MOSES ANDMONOTHEISMSIGMUND FREUDTRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN BYKATHERINE JONESPUBLISHED BY THE HOGARTH PRESSAND THE INSTITUTE OF PSYCHO-ANALYSIS939
First published 1939PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BYTHE GARDEN CITY PRESS LIMITEDAT LETGHWORTH, HERTFORDSHIRE
TRANSLATORS NOTEPARTS I and II of this book were published inGerman in Imago in 1937; Part III has notpreviously appeared in print.I am indebted to Mr. James Strachey and Mr.Wilfred Trotter for kindly reading through thistranslation and for making a number of valuablesuggestions. I have also had the advantage ofconsulting the author on some doubtful points.K.J:
CONTENTSPART IPAGEMOSES AN EGYPTIAN - - - - nPART IIIF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 29PART IIIMOSES, HIS PEOPLE AND MONOTHEISTICRELIGION 89PREFATORY NOTES 89SECTION I:1. The Historical Premisses 952. Latency Period and Tradition -1073. The Analogy - - - 1164. Application- - -1295. Difficulties - - - -148
8 CONTENTSPAGESECTION II:1. Summary - - - - -1632. The People of Israel - - 1663. The Great Man - - -1694. The Progress in Spirituality-1765 . Renunciation versus Gratification 1826. The Truth in Religion-1937. The Return of the Repressed-1978. The Historical Truth - - - 2019. The Historical Development -207GLOSSARY 217INDEX - - -219
Part IMOSES AN EGYPTIANTo deny a people the man whom it praises asthe greatest of its sons is not a deed to be under-taken light-heartedly especially by one belong-ing to that people. No consideration, however,will move rne to set aside truth in favourof supposed national interests. Moreover, theelucidation of the mere facts of the problem maybe expected to deepen our insight into thesituation with which they are concerned.The man Moses, the liberator of his people, whogave them their religion and their laws, belongedto an age so remote that the preliminary questionarises whether he was an historical person or alegendary figure. If he lived, his time was thethirteenth or fourteenth century B.C.; we haveno word of him but from the Holy Books andthe written traditions of the Jews. Althoughthe decision lacks final historical certainty, thegreat majority of historians have expressed theopinion that Moses did live and that the exodusfrom Egypt, led by him, did in fact take place.
12 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMIt has been maintained with good reason thatthe later history of Israel could not be understoodif this were not admitted. Science to-day hasbecome much more cautious and deals muchmore leniently with tradition than it did in theearly days of historical investigation.What first attracts our interest in the person ofMoses is his name, which is written Mosche inHebrew. One may well ask: Where does itcome from ? What does it mean ? As is wellknown, the story in Exodus, Chapter ii, alreadyanswers this question. There we learn that theEgyptian princess who saved the babe from thewaters of the Nile gave him his name, adding theetymological explanation: because I drew himout of the water. But this explanation isobviouslyinadequate."The biblical interpretation of thename He that was drawn out of the water5 "thus an author of the Judisches Lexikon1"is folketymology; the active Hebrew form itself of thename (Mosche can at best mean onlythedrawer out5)cannot be reconciled with thissolution." This argument can be supported bytwo further reflections :first, that it is nonsensicalto credit an Egyptian princess with a knowledgeof Hebrew etymology, and, secondly, that thewater from which the child was drawn was mostprobably not the water of the Nile.1Judisches Lexikon, founded by Herlitz und Kirschner, Bd. IV,1930, Jiidischer Verlag, Berlin.
MOSES AN EGYPTIAN 13On the other hand the suggestion has long beenmade and by many different people that the nameMoses derives from the Egyptian vocabulary.Instead of citing all the authors who have voicedthis opinion I shall quote a passage from a recentwork by Breasted,1an author whose History ofEgypt is regarded as authoritative. "It isimportant to notice that his name, Moses, wasEgyptian. It issimply the Egyptian word mose meaning*child/ and is an abridgement of afuller form of such names asAmen-mosemeaningcAmon-a-child5orPtah-mose,5mean-ingcPtah-a -child,5these forms themselves beinglikewise abbreviations for the complete form*Amon-(has-given)-a child5or Ptah-(has -given)-a-child.5The abbreviationchild5early becamea convenient rapid form for the cumbrous fullname, and the name Mose,cchild,5is not un-common on the Egyptian monuments. The fatherof Moses without doubt prefixed to his son5s namethat of an Egyptian god like Amon or Ptah, andthis divine name was gradually lost in currentusage, till the boy was calledMose.5(The finals is an addition drawn from the Greek translationof the Old Testament. It is riot in the Hebrew,which hasmosheh 5).55I have given thispassage literally and am by no means preparedto share the responsibility for its details. I ama little surprised, however, that Breasted in1The Dawn of Conscience, London, 1934, p. 350.
14 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMciting related names should have passed over theanalogous theophorous names in the list ofEgyptian kings, such as Ah-mose, Thut-mose(Thothmes) and Ra-mose (Ramses).It might have been expected that one of themany authors who recognized Moses to be anEgyptian name would have drawn the con-clusion, or at least considered the possibility,that the bearer of an Egyptian name was himselfan Egyptian. In modern times we have nomisgiving in drawing such conclusions, althoughto-day a person bears two names, not one, andalthough a change of name or assimilation of itin new conditions cannot be ruled out. So weare not at all surprised to find that the poetChamisso was of French extraction, NapoleonBuonaparte on the other hand of Italian, andthat Benjamin Disraeli was an Italian Jew ashis name would lead us to expect. And such aninference from the name to the race should bemore reliable and indeed conclusive in respectof early and primitive times. Nevertheless to thebest of my knowledge no historian has drawn thisconclusion in the case of Moses, not even one ofthose who, like Breasted, are ready to supposethat Moses"was cognizant of all the wisdom ofthe Egyptians."lWhat hindered them from doing so can onlybe guessed at. Perhaps the awe of Biblical1Loc. cit. 9 p. 334.
MOSES AN EGYPTIAN 15tradition was insuperable. Perhaps it seemedmonstrous to imagine that the man Moses couldhave been anything other than a Hebrew. Inany event, what happened was that the recogni-tion of the name being Egyptian was not a factorin judging the origin of the man Moses, and thatnothing further was deduced from it. If thequestion of the nationality of this great man isconsidered important, then any new material foranswering it must be welcome.This is what my little essay attempts. It mayclaim a place in Imago1because the contributionit brings is an application of psycho-analysis.The considerations thus reached will impress onlythat minority of readers familiar with analyticalreasoning and able to appreciate its conclusions.To them I hope it will appear of significance.In 1909 Otto Rank, then still under my influ-ence, published at my suggestion a book entitled :Der Mythus von der Geburt des Helden. 2It deals withthe fact"that almost all important civilizedpeoples have early on woven myths around andglorified in poetry their heroes, mythical kingsand princes, founders of religions, of dynasties,empires and cities in short their national heroes.Especially the history of their birth and of theirearly years is furnished with phantastic traits;1See Glossary.2Funftes Heft der Schriften zur angewandten Seelenkunde, Fr.Deuticke, Wien. It is far from my mind to depreciate the valueof Ranks original contributions to this work.
