Moses as Solar Hero
“This deity [Adar] represented the sun god primitively worshipped at Nipur (now Niffer) in Babylonia, who afterwards came to be regarded as a sort of Chaldean Herakles.... he was called Uras in Akkadian, and also in Semitic, when regarded as ‘the god of light.’ But he was further known in Assyrian as Baru, ‘the revealer,’ though we learn from a Babylonian text…discovered in Upper Egypt that his more usual title was Masu, ‘the hero,’ a word which is, letter for letter, the same as the Hebrew Mosheh, ‘Moses.’ Masu is defined as being ‘the sun god who rises from the divine day.’”
Rev. Dr. Archibald H. Sayce, Records of the Past (1.90–91)
The Jewish Calendar named the 6th month after the deity Adar.
The Jewish Calendar named the 4th month after the deity Tamuz.
“Many of the stories concerning Moses, Joshua, Jonah and other Bible characters are solar myths.”
John E. Remsburg, The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence
“Who was Moses the lawgiver, originally?... He was, I venture, another sun god…. The basic Moses mytheme is that of the sun (god) which emerges from the tent of concealment, the night, and bestows commandments upon a king. Like many other mythical sun-characters (still reflected in Elijah, Esau, Samson and Enoch), and other gods, too (Gad, Miriam, Jubal, Joshua), Moses must have begun as a god pure and simple, but as Hebrew religion evolved toward monotheism, the stories could only be retained by making the gods into human heroes.”
Dr. Robert M. Price, “Of Myth and Men”
IT HAS BEEN SHOWN that the story of Moses and the Exodus can be understood not as literal history or history mythologized but as myth historicized. The lawgiver motif ranks as solar and allegorical, reflecting an ancient archetype extant also in the myth of Dionysus, god of vine and wine, who shares numerous significant attributes with Moses. Likewise demonstrated in the present work is the solar nature of many ancient gods, including Yahweh, biblically presented as the source of the patriarch’s revelation and legislation. Who, then, is Moses?
Based on evidence from comparative religion and mythology studies, as well as agriculture, anthropology, archaeo-astronomy, archaeology, art history, economics, etymology, history, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, viniculture, viticulture and other disciplines, many people over the centuries have concluded that Moses is a solar hero, as is his successor, Joshua. In this regard, in Christian Mythology mythicist scholar John M. Robertson remarked: “That Joshua is a purely mythical personage was long ago decided by the historical criticism of the school of Colenso and Kuenen; that he was originally a solar deity can be established at least as satisfactorily as the solar character of Moses, if not as that of Samson.”
Like Samson, Yahweh and Dionysus, in many essentials Moses also ranks as a solar hero or sun god, said to be Masu, Mashu, Mash or Shamash. As Yahweh became increasingly powerful, the “pure and simple god” Moses was demoted to the status of patriarch, who nonetheless remained the central figure in the foundational myth of the Israelite nation.
Moses as God
In a possible confirmation centuries later that Moses was at one point a god, the Exodus of Ezekiel the Dramatist (2nd cent. BCE), labels the patriarch as “God and King,” as well as the “faithful servant and son” of Yahweh. We have seen that Yahweh mythically appears to have been the son of El. In turn, it seems that the god Masu/Mashu was styled a “son of Yahweh,” possibly as one of the Elohim.
Ezekiel’s Exodus may have served as one of the sources for Philo of Alexandria, who builds upon this mythology by presenting the Jewish prophet as an immortal god and son of God. Philo asserts that Moses was given dominion over the whole world by Yahweh, as his heir and “partaker with himself” in portions of creation reserved for God. As such, the elements obeyed the commands of Moses, their master.
Regarding the lawgiver, Philo remarks further
…Has he not also enjoyed an even greater communion with the Father and Creator of the universe, being thought unworthy of being called by the same appellation? For he also was called the god and king of the whole nation, and he is said to have entered into the darkness where God was; that is to say, into the invisible, and shapeless, and incorporeal world, the essence… he established himself as a most beautiful and Godlike work, to be a model for all those who were inclined to imitate him.
