MASU THE HERO
Yet another of these possible multiple meanings lies in the assertion by Sayce that Mashu or Masu, as found in Babylonian tablets, was the same word as Mosheh/Moses. Elsewhere, Sayce reiterates that, in Hebrew, Moses/Mosheh “is most easily explained by the Babylonian Masu, ‘hero.’”1620
The Assyriologist further elucidates:
Masu, hero, an epithet of several deities, specially Adar, Merodach and the Sun-god; also “a scribe,” or “librarian,” and in astrology connected with Taurus.1621
Thus, in Babylon “Masu” would be a title of Shamash, evidently associated with Moses. Speaking of the Assyrian solar warrior god, legislator and son of Bel, Adar or Atar, also known as Uras among other names, Sayce also comments:
In the inscriptions of Nineveh, the title of “hero-god” (masu) is applied to him with peculiar frequency; this was the characteristic upon which the Assyrian kings more particularly loved to dwell. In Babylonia, on the other hand, Adar was by no means so favourite a divinity. Here it was the milder and less warlike Merodach that took his place. The arts of peace, rather than those of war, found favour among the Semitic population of the southern kingdom.1622
The British scholar notes that Merodach/Marduk is styled also by the Sumerian title “MAS-MAS”1623 or maš-maš, pronounced “mash-mash” and denoting “conjurer,” “charmer,” “sorcerer,” “incantation priest” and “wonderworker.”1624 This designation maš-maš or mašmašu was held by the gods El, Ninib, Nergal, Ningizzida and Dumuzi as well.1625
Reminiscent of Misheal or Mash-el, Clay asserts that the name of the Amorite deity “Mash” can be found in the “Mash-mannah” of 1 Chronicles 12:10 ( משמנה Mishmannah),1626 in the Mish`am at 1 Chronicles 8:12 (1627( משעם and in the “gentilic name Mishraites” at 1 Chronicles 2:53 (1628.( משרעימ Referring to his book, Amurru, Clay also discusses the relationship between Mash and Shamash:
In Amurru it was conjectured that perhaps in the absence of any etymological explanation of Shamash, it may have been from Ša Mash “(the god) of Mash,” like the Arabic Dhu’l Sharâ etc., in other words that the mountain Mashu was his habitat….
The consort of Mash was Mashtu. They are called the children of the god Sin... Mash is also a name of the god dNin-IB; the sign MASH is used interchangeably with dNin-IB....
It was also contended in Amurru...that the deity Mash was carried by the Semites to Babylonia at a very early time. In the first three dynasties, Kesh, Erech and Ur, names compounded with the deity Mash or Mesh predominate. Especially at Erech in the early period do we find evidence of the worship of this deity. Some have translated this element as meaning “hero”...1629
Here Clay is identifying Mash with Sayce’s “hero” epithet, insisting it is a theonym and equating the deity Mash with not only Adar/Ninib but also Amurru: “The last two names of the Kish Dynasty, as well as three in the following two dynasties, are compounded with the name of Mesh (or Mash).”1630
Clay also states that “Mash was a deity similar to the mountain or storm-deity Uru” and that “Mash, Mesh and Mish are also elements that figure prominently in the temple names of Nineveh, Cutha and Akkad.”1631 He further surmises that the city of Damascus originally was named KiMash.1632
The Babylonian god Mashu is described by Charles Coulter and Patricia Turner as follows:
Moon god. Brother of Mashtu the goddess of the moon. Both are children of Nannar....1633
In consideration of the fact of much Babylonian influence on the Bible and Israelites, it is reasonable to suggest that Moses was a rehash in significant part of this deity.
LIBRARY OF ASHURBANIPAL
At Nineveh in what is now Iraq, Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (fl. 669–631 BCE) collected a royal library of 20,000 or so tablets, including the popular Epic of Gilgamesh and the cosmological Enuma Elish. Most of these tablets and writing boards were inscribed in Akkadian, using cuneiform; others are written in Neo-Babylonian script and in Assyrian.1634
It is said that, despite its destruction centuries earlier, the enduringly famous Royal Library of Ashurbanipal inspired Alexander the Great to create his own. While the Greek commander died before doing so, his wish was begun by Ptolemy I (367–c. 283 BCE), called Soter or “Savior,” whose effort led to the establishment of the famous Library of Alexandria. As it is to the Alexandrian library that we may look for much of Christian theology, it is to the Ashurbanipal library, among others, that perhaps we may turn to find the origins of significant Old Testament mythology and tradition.
The city of Nineveh was “sacked by an unusual coalition of Medes, Persians, Babylonians, Scythians and Cimmerians in 612 BCE.” Ashurbanipal had made enemies in his aggressions to build his city and library, but one wonders who could have put together this “unusual coalition” and what was its purpose. It is possible that many of the texts, including more portable papyri and leather scrolls, were removed elsewhere, perhaps ending up in the city of Babylon, which itself was destroyed less than a century later (539 BCE) by the Persian king Cyrus, the “savior” and “christ” of the Jews (Is 45:1).