1 6 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMthe amazing similarity, nay, literal identity, ofthose tales, even if they refer to different, com-pletely independent peoples, sometimes geo-graphically far removed from one another, is wellknown and has struck many an investigator.55Following Rank we reconstruct on the lines ofGaltons technique an "^average myth55thatmakes prominent the essential features of all thesetales, and we then get this formula."The hero is the son of parents of the higheststation, most often the son of a king."His conception isimpeded by difficuJties,such as abstinence or temporary sterility; or elsehis parents practise intercourse in secret becauseofprohibitions or other external obstacles. Duringhis mothers pregnancy or earlier an oracle or adream warns the father of the child5s birth ascontaining grave danger for his safety."In consequence the father (or a personrepresenting him) gives orders for the new-bornbabe to be killed or exposed to extreme danger;in most cases the babe isplaced in a casket anddelivered to the waves."The child is then saved by animals or poorpeople, such as shepherds, and suckled by afemale animal or a woman of humble birth."When full grown he rediscovers his nobleparents after many strange adventures, wreaksvengeance on his father and, recognized by hispeople, attains fame and greatness.55
MOSES AN EGYPTIAN 17The most remote of the historical personagesto whom this myth attaches is Sargon of Agade,the founder of Babylon about 2800 B.C. From thepoint of view of what interests us here it wouldperhaps be worth while to reproduce the accountascribed to himself:"I am Sargon, the mighty king, King ofAgade. My mother was a Vestal; my father Iknew not; while my fathers brother dwelt inthe mountains. In my town Azupirani it lieson the banks of Euphrates my mother, theVestal, conceived me. Secretly she bore me. She laidme in a basket of sedge, closed the opening withpitch and lowered me into the river. The stream didnot drown me, but carried me to Akki, thedrawer of water. Akki, the drawer of water, inthe goodness of his heart lifted me out of thewater. Akki, the drawer of water, as his own son hebrought me up. Akki, the drawer of water, mademe his gardener. When I was a gardener Istarfell in love with me. I became king and for forty-five years I ruled as king.5 The best known names in the series beginningwith Sargon of Agade are Moses, Cyrus andRomulus. But besides these Rank has enumeratedmany other heroes belonging to myth or poetryto whom the same youthful story attaches eitherin its entirety or in well recognizable parts, such as(Edipus, Kama, Paris, Telephos, Perseus, Heracles,Gilgamesh, Amphion, Zethos and others.B
1 8 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMThe source and the tendency of such myths arefamiliar to us through Ranks work. I need onlyrefer to his conclusions with a few short hints.A hero is a man who stands up manfully againsthis father and in the end victoriously overcomeshim. The myth in question traces this struggleback to the very dawn of the heros life, by havinghim born against his fathers will and saved inspite of his fathers evil intentions. The exposurein the basket is clearly a symbolical representa-tion of birth ;the basket is the womb, the streamthe water at birth. In innumerable dreams therelation of the child to the parents isrepresentedby drawing or saving from the water. When theimagination of a people attaches this myth to afamous personage it is to indicate that he isrecognized as a hero, that his life has conformedto the typical plan. The inner source of the mythis the so-called"family romance "of the child,in which the son reacts to the change in his innerrelationship to his parents, especially that to hisfather. The childs first years are governed bygrandiose over-estimation of his father; kingsand queens in dreams and fairy tales alwaysrepresent, accordingly, the parents. Later on,under the influence of rivalry and real disappoint-ments, the release from the parents and a criticalattitude towards the father sets in. The twofamilies of the myth, the noble as well as thehumble one, are therefore both images of his own
MOSES AN EGYPTIAN 19family as they appear to the child in successiveperiods of his life.It is not too much to say that these observationsfully explain the similarity as well as the far-spread occurrence of the myth of the birth of thehero. It is all the more interesting to find thatthe myth of Moses5birth and exposure standsapart; in one essential point it even contradictsthe others.We start with the two families between whichthe myth has cast the childs fate. We know thatanalytic interpretation makes them into onefamily, that the distinction is only a temporalone. In the typical form of the myth the firstfamily, into which the child is born, is a noble andmostly a royal one; the second family, in whichthe child grows up, is a humble and degradedone, corresponding with the circumstances towhich the interpretation refers. Only in thestory of (Edipus is this difference obscured. Thebabe exposed by one kingly family is brought upby another royal pair. It can hardly be anaccident that in this one example there is in themyth itself a glimmer of the original identity ofthe two families. The social contrast of the twofamilies meant, as we know, to stress the heroicnature of a great man gives a second functionto our myth, which becomes especially significantwith historical personages. It can also be usedto provide for our hero a patent of nobility to
2O MOSES AND MONOTHEISMelevate him to a higher social rank. Thus Cyrusis for the Medes an alien conqueror; by way ofthe exposure myth he becomes the grandson oftheir king. A similar trait occurs in the myth ofRomulus : if such a man ever lived he must havebeen an unknown adventurer, an upstart; themyth makes him a descendant of, and heir to,the royal house of Alba Longa.It is very different in the case of Moses. Herethe first family usually so distinguished ismodest enough. ^He is the child of JewishLeyites. But the second family the humble onein which as a rule heroes are brought up isreplaced by the Royal house of Egypt; theprincess brings him up as her own son. Thisdivergence from the usual type has struck manyresearch workers as strange. E. Meyer and othersafter him supposed the original form of the mythto have been different. Pharaoh had been warnedby a prophetic dream1that his daughters sonwould become a danger to him and his kingdom.This is why he has the child delivered to thewaters of the Nile shortly after his birth. But thechild is saved by Jewish people and brought upas their own."National motives"in Ranksterminology2had transformed the myth into theform now known by us.However, further thought tells us that an1Also mentioned in Flavius Josephuss narration.2Loc. tit., p. 80, footnote.
MOSES AN EGYPTIAN 21original Moses myth of this kind, one not diverg-ing from other birth myths, could not haveexisted. For the legend is either of Egyptian orof Jewish origin. The first supposition may beexcluded. The Egyptians had no motive toglorify Moses; to them he was not a hero. Sothe legend should have originated among theJewish people; that is to say, it was attached inthe usual version to the person of their leader.But for that purpose it was entirely unfitted;what good is a legend to a people that makestheir hero into an alien ?The Moses myth as we know it to-day lagssadly behind its secret motives. If Moses is notof royal lineage our legend cannot make him intoa hero ;if he remains a Jew it has done nothingto raise his status. Only one small feature of thewhole myth remains effective : the assurance thatthe babe survived in spite of strong outside forcesto the contrary. This feature is repeated in theearly history ofJesus, where King Herod assumesthe role of Pharaoh. So we really have a rightto assume that in a later and rather clumsytreatment of the legendary material the adaptersaw fit to equip his hero Moses with certainfeatures appertaining to the classical exposuremyths characteristic of a hero, and yet unsuitedto Moses by reason of the special circumstances.With this unsatisfactory and even uncertainresult our investigation would have to end,
22 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMwithout having contributed anything to answeringthe" question whether Moses was Egyptian, werethere not another and perhaps more successfulway of approaching the exposure myth itself.Let us return to the two families in the myth.As we know, on the level of analytic interpreta-tion they are identical. On a mythical level theyare distinguished as the noble and the humblefamily. With an historical person to whom themyth has become attached there is, however, athird level, that of reality. One of the families isthe real one, the one into which the great manwas really born and in which he was brought up.The other is fictitious, invented by the myth inpursuance of its own motives. As a rule the realfamily corresponds with the humble one, thenoble family with the fictitious one. In the caseof Moses something seemed to be different. Andhere the new point of view may perhaps bringsome illumination. It is that the first family,the one from which the babe isexposed to danger,is in all comparable cases the fictitious one; thesecond family, however, by which the hero isadopted and in which he grows up is his real one.If we have the courage to accept this statementas a general truth to which the Moses legend alsois subject, then we suddenly see our way clear.Moses is an Egyptian probably of noble originwhom the myth undertakes to transform into aJew. And that would be our conclusion! The
MOSES AN EGYPTIAN 23exposure in the water was in its right place; tofit the new conclusion the intention had to bechanged, not without violence. From a means ofgetting rid of the child it becomes a means of itssalvation.The divergence of the Moses legend from allothers of its kind might be traced back to aspecial feature in the story of Moses5life. Whereasin all other cases the hero rises above his humblebeginnings as his life progresses, the heroic lifeof the man Moses began by descending fromhis eminence to the level of the children ofIsrael.This little investigation was undertaken in thehope of gaining from it a second, fresh argumentfor the suggestion that Moses was an Egyptian.We have seen that the first argument, that of hisname, has not been considered decisive. 1Wehave to be prepared for the new reasoning theanalysis of the exposure myth not faring anybetter. The objection is likely to be that thecircumstances of the origin and transformation oflegends are too obscure to allow of such a con-clusion as the preceding one, and that all effortsto extract the kernel of historical truth must be1Thus E. Meyer in Die Mosessagen und die Leviten, BerlinerSitzber. 1905:"The name Mose is probably the name Pinchas inthe priest dynasty of Silo . . . without a doubt Egyptian. Thisdoes not prove however that these dynasties were of Egyptianorigin, but it proves that they had relations with Egypt." (p. 651 .)One may well ask what kind of relations one is to imagine.
24 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMdoomed to failure in face of the incoherence andcontradictions clustering around the heroic personof Moses and the unmistakable signs of tenden-tious distortion and stratification accumulatedthrough many centuries. I myself do not sharethis negative attitude, but I am not in a positionto confute it.If there was no more certainty than this to beattained why have I brought this enquiry to thenotice of a wider public ? I regret that even myjustification has to restrict itself to hints. If,however, one is attracted by the two argumentsoutlined above, and tries to take seriously theconclusion that Moses was a distinguishedEgyptian, then very interesting and far-reachingperspectives open out. With the help of certainassumptions the motives guiding Moses in hisunusual undertaking can be made intelligible;in close connection with this the possible motiva-tion of numerous characteristics and peculiaritiesof the legislation and religion he gave the Jewishpeople can be perceived. It stimulates ideas ofsome moment concerning the origin of mono-theistic religion in general. But such importantconsiderations cannot be based on psychologicalprobabilities alone. Even if one were to accept itas historical that Moses was Egyptian, we shouldwant at least one other fixed point so as to protectthe many emerging possibilities from the reproachof their being products of imagination and too
MOSES AN EGYPTIAN 25far removed from reality. An objective proof ofthe period into which the life of Moses, and withit the exodus from Egypt, fall would perhaps havesufficed. But this has not been forthcoming, andtherefore it will be better to suppress any infer-ences that might follow our view that Moses wasan Egyptian.
