Exodus, Moses and Egyptian history

Scholars have identified several parallels between the Exodus narrative, particularly the figure of Moses, and elements of Egyptian history and mythology. Here are some of the key parallels:

1. Birth Story of Moses and Sargon of Akkad

Moses: According to the biblical account, Moses’ mother placed him in a basket and set him adrift in the Nile River to save him from the Pharaoh’s decree to kill all Hebrew male infants. He was found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter.

Sargon of Akkad: An earlier Mesopotamian legend tells of Sargon, a great Akkadian king, who was placed in a basket and set adrift in a river by his mother. He was found and raised by a royal figure.

2. Moses and Akhenaten

Monotheism: Some scholars draw parallels between Moses and Pharaoh Akhenaten, who promoted the worship of a single deity, Aten, and attempted to shift Egyptian religion towards monotheism. This concept of monotheism is similar to the worship of Yahweh introduced by Moses.

Religious Reforms: Both figures are associated with significant religious reforms and the establishment of a new form of worship.

3. Moses and Hatshepsut

Adoption Story: Hatshepsut, a female Pharaoh, is sometimes compared to Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted Moses. Some theories suggest that Hatshepsut might have been the royal figure who found Moses, aligning the timeline of Moses’ life with her reign.

4. Moses and the Egyptian Prince

Education and Upbringing: The Bible describes Moses as being raised in Pharaoh’s household, where he would have received an education befitting an Egyptian prince. This parallels the upbringing of Egyptian princes who were educated in various disciplines including leadership, military tactics, and religious rituals.

5. Moses and Osarsiph

Manetho’s Osarsiph: The Egyptian priest Manetho, as cited by Josephus, tells of a priest named Osarsiph who led a group of lepers out of Egypt and enacted laws similar to those attributed to Moses. Osarsiph is said to have later taken the name Moses.

6. The Plagues and Natural Disasters

Plagues: The biblical plagues can be seen as reflections of natural disasters common in Egypt. For example, the Nile turning to blood can be associated with the red algae blooms or red silt, and the plagues of frogs, lice, and flies could correspond to ecological imbalances.

Ipuwer Papyrus: An ancient Egyptian document known as the Ipuwer Papyrus describes calamities that befell Egypt, which some scholars suggest resemble the biblical plagues.

7. Exodus and Historical Expulsions

Hyksos Expulsion: Some theories propose that the Exodus narrative is a cultural memory of the expulsion of the Hyksos, a Semitic people who ruled parts of Egypt before being driven out in the 16th century BCE.

Leper Colony Expulsion: Another theory connects the Exodus with historical accounts of expelling a leper colony from Egypt, possibly drawing on memories of social or political purges.

8. Moses as a Lawgiver and Hammurabi

Law Codes: The role of Moses as a lawgiver parallels that of Hammurabi, an earlier Babylonian king known for the Code of Hammurabi. Both figures are depicted as receiving laws from a divine source and establishing legal frameworks for their people.


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