Philippe de Champaigne – Moses with the Ten Commandments – WGA04717. Abrahamic religions, enter the fourteenth character of the alphabet to their holy books.
However, scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure and not a historical person. According to the Hebrew Bible, he was adopted by an Egyptian princess, and later in life became the leader of the Israelites and lawgiver, to whom the authorship of the Torah, or acquisition of the Torah from Heaven is traditionally attributed. According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Israelites, an enslaved minority, were increasing in numbers and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might ally themselves with Egypt’s enemies. God sent Moses back to Egypt to demand the release of the Israelites from slavery. Moses said that he could not speak eloquently, so God allowed Aaron, his brother, to become his spokesperson. The Biblical account of Moses’ birth provides him with a folk etymology to explain the ostensible meaning of his name.
He is said to have received it from the Pharaoh’s daughter: “he became her son. This explanation links it to a verb mashah, meaning “to draw out”, which makes the Pharaoh’s daughter’s declaration a play on words. The Hebrew etymology in the Biblical story may reflect an attempt to cancel out traces of Moses’ Egyptian origins. Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, claimed that the second element, -esês, meant ‘those who are saved’. The Israelites had settled in the Land of Goshen in the time of Joseph and Jacob, but a new pharaoh arose who oppressed the children of Israel. The Pharaoh had commanded that all male Hebrew children born would be drowned in the river Nile, but Moses’ mother placed him in an ark and concealed the ark in the bulrushes by the riverbank, where the baby was discovered and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised as an Egyptian.
From Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to biblical Mount Sinai, where he was given the Ten Commandments from God, written on stone tablets. From Sinai, Moses led the Israelites to the Desert of Paran on the border of Canaan. From there he sent twelve spies into the land. The spies returned with samples of the land’s fertility, but warned that its inhabitants were giants. When the forty years had passed, Moses led the Israelites east around the Dead Sea to the territories of Edom and Moab. On the banks of the Jordan River, in sight of the land, Moses assembled the tribes.
Moses is honoured among Jews today as the “lawgiver of Israel”, and he delivers several sets of laws in the course of the four books. Moses has traditionally been regarded as the author of those four books and the Book of Genesis, which together comprise the Torah, the first and most revered section of the Hebrew Bible. The scholarly consensus is that the figure of Moses is legendary, and not historical, although a “Moses-like figure may have existed somewhere in the southern Transjordan in the mid-late 13th century B. She cast me into the river which rose over me. The tradition of Moses as a lawgiver and culture hero of the Israelites may go back to the 7th-century BCE sources of the Deuteronomist, which might conserve earlier traditions. Despite the imposing fame associated with Moses, no source mentions him until he emerges in texts associated with the Babylonian exile. The name King Mesha of Moab has been linked to that of Moses.
Non-biblical writings about Jews, with references to the role of Moses, first appear at the beginning of the Hellenistic period, from 323 BCE to about 146 BCE. Shmuel notes that “a characteristic of this literature is the high honour in which it holds the peoples of the East in general and some specific groups among these peoples. The figure of Osarseph in Hellenistic historiography is a renegade Egyptian priest who leads an army of lepers against the pharaoh and is finally expelled from Egypt, changing his name to Moses. After the establishment of settled life in Egypt in early times, which took place, according to the mythical account, in the period of the gods and heroes, the first to persuade the multitudes to use written laws was Mneves , a man not only great of soul but also in his life the most public-spirited of all lawgivers whose names are recorded. Droge also points out that this statement by Hecataeus was similar to statements made subsequently by Eupolemus.
Moses as a cultural hero, alien to the Pharaonic court. According to theologian John Barclay, the Moses of Artapanus “clearly bears the destiny of the Jews, and in his personal, cultural and military splendor, brings credit to the whole Jewish people. Jealousy of Moses’ excellent qualities induced Chenephres to send him with unskilled troops on a military expedition to Ethiopia, where he won great victories. Artapanus goes on to relate how Moses returns to Egypt with Aaron, and is imprisoned, but miraculously escapes through the name of YHWH in order to lead the Exodus. This account further testifies that all Egyptian temples of Isis thereafter contained a rod, in remembrance of that used for Moses’ miracles. Some historians, however, point out the “apologetic nature of much of Artapanus’ work,” with his addition of extra-biblical details, such as his references to Jethro: the non-Jewish Jethro expresses admiration for Moses’ gallantry in helping his daughters, and chooses to adopt Moses as his son. Moses, whom he considered to be an Egyptian who deplored the situation in his homeland, and thereby attracted many followers who respected the deity.