Part IIIF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN . . .IN Part I of this book I have tried tostrengthen by a new argument the suggestion thatthe man Moses, the liberator and law-giver ofthe Jewish people, was not a Jew, but an Egypt-ian. That his name derived from the Egyptianvocabulary had long been observed, though notduly appreciated. I added to this considerationthe further one that the interpretation of theexposure myth attaching to Moses necessitatedthe conclusion that he was an Egyptian whom apeople needed to make into a Jew.VAt the end ofmy essay I said that important and far-reachingconclusions could be drawn from the suggestionthat Moses was an Egyptian; but I was notprepared to uphold them publicly, since they werebased only on psychological probabilities andlacked objective proof. The more significant thepossibilities thus discerned the more cautious isone about exposing them to the critical attack ofthe outside world without any secure foundationlike an iron monument with feet of clay. No29
30 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMprobability, however seductive, can protect usfrom error; even if all parts of a problem seemto fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle,one has to remember that the probable need notnecessarily be the truth and the truth not alwaysprobable. And, lastly, it is not attractive to beclassed with the scholastics and talmudists whoare satisfied to exercise their ingenuity uncon-cerned how far removed their conclusions maybe from the truth.Notwithstanding these misgivings, which weighas heavily to-day as they did then, out of theconflict of my motives the decision has emergedto follow up my first essay by this contribution.But once again it is only a part of the whole, andnot the most important part.If, then, Moses was an Egyptian, the first gainfrom this suggestion is a new riddle, one difficultto answer. When a people of a tribe1preparesfor a great undertaking it is to be expected thatone of them should make himself their leader orbe chosen for this role. But what could haveinduced a distinguished Egyptian perhaps aprince, priest or high official to place himself at1We have no inkling what numbers were concerned in theExodus.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 31the head of a throng of culturally inferior immi-grants, and to leave the country with them, isnot easy to conjecture. The well-known contemptof the Egyptians for foreigners makes such aproceeding especially unlikely. Indeed, I aminclined to think this is why even those historianswho recognized the name as Egyptian, andascribed all the wisdom of Egypt to him, were notwilling to entertain the obvious possibility thatMoses was an Egyptian.This first difficulty is followed by a second. Wemust not forget that Moses was not only thepolitical leader of the Jews settled in Egypt, hewas also their law-giver and educator and theman who forced them to adopt a new religion,which is still to-day called Mosaic after him.But can a single person create a new religion soeasily ? And when someone wishes to influencethe religion of another would not the mostnatural thing be to convert him to his own ?The Jewish people in Egypt were certainlynot without some kind of religion, and ifMoses, who gave them a new religion, was anEgyptian, then the surmise cannot be rejectedthat this other new religion was the Egyptianone.This possibility encounters an obstacle: thesharp contrast between the Jewish religionattributed to Moses and the Egyptian one.The former is a grandiosely rigid monotheism.
32 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMThere is only one God, unique, omnipotent,unapproachable. The sight of his countenancecannot be borne; one must not make an imageof him, not even breathe his name. In theEgyptian religion, on the other hand, there isa bewildering mass of deities of differing impor-tance and provenance. Some of them are per-sonifications of great natural powers like heavenand earth, sun and moon. Then we find anabstraction such as Maat (Justice, Truth) or agrotesque creature like the dwarfish Bes. Mostof them, however, are local gods from the timewhen the land was divided into numerousprovinces. They have the shapes of animals asif they had not yet overcome their origin fromthe old totem animals. They are not clearlydifferentiated, barely distinguished by specialfunctions attributed to some of them. The hymnsin praise of these gods tell the same thing abouteach of them, identify them with one anotherwithout any misgivings in a way that wouldconfuse us hopelessly. Names of deities arecombined with one another, so that one becomesdegraded almost to an epithet of the other. Thusin the best period of the"New Empire"themain god of the city of Thebes is called Amon-Rein which combination the first part signifies theram-headed city-god, whereas Re is the name ofthe hawk-headed Sun-God of On. Magic andceremonial, amulets and formulas, dominated
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 33the service of these gods, as they did the dailylife of the Egyptians.Some of these differences may easily derivefrom the contrast in principle between a strictmonotheism and an unlimited polytheism. Othersare obviously consequences of a difference inintellectual level; one religion is very near to theprimitive, the other has soared to the heights ofsublime abstraction. Perhaps it is these twocharacteristics that occasionally give one theimpression that the contrast between the Mosaicand the Egyptian religion is one intended andpurposely accentuated: for example, when theone religion severely condemns any kind ofmagic or sorcery which flourishes so abundantlyin the other ;or when the insatiable zest of theEgyptian for making images of his gods in clay,stone and metal, to which our museums owe somuch, is contrasted with the way in which themaking of the image of any living or visionarybeing is bluntly forbidden.There is yet another difference between thetwo religions, which the explanations we haveattempted do not touch. No other people ofantiquity has done so much to deny death, hasmade such careful provision for an after-life; inaccordance with this the death-god Osiris, theruler of that other world, was the mosj; popularand indisputable of all Egyptian gods.^The earlyJewish religion, on the other hand, had entirely
34 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMrelinquished immortality; the possibility of anexistence after death was never mentioned in anyplace. And this is all the more remarkable sincelater experience has shown that the belief in alife beyond can very well be reconciled with amonotheistic religion.We had hoped the suggestion that Moses wasan Egyptian would prove enlightening andstimulating in many different respects. But ourfirst deduction from this suggestion that the newreligion he gave the Jews was his own, theEgyptian one has foundered on the difference,nay the striking contrast, between the tworeligions.IIA strange fact in the history of the Egyptianreligion, which was recognized and appraisedrelatively late, opens up another point of view.It is still possible that the religion Moses gave tohis Jewish people was yet his own, an Egyptianreligion though not the Egyptian one.In the glorious Eighteenth Dynasty, whenEgypt became for the first time a world power,a young Pharaoh ascended the throne about1375 B.C., who first called himself Amenhotep (IV)like his father, but later on changed his nameand not only his name. This king undertook
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 35to force upon his subjects a new religion, onecontrary to their ancient traditions and to alltheir familiar habitsXIt was a strict monotheisn*,the first attempt of its kind in the history of theworld as far as we know and religious intoler-ance, which was foreign to antiquity before thisand for long after, was inevitably born with thebelief in one God. But Amenhoteps reign lastedonly for seventeen years; very soon after hisdeath in 1358 the new religion was swept awayand the memory of the heretic king proscribed.From the ruins of his new capital which he hadbuilt and dedicated to his God, and from theinscriptions in the rock tombs belonging to it, wederive the little knowledge we possess of him.Everything we can learn about this remarkable,indeed unique, person isworthy of the greatestinterest. 1Everything new must have its roots in what wasbefore. The origin of Egyptian monotheism canbe traced back a fair distance with some cer-tainty.1In the School of the Priests in the SunTemple at On (Heliopolis) tendencies had forsome time been at work developing the idea of anuniversal God and stressing His ethical aspects.Maat, the Goddess of truth, order and justice,was a daughter of the Sun God Re. Already1Breasted called him "The first individual in human history."2 The account I give here follows closely J. H. Breasteds Historyof Egypt, 1906, and The Dawn of Conscience, 1936, and the corre-sponding sections in the Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II.
36 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMunder Amenhotep III, the father and predecessorof the reformer, the worship of the Sun God wasin the ascendant, probably in opposition to theworship of Amon of Thebes, who had becomeover prominent. An ancient name of the Sun-God Aton or Atum was rediscovered, and in thisAton religion the young king found a movementhe had no need to create, but one which he couldjoin.Political conditions in Egypt had about thattime begun to exert a lasting influence onEgyptian religion. Through the victorious swordof the great conqueror Thothmes III Egypt hadbecome a world power. Nubia in the south,Palestine, Syria and a part of Mesopotamia inthe north had been added to the Empire. Thisimperialism was reflected in religion as Universal-ity and Monotheism. Since Pharaohs solicitudenow extended beyond Egypt to Nubia and Syria,Deity itself had to give up its national limitationand the new God of the Egyptians had to becomelike Pharaoh the unique and unlimited sovereignof the world known to the Egyptians. Besides,it was natural that as the frontiers extendedEgypt should become accessible to foreigninfluences ;some of the kings wives were Asiaticprincesses,1and possibly even direct encourage-ment of monotheism had penetrated fromSyria.1Perhaps even Amenhoteps beloved spouse Nofertete.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 37Amenhotep never denied his accession to theSun Cult of On. In the two hymns to Aton, whichhave been preserved to us through the inscriptionsin the rock tombs and were probably composedby him, he praises the sun as the creator andpreserver of all living beings in and outsideEgypt with a fervour such as recurs manycenturies after only in the psalms in honour ofthe Jewish god Jahve. But he did not stop at thisastonishing anticipation of scientific knowledgeconcerning the effect of sunlight. There is nodoubt that he went further: that he worshippedthe sun not as a material object, but as a symbolof a Divine Being whose energy was manifestedin his rays.1But we do scant justice to the king if we see inhim only the adherent and protector of an Atonreligion which had already existed before him.His activity was much more energetic. He addedthe something new that turned into monotheismthe doctrine of an universal god : the quality ofexclusiveness. In one of his hymns it is stated in1Breasted, History of Egypt, p. 360:"But however evident theHeliopolitan origin of the new state religion might be, it was notmerely sun-worship; the word Aton was employed in the placeof the old word forgod(nuter), and the god is clearly dis-tinguished from the material sun.""It is evident that what theking was deifying was the force by which the Sun made itselffelt on earth"(Dawn of Conscience, p. 279). Ermans opinion of aformula in honour of the god is similar : A. Erman (Die JEgyptischeReligion, 1905)."There are . . . words which are meant toexpress in an abstract form the fact that not the star itself wasworshipped, but the Being that manifested itself in it."
