Palestine Calling
W. M. Christie

Chapter XV

What Moses Might Have Been

Egyptian Chronology used to be considered puzzling and uncertain, but long continued research has given us quite a number of "fixed points," and there is a general consensus of opinion that the Exodus occurred in 1447 B.C. Moses was then 80 years of age, which means that he was born in 1527 B.C.

This latter date enables us to fix with the greatest certainty on the personality of the daughter of Pharaoh, who rescued and brought up Moses. Thothmes I (1541-1516) had two daughters, the elder of whom Nebtneferu, died young, and has accordingly no place in history. The younger was Hatshepsut, a woman of forceful character, who, while nominally co-regent, was the actual queen of Egypt for thirty-three years.

Hatshepsut was born in 1540, and when she rescued Moses from the Nile she was in her fourteenth year, just the age when a girl wants to toss her dolls aside and play with a real baby. From her he got his name, which closely re-echoes the Hebrew of, "I drew him out of the water," and which in Egyptian would read, "Mesu-ya em-mu," but we must remember that Bible etymologies are not such in our sense, but generally "word plays," and to us it seems more likely that his girl rescuer called him "Mes-ya," which means "my boy," or "my son."

Now when Moses was being educated and growing into manhood, Hatshepsut was ruling Egypt as regent for her weakling brother, Thothmes II (1516-1503). He died when Moses was twenty-four years of age, and there was evidently no full-blooded royal successor to be nominal king under Hatshepsut.

And in connection with just such a contingency in Egypt we have indications of some notable events in Moses' life. Josephus (Ant. II. ix. 7) tells that Moses was destined by both Pharaoh and his daughter to be heir to the kingdom. In Acts 7:22, Stephen declares that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in word and deeds, while we read in Hebrews 11:24, that, when he came to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Then Josephus again gives an account of a war conducted by Moses against the Ethiopians; while details of the honours conferred upon Moses, and consequent jealousies are set forth by Alexander Polyhistor (Euseb. Prep. Evang. ix. 27). This expedition may very well fit in with the undated war against the land of Punt at the south end of the Red Sea, where Ethiopians and others had their great trade emporium.

Now the facts of history are all explained, and the incidents fit well into one another, if, about the year 1503, Hatshepsut sought to place Moses on the throne (she herself retaining the power she had actually enjoyed for thirteen years) and giving him a title to it by betrothing him to her elder daughter, Nepherura, who is named on the monuments, "Lady of both lands, Princess of the North and the South." She was a pretty girl (her portrait still exists), and the treasures of Egypt with her must have been a strong inducement to a young man of twenty-four, but perhaps there was, through Divine Providence, a something of objection to Hatshepsut as mother-in-law and "over-lord."

Moses' refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter seems to imply something formal or official, and not a mere passive dropping of past relationships. And may we not see in just such a public renunciation an added sting in the words of the offending Hebrew (Exod. 2:14): "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?"

The final succession affords evidence that some arrangement of this kind must have been first proposed. The next Pharaoh, Thothmes III, was advanced to the throne exactly in this manner. Though connected with the royal house, he could not succeed in his own right, as he was the son of a slave woman named Aset, and not of a queen. This difficulty was got over, as it would have been in Moses' case, by his marrying Hatshepsut's younger daughter, Merytra, the elder one having died meanwhile. Thothmes III had to take a humble place as long as Hatshepsut lived (till 1481), but after the actual marriage took place, when Moses was approaching his fortieth year, and Hatshepsut was growing old, he may have ventured to assert himself to some extent; and this may explain his action against his supposed rival (Exod. 2:15). Thothmes, immediately on attaining the full dignity (1481), became extremely active, and in the following year he fought and won the first Battle of Megiddo, the first of a long series of struggles that have made famous the Plain of Armageddon.

Now these things are no mere imaginings. They fit into the old world history, and they throw light on peculiar situations. They command the "greatest probability," and it is that which has drawn our attention to them. We can accordingly think of what might have been had Moses yielded to the temptations set before him. As Pharaoh, he could have given his own people little help indeed. He would have to look on and see them in slavery. He would himself be suspected as belonging to an Asiatic race that had been favoured by the hated Hyksos Shepherd Kings, expelled in 1587. The assassin's knife might have closed his life, and, at the best, we should have had him as a mummy in the British Museum.

But Moses' faith altered all that, and he became the greatest mere man the world has seen. He saved his people, created a nation that still exists, gave them a Law from Heaven, and became the prototype of the Son of God Himself.

Then we have the growing conviction that we owe him the invention of alphabetic writing. The Egyptian hieroglyphics which he knew, were in his time moving slowly in that direction. He would also know the troubles of the international, syllabic Cuneiform Assyrian. It required a man with his knowledge, and with a work in hand, to present the world with alphabetic signs. There are seals and such like in the Phoenician or Old Hebrew alphabet, that are dated in the tenth and eleventh centuries B.C. But the earlier portions of our Hebrew Scriptures are still more ancient. They are the oldest records in the alphabetic script that have come down to us. May we not "add this stone to his cairn"?

At the ripe age of 120, which as a Pharaoh he never would have seen, he has had the grandest funeral the world has on record, for "the angels of God turned up the sod, and laid the dead man there."

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