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.