38 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMso many words:"Oh, Thou only God! Thereis no other God than Thou.55 1And we must notforget that to appraise the new doctrine it is notenough to know its positive content only; nearlyas important is its negative side, the knowledge ofwhat it repudiates. It would be a mistake, too,to suppose that the new religion sprang to lifeready and fully equipped like Athene out ofZeus5forehead. Everything rather goes to showthat during Amenhoteps reign it was strength-ened so as to attain greater clarity, consistency,harshness and intolerance. Probably this develop-ment took place under the influence of the violentopposition among the priests of Amon that raisedits head against the reforms of the king. In thesixth year of Amenhoteps reign this enmity hadgrown to such an extent that the king changedhis name, of which the now proscribed name ofthe god Amon was a part. Instead of Amenhotephe called himself Ikhnaton. 2But not only fromhis name did he eliminate that of the hated God,but also from all inscriptions and even where hefound it in his fathers name Amenhotep III.Soon after his change of name Ikhnaton leftThebes, which was under Amons rule, and builta new capital lower down the river which he1Idem, History of Egypt, p. 374.2I follow Breasteds (American) spelling in this name (theaccepted English spelling is Akhenaten). The kings new namemeans approximately the same as his former one : God is satisfied.Compare our Godfrey and the German Gotthold.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 39called Akhetaton (Horizon of Aton). Its ruinsare now called Tell-el-Amarna.1The persecution by the king was directed fore-most against Amon, but not against him alone.Everywhere in the Empire the temples wereclosed, the services forbidden, and the ecclesias-tical property seized. Indeed, the kings zealwent so far as to cause an inquiry to be made intothe inscriptions of old monuments in order toefface the word "God "whenever it was usedin the plural.2It is not to be wondered at thatthese orders produced a reaction of fanaticalvengeance among the suppressed priests and thediscontented people, a reaction which was ableto find a free outlet after the kings death. TheAton religion had not appealed to the people;it had probably been limited to a small circleround Ikhnatons person. His end is wrapped inmystery. We learn of a few short-lived, shadowysuccessors of his own family. Already his son-in-law Tutankhaton was forced to return to Thebesand to substitute Amon in his name for the godAton. Then there followed a period of anarchy,until the general Haremhab succeeded in 1350in restoring order. The glorious EighteenthDynasty was extinguished; at the same time their1This is where in 1887 the correspondence of the Egyptiankings with their friends and vassals in Asia was found, a cor-respondence which proved so important for our knowledge ofhistory.2Idem, History ofEgypt, p. 363.
40 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMconquests in Nubia and Asia were lost. In thissad interregnum Egypts old religions hadbeen reinstated. The Aton religion was atan end, Ikhnatons capital lay destroyed andplundered, and his memory was scorned as thatof a felon.It will serve a certain purpose if we now noteseveral negative characteristics of the Atonreligion. In the first place, all myth, magic andsorcery are excluded from it.1Then there is the way in which the Sun God isrepresented: no longer as in earlier times by asmall pyramid and a falcon, but and this isalmost rational by a round disc from whichemanate rays terminating in human hands. Inspite of all the love for art in the Amarna period,not one personal representation of the Sun GodAton has been found, and, we may say withconfidence, ever will be found.2Finally, there is a complete silence aboutthe death god Osiris and the realm of thedead. Neither hymns nor inscriptions on graves1Weigall (The Life and Times ofAkhnaton, 1923, p. 121) says thatIkhnaton would not recognize a hell against the terrors of whichone had to guard by innumerable magic spells."Akhnaton flungall these formulas into the fire. Djins, bogies, spirits, monsters,demigods and Osiris himself with all his court, were swept intothe blaze and reduced to ashes."8 A. Weigall, I.e., p. 103,"Akhnaton did not permit anygraven image to be made of the Aton. The true God, said theking, had no form; and he held to this opinion throughout hislife."
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 41know anything of what was perhaps nearestto the Egyptians heart. The contrast with thepopular religion cannot be expressed morevividly.1IllWe venture now to draw the following con-clusion: if Moses was an Egyptian and if hetransmitted to the Jews his own religion then itwas that of Ikhnaton, the Aton religion.We compared earlier the Jewish religion withthe religion of the Egyptian people and notedhow different they were from each other. Nowwe shall compare the Jewish with the Atonreligion and should expect to find that they wereoriginally identical. We know that this is no easytask. Of the Aton religion we do not perhapsknow enough, thanks to the revengeful spirit ofthe Amon priests. The Mosaic religion we knowonly in its final form as it was fixed by Jewishpriests in the time after the Exile about 800 yearslater. If, in spite of this unpromising material,we should find some indications fitting in withour supposition then we may indeed value themhighly.1Erman, /.., p. 90:"Of Osiris and his realm no more was tobe heard." Breasted, Dawn of Conscience, p. 291: "Osiris iscompletely ignored. He is never mentioned in any record ofIkhnaton or in any of the tombs at Amarna."
42 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMThere would be a short way of proving ourthesis that the Mosaic religion is nothing elsebut that of Aton, namely, by a confession offaith, a proclamation. But I am afraid I shouldbe told that such a road isimpracticable. TheJewish creed, as is well known, says:"SchemaJisroel Adonai Elohenu Adonai Echod." If thesimilarity of the name of the Egyptian Aton (orAtum) to the Hebrew word Adonai and theSyrian divine name Adonis is not a mere accident,but is the result of a primaeval unity in languageand meaning, then one could translate theJewish formula: Hear, oh Israel, our god Aton(Adonai) is the only God. I am, alas, entirelyunqualified to answer this question and havebeen able to find very little about it in theliterature concerned,1but probably we hadbetter not make things so simple. Moreover, weshall have to come back to the problems of thedivine name.The points of similarity as well as those ofdifference in the two religions are easily discerned,but do not enlighten us much. Both are forms ofa strict monotheism, and we shall be inclined toreduce to this basic character what is similar inboth of them. Jewish monotheism is in some1Only a few passages in Weigall, I.e., pp. 12, 19:"The godAtum, who described Re as the setting sun, was perhaps of thesame origin as Aton, generally venerated in Northern Syria. Aforeign Queen, as well as her suite, might therefore have beenattracted to Heliopolis rather than to Thebes."
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 43points even more uncompromising than theEgyptian, for example, when it forbids all visualrepresentation of its God. The most essentialdifference apart from the name of their Godis that the Jewish religion entirely relinquishesthe worship of the sun, to which the Egyptian onestill adhered. When comparing the Jewish withthe Egyptian folk religion we received theimpression that, besides the contrast in principle,there was in the difference between the tworeligions an element of purposive contradiction.This impression appears justified when in ourcomparison we replace the Jewish religion by thatofAton, which Ikhnaton as we know developedin deliberate antagonism to the popular religion.We were astonished and rightly so that theJewish religion did not speak of anything beyondthe grave, for such a doctrine is reconcilable withthe strictest monotheism. This astonishmentdisappears if we go back from the Jewish religionto the Aton religion and surmise that this featurewas taken over from the latter, since for Ikhnatonit was a necessity in fighting the popular religionwhere the death god Osiris played perhaps agreater part than any god of the upper regions.The agreement of the Jewish religion with that ofAton in this important point is the first strongargument in favour of our thesis. We shall seethat it is not the only one.Moses gave the Jews not only a new religion;
44 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMit is equally certain that he introduced the customof circumcision. This has a decisive importancefor our problem and it has hardly ever beenweighed. The Biblical account, it is true, oftencontradicts it. On the one hand, it dates thecustom back to the time of the patriarchs as asign of the covenant concluded between God andAbraham. On the other hand, the text mentionsin a specially obscure passage that God waswroth with Moses because he had neglected thisholy usage and proposed to slay him as a punish-ment; Moses wife, aMidianite, saved her husbandfrom the wrath of God by speedily performingthe operation. These are distortions, however,which should not lead us astray; we shall exploretheir motives presently. The fact remains thatthe question concerning the origin of circumcisionhas only one answer: it comes from Egypt.Herodotus,"the Father of History,55tells us thatthe custom of circumcision had long beenpractised in Egypt, and his statement has beenconfirmed by the examination of mummies andeven by drawings on the walls of graves. Noother people of the Eastern Mediterranean hasas far as we know followed this custom; we canassume with certainty that the Semites, Baby-lonians and Sumerians were not circumcised.Biblical history itself says as much of the inhabi-tants of Canaan; it is presupposed in the storyof the adventure between Jacob5s daughter and
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 45the Prince of Shechem.1The possibility that theJews in Egypt adopted the usage of circumcisionin any other way than in connection with thereligion Moses gave them may be rejected asquite untenable. Now let us bear in mind thatcircumcision was practised in Egypt by thepeople as a general custom, and let us adopt forthe moment the usual assumption that Moses wasa Jew who wanted to free his compatriots fromthe service of an Egyptian overlord, and lead themout of the country to develop an independentand self-confident existence a feat he actuallyachieved. What sense could there be in hisforcing upon them at the same time a burden-some custom which, so to speak, made them intoEgyptians and was bound to keep awake theirmemory of Egypt, whereas his intention couldonly have had the opposite aim, namely, that hispeople should become strangers to the countryof bondage and overcome the longing for the"fleshpots of Egypt"? No, the fact we started1When I use Biblical tradition here in such an autocratic andarbitrary way, draw on it for confirmation whenever it is con-venient and dismiss its evidence without scruple when it contra-dicts my conclusions, I know full well that I am exposing myselfto severe criticism concerning my method and that I weaken theforce of my proofs. But this is the only way in which to treatmaterial whose trustworthiness as we know for certain wasseriously damaged by the influence of distorting tendencies.Some justification will be forthcoming later, it is hoped, when wehave unearthed those secret motives. Certainty is not to be gainedin any case, and, moreover, we may say that all other authorshave acted likewise.
