Exodus

Tutankhamun was succeeded in 1352 B.C. by Aye (Ephraim), his great-uncle, protector and, ultimately, the avenger of his death. It was only four years before Aye, too, disappeared mysteriously from the scene, to be replaced by Horemheb (c. 1348-1335 B.C.), an army general, who secured his right to the throne by marrying Mutnezmet, the sister of Nefertiti.

We find Horemheb mentioned in the Old Testament as "a new king over Egypt which knew not Joseph" (Exodus 1:8), a description that cannot be applied to any of the four Amarna rulers, Akhenaten, Semenkhkare, Tutankhamun and Aye, all descendants of Joseph the Patriarch (Yuya), who brought the tribes of Israel down from Canaan to live in Egypt.

Horemheb inherited the religious revolution begun by Akhenaten, to which he was totally opposed. Worship of the Aten was abolished, and the names of the Amarna kings were excised from king-lists and monuments in a studied campaign to try to remove all traces of their rule from Egyptian memory. The task was carried out thoroughly, as was made clear once hieroglyphics were finally deciphered in comparatively modern times. A brilliant young French philologist, Francois Champollion (1790-1832), translated various Egyptian texts that had hitherto been a complete mystery to historians. Among them were the cartouches of the kings-list on the walls of the Osiris temple at Abydos in Upper Egypt. The list, which included the names of the kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty, made no mention of the four Amarna rulers. In the circumstances it is not surprising that when, in the middle of the last century, archaeologists came across the strangely drawn figure of Akhenaten at Amarna they were not sure initially what to make of him. Some thought that, like Queen Hatshepsut, this newly discovered Pharaoh was a woman who disguised herself as a king. Further cause for conjecture arose from the fact that Akhenaten had ascended to the throne as Amenhotep IV and later changed his name. Were they dealing with one Pharaoh or two?

Horemheb also made it a crime, punishable by death, even to mention the name of Akhenaten (Moses). I believe that the origin of the name Moses lies in this ban. Freud, as we saw earlier, pointed out that mos was an Egyptian word meaning "child," but it also had a wider legal meaning, "the rightful son and heir." This is clear from the inscriptions in a tomb at Sakkara about a dispute over a piece of land that lasted over a long period during reigns of different kings of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties. The plaintiff in the case was a scribe named Khayri, who having been named once is afterward referred to as Mos to indicate his claim to be the rightful inheritor. Consequently, it seems to me that an alternative, a type of codename, had to be found that followers of Akhenaten (Moses) could refer to him. Therefore they called him Mos, the son, to indicate that he was the legitimate son of Amenhotep III and the rightful heir to his father's throne. Later, the biblical editor, who may not have had any knowledge of the original name of the greatest Israelite leader, attempted to put forward a Hebrew explanation of the Egyptian word Moses in order to sever any possible link between Moses and Egypt.

As we saw earlier, from a philological point of view, in Ancient Egyptian, which had no vowels, the written word meaning a child or son consists of two consonants, m and s, although the vowels were pronounced. It is consequently easy to see that the Hebrew word came from the Egyptian word. As for the final "s" of Moses, this derives from the Greek translation of the biblical name.

By the time Horemheb came to the throne, many Egyptians had adopted the Atenist faith and, as a result, were looked upon, in the words of Manetho, the native Egyptian historian of the third century B.C., as "polluted persons." Horemheb persecuted them. He turned the area around the fortified frontier city of Zarw, where Akhenaten (Moses) had been born, into a prison. There he gathered the mass of Akhenaten's followers, both Israelite and Egyptian, plus a variety of criminals, who lived in villages outside the city walls. Horemheb appointed Pa-Ramses (later Ramses I, the first ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty) as his chief minister, Commander of the Troops, Overseer of Foreign Countries, Overseer of the Fortress of

Zarw and Master of the Horse. Pa-Ramses was therefore the most powerful man in Egypt after Horemheb, and it was he, on Horemheb's orders, who inflicted harsh labor on the Israelites and other prisoners by forcing them to rebuild Zarw as well as a new residence for himself, known later as Pi-Ramses, which, according to the Old Testament, was the starting point of the Exodus.

The length of Horemheb's reign has been the subject of considerable dispute, with estimates ranging from as low as 8 years to as high as 59. Manetho assigned 12 years and 3 months to Horemheb's reign. Support for Manetho's view is provided by two large storage jars, which bear hieratic dockets and were found in fairly recent times in Horemheb's tomb. One of them is dated to "Year 13, third month of Inundation" and is said to have contained "very good quality wine from the vineyard of the estate of Horemheb, beloved of Amun ..." As this is the last sure date we have for him and it agrees with the Manethonian tradition, it should be accepted as indicating the time he died.

The death of Horemheb in 1335 B.C., aged about 70, left Egypt without a legitimate heir to the Eighteenth Dynasty. Pa-Ramses, his chief minister, by now an old man, therefore prepared to claim the throne for himself as the first ruler of a new dynasty, the Nineteenth. It was at this point that Akhenaten (Moses), who had been in exile in the wilderness for about a quarter of a century, decided to try to reclaim his throne—at a time when, according to the Old Testament, the Lord assured him that "all the men are dead which sought thy life" (Exodus 4:19).

