Because of his name and the dating in 1 Kings of 1441, some researchers have surmised that the pharaoh who ruled previous to that time, Thutmose II (fl. 1500/1493–1489/79 BCE), was Moses himself. For example, after attempting to locate various places cited in the Mosaic account, Christian physician Dr. Lennart Möller tries to identify the “historical Moses” with Thutmose II, whose Egyptian name dhwty-ms is transliterated also as Thutmosis, Tuthmose, Tutmosis, Thothmes, Tuthmosis, Djhutmose and so on.
Möller gives a long list of correspondences between the two individuals, but there exists no corroborative evidence that Thutmose II did magic tricks and miracles or was aided by the Jewish tribal god Yahweh in plaguing Egypt, and so on. We have no record of Thutmose II fleeing Egypt with the current pharaoh in pursuit, subsequently drowned with his entire army.
Nor is Thutmose II recorded as having parted supernaturally the Red Sea or been guided by massive pillars of cloud and fire showing the way. We hear nothing about magical manna falling from heaven during Thutmose II’s life, or about his settling “the Promised Land.” This association represents speculation based on the assumption that the Bible story is true, that Moses was a historical personage, and that he was raised in the Egyptian royal house.
Regarding this contention, a reviewer of Möller’s book, Christian scholar van der Veen, comments:
If Moses had ruled Egypt as Pharaoh for some time, one would expect the biblical writers/redactors to have known. Also, Thutmosis II was not the son of an Israelite by the name of Amram (Moses’ father according to Exodus 6:20), but in reality the son and successor of Pharaoh Thutmosis I by his lesser wife Mutnofret. Nor did he reach the mature age of over [a] hundred years as Moses apparently did, but died at a tender age of not more than thirty years. His mummy was found in the Royal Cache at Deir el-Bahri in Upper-Egypt. This find has allowed scholars to establish that he indeed was Thutmosis I’s blood-related heir. The suggestion that Thutmosis II was in reality the Israelite Moses is therefore simply nonsensical.
Indeed, if Moses truly wrote the Pentateuch—as the devout Möller believes —the patriarch surely would have known that he himself was the pharaoh.
Möller also has a lengthy comparison of Moses with other individuals, and, while the characteristics he lays out do seem to be valid parallels, they are not so extraordinary as to indicate exclusivity, which is obvious from the fact that Möller can make these comparisons between Moses and several historical persons.
Etymology of Moses
One of the reasons for associating Moses with various pharaohs is because of the shared name “mose” or “moses” in their monikers. The biblical definition of “Moses,” משה Mosheh in the Hebrew, is given simply as “drawn,” as at Exodus 2:10:
And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son; and she named him Moses, for she said, “Because I drew him out of the water.”
Subsequent commentators have denoted the term to mean “drawn from the waters,” although this latter part is based on the lawgiver’s birth circumstances, not the root word, which means only “to draw.” It remains to be explained why the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter would name a child with a Hebrew moniker in the first place.
In his book On Moses, Philo (1.17) averred that mos was Egyptian for “water,” so it seems that even during the Jewish writer’s time there was confusion as to the origin and connotation of the name Moses.
The archaic word משה mshh lacks vowels and therefore can be transliterated elsewise as well, however. Mosheh is said to derive from the root word essentially spelled the same: משה mashah. The same word משה mashah is used at Psalm 18:16 to describe the psalmist as being “drawn out of many waters.” It would appear that this motif in the Moses myth was incorporated from old, allegorical songs and verses such as this one, rather than representing a “historical fact” about the patriarch’s nativity.
The name in the Greek Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is Μωυσῆς, transliterated as Mōusēs or Mōÿsēs, whence “Moses,” which is also how the name is written in the Latin Vulgate, revealing that the word was seen to end with an “s” in antiquity. Hence, it was perceived also as deriving from the
Egyptian term ms or mes/mesu, which means “born of” or “birth.”
Fig. 17. Egyptian words mes and mesu denoting ‘born.’ (Budge, 1848:149).
In the Bible, the pharaoh’s daughter raised Moses as her own after the baby was fished out of the river (Exodus 2:10); her other son is thus the older stepbrother of Moses, with the theory that the name Ahmose means “brother of Moses,” and therefore it was during the reign of pharaoh Ahmose I that the patriarch lived. Despite claims to the contrary, the etymology of Ahmose, Amasis or Iahmes as “brother of Moses” is not sustainable, however, as Egyptologists are certain that the name means “born of the moon” or “the moon has given birth.”197 Furthermore, if the date for a “historical” Moses in the 15th or 13th century were accurate, then he could not have been the brother of a pharaoh from the 16th century.
Pharaoh Thutmose III
As concerns the identity of the pharaoh of the Exodus, to reiterate, the biblical date of 1441 would place the event in the reign of the pharaoh Thutmose III (fl. c. 1479–1426/5 BCE), but no such massive event can be discovered in the historical or archaeological record in Egypt or elsewhere at this time. This lack of record ranks as even more puzzling in consideration of the fact that Thutmose III has been considered “Egypt’s greatest conqueror” and “the Napoleon of Egypt,” whose many exploits were well and proudly documented.