46 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMfrom and the suggestion we added to it are soincompatible with each other that we venture todraw the following conclusion: If Moses gavethe Jews not only a new religion, but also thelaw of circumcision, he was no Jew but anEgyptian, and then the Mosaic religion wasprobably an Egyptian one, namely because ofits contrast to the popular religion that of Atonwith which the Jewish one shows agreement insome remarkable points.As I remarked earlier, my hypothesis thatMoses was not a Jew but an Egyptian creates anew enigma. What he did easily understand-able if he were a Jew becomes unintelligible inan Egyptian. But if we place Moses in Ikhnatonsperiod and associate him with that Pharaoh,then the enigma is resolved and a possible motivepresents itself, answering all our questions. Letus assume that Moses was a noble and distin-guished man: perhaps indeed a member of theroyal house, as the myth has it. He must havebeen conscious of his great abilities, ambitiousand energetic; perhaps he saw himself in a dimfuture as the leader of his people, the governorof the Empire. In close contact with Pharaoh hewas a convinced adherent of the new religion,whose basic principles he fully understood andhad made his own. With the kings death andthe subsequent reaction he saw all his hopes andprospects destroyed. If he was not to recant the
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 47convictions so dear to him then Egypt had nomore to give him; he had lost his native country.In this hour of need he found an unusual solution.The dreamer Ikhnaton had estranged himselffrom his people, had let his world empire crumble.Moses5active nature conceived the plan of found-ing a new empire, of finding a new people, towhom he could give the religion that Egyptdisdained. It was, as we perceive, an heroicattempt to struggle against his fate, to find com-pensation in two directions for the losses he hadsuffered through Ikhnatons catastrophe. Perhapshe was at the time governor of that borderprovince (Gosen) in which perhaps already in"the Hyksos period"certain Semitic tribes hadsettled. These he chose to be his new people.An historic decision.1He established relations with them, placedhimself at their head and directed the Exodus"by strength of hand." In full contradistinctionto the Biblical tradition we may suppose thisExodus to have passed off peacefully and withoutpursuit. The authority of Moses made itpossible,1If Moses were a high official we can understand his beingfitted for the r61e of leader he assumed with the Jews. If he werea priest the thought of giving his people a new religion must havebeen near to his heart. In both cases he would have continued hisformer profession. A prince of royal lineage might easily havebeen both :governor and priest. In the report of Flavius Josephus(Antiqu. jud.) , who accepts the exposure myth, but seems to knowother traditions than the Biblical one, Moses appears as anEgyptian field -marshal in a victorious campaign in Ethiopia.
48 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMand there was then no central power that couldhave prevented it.According to our construction the Exodus fromEgypt would have taken place between 1358 and1350, that is to say, after the death of Ikhnatonand before the restitution of the authority of thestate by Haremhab.1The goal of the wanderingcould only be Canaan. After the supremacy ofEgypt had collapsed, hordes ofwar-like Arameanshad flooded the country, conquering and pillag-ing, and thus had shown where a capable peoplecould seize new land. We know these warriorsfrom the letters which were found in 1887 in thearchives of the ruined city of Amarna. Therethey are called Habiru, and the name was passedon no one knows how to the Jewish invaders,Hebrews, who came later and could not havebeen referred to in the letters of Amarna. Thetribes who were the most nearly related to theJews now leaving Egypt also lived south ofPalestine in Canaan.The motivation that we have surmised for theExodus as a whole covers also the institution ofcircumcision. We know in what manner humanbeings both peoples and individuals react tothis ancient custom, scarcely any longer under-stood. Those who do not practise it regard it as1This would be about a century earlier than most historiansassume, who place it in the Nineteenth Dynasty under Merneptah :or perhaps a little less, for official records seem to include theinterregnum in Haremhabs reign.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 49very odd and find it rather abhorrent; but thosewho have adopted circumcision are proud of thecustom. They feel superior, ennobled, and lookdown with contempt at the others, who appearto them unclean. Even to-day the Turk hurlsabuse at the Christian by calling him "an un-circumcised dog.55It is credible that Moses, whoas an Egyptian was himself circumcised, sharedthis attitude. The Jews with whom he left hisnative country were to be a better substitute forthe Egyptians he left behind. In no circum-stances must they be inferior to them. He wishedto make of them a"Holy People55so it isexplicitly stated in the Biblical text and as asign of their dedication he introduced the customthat made them at least the equals of the Egypt-ians. It would, further, be welcome to him ifsuch a custom isolated them and prevented themfrom mingling with the other foreign peoples theywould meet during their wanderings, just as theEgyptians had kept apart from all foreigners.11Herodotus, who visited Egypt about 450 B.C., gives in theaccount of his travels a characteristic of the Egyptians whichshows an astounding similarity with well-known features of thelater Jewish people."They are in all respects much more piousthan other peoples, they are also distinguished from them by manyof their customs, such as circumcision, which for reasons ofcleanliness they introduced before others; further, by theirhorror ofswine, doubtless connected with the fact that Set woundedHorus when in the guise of a black hog; and, lastly, most of all bytheir reverence for cows, which they would never eat or sacrificebecause they would thereby offend the cow-horned Isis. There-fore no Egyptian man or woman would ever kiss a Greek or useD
50 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMJewish tradition, however, behaved later on asif it were oppressed by the sequence of ideas wehave just developed. To admit that circumcisionwas an Egyptian custom introduced by Moseswould be almost to recognize that the religionhanded down to them from Moses was alsoEgyptian. But the Jews had good reasons todeny this fact; therefore the truth about circum-cision had also to be contradicted.IVAt this point I expect to hear the reproach thatI have built up my construction which placesMoses the Egyptian in Ikhnatons era, derivesfrom the political state the country was in at thattime his decision to protect the Jewish people,and recognizes as the Aton religion the religionhe gave to his people or with which he burdenedthem, which had just been abolished in Egyptitself that I have built up this edifice ofhis knife, his spit or his cooking vessel, or eat of the meat of an(otherwise) clean ox that had been cut with a Greek knife. . . .In haughty narrowness they looked down on the other peopleswho were unclean and not so near to the gods as they were."(After Erman, The Egyptian Religion, p. 181, etc.)Naturally we do not forget here the parallels from the life ofIndia. Whatever gave, by the way, the Jewish poet Heine in thenineteenth century the idea of complaining about his religion as"the plague trailing along from the valley of the Nile, the sicklybeliefs of the Ancient Egyptians"?