The biblical account of these events begins with the appearance of the Lord to Moses in a burning bush on the mount of God, Mount Sinai. The Lord said to him: "I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters . . . And I am come down to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land . . . unto a land flowing with milk and honey . . . Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt..." (Exodus 3:7-8, 10).

Moses protested that the Israelites would not listen to him. The Lord said to him: "What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent . . . And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand . . . And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thine bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thine bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign. And it shall come to pass that, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou tak-est out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land" (4:2—4, 6-9).

Moses was still unwilling to undertake the mission. He protested that he was "slow of speech and of a slow tongue" (4:10). However, the Lord replied "Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee ... he shall be thy spokesman unto the people ... he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs" (4:14, 16-17).

Moses and Aaron made their way to Egypt where "Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed . . . they bowed their heads and worshipped" (4:30-31). However, the oppression begun by Horemheb continued under his successor, Ramses I. When Moses and Aaron sought permission for the Israelites to spend three days in the wilderness to hold a feast to their God, Pharaoh not only refused but increased the harsh treatment of the Israelites: "Behold the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens. And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make bricks, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale [number] of bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God" (5:5-8).

Faced with this hostility, Moses and Aaron sought permission for the Israelites to leave Egypt altogether. It was refused, whereupon the Lord told Moses that when Pharaoh asked him to perform a miracle he was to instruct Aaron to "take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent . . . Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in a like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods ..." (7:9-12).

When permission to leave Egypt was still withheld Aaron "lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants, and all the waters that were in the river turned to blood. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt" (7:20-21). The white-hand ritual is not mentioned in this biblical account of events after the return of Moses to Egypt although it appears in the Koran. However, we are told how his "magic rod" was used to cause a whole series of plagues on the country— frogs, lice, flies, the death of cattle, boils, hail, flooding, locusts and darkness—that resulted eventually in the granting of permission for the Exodus.

The events that inspired this fanciful biblical account are much more mundane. On learning of the death of Horemheb, the implacable enemy of the Amarna kings and the monotheistic Aten, Akhenaten (Moses) decided to return to Egypt to reclaim his throne. If he was born in 1394 B.C. he would have been rising 60 years of age at the time. As he was "slow of tongue"—unable to address Israelites in their Hebrew language—he enlisted the aid of Aaron, his "feeding brother," both of whose parents were Israelites, to help him. He made his way to Zarw, his birthplace, where his challenge as Mos, the rightful ruler, had to be decided by Egyptian priests and elders. In support of his case he took with him his symbol of Pharaonic power—a scepter topped by a brass serpent. This was the "magic rod" of the biblical account. The Hebrew word used in the Bible to indicate the rod of Moses is nahash, which has the meanings of both "serpent" and "brass." In addition, the Haggadah, the legendary part of the Talmud, confirms the royal character of Moses's rod: "The rod which Moses used . . . was shaped and engraved in the image of a sceptre [a staff borne as a symbol of personal sovereignty]."

Akhenaten (Moses) did not simply produce his rod in support of his claim but performed before the priests and elders some secret rituals— secret, that is, from ordinary people—used by Pharaohs in their sed festivals for the purpose of rejuvenating their power, usually in their Year 30. Among them were the use of the serpent rod and the hand ritual described—with some embellishments—in the Exodus account of these events. For instance, in the tomb of Kheruef, one of Queen Tiye's stewards, a throne scene shows the queen with her husband, Amenhotep III. Under the dais of the throne we see Kheruef and other officials, each holding something that he is about to hand to the king so that he can use it during the sedfestival celebrations of his Year 30. In one scene, Kheruef is followed by eight palace officials, the first of whom is wearing an apron. He puts his right arm across his chest and his hand over his left shoulder while he holds his own forearm with the left hand. The fourth of these officials holds a bundle of clothes in his right hand and a curved scepter with serpent's head in his left.

The Koranic account of events after the return of (Akhenaten) Moses to Egypt gives more details than are to be found in the Book of Exodus, since the biblical narrator had a different interpretation of these events. It also presents the confrontation in such a precise way that one wonders if some of the details were left out of the biblical account deliberately. Here Moses sounds less like a magician, more like someone who presents evidence of his authority that convinces the wise men of Egypt, who throw themselves at his feet and thus earn the punishment of Pharaoh. One can only suspect that the biblical editor exercised care to avoid any Egyptian involvement with the Israelite Exodus, even to the extent of replacing Moses by Aaron in the performance of the rituals:

Moses said: "O Pharaoh! I am an apostle from The Lord of the Worlds,— One for whom it is right To say nothing but truth About Allah. Now have I Come unto you (people), from Your Lord with a clear (Sign) So let the Children of Israel Depart along with me."