Before the Babylonian destruction, it may be that Jewish priests and scribes accessed one or more of the region’s libraries, which may have included texts from Ashurbanipal, such as those recounting the various tales of Adar, Marduk, Shamash, Mash, Mashu or others.
The Babylonian tablet Sayce earlier refers to that came from Upper Egypt and mentions Adar as masu or massû was discovered in 1887 among the Amarna letters. In his report on the discovery of the Amarna documents, Rev. Dr. Angus Crawford remarks that it is “curious” that “we find the name ‘Moses’ on these tablets a century before the date of the Exodus. Masu or Moses is apparently identified with the sun god.”1635
One of the main correspondents in the letters, Amenhotep III, had married a Mitanni princess, who brought her Indo-European and Semitic gods with her to Egypt. His son, Akhenaten, also married a Mitanni woman, syncretizing her god Baal, the winged sun disc, with Aten worship.1636 It is possible that among these deities from the “Asiatics” was Mash, Adar, Marduk, Shamash or other sun god with the Masu epithet.
On one of the Amarna tablets, we read the initial prayer by a “Pu-Addi,” who addresses his deity as “the sun god who rises from the divine day.”1637 Concerning this text, Sayce comments:
…In a despatch from Zinarpi to the Egyptian king the Pharaoh is called, as usual, “the Sun-god rising from the Divine Day”; and it is then added, in a parenthesis, “whose name is Masu [or Masi].” This proves not only that the term “Masu” was applied to the Sun-god, but was actually used of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the century before Moses was born.1638
Fig. 107. Amarna tablet no. 6. (Sayce, 1888:10.500)
At this point, Sayce comments:
Masi is letter for letter the same as the Hebrew ,משה “Moses”…1639
Elsewhere, Sayce explicates:
Now, the Assyrian equivalent of the Hebrew Mosheh, “Moses,” would be maŝu, and, as it happens, maŝu is a word which occurs not infrequently in the inscriptions. It was a word of Akkadian origin, but since the days of Sargon of Akkad had made itself so thoroughly at home in the language of the Semitic Babylonians as to count henceforth as a genuinely Semitic term.1640
The Assyriologist also asserts that maŝu or “hero” has no connection with its homophone māšu or maashu, meaning “double” and serving as the name of the twin mountain, Masu/Mashu, in the Epic of Gilgamesh.
HERO OR TWIN?
The Akkadian māšu or maashu is derived from the Sumerian maš, denoting not only “twin” but also “brother/sister,” “young man” and “man, husband, male, grown-up.”1641 Māšu can also mean “child,” which ties it into
the Egyptian ms, mes or mas.1642
Using the same initial cuneiform symbol as māšu or “twins,” a relevant
Sumerian term is MAŠ.SU , in Akkadian massû, meaning “leader, expert.”1643
The Akkadian massû may have been confounded with the Sumerian mes ,
meaning “hero; (to be) manly; young man.”1644 Although etymologically these terms maŝu and māšu are said to be unrelated, it is possible that ancient priests and commoners alike interchanged them, whether by mistake or deliberately, as was the case with other relevant terms such as maš and muš, discussed below. The common mythical theme of the “hero twins” also may be reflected in any possible confounding of these various terms. As an example of this popular motif of twin heroes in connection with the sun, in Native American mythology the sun was “broken in two and became culture hero twins.”1645
The epithet maŝu/massû meaning “leader” becomes even more germane to our analysis in that it was “said exclusively of gods and rulers...”1646 In one pre-Sargonic Sumerian text using this term, we read the phrase lugal-mas-su or “the lord is leader.”1647 The famous Mesopotamian king Urnamma or UrNammu (3rd millennium BCE) too was called mas-su ki-en-gi-ra or “leader of Sumer.”1648 Another apparent leading citizen was styled Enlil-massu,1649 which would mean “Enlil is leader.” In a Sumero-Babylonian text entitled “The Seven Evil Spirits,” the figure Enkidu is “exalted Massu of the gods.”1650 Dumuzi/Tammuz is also called mas-si-e,1651 which sounds like the masi of the Amarna text.
It is obvious that Assyriologists of the past were startled to see these “Moses” epithets of gods and kings, mashu, masu or massû, staring at them. Their enthusiastic conclusions linking Mashu/ Masu/Massu to Moses were ignored, however, as this mythological line of thought was swept back under the literalizing carpet by biblical scholars and theologians. This point of contention represents one of many with Assyriologists who, with an onslaught of eye-opening texts, suddenly found their faith and that of their colleagues to be challenged.
Nevertheless, the work of these Assyriologists in translating and disseminating the Utnapishtim flood myth as found in the Epic of Gilgamesh has led to the conclusion by many mainstream scholars that the biblical Noah account is dependent on the much older Mesopotamian version. Many discoveries since that time, including the Eblaite and Ugaritic texts, have led to further enlightenment as concerns biblical origins in pre-Israelite Near Eastern religion and mythology. It is time for the same type of scrutiny to be applied to the origin of the Moses and Exodus myth.