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 51conjectures with too great a certainty for which noadequate grounds are to be found in the materialitself. I think this reproach would be unjustified.I have already stressed the element of doubt inthe introduction, put a query in front of thebrackets, so to speak, and can therefore savemyself the trouble of repeating it at each pointinside the brackets.Some of my own critical observations maycontinue the discussion. The kernel of our thesis,the dependence of Jewish monotheism on themonotheistic episode in Egyptian history, hasbeen guessed and hinted at by several workers.I need not cite them here, since none of them hasbeen able to say by what means this influencewas exerted. Even if, as I suggest, it is bound upwith the individuality of Moses, we shall haveto weigh other possibilities than the one herepreferred. It is not to be supposed that the over-throw of the official Aton religion completelyput an end to the monotheistic trend in Egypt.The School of Priests at On, from which itemanated, survived the catastrophe and mighthave drawn whole generations after Ikhnatoninto the orbit of their religious thought. ThatMoses performed the deed is quite thinkable,therefore, even if he did not live in Ikhnatonstime and had not come under his personalinfluence, even if he were simply an adherent ormerely a member of the school of On. This
52 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMconjecture would postpone the date of theExodus and bring it nearer to the time usuallyassumed, the thirteenth century; otherwise ithas nothing to recommend it. We should haveto relinquish the insight we had gained intoMoses5motives and to dispense with the idea ofthe Exodus being facilitated by the anarchyprevailing in Egypt. The kings of the NineteenthDynasty following Ikhnaton ruled the countrywith a strong hand. All conditions, internal andexternal, favouring the Exodus coincide only inthe period immediately after the death of theheretic king.The Jews possess a rich extra-biblical literaturewhere the myths and superstitions are to be foundwhich in the course of centuries were wovenaround the gigantic figure of their first leader andthe founder of their religion and which have bothhallowed and obscured that figure. Some frag-ments of sound tradition which had found noplace in the Pentateuch may lie scattered in thatmaterial. One of these legends describes in anattractive fashion how the ambition of the manMoses had already displayed itself in his child-hood. When Pharaoh took him into his arms andplayfully tossed him high, the little three-year-old snatched the crown from Pharaohs head andplaced it on his own. The king was startled atthis omen and took care to consult his sages.11The same anecdote, slightly altered, is to be found in Josephus.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 53Then, again, we are told of victorious battles hefought as an Egyptian captain in Ethiopia and,in the same connection, that he fled the countrybecause he had reason to fear the envy of afaction at court or even the envy of Pharaohhimself. The Biblical story itself lends Mosescertain features in which one is inclined to believe.It describes him as choleric, hot-tempered aswhen in his indignation he kills the brutal over-seer who ill-treated a Jewish workman, or whenin his resentment at the defection of his people hesmashes the tables he has been given on MountSinai. Indeed, God himself punished him at longlast for a deed of impatience we are not toldwhat it was. Since such a trait does not lenditself to glorification it may very well be historicaltruth. Nor can we reject even the possibility thatmany character traits the Jews incorporated intotheir early conception of God when they madehim jealous, stern and implacable, were takenau fond from their memory of Moses, for in truthit was not an invisible god, but the man Moses,who had led them out of Egypt.Another trait imputed to him deserves ourspecial interest. Moses was said to have been"slow of speech"that is to say, he must havehad a speech impediment or inhibition so thathe had to call on Aaron (who is called his brother)for assistance in his supposed discussions withPharaoh. This again may be historical truth and
54 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMwould serve as a welcome addition to theendeavour to make the picture of this great manlive. It may, however, have another and moreimportant significance. The report may, in aslightly distorted way, recall the fact that Mosesspoke another language and was not able tocommunicate with his Semitic Neo-Egyptianswithout the help of an interpreter at least notat the beginning of their intercourse. Thus afresh confirmation of the thesis: Moses was anEgyptian.It looks now as if the train of thought has cometo an end, at least for the time being. From thesurmise that Moses was an Egyptian, be itproven or not, nothing more can be deduced forthe moment. No historian can regard the Biblicalaccount of Moses and the Exodus as other than apious myth, which transformed a remote tradi-tion in the interest of its own tendencies. Howthe tradition ran originally we do not know.What the distorting tendencies were we shouldlike to guess, but we are kept in the dark by ourignorance of the historical events. That ourreconstruction leaves no room for so manyspectacular features of the Biblical text the tenplagues, the passage through the Red Sea, thesolemn law-giving on Mount Sinai will notlead us astray. But we cannot remain indifferenton finding ourselves in opposition to the soberhistorical researches of our time.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 55These modern historians, well represented byE. Meyer/ follow the Biblical text in one decisivepoint. They concur that the Jewish tribes, wholater on become the people of Israel, at a certaintime accepted a new religion. But this event didnot take place in Egypt nor at the foot of amount in the Sinai peninsula, but in a placecalled Meribat-Qades, an oasis distinguished byits abundance of springs and wells in the countrysouth of Palestine between the eastern end of theSinai peninsula and the western end of Arabia.There they took over the worship of a god Jahve,probably from the Arabic tribe of Midianites wholived near-by. Presumably other neighbouringtribes were also followers of that god.Jahve was certainly a volcano god. As we know,however, Egypt has no volcanoes and themountains of the Sinai peninsula have neverbeen volcanic; on the other hand, volcanoeswhich may have been active up to a late periodare found along the western border of Arabia.One of these mountains must have been theSinai-Horeb which was believed to be JahveJsabode. 2In spite of all the transformations theBiblical text has suffered, we are able to re-construct according to E. Meyer the orig-inal character of the god: he is an uncanny,1E. Meyer: Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstdmmey 1906.2The Biblical text retains certain passages telling us that Jahvedescended from Sinai to Meribat-Qades.
56 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMbloodthirsty demon who walks by night and shunsthe light of day.1The mediator between the people and the godat this birth of a new religion was called Moses.He was the son-in-law of the Midianite priestJethro and was tending his flocks when hereceived the divine summons. Jethro visited himin Qades to give him instructions.E. Meyer says, it is true, that he never doubtedthere was a kernel of historical truth in the storyof the bondage in Egypt and the catastrophe ofthe Egyptians,2but evidently he does not knowwhere that recognized fact belongs and what todo with it. Only the custom of circumcision is hewilling to derive from the Egyptians. He enrichesour earlier discussion by two important sugges-tions. First, that Joshua asked the people toaccept circumcision"to roll away the reproachof Egypt"; and, secondly, by the quotation fromHerodotus that the Phoenicians (which probablymeans the Jews) and the Syrians in Palestinethemselves admitted having learned the customof circumcision from the Egyptians.8But anEgyptian Moses does not appeal to him."TheMoses we know was the ancestor of the priests ofQades ;he stood therefore in relation to the cult,was a figure of the genealogical myth and not anhistorical person. So not one of those who hastreated him as an historical person except those1L.c., pp. 38, 58.2L.c., p. 49.8L.c., p. 449.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 57who accept tradition wholesale as historical truthhas succeeded in filling this empty shape withany content, in describing him as a concretepersonality; they have had nothing to tell usabout what he achieved or about his mission inhistory.1On the other hand, Meyer never wearies oftelling us about Moses relation to Qades andMidian."The figure of Moses so closely boundup with Midian and the holy places in thedesert.55 * "This figure of Moses is inextricablyassociated with Qades (Massa and Meriba) ;therelationship with a Midianite priest by marriagecompletes the picture. The connection with theExodus, on the other hand, and the story of hisyouth in its entirety, are absolutely secondaryand are merely the consequence of Moses havingto fit into a connected, continuous story.558Healso observes that all the characteristics containedin the story of Moses5youth were later omitted."Moses in Midian is no longer an Egyptian andPharaoh5s grandson, but a shepherd to whomJahve reveals himself. In the story of the tenplagues his former relationships are no longermentioned, although they could have been usedvery effectively, and the order to kill the Israelitefirst-born is entirely forgotten. In the Exodusand the perishing of the Egyptians Moses has nopart at all; he is not even mentioned. The1L.c., p. 451.2 L.c. p. 49.3L.c. y p. 72.
58 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMcharacteristics of a hero, which the childhoodstory presupposes, are entirely absent in the laterMoses ;he is only the man of God, a performer ofmiracles, provided with supernatural powers byJahve."*We cannot escape the impression that thisMoses of Qades and Midian, to whom traditioncould even ascribe the erection ofa brazen serpentas a healing god, isquite a different person fromthe august Egyptian we had deduced, who dis-closed to his people a religion in which all magicand sorcery were most strictly abhorred. OurEgyptian Moses differs perhaps no less from theMidian Moses than the universal god Atondiffered from the demon Jahve on his divinemountain. And if we concede any measure oftruth to the information furnished by modernhistorians, then we have to admit that the threadwe wished to draw from the surmise that Moseswas an Egyptian has broken off for the secondtime; this time, so it seems, without any hopeof its being tied again.VA way unexpectedly presents itself, however,out of this difficulty too. The efforts to recognizein Moses a figure transcending the priest of!L.c., p. 47.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 59Qades, and confirming the renown with whichtradition had invested him, were continued afterE. Meyer by Gressmann and others. In 1922E. Sellin made a discovery ofdecisive importance.1He found in the book of the prophet Hoseasecond half of the eighth century unmistakabletraces of a tradition to the effect that the founderof their religion (Moses) met a violent end in arebellion of his stubborn and refractory people.The religion he had instituted was at the sametime abandoned. This tradition is not restrictedto Hosea : it recurs in the writings of most of thelater prophets; indeed, according to Sellin, itwas the basis of all the later expectations of theMessiah. Towards the end of the Babylonianexile the hope arose among the Jewish peoplethat the man they had so callously murderedwould return from the realm of the dead and leadhis contrite people and perhaps not only hispeople into the land of eternal bliss. Thepalpable connections with the destiny of theFounder of a later religion do not lie in our presentcourse.Naturally I am not in a position to decidewhether Sellin has correctly interpreted therelevant passages in the prophets. If he is right,however, we may regard as historically crediblethe tradition he recognized: for such things are1E. Sellin, Most und seine Bedeutung fuer die israelitisch-juediscfuReligionsgeschichte, 1922.