(Pharaoh) said: "If indeed Thou hast come with a Sign, Show it forth, If thou tellest the truth."

Then (Moses) threw his rod, And behold! it was A serpent, plain (for all to see)! And he drew out his hand And behold! it was white To all beholders!

Said the Chiefs of the people Of Pharaoh: "This is indeed A sorcerer well-versed.

"His plan is to get you out Of your land: then What is it ye counsel?" They said "Keep him And his brother in suspense (For a while); and send To the cities men to collect—

"And bring up to thee

All (our) sorcerers well-versed."

So there came

The sorcerers to Pharaoh:

They said, "Of course

We shall have a (suitable)

Reward if we win!"

He said: "Yea, (and more),— For ye shall in that case Be (raised to posts) Nearest (to my person)."

They said: "O Moses Wilt thou throw (first), Or shall we have The (first) throw?"

Said Moses: "Throw ye (first)." So when they threw, They bewitched the eyes Of the people, and struck Terror into them: for they Showed a great (feat of) magic.

We put it into Moses's mind By inspiration: "Throw (now)

Thy rod": and behold! It swallows up straightaway All the falsehoods Which they fake.

Thus truth was confirmed, And all that they did Was made of no effect.

So the (great ones) were vanquished There and then, and were Made to look small.

But the sorcerers fell down Prostrate in adoration, Saying: "We believe In the Lord of the Worlds,—

"The Lord of Moses and Aaron."

Said Pharaoh: "Believe ye In Him before I give

You permission? Surely This is a trick which ye Have planned in the City To drive out its people: But soon shall ye know (The consequences).

"Be sure I will cut off Your hands and your feet On opposite sides, and I Will cause you all To die on the cross."

sura 7:104-124

So Akhenaten (Moses) was not using magic but seeking to establish his royal authority, and the biblical story relates a political challenge for power in a mythological way. As for the promise that the Nile would turn red, this should be seen as indicating the time of the year. During the season of

Inundation, the Nile waters become reddish, and, if these events took place in the Eastern Delta, this would suggest the late days of summer, by which time this change of color would have begun to affect the lower reaches of the river. Similarly, the various plagues said to have been inflicted on Pharaoh and his country are to be seen as natural occurrences that would manifest themselves in the course of an Egyptian year.

Once they saw the scepter of royal authority and Akhenaten had performed the sed-festival rituals, the wise men "fell down prostrate in adoration," as the Koran puts it, confirming that his was the superior right to the throne. However, Pa-Ramses, who controlled the army, used his power to frustrate the verdict of the priests and elders and retained the right to rule by a kind of coup d'etat. Akhenaten (Moses) was left with no choice but to flee from Egypt with his followers—the Israelites and those Egyptians who had embraced the Atenist faith. So began the Exodus, the first stage of what would prove a long journey to the Promised Land of Canaan.

Akhenaten (Moses) and his followers made their way to Sinai via the marshy area to the south of Zarw and north of Lake Temsah and present-day Ismaelia. This watery route was chosen to hinder pursuit: Egyptian chariots would become stuck in the mud whereas the Israelites, traveling on foot, would be able to cross safely. This is the possible time and location for the biblical account of the pursuing Pharaoh who was drowned. Egyptian sources provide no evidence of this event, but it is certain that the short reign of Ramses I (c. 1335-1333 B.C.) came to an end with his death at this very time. Now faced with the problem of a large number of followers in need of food and water, Akhenaten abandoned his plan to head for Mount Sinai, and instead, went north on the ancient Road of Horus that connected Zarw on the borders of Egypt with the Canaanite city of Gaza. Along the road were settlements with water wells, guarded by military posts. According to the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses was eventually not allowed to enter the Promised Land and was killed by the Lord because "ye trespassed against me ... at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh in the wilderness ..." (32:51). Moses had not been forbidden to obtain water for his followers, which cannot in any case be regarded as a sinful act. The implication is that Akhenaten secured water from the wells along the Road of Horus. This could have been done easily by force although it seems more likely that force was not necessary: he still had his brass scepter of authority, and it is hardly to be imagined that a garrison commander would challenge the wishes of a former king whom he regarded as the Son of Ra.

Realizing that a fertile land was needed to feed his large following, Akhenaten next marched north toward Gaza and attempted to storm the city, seemingly joined by some of his bedouin Shasu allies (the Midianites of the Bible) in the assault. News of these events was reported to Egypt. Seti I (c. 1333-1304 B.C.), the son and successor of the elderly Ramses I, did not even wait for his late father's mummification before marching against Akhenaten, the Israelites and the Shasu. He met and defeated them at many locations on the Horus road as well as central Sinai. There was great slaughter among the Shasu, large numbers of whom were also captured and taken back to Egypt to be sacrificed at the feet of the god Amun-Ra at the Karnak temple. It is likely that Moses was killed by Seti himself in the course of these military operations (with the body either buried in the sand at the place of death, or left there to rot), and that it was his quest for water and food that much later, when the first five books of the Old Testament were written, inspired the waters of Meribah-Kadesh story.

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