of Anath”). Moreover, ‘Abdiel was a “child of the palace.” This fact does not necessitate that he was a foreigner, as some Egyptologists have thought (that the “children of the palace” would have been the children of foreign chiefs educated at the court). But it implies that he was in Egypt since a young age and perhaps since his birth.15

As a matter of fact, ‘Abdiel is sometimes, if not often, the object of speculation because of his “foreign” (Semitic) name, moreover referring to the god El, and his links to the palace and the king Akhenaten. Fragile or even baseless assumptions can be found here and there, which sometimes mix epochs and sources. At the same time, there is one apparent paradoxical fact: Very few (i.e., almost no) tombs of Egyptian high officials of this period with such rich funerary material still in situ comparable to the tomb of Yuya and Tuya have been discovered, excavated, and studied. (The plunderers of the 19th century likely unearthed several of them). And when such a discovery is made, it is a tomb lost among late mummified cats. It is not in Thebes, but in Memphis. And, moreover, this tomb belongs to a man of possibly foreign origin with a Semitic name. So, it would seem that the story of ‘Abdiel is admittedly difficult to integrate into our greater knowledge of the New Kingdom and the Amarna period. Yet we know by several examples that in New Kingdom Egypt people who came from elsewhere could intermix as though in a deep melting pot. And some, if not many, advanced to high positions.

But at this final stage of the presentation of ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El), I must mention a question which cannot be avoided, even if it is highly speculative, if not to say phantasmal. I feel obliged to mention it, particularly in the present article. Although perhaps of foreign origin, ‘Abdiel ascended to a great social position and was particularly close to the king or kings of Egypt. Therefore, to the mind of any Egyptologist, specialist of the ancient Near East, Biblical scholar, etc., comes the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, in the Book of Genesis. This beautiful narrative shows the ascension of a young “Oriental” to the rank of second to the king of Egypt. Previously we knew some (few) examples of historical ascensions of this kind to illustrate the story of Joseph, but none situating the hero at the level of vizier, “father of the god,” and other high titles. There is no doubt that the discovery of ‘Abdiel changes the situation. But the analogy has limits. We speak here of illustrating, not confirming or invalidating the story of Joseph. There is a fundamental difference between the natures of archaeological and historical research on one hand, and a literary narrative with national and religious implications on the other. As an Egyptologist and the discoverer of ‘Abdiel, I must remind the nonspecialists, and even some specialists, to be extremely careful and to avoid confusing these completely different fields.

But I know that for many the temptation to identify the two figures is—and will be—difficult to resist, especially since ‘Abdiel lived at the turning point of the reigns of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV, the future Akhenaten, who is often and too quickly presented as “the first monotheist.” For those who confuse epochs, approaches, concepts, and data, it seems easy to imagine that the “servant of El” (‘Abed-El) “learned” monotheism from Akhenaten or, to the contrary, that he “taught” monotheism to the king, as he was in charge of the education of the royal children, and that he influenced him as a close adviser. From here it is a quick step to find a link between the vizier and the patriarch16—a little step which ignores historical realities: The religion of Akhenaten is not exactly monotheistic and is in many ways strikingly different from Biblical monotheism, which itself is the result of a long process materializing only much later in the time of the prophets. But I confess that I make no illusions: Imagination and phantasms are powerful in such a sensitive issue, particularly outside the circle of informed and strict scholars.

Let us consider nevertheless the apparent parallel of the historical character found at Saqqara and the literary figure met in Genesis. We know that the existence of a literary figure, specially a figure like Joseph, does not exclude a possible historical background at its origin, or, inverting the terms, we know of many historical characters who became literary characters or who were used as such long after their life. After all, we must remember that links and connections between the Amarna period, with Akhenaten and his religious “revolution,” and the story of the Hebrews and the Exodus from Egypt had already been made in antiquity—links and connections rooted in later Israelite reinterpretations and fights for ethnic and political identifications and identities that made the links to Egypt all the more powerful more than a millennium after the events initially occurred.

Then, would it be possible that Jews living in Egypt during the Late period and perhaps the Hellenistic period ever encountered the historical figure of ‘Abdiel (‘Aper-El)? The “meeting” could have occurred during their obstinate research and their tough contests with Egyptian scribes and priests in their efforts to find testimonia of the traditional stories recounted in Gene-sis and Exodus—and connected to a much older Egypt.17