6O MOSES AND MONOTHEISMnot readily invented there is no tangible motivefor doing so. And if they have really happenedthe wish to forget them iseasily understood. Weneed not accept every detail of the tradition.Sellin thinks that Shittim in the land east of theJordan is indicated as the scene of the violentdeed. We shall see, however, that the choice ofthis locality does not accord with our argument.Let us adopt from Sellin the surmise that theEgyptian Moses was killed by the Jews and thereligion he instituted abandoned. It allows us tospin our thread further without contradicting thetrustworthy results of historical research. But weventure to be independent of the historians inother respects and to blaze our own trail. TheExodus from Egypt remains our starting-point.It must have been a considerable number thatleft the country with Moses ;a small crowd wouldnot have been worth the while of that ambitiousman, with his great schemes. The immigrantshad probably been in the country long enoughto develop into a numerous people. We shallcertainly not go astray, however, if we supposewith the majority of research workers that only apart of those who later became the Jewish peoplehad undergone the fate of bondage in Egypt. Inother words, the tribe returning from Egyptcombined later in the country between Egypt andCanaan with other related tribes that had beensettled there for some time. This union, from
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 6 1which was born the people of Israel, expresseditself in the adoption of a new religion, commonto all the tribes, the religion ofJahve; accordingto E. Meyer, this came about in Qades underthe influence of the Midianites. Thereupon thepeople felt strong enough to undertake theinvasion of Canaan. It does not fit in with thiscourse of events that the catastrophe to Moses andhis religion should have taken place in the landeast of the Jordan it must have happened a longtime before the union.It is certain that many very diverse elementscontributed to the building up of the Jewishpeople, but the greatest difference among themmust have depended on whether they hadexperienced the sojourn in Egypt and whatfollowed it, or not. From this point of view wemay say that the nation was made up by theunion of two constituents, and it accords with thisfact that, after a short period of political unity,it broke asunder into two parts the Kingdom ofIsrael and the Kingdom ofJudah. History lovessuch restorations, in which later fusions are re-dissolved and former separations become oncemore apparent. The most impressive examplea very well-known one was provided by theReformation, when, after an interval of morethan a thousand years, it brought to light againthe frontier between the Germania that had beenRoman and the part that had always remained
62 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMindependent. With the Jewish people we cannotverify such a faithful reproduction of the formerstate of affairs. Our knowledge of those times istoo uncertain to permit the assumption that thenorthern Kingdom had absorbed the originalsettlers, the southern those returning from Egypt;but the later dissolution, in this case also, couldnot have been unconnected with the earlierunion. The former Egyptians were probablyfewer than the others, but they proved to be ona higher level culturally. They exercised a moreimportant influence on the later development ofthe people because they brought with them atradition the others lacked.Perhaps they brought something else, some-thing more tangible than a tradition. Among thegreatest riddles ofJewish prehistoric times is thatconcerning the antecedents of the Levites. Theyare said to have been derived from one of thetwelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi, but notradition has ever ventured to pronounce onwhere that tribe originally dwelt or what portionof the conquered country of Canaan had beenallotted to it. They occupied the most importantpriestly positions, but yet they were distinguishedfrom the priests. A Levite is not necessarily apriest; it is not the name of a caste. Our sup-position about the person of Moses suggests anexplanation. It is not credible that a greatgentleman like the Egyptian Moses approached
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 63a people strange to him without an escort. Hemust have brought his retinue with him, hisnearest adherents, his scribes, his servants. Thesewere the original Levites. Tradition maintainsthat Moses was a Levite. This seems a transparentdistortion of the actual state of affairs: theLevites were Moses5people. This solution issupported by what I mentioned in my previousessay: that in later times we find Egyptiannames only among the Levites.1We may supposethat a fair number of these Moses people escapedthe fate that overtook him and his religion.They increased in the following generations andfused with the people among whom they lived,but they remained faithful to their master,honoured his memory and retained the traditionof his teaching. At the time of the union withthe followers of Jahve they formed an influentialminority, culturally superior to the rest.I suggest and it is only a suggestion so farthat between the downfall of Moses and thefounding of a religion at Qades two generationswere born and vanished, that perhaps even acentury elapsed. I do not see my way to deter-mine whether the Neo-Egyptians as I shouldlike to call those who returned from Egypt indistinction to the other Jews met with their1This assumption fits in well with what Yahuda says about theEgyptian influence on early Jewish writings. See A. S. Yahuda,Die Sprache des Pentateuch in ihren Beziehungen zum Aegyptischen, 1929.
64 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMblood relations after these had already acceptedthe Jahve religion or before that had happened.Perhaps the latter is more likely. It makes nodifference to the final result. What happened atQades was a compromise, in which the parttaken by the Moses tribe is unmistakable.Here we may call again on the custom ofcircumcision which a kind of"Leitfossil"has repeatedly rendered us important services.This custom also became the law in the Jahvereligion, and since it is inextricably connectedwith Egypt its adoption must signify a con-cession to the people of Moses. They or theLevites among them would not forgo this signof their consecration. They wanted to save somuch of their old religion, and for that price theywere willing to recognize the new deity and allthat the Midian priests had to say about him.Possibly they managed to obtain still other con-cessions. We have already mentioned that Jewishritual ordains a certain economy in the use of thename of God. Instead of Jahve they had to sayAdonai. It istempting to fit this commandmentinto our argument, but that is merely a surmise.The prohibition upon uttering the name of Godis, as is well known, a primaeval taboo. Whyexactly it was renewed in the Jewish command-ments is not quite clear; it is not out of thequestion that this happened under the influenceof a new motive. There is no reason to suppose
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 65that the commandment was consistently followed;the word Jahve was freely used in the formationof personal theophorous names, i.e. in combina-tions such as Jochanan, Jehu, Joshua. Yet thereis something peculiar about this name. It iswell known that Biblical exegesis recognizes twosources of the Hexateuch. They are called J andE because the one uses the holy name of Jahve,the other that of Elohim ; Elohim, it is true, notAdonai. But we may here quote the remark ofone writer: the different names are a distinctsign of originally different gods.1We admitted the adherence to the custom ofcircumcision as evidence that at the founding ofthe new religion at Qades a compromise hadtaken place. What it consisted in we learn fromboth J and E; the two accounts coincide andmust therefore go back to a common source,either a written source or an oral tradition. Theguiding purpose was to prove the greatness andpower of the new god Jahve. Since the Mosespeople attached such great importance to theirexperience of the Exodus from Egypt, the deed offreeing them had to be ascribed to Jahve; it hadto be adorned with features that proved theterrific grandeur of this volcano god, such as, forexample, the pillar of smoke which changed toone of fire by night, or the storm that parted thewaters so that the pursuers were drowned by the1Gressmann Mose und Seine ^eit^ 1913.E
66 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMreturning floods of water. The Exodus and thefounding of the new religion were thus broughtclose together in time, the long interval betweenthem being denied. The bestowal of the TenCommandments too was said to have taken place,not at Qades, but at the foot of the Holy Moun-tain amidst the signs of a volcanic eruption. Thisdescription, however, did a serious wrong to thememory of the man Moses; it was he, and notthe volcano god, who had freed his people fromEgypt. Some compensation was therefore due tohim, and it was given by transposing Moses toQades or to the mount Sinai-Horeb and puttinghim in the place of the Midianite priest. We shallconsider later how this solution satisfied another,irresistibly urgent, tendency. By its means abalance, so to speak, was established :Jahve wasallowed to extend his reach to Egypt from hismountain in Midia, while the existence andactivity of Moses were transferred to Qades andthe country east of the Jordan. This is how hebecame one with the person who later establisheda religion, the son-in-law of the MidianiteJethro, the man to whom he lent his name Moses.We know nothing personal, however, about thisother Moses he is entirely obscured by the first,the Egyptian Moses except possibly from cluesprovided by the contradictions to be found in theBible in the characterization of Moses. He isoften enough described as masterful, hot-tempered,
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 67even violent, and yet it is also said of himthat he was the most patient and sweet-temperedof all men. It is clear that the latter qualitieswould have been of no use to the Egyptian Moseswho planned such great and difficult projects forhis people. Perhaps they belonged to the other,the Midianite. I think we are justified in separat-ing the two persons from each other and inassuming that the Egyptian Moses never was inQades and had never heard the name of Jahve,whereas the Midianite Moses never set foot inEgypt and knew nothing of Aton. In order tomake the two people into one, tradition or legendhad to bring the Egyptian Moses to Midian ;andwe have seen that more than one explanationwas given for it.VII am quite prepared to hear anew the reproachthat I have put forward my reconstruction of theearly history of the tribe of Israel with undue andunjustified certitude. I shall not feel this criticismto be too harsh, since it finds an echo in my ownjudgement. I know myself that this reconstruc-tion has its weak places, but it also has its strongones. On the whole the arguments in favourof continuing this work in the same directionprevail. The Biblical record before us contains
68 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMvaluable, nay invaluable, historical evidence. Ithas, however, been distorted by tendentiousinfluences and elaborated by the products ofpoetical invention. In our work we have alreadybeen able to divine one of these distorting ten-dencies. This discovery shall guide us on ourway. It is a hint to uncover other similar distortinginfluences. If we find reasons for recognizing thedistortions produced by them, then we shall be ableto bring to light more of the true course of events.Let us begin by marking what critical researchwork on the Bible has to say about how theHexateuch the five Books of Moses and theBook of Joshua, for they alone are of interest tous here came to be written.1The oldest sourceis considered to be J, the Jahvistic, in the authorof which the most modern research workers thinkthey can recognize the priest Ebjatar, a con-temporary of King David.2A little later, it isnot known how much later, comes the so-calledElohistic, belonging to the northern kingdom.8After the destruction of this kingdom, in 722 B.C.,a Jewish priest combined portions ofJ and E andadded his own contributions. His compilationis designated as JE. In the seventh centuryDeuteronomy, the fifth book, was added, itbeingalleged that the whole of it had been newly found1Encyclopedia Britannica, XI Edition, 1910, Art.: Bible.2 See Auerbach, Wuste und Gelobtes Land, 1932.3 Astruc in 1753 was the first to distinguish between Jahvist andElohist.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 69in the Temple. In the time after the destructionof the Temple, in 586 B.C., during the Exile andafter the return, isplaced the re-writing calledthe Priestly Code. The fifth century saw adefinitive revision, and since then the work hasnot been materially altered. 1The history of King David and his time is mostprobably the work of one of his contemporaries.It is real history, five hundred years beforeHerodotus, the"Father of History." One wouldbegin to understand this achievement if oneassumed, in terms of my hypothesis, Egyptianinfluence. 2The suggestion has even been madethat early Israelites, the scribes of Moses, had ahand in the invention of the first alphabet.3Howfar the accounts of former times are based onearlier sources or on oral tradition, and what1It is historically certain that the Jewish type was definitelyfixed as a result of the reforms by Ezra and Nehemiah in the fifthcentury B.C., therefore after the Exile, during the reign of thefriendly Persians. According to our reckoning approximately 900years had then passed since the appearance of Moses. By thesereforms the regulations aiming at the consecration of the chosenpeople were taken seriously: the separation from the other tribeswere put into force by forbidding mixed marriages; the Penta-teuch, the real compilation of the law, was codified in its definitiveform; the re-writing known as the Priestly Code was finished. Itseems certain, however, that the reform did not adopt any newtendencies, but simply took over and consolidated former sugges-tions.2 Gf. Yahuda, l.c.3 If they were bound by the prohibition against making imagesthey had even a motive for forsaking the hieroglyphic picturewriting when they adapted their written signs for the expressionof a new language.
