Were the pyramids grain silos built by Joseph?

In 1998 Presidential candidate Ben Carson declared during a commencement address that he believed the pyramids were grain storage facilities built by the Joseph of the Old Testament. His statements recently were resurrected and have resulted in some scorn by the media. Mr. Carson does not claim the Bible teaches this, but offers it as his own theory to explain the existence of the pyramids. Is this true? Does the Bible give any evidence that can help us evaluate the validity, or even the plausibility, of this conjecture?

To start with the Biblical background, Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham. Through a series of tragic events, Joseph ended up a slave in an Egyptian prison. Pharaoh had two very odd dreams. In one dream, seven fat cows were eaten by seven emaciated cows. In the other dream, seven full, healthy stalks of grain were overtaken and consumed by seven withered stalks of grain. Pharaoh demanded to know the meaning of those dreams. When none could interpret the dreams, Joseph was brought before the king. God revealed to Joseph the meaning of the dreams. Egypt would experience seven years of great bounty in which the crops would produce over abundantly followed by seven years of famine.

At Pharaoh’s command, Joseph was elevated to the second highest position in Egypt. He was given the responsibility to collect a sufficient store of food during the seven good years and then distribute the stored grain to the nation during the seven years of famine. To store up enough grain to feed for seven years a nation of nearly seven million people would require massive storage facilities. To accommodate the need of increased storage space Joseph probably would have ordered the construction of new grain silos.

What does the Bible tell us about these storage sites? Genesis 41 says Joseph went through the entire nation and gathered grain during the seven years of plenty. Verse 48 says, “The food of the field, which was round about every city, laid he up in the same.” Every city stored grain grown from the surrounding areas. Each city was the central storage site for the regions around. If the pyramids were used as storage facilities, then one would naturally expect a pyramid to be located in or near every major city of ancient Egypt. Archeology has discovered pyramids in and around the different ancient capital cities, but it do not seem that every city of Joseph’s era is associated with a pyramid.

This is not a matter of great importance, but it does help illustrate how to think through claims made about the Bible. The Bible does not make the claim that pyramids were used as storage facilities. The Bible does not tell us what kind of storage facilities were used. All that Genesis says about the matter is that Joseph established storage sites in every city. The silence of the Bible leaves a lot of room for speculation (which is what Ben Carson was doing). What is said does not seem to support the claim that the pyramids were ever used as storage warehouses, but no definitive statement can be made based upon Scriptures.

In a few places the Bible says God hardened a man’s heart. How is it fair of God to send someone to hell if He hardens the heart?

The Bible’s descriptions of God’s dealings with men leaves us with some questions and difficulties. Mankind has a hard time understanding how God can be sovereign, remain just and hold man responsible for the decisions he makes. We will not fully understand God’s dealings with man until heaven. In the meantime, we must trust God and rely on what He has told of us Himself in His Word. The Bible does describe God as being fair. Fairness is doing the same for everyone regardless of ability or what they deserve. God does not operate on terms of fairness, but in terms of justice and equity. God is just, always treating all men according to the perfect standards of His holiness. He does not modify justice to suit His desires or because He prefers one person over another. God judges all men according to the same standards. Equity is closely related to His justice. Justice is God’s dealing in relation to His holiness. Equity is God’s dealings in regards to people. God does not play favorites with anyone. The religious are not preferred by God, the wealthy are not preferred by God, and the poor are not preferred by God. God deals with all men according to His justice regardless of the personal merits of any individual.

What about those places in the Bible which describe God’s hardening someone’s heart? How is that just? One of the most familiar places which describe God hardening someone’s heart is in Exodus regarding Pharaoh. Pharaoh and others like him lived in rebellion against God. God does not judge them for His hardening of their hearts. Instead, God’s hardening of their hearts is His judgment against them for their rejection of Him.

Consider more fully the case of Pharaoh. Setting aside Pharaoh’s life of idol worship and his persecution of the Israelites, one passage will suffice to show the true nature of this case. Exodus 5 recounts when Moses and Aaron first approached Pharaoh with the request for Israel to be allowed to go into the wilderness and make sacrifice to God. Pharaoh responded, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD.” (Exodus 5:2) Yes, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart in later exchanges with Moses, but Pharaoh’s heart was already opposed to God. God did not prevent a man from turning to Him who might otherwise have repented and worshiped God. God confirmed Pharaoh in his rebellion.

The same is true with all others who are condemned by God. Romans 1 teaches that when men rebel against God and replace Him with idols, He judges them by no longer restraining the wickedness of their mind. Every man is naturally a rebel who refuses to worship God. Only the grace of God at work in the heart is able to draw a man from rebellion to worship. Those who refuse the grace of God are justly condemned by Him.