Hence, Moses is the pre-Christian son of God running the world precisely as was said later of Jesus Christ. As is fitting for a god, in the Talmud and Quran, Moses is depicted as a king, the monarch of Ethiopia; thus, he would bear the epithet mlk/melek/molech in Hebrew.
Assumption of Moses
The Moses mythmaking literature continued for centuries after the Pentateuch was composed. Another text in this genre assigning divine and supernatural attributes and roles to the patriarch is the Assumption of Moses, possibly composed beginning in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, also in the second century BCE, and continuing into the first century AD/CE. In this text, Moses is “assumed” into heaven, leaving Joshua in charge, while the lawgiver remains alive in heaven as the supernatural mediator between Yahweh and his priests, possessing immortality and preexistence. This heavenly assumption is reflected also in the gospel story of Jesus transfiguring on the mount between Moses and Elijah (Mt 17:1–9).
The motif of Moses’s assumption is similar to the ascension of Dionysus and other solar deities, and it would be a necessary attribute for those wishing to create a competing religion. In this text too (11.5–8), Moses’s “sepulcher is from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof, and from the south to the confines of the north; all the world is his sepulcher,” another concept with solar mythological relevance.
The ideas in this text also were built upon by Philo, apparently, when he discussed the patriarch’s assumption (Moses 2.51.288):
…he was about to depart from hence to heaven, to take up his abode there, and leaving this mortal life to become immortal, having been summoned by the Father, who now changed him, having previously been a double being, composed of soul and body, into the nature of a single body, transforming him wholly and entirely into a most sun-like mind…
Here we see again the suggestion of Moses as the son of the Father, as Philo repeatedly calls God, years before Christ’s purported ministry as the “only begotten son of God.”
A Samaritan text from the fourth century AD/CE continues the idea of Moses as Yahweh, a suitable identification in consideration of the fact that both are apparently tribal gods and significantly solar in nature.
The solar aspects and attributes of the Moses story are numerous, and we have reviewed many of them already, including his heavenly assumption, which produces a “sun-like mind.” The motif of Moses leaving Joshua as his successor is another solar element, as the lawgiver appears to represent the fall and winter sun, while Joshua is the spring and summer sun. As such, Moses leads the chosen to the Promised Land, where he turns them over to Joshua, who rises in triumph to the summer solstice, when he makes the solar orb stand still. Moses’s similar trick would occur, therefore, at the winter solstice. Thus, these twin sun gods rule from equinox to equinox, while other solar personifications mark the periods from solstice to soltice, as is the case with Jesus and John the Baptist, said traditionally from antiquity to be born six months apart, on December 25th and June 24th, respectively.
Another prominent example of the patriarch’s solar nature is his nativity tale, similar to that of a number of solar heroes such as Apollo, Dionysus, Horus and other deities and lawgivers. So proliferate around the Mediterranean were solar attributes in general that, again, Macrobius spent considerable time making the case that the majority of these figures resolve to sun gods.
ce summarizes some of the more striking solar characteristics in the Moses myth:
…The basic Moses mytheme is that of the sun (god) which emerges from the tent of concealment, the night, and bestows commandments upon a king. The sun is also the source of both death (by sunstroke) and healing. Psalm 19, as Old Testament scholars uniformly admit, comes from Akhenaten’s Hymn to the Sun. It speaks of the sun’s glorious emergence from his tent, then extols the glory of the commandments, as if there were some connection between the two—which, of course, there was, since the sun was the origin of the law. We also see this atop the famous stone table of Hammurabi’s Code which shows the emperor receiving the law from the hand of Shamash the sun god. Moses was originally the law-giving sun, as we can still glimpse in Exodus 34:29–35, where Moses emerges from the tent of a meeting with new commandments, and with his face shining, not coincidentally, like the sun! And like Apollo, he can inflict flaming doom or heal it (Numbers 21:4–9) and even bears the caduceus like Apollo...
