Moses as the Egyptian ‘Sinuhe’

Moses In The Twelfth Dynasty Egyptian Literature. A Reconstruction


Job 38:1-8Then the Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: “Who is this that obscures divine plans with words of ignorance? Gird up your loins now, like a man; I will question you, and tell me the answers! Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding, who determined its size; do you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Into what were it’s pedestals sunk, and who laid the cornerstone, while the morning stars sang in chorus and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Romans 11:33-36O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? 2 Corinthians 3:12-16. . . we use great boldness in our speech, and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart: But whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Most scholars tentatively position Moses in the Egyptian New Kingdom reign of Rameses II because the bible mentions a city with a name similar to Rameses. With this assumption, none of the events described in the bible emerge from the Egyptian records, therefore something is wrong. Moses jumps out as a major hero who lived a long eventful life centered in Egypt. He could not have passed unnoticed by the Egyptians. Especially when one notes the momentous events that involved the passover angel of death which destroyed Egypt and the massive exodus of about two million people. Moreover, Moses as adopted into the royal family of Egypt was famous. After he murdered “The Egyptian” he became notorious.

Moses will be identified here as a major hero of the Egyptian Middle Kingdom Twelfth Dynasty literature. Each of the stories will tell about a segment of his long life. The Egyptian literature has only within the last 200 years been discovered, translated and published for general reading, however no one seems to have made the connection between the ancient biblical stories and the recovered ancient Egyptian stories. After the events are selected and matched one for one, the whole coherent saga emerges clearly.

The first set of matches, famine and flight, involve Joseph and Moses in proper sequence. Joseph lived to age 110. His large Hebrew family joined him in Egypt and stayed about 430 years. Moses born in Egypt murdered the “Egyptian” at age 40, fled to Midian where he stayed for about 40 years. Then he returned to Egypt to lead the Hebrews at age 80, and died at age 120. (Moses’ brother Aaron died in the same year just before Moses, at age 123.) David and Solomon came about 480 years later completing a span of about a 1000 years.

Joseph lived a long interesting life. Some would say that his story reads so beautifully that it must be a novella, that is fiction. However, the ancient writers must not be held to modern journalistic standards. Just because it reads as a carefully crafted piece does not mean it was merely entertainment. Certainly the Egyptian and Hebrews’ writing standards were high and strict as were the obvious standards concerning the visual arts. The extremely stylized drawings, paintings and sculpture done by the Egyptians conformed to certain conventions but also told about real events and depicted real people even though we know that they didn’t walk around with their heads turned over one shoulder. The Joseph story may have some fictionalized aspects, however the saga, despite being beautifully enhanced, is accurate history. The dialog certainly was not word for word but just as certainly conveyed what happened. Not only was Joseph a real person, he was Imhotep, another famous historic person whose existence not many would doubt.

Both of these heroes, foresaw a terrible seven-year famine, planned ahead and saved many people including non-Egyptians. Both are linked with the image of seven cows and seven sheaves of wheat. Joseph interpreted the pharaoh’s seven-cow dream as a warning of the coming famine. Likewise the Old Kingdom’s famous “Book of the Dead” written during Imhotep’s time, also contains the image of seven cows each with a sheaf of wheat. Both heroes are called saviors of mankind because of their leadership efforts.

On his deathbed, in the last chapter of Genesis, Joseph gave another warning, and ordered his bretheren to plan ahead. He said that “God will visit you,” and when he does, “get my bones outta here!” In other words “God’s visit” would bring destruction. Joseph warned of the coming passover angel of death, and 400 years later Moses understood. (Moses did remove Joseph’s mummy and transplanted it in Sechem.)

The second of the “famine and flight” clues, flight, involved Moses. After Moses killed the Egyptian he fled to Midian, which is east of the Sinai Peninsula, northeast of the Red Sea, and which is now in Saudi Arabia. He met Zipporah, daughter of the tribal priest-leader Jethro, married her, had two sons, led the tribe to military victories and prospered. He experienced a vision of God there on the mountain at the burning bush. In the vision he got his mission to go back to Egypt to save the people. This mission gave Moses foreknowledge of the coming visit of the passover angel, just as Joseph had warned.

Yet Moses stayed in Midian 40 years and feared returning to Egypt because he remained a murder fugitive. Moses waited for the king “who sought his death” to die himself, before Moses attempted to return.

This part of the Moses story matches a famous Egyptian one, “The Story of Sinuhe.” Moses is Sinuhe. In his first person account, Sinuhe evasively linked himself to the murder of Amenemhet I, the first king of the Twelfth Dynasty. The flight confirms that he had some part in the murder, the guilty usually flee, but an apparent plot to take over the throne failed. He fled to Midian, married the daughter of the tribal leader, Ammuneneschi, led the tribe to military victories and prospered. Only after a long time, after the son of Amenemhet I also died, did Sinuhe attempt to return. That king, Sesostris I, as son of the slain king, still wanted to execute his father’s murderer. The parallels are striking. The story fits chronologically with the Joseph/Imhotep match also.


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