Thutmose III went so far as Babylon, but in all contemporary texts there is no mention of any “Jews” or “Israelites” in Egypt or “Hebrews” in the Levant along the way. Nor can we equate Moses himself with Thutmose III, for the reasons that there is no evidence of any Exodus events in the life of this pharaoh and that Moses is clearly a mythical figure, as will be demonstrated abundantly in the present work.
It is possible that some details or bitter memories of Thutmose III’s incursions into Canaan and Syria, such as the battle at Megiddo against the prince of Kadesh (c. 1479 BCE), were incorporated into the Exodus story many centuries later. However, the fact remains that the biblical account represents myth historicized, not history mythologized, as will be laid plain in the present work.
It is also noteworthy that, after this pharaoh’s expansion, the Levant would have been full of Egyptian presence, thus refuting the impression given by the Exodus tale of being able to flee Egypt to there.
As it was with Thutmose III, the suggestion of King Tutankhamun (fl. 1335– 1325/3) as the pharaoh of the Exodus is likewise unsustainable. If the Israelites were supernaturally rewarded all of Egypt’s wealth, where did Tut’s magnificent treasures come from? Especially with such a devastated economy as would surely have followed the plagues and exodus from Egypt of some two million slaves who purportedly did all the work? And, if Tut were drowned in the Nile, how could his mummy be entombed in the Valley of the Kings? Moreover, the teen Tut was far too young to have been the stepbrother of the 80-year-old Moses.
Like these others, Tut too is not recounted as engaging in any of the events of the Exodus story, and we can say safely he is not the pharaoh of a historical Exodus.
One scholarly tradition places the Exodus around 1290 BCE, reducing the time between that and the accepted date of Solomon’s temple to a mere 329 years, not the 480 of God’s Inerrant Word. In this timeline, the pharaoh of the Exodus has been identified as Ramesses/Rameses/Ramses I (fl. 1292–90). The same dearth of evidence for this contention in the historical/archaeological record occurs in this era as well, but now the apology is that, since the Exodus represented a military defeat, it could have been ignored, because Egyptian rulers “never recorded their reverses and, in fact, transformed some of them into victories.”
If Egyptian rulers were prone to transforming defeats into victories, in such an extreme case as the Exodus tale one would expect that the pharaoh would boast loudly about having vanquished such a mighty foe with its powerful god. Nothing of the sort occurred, however, and there remains no other outside verification for any event of the Exodus, either during the time of Ramesses I or at all.
Because the low chronology as proposed by American historian Dr. Kenneth W. Harl also places Seti I as Egypt’s ruler during the period between 1292– 1279, this famous king likewise becomes a candidate for the Exodus pharaoh. While there indeed may have been resentment towards Seti I for his aggressions in Canaan against the various nomadic brigands there, no “historical” Exodus can be traced to his era.
Over the centuries, Ramesses II (c. 1303–1213 BCE) has been the favored pharaoh of the Exodus. If Ramesses II was indeed the Exodus pharaoh, and if the Exodus actually occurred and the pharaoh was drowned during it, the event must have happened in 1213, when the Egyptian ruler died. That purported fact would mean that Ramesses II was 90 years old while chasing the 80-year-old Moses and 83-year-old Aaron through the desert (Exod 7:7), a rather implausible notion and one certainly not depicted in the popular film with the vigorous Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner!
Fig. 18. Ramesses II’s victory in the Siege of Dapur, 13th cent. BCE. Mural at Thebes, Egypt (Nordisk familjebok)
The same objections apply here as previously about the other candidates for the Exodus pharaoh: There simply exists no historical or archaeological evidence for such a claim.
If the Pentateuch was constructed during the third century BCE, using older texts and including much new material to glue it together, then some characteristics could have been borrowed from the pharaoh Nectanebo/Nakhthorheb II (fl. 360–342 BCE) as well, as proposed by Gmirkin. It is possible that characteristics from this pharaoh—the last native Egyptian to hold that position—were combined along with others to create an archetypal pharaoh for the purpose of playing the foil in the Exodus story. In this regard, Gmirkin evinces that “the geography of the Exodus reflects toponyms of the early Ptolemaic period and may allude to certain features of the Ptolemaic Nile-to-Red-Sea canal in place in ca. 273 BCE.”
It should be kept in mind, however, that there is evidence from the Song of the Sea and other apparently archaic writings that this archetypal designation of pharaoh as villain had been created hundreds of years earlier. This fact would not exclude a retelling centuries later with embellishments from subsequent Egyptian kings.
A Priest of Aten?
As previously seen, the ancient Greek geographer Strabo (c. 64/63 BCE–c. 23 AD/CE) contended Moses to be an Egyptian priest who, disgusted with the bizarre representations of the Egyptian gods, left Egypt with a band of followers to establish his new cult in Palestine.