The usual biblical comparison with Akhenaten’s “Hymn to the Sun” is Psalm 104, which Gray calls a “Hebrew adaptation” of the Egyptian hymn. Such solar hymns were fairly common in antiquity in a variety of cultures, including the Sumerian and Semitic, and Psalm 19 also serves to illustrate the solar nature of much Judaic tradition and ritual, as another writing within this astrotheological genre.
The Tent of the Sun
It is fitting for a solar hero to be housed in a sun tent, a common motif in solar mythology. In this regard, the true nature of Moses’s “covenant with the
Lord” is reflected by the esoteric or mystical meaning of the patriarch’s tabernacle or house of worship as the “tent of the sun.” In the OT description of how Moses is to build the tabernacle (Exod 15, 26), there appears several times the word ' אהל ohel, meaning “tent” or “tabernacle,” “tent of the Lord” and “sacred tent of Jehovah.” The root of 'ohel is ' אהל ahal, which, appropriately, means “to shine. Concerning this motif, theologian Dr. William P. Brown states that “the metaphorical background of the sun’s tent ('ōhel) or canopy...is likely a vestige of the Mesopotamian myth of the sungod’s repose with his spouse.”
The word 'ohel is used also in the mundane sense, referring to the tents of nomads, while another word, משכן mishkan, is likewise translated as “tabernacle.” The Greek equivalent of 'ohel is σκηνή skēnē, defined as “a tent, booth, tabernacle, abode, dwelling, mansion, habitation,” employed in the Septuagint to describe the Israelite religious “booths” or sukkoth (e.g., Lev 23:42).
The Israelite tabernacle is oriented to the east (Num 3:38), to the rising sun, and takes the basic shape of an Egyptian temple, which in turn is said to be the place of the sun’s birth, as noted. Like Yahweh, the solar El too had his “tent of meeting,” a possibly portable shrine that may have served as a “regular feature of his cult in the Amarna age.” Thus, the sacred tent is not original or unique to Judaism.
Hero Who Goes Out
The word ' אהל ohel is employed at Psalm 19:4 to describe the personified heavens extolling Yahweh’s glory, in which the Almighty has set the “tent for the sun,” rendered in the Hebrew as ' אהל שמש ohel shemesh.
Also at Psalm 19:4, the “tent of the sun” is considered to be the “night quarters of the ” שמש this latter word, again, shemesh or “sun,” a mere letter different from the name משה mshh or “Moses.” In the morning, “the sun then leaves its chamber...”
In this regard, biblical scholar Dr. Hans-Joachim Kraus comments: “In a Sumerian hymn the sun god is called the ‘hero who goes out’…” Moses too is the “hero who goes out,” in his exodus or “going out” of Egypt, a prominent aspect of his story.
Continuing the imagery about the sun, Psalm 19:6 reads:
Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat.
Regarding this latter part, Kraus observes that the last verse (Ps 19:6c) “is derived from the Shamash-tradition of the Babylonian hymns, for the sun god is considered the highest judge, the one who has insight into all the deeds of men.”
Here we can see the ancient tradition of perceiving the sun as the “great judge,” previously discussed as concerns the Neo-Babylonian solar epithet Dian-nisi, associated with Shamash and possibly Osiris, therefore plausibly representing “Dionysus.”
From the Bible, we also learn that nothing can be hidden from the sun’s sight and that all things are exposed before it. Oaths also are taken in the sight of the sun, and the sun’s judgeship throughout thousands of years across a wide spectrum of cultures should not be underestimated in importance, from antiquity to the present.
In the end, it is the sun who is the ultimate judge and lawgiver, and who has his tent of meeting, where his mysteries and laws are revealed.
12 and 70 Redux
We have discussed already the magical number configuration of 12 and 70 at Exodus 15:27, in which there are twelve springs and seventy palms, representing the 12 tribes and 70 elders. The seventy “elders of God” apparently are symbolic of the Canaanite pantheon, in which the high god El is depicted as having 70 sons.
In this same regard, Josephus (Ant. 3.7) elucidates the mystical and astrotheological meaning of Moses’s tabernacle:
And when [Moses] ordered twelve loaves to be set on the table, he denoted the year, as distinguished into so many months. By branching out the candlestick into seventy parts he secretly intimated the Decani, or seventy divisions of the planets; and as to the seven lamps upon the candlesticks, they referred to the course of the planets, of which that is the number… Now the vestment of the high priest being made of linen, signified the earth; the blue denoted the sky, being like lightning in its pomegranates, and in the noise of the bells resembling thunder… Each of the sardonyxes declares to us the sun and the moon; those, I mean, that were in the nature of buttons on the high priest’s shoulders. And for the twelve stones, whether we understand by them the months, or whether we understand the like number of the signs of that circle which the Greeks call the Zodiac, we shall not be mistaken in their meaning.
The nature worship in the Mosaic tradition could not be clearer, incorporating solar symbolism and astrolatry. For example, the 12 stones symbolize the tribes or “sons” of Jacob, a number that Josephus firmly establishes as the months of the year and zodiacal constellations.
Earlier in the same century as Josephus, Philo (Moses 1.34.188–189) had associated the 12 wells at Aileem with the twelve Israelite tribes and the 70 palms with the Jewish elders, which in turn symbolized the 12 zodiacal signs and 70 dodecans, as discussed. Again, Philo relates that the 12 tribes were equated with the signs of the zodiac, remarking:
Then the twelve stones on the breast, which are not like one another in colour, and which are divided into four rows of three stones in each, what else can they be emblems of, except of the circle of the zodiac?
Philo thus demonstrates that the allegorical and astrotheological nature of various biblical themes has been understood for a long time:
…the Mosaic account…is allowed by all philosophers, as well as most of the early Jews and Christian fathers, to contain a mythos or allegory—by Philo, Josephus, Papias, Pantaenus, Irenaeus, Clemens Alex., Origen, the two Gregories of Nyssa and Nazianzen, Jerome, Ambrose…
As concerns the 12 tribes, Redford concludes: “The division of Israel into twelve tribes is, even on the basis of Biblical record, a somewhat artificial arrangement, and may owe more to a calendrical criterion employed by the later monarchy than to historical origins.”
This astrological symbolism evidently was devised significantly from the Babylonians, possibly when the Jewish priest-astronomers were in exile there. As the dodecans, the 70 sons or elders of El too would be part of this great Semitic astrotheological tradition.
Josephus (Ant. 3.6.7/3.145) is explicit also in relating other aspects of Jewish tradition as possessing astrological or astrotheological significance, including the menorah or seven-branched candlestick, which denotes the sun in the middle, surrounded by the moon and five planets: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.
Like many other “Jewish” religious accoutrements and traditions, the menorah too is not unique, appearing in the dedications to many gods in antiquity, and cannot be considered scientifically to represent “divine revelation” to the “chosen people.”
Regarding such candelabras in antiquity, Benedictine monk Dom Augustin Calmet (1672–1757) “remarks that the ancients used to dedicate candlesticks in the temples of their gods, bearing a great number of lamps.”
In this regard, Clarke states
Pliny, Hist. Nat. [34.8], mentions one made in the form of a tree, with lamps in the likeness of apples, which Alexander the Great consecrated in the temple of Apollo.
And Athenaeus [15.19, 20] mentions one that supported three hundred and sixty-five lamps, which Dionysius the younger, king of Syracuse, dedicated in the Prytanaeum at Athens.
Obviously, this pagan candelabra with 365 branches symbolizes the days of the year, yet more astronomical or astrotheological significance in this genre. In any event, we can see how the Mosaic tabernacle and associated accoutrements, rituals and traditions themselves are astrotheological in nature.
Moses’s Shining Face
Adding to the solar imagery associated with the Jewish legislator, Exodus describes the solarized Moses coming down the mountain after speaking with Yahweh, not realizing that the “skin of his face shone”:
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the Lord had given him on Mount Sinai. Exodus 34:29-32
In this passage, the Hebrew word rendered “shone” is קרן qaran, which means “to shine,” “to send out rays” and “to display or grow horns, be horned.” Gesenius defines qaran also as “to radiate, to emit beams.” In his Latin Bible, Jerome renders qaran as cornuta or “horned,” which could also be translated “radiant.”