This alternate theory also was proposed in Moses and Monotheism by famous Viennese psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), who suggested that the Hebrew lawgiver was a priest of Aten who, with his followers, escaped the purges subsequent to Akhenaten’s death, eventually to found Judaism. This theory has been discounted as well, for the same reasons as applied to the Akhenaten thesis itself, such as incompatible dating and no real evidence, especially in the case of this hypothesized priest for whom there is no historical record.
Freud’s study remains useful, nevertheless, such as for his discussion of the numerous lawgiver myths and comparison of the Aten/Aton to Adon/Adonai and the Greco-Syrian god Adonis, the latter an assessment discussed below.
As will be demonstrated in greater detail, rather than Moses representing Akhenaten or a priest of Aten, the Israelite lawgiver is more akin to Akhenaten’s god, as the latter symbolizes significantly a solar entity or sun god, the actual disk of the solar orb, in fact, as well as the cosmic power behind it.
In this analysis, it is important to remember that, although they appear anciently in the historical record, many of the stories of these various pharaohs would have been forgotten to some extent by most people, probably, by the time the Bible was composed centuries later. Thus, it is unlikely that the Moses pharaoh would have been based entirely on any one of them. In this regard, some legendary exploits may have been passed along over the centuries, and certain rulers like Seti I and Ramesses III possibly would have been recalled with animosity for their alleged aggressions in Canaan. As we shall see amply, the basic, archetypical motif existed first and was elaborated upon with mundane detail. The biblical story thus ranks as historicized fiction, rather than fictionalized history. The difference may be subtle but is important.
As another example, the fictional character of Gulliver by English author Jonathan Swift is placed into a historical setting, England, and certainly reflects aspects of one or more real people, since he acts like a human being, specifically a man. However, in no way could we claim that Gulliver is a “historical person” who has been fictionalized. Rather, he is a fictional character who has been placed into a historical setting.
In certain instances, the opposite has occurred, and history has been fictionalized. The tradition of elevating a historical individual to the status of a deity, for example, is called “euhemerism” or, for pronunciation’s sake, “evemerism.” This perception is named after the Greek philosopher Euhemeros (4th cent. BCE), who posited that the gods originally had been the kings, queens, heroes and assorted other individuals from antiquity who were deified. This process is also styled “apotheosis,” and, again, such deification of mortals has happened in the past, although less frequently than generally is believed.
This evemerism/apotheosis occurred, for example, with Alexander the Great (356–323 BCE), who was asserted by an oracle/priest to have been born of a mortal woman and the Greek god Zeus Ammon,207 making him the son of God. Another instance of evemerism evidently transpired with the Egyptian architect and physician Imhotep (2650–2600 BCE), who was so esteemed that he was deified and worshipped as the god of medicine. Many historical rulers have been viewed as “gods on earth,” “sons of God” or another divine concept, including among the ancient Israelites, whose kings were said to be the “begotten sons of Yahweh” as at Psalm 2:7:
I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.”
This same psalmist—traditionally King David—is not only the son of God but also the “anointed,” styled Christos or “Christ” in the Septuagint, centuries before Jesus purportedly lived.
The fact remains, however, that the bulk of those figures whom human beings have perceived or created as “gods” and “goddesses” were never real people who walked the earth before having a series of fabulous fairytales added to their biographies, as in the process of evemerism.
On the contrary, many deities are cosmic, allegorical and mythical entities based on nature worship, including the sun, moon, planets, stars, constellations and so on, anthropomorphized or personified, given human attributes and adventures that explained their characteristics, movements, phases and influences. This nature worship revolving around celestial bodies is called astral religion, astrolatry, astromythology or astrotheology.
In this regard, Bible scholar and mythicist Dr. Robert M. Price proclaims that “many, many of the epic heroes and ancient patriarchs and matriarchs of the Old Testament were personified stars, planets, and constellations…” This assessment includes Moses, whose “life” is laden with solar mythology and astrotheology, as we shall see abundantly.
Since antiquity, attempts at identifying Moses in the historical record have included his equation with a variety of individuals from Egyptian history, such as various priests and pharaohs. Over the centuries, the Akhenaten thesis in particular has been hit upon in order to provide a historical background for the Hebrew patriarch, who is otherwise glaringly absent from the historical record. However, the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep IV, also known as Akhenaten, did not discover monotheism but only focused on one god in an overall religious ideology that had been in existence for centuries, if not millennia. Other than that fact of a religious disruption having to do with Egypt, there is little correspondence in the Akhenaten story to the life of Moses as found in the Old Testament. Nor can we say with any confidence that the Moses-Exodus tale is rooted in the escape of a priest of Aten during the purges that followed the death of Akhenaten. In reality, the Israelite lawgiver’s purported biographical details find their place for the most part not in history but in myth.
Fig. 19. Akhenaten, Nefertiti and children with Aten and his rays/hands holding ankhs, c. 1350 BCE. Staatliche Museen in Berlin, Germany