This motif of radiant solar beams represents the source of Moses portrayed with horns, as is the case of other solar heroes or sun gods, including the Sumerian UD/Utu and Semitic Shamash. As stated, the myth of the Greek lawgiver with the horns is found in the Bacchus tale by at least the fifth century BCE, when Euripides wrote, but it likely dates much farther back, as is the case with these others.
Fig. 106. Michelangelo, Moses with horns, c. 1513–1515. Marble, San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome
The feature of Moses with horns was well known in Christian tradition, as famously depicted by Michelangelo in his marble statue of the patriarch. As noted, these horns have multiple meanings, including evidently serving to indicate Moses as “son of the cow,” part of the “bull” tradition associated with various gods and other figures antiquity that includes the Golden Calf.
It should be recalled that the words “wine” and “bull” are part of the oldest linguistical layer shared by both Semitic and Indo-European.1602 In consideration of this fact, it would be logical to suggest that the horned wine god is a very ancient concept.
In his explanation of the verse at Exodus 34:29, Philo (Moses 2.14.69–70) essentially depicts the lawgiver as a solar hero, also portraying Moses’s 40day Sinai experience in terms much like the later gospel motif, with various tests of his mind, body and soul, such that he would grow in strength. Next,
the Jewish writer comments:
Then, after the said forty days had passed, he descended with a countenance far more beautiful than when he ascended, so that those who saw him were filled with awe and amazement; nor even could their eyes continue to stand the dazzling brightness that flashed from him like the rays of the sun.
Hence, Moses’s mountain mission made him “dazzlingly bright,” flashing “like the rays of the sun.”
Veil of the Sun
It is for this reason of blinding bedazzlement that Moses was said to wear a veil (Exod):
33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord. Exod 34:33–35
The Hebrew word here for “veil” or “vail,” is מסוה macveh, pronounced “mas·vehʹ” and used in the Bible only in these three verses. The word describing Moses’s face as having “shone” in this verse also is קרן qaran.
At Psalm 104:29, we read the similar theme of Yahweh hiding his face, in one of the verses traceable to Akhenaten’s solar hymn:
When you hide your face, they [living things] are terrified…. (NIV)
As part of the Akhenaten literature, the Amarna letter 147.5–10 from the Phoenician king Abi-milku “seems to appropriate the language of Aten hymns when addressing the pharaoh: ‘My lord is the Sun god, who rises over the lands day after day, as ordained by the Sun god, who gives life by his sweet breath and diminishes when he is hidden.’” The hiding of the shining face represents a solar motif, reflecting clouds, nighttime, winter or an eclipse, the latter of which in particular instilled fear in the ancients.
As another example in Egyptian religion, Massey mentions also the Egyptian savior god Shu, best known for his (solar) role as the wind and air between heaven and earth:
“Moses under the veil is Shu in the shade; Moses wearing the glory of God upon his face is Shu who ‘sits in his father’s eye,’ the eye of the sun…”
As we can see, the veil motif belongs to ancient, pre-Israelite solar mythology, including as applied to the god Shu, whose name resembles the Sumero-Semitic term mashu.
Etymology of Moses Revisited
We have seen it contended that the name “Moses” ( משה Mosheh) is derived from both Hebrew, משה mashah or “to draw,” and the Egyptian root word ms or mes, meaning “born.” As has been demonstrated throughout this book, between the Semitic and Egyptian cultures there exists a longstanding and profound connection, including exchange of language and religion. Regarding the name “Moses,” however, British Egyptologist Dr. Kenneth A. Kitchen asserts that the moniker may not possess an Egyptian derivation and that the Semitic pronunciation is “mashu”:
...The name of Moses is most likely not Egyptian in the first place!... It is better to admit the child was named (Exod. 2:10b) by his own mother, in a form originally vocalized Mashu, “one drawn out” (which became Moshe, “he who draws out,” i.e., his people from slavery, when he led them forth). In fourteenth/thirteenthcentury Egypt, “Mose” was actually pronounced Masu, and so it is perfectly possible that a young Hebrew Mashu was nicknamed Masu by his Egyptian companions; but this is a verbal pun, not a borrowing either way.
Thus, “mose” would be rendered masu,1609 which could serve as a “nickname” for Mashu or “Moses.”
Obviously, we do not concur that Moses was a historical personage who actually led his people out of Egypt or who had companions to give him a nickname. The point is well taken, nevertheless, that there exist various names by which this figure could be deemed, including Mashu or Masu, terms that go beyond the Hebrew or Egyptian connotations and possess solar associations.
The moniker “Moses” can be found in what amounts to either a theophoric name or a theonym, Misheal, as at Joshua 19:26. The relevant word in a list of Levitical cities and villages allotted to the tribe of Asher is משאל Mish'al,1610 which Oxford Assyriologist Dr. Archibald H. Sayce (1846– 1933) asserts is a combination of “Mash” or “Moses” and “El.” Speaking of a text called the “City List of Thuthmose III,” compiled by the pharaoh who died around 1425 BCE, Sayce states:
Jacob-el and Joseph-el are not the only names in the List of Thothmes in which the name of a biblical personage has been combined with the title of a divinity. We find among them also the name of Mash-el, the Misheal of Joshua [19:26], where the title of el is attached to a name which, philologically, is the same as that of Moses.
British royal physician Dr. Thomas Inman (1820–1876) evinced that the “Mash” in Mash-el represents Shamash. Hence, the sun god’s abbreviated name would be מש mash, similar to משה mashah, whence “Moses.”
It is also noteworthy that these same letters begin the word “messiah” or משיח mashiyach, the primitive root of which is משח mashach, the same as the root of “Moses” and denoting “to anoint” or “to consecrate.” Hence, “Moses” could be perceived as a messiah, the savior who brought the Israelites to the Promised Land; indeed, Christ is called the “second Moses.”
Additionally, the Ugaritic term for “anoint” is mšḥ, while an Egyptian term for “anoint” is mas, mâsu or mesu, sharing a common meaning with “messiah.” In consideration of their fascination with Hebrew letters, puns and word play, as well as the religious rituals and traditions of other cultures, it is likely that Hebrew priests and scribes of antiquity were conscious of these various congruences.
Mesore, the ‘Birth of the Sun’
As an illustration of this type of syncretism, the remote origin of “Moses” may not have Egyptian significance, but in later times the name was associated with the Egyptian “born” or “child.” In this regard, the Egyptian moniker mesore, meaning “birth of the sun,” may have been in the minds of the Moses mythographers as well at some point.
In reference to the Egyptian winter-solstice celebration as related by Church father Epiphanius (c. 310/20–403 AD/CE), religious historian Dr. Raffaele Pettazzoni remarks:
The Egyptian for “birth of the sun” was mesorê, and Mesore in Egyptian usage was the name of the last month of the year, the fourth of the third tetramenia, i.e., of the last of the three seasons, which had four months each. This referred precisely to the feast of mesorê, with which the new year began.
Logically, the New Year begins with the “birth of the sun,” generally the winter solstice but also the vernal equinox, when the Israelites celebrated the New Year and Passover, a commemoration said biblically to have been initiated by Moses. This motif evidently also symbolizes the passing of the torch from the fall/winter sun (Moses) to the spring/summer sun (Joshua).
As concerns Moses and the epithet mesore, Massey comments:
Musu, Moshé or Messu would be named after the child of the waters, who was the Mes-ar or Mes-ur of the month of Mesore; the first-born, the elder-born, the water-born; the new-birth coinciding with that of the inundation.
Again, myths and traditions often have multiple meanings, which suits their nature as expressions of the sacred and supernatural, as such “coincidences” have appeared to humanity since antiquity to be part of the divine plan of the “Great Architect.”