7<3 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMinterval elapsed between an event and its fixationby writing, we are naturally unable to know.The text, however, as we find it to-day tells usenough about its own history. Two distinct forces,diametrically opposed to each other, have lefttheir traces on it. On the one hand, certaintransformations got to work on it, falsifying thetext in accord with secret tendencies, maimingand extending it until it was turned into itsopposite. On the other hand, an indulgent pietyreigned over it, anxious to keep everything as itstood, indifferent to whether the details fittedtogether or nullified one another. Thus almosteverywhere there can be found striking omissions,disturbing repetitions, palpable contradictions,signs of things the communication of which wasnever intended. The distortion of a text is notunlike a murder. The difficulty lies not in theexecution of the deed but in the doing away withthe traces. One could wish to give the word"distortion"the double meaning to which ithas a right, although it is no longer used in thissense. It should mean not only"to change theappearance of," but also"to wrench apart,35"to put in another place.55That is why in somany textual distortions we may count on findingthe suppressed and abnegated material hiddenaway somewhere, though in an altered shape andtorn out of its original connection. Only it isnot always easy to recognize it.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIANThe distorting tendencies we want to detectmust have influenced the traditions before theywere written down. One of them, perhaps thestrongest of all, we have already discovered. Wesaid that when the new god Jahve in Qades wasinstituted something had to be done to glorifyhim. It is truer to say: He had to be established,made room for; traces of former religions had tobe extinguished. This seems to have been donesuccessfully with the religion of the settled tribes ;no more was heard of it. With the returningtribes the task was not so easy; they were deter-mined not to be deprived of the Exodus fromEgypt, the man Moses and the custom of circum-cision. It is true they had been in Egypt, but theyhad left it again, and from now on every trace ofEgyptian influence was to be denied. Moses wasdisposed of by displacing him to Midian andQades and making him into one person with thepriest who founded the Jahve religion. Circum-cision, the most compromising sign of thedependence on Egypt, had to be retained, but, inspite of all the existing evidence, every endeavourwas made to divorce this custom from Egypt.The enigmatic passage in Exodus, written in analmost incomprehensible style, saying that Godhad been wroth with Moses for neglecting cir-cumcision and that his Midianite wife saved hislife by a speedy operation, can be interpretedonly as a deliberate contradiction of the significant
72 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMtruth. We shall soon come across another inven-tion for the purpose of invalidating a piece ofinconvenient evidence.It is hardly to be described as a new tendencyit isonly the continuation of the same onewhen we find an endeavour completely to denythat Jahve was a new god, one alien to the Jews.For that purpose the myths of the patriarchs,Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are drawn upon.Jahve maintains that He had been the God ofthose patriarchs; it is true and He has to admitthis Himself they did not worship Him underthis name.1He does not add under what other name He usedto be worshipped. Here the opportunity was takento deal a decisive blow at the Egyptian origin ofthe custom of circumcision. Jahve was said to havealready demanded it from Abraham, to haveinstituted it as sign of the bond between him andAbrahams descendants. This, however, was aparticularly clumsy invention. If one wishedto use a sign to distinguish someone from otherpeople, one would choose something that theothers did not possess certainly not somethingthat millions could show. An Israelite, findinghimself in Egypt, would have had to recognizeall Egyptians as brothers, bound by the same bond,brothers in Jahve. The fact that circumcision1The restrictions in the use of the new name do not become anymore comprehensible through this, though much more suspect.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 73was native to the Egyptians could not pos-sibly have been unknown to the Israelites whocreated the text of the Bible. The passage fromJoshua quoted by E. Meyer freely admits this; butnevertheless the fact had at all costs to be denied.We cannot expect religious myths to payscrupulous attention to logical connections.Otherwise the feeling of the people might havetaken exception -justifiably so to the behaviourof a deity who makes a covenant with his patri-archs containing mutual obligations, and thenignores his human partners for centuries until itsuddenly occurs to him to reveal himself againto their descendants. Still more astonishing isthe conception of a god suddenly"choosing"apeople, making it"his"people and himself itsown god. I believe it is the only case in thehistory of human religions. In other cases thepeople and their god belong inseparably together;they are one from the beginning. Sometimes, itis true, we hear of a people adopting another god,but never of a god choosing a new people.Perhaps we approach an understanding of thisunique happening when we reflect on the con-nection between Moses and the Jewish people.Moses had stooped to the Jews, had made themhis people; they were his"chosen people/511Jahve was undoubtedly a volcano god. There was no reasonfor the inhabitants of Egypt to worship him. I am certainly notthe first to be struck by the similarity of the name Jahve to theroot of the name of another god :Jupiter, Jovis. The composite
74 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMThere was yet another purpose in bringing thepatriarchs into the new Jahve religion. They hadlived in Canaan; their memory was connectedwith certain localities in the country. Possiblythey themselves had been Canaanite heroes orlocal divinities whom the immigrating Israeliteshad adopted for their early history. By evokingthem one gave proof, so to speak, of having beenborn and bred in the country, and denied theodium that clings to the alien conqueror. It wasname Jochanaan, made up in part from the Hebrew word Jahveand having a rather similar meaning to that of Godfrey or itsPunic equivalent Hannibal, has become one of the most popularnames of European Christendom in the forms of Johann, John,Jean, Juan. When the Italians reproduce it in the shape ofGiovanni and then call one day of the week Giovedi they bring tolight again a similarity which perhaps means nothing or possiblymeans very much. Far-reaching possibilities, though very in-secure ones, open out here. In those dark centuries whichhistorical research is only beginning to explore, the countriesaround the eastern basin of the Mediterranean were apparentlythe scene of frequent and violent volcanic eruptions which werebound to make the deepest impression on the inhabitants. Evanssupposes that the final destruction of the palace of Minos atKnossos was also the result of an earthquake. In Crete, asprobably everywhere in the ^Sgean world, the great MotherGoddess was then worshipped. The observation that she wasunable to guard her house against the attack of a stronger powermight have contributed to her having to cede her place to a maledeity, whereupon the volcano god had the first right to replaceher. Zeus still bears the name of"the Earth-shaker." There ishardly a doubt that in those obscure times mother deities werereplaced by male gods (perhaps originally their sons). Speciallyimpressive is the fate of Pallas Athene, who was no doubt thelocal form of the mother deity ; through the religious revolutionshe was reduced to a daughter, robbed of her own mother, andeternally debarred from motherhood by the taboo of virginity.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 75a clever turn: the god Jahve gave them onlywhat their ancestors had once possessed.In the later contributions to the Biblical textthe tendency to avoid mentioning Qades metwith success. The site of the founding of the newreligion definitely became the divine mountainsSinai-Horeb. The motive is not clearly visible;perhaps they did not want to be reminded of theinfluence of Midian. But all later distortions,especially those of the Priestly Code, serve anotheraim. There was no longer any need to alter in aparticular direction descriptions of happenings oflong ago; that had long been done. On theother hand, an endeavour was made to dateback to an early time certain laws and institu-tions of the present, to base them as a rule on theMosaic law and to derive from this their claim toholiness and binding force. However much thepicture of past times in this way became falsified,the procedure does not lack a certain psycho-logical justification. It reflected the fact that inthe course of many centuries about 800 yearshad elapsed between the Exodus and the fixationof the Biblical text by Ezra and Nehemiah thereligion of Jahve had followed a retrogradedevelopment that had culminated in a fusion(perhaps to the point of actual identity) with theoriginal religion of Moses.And this is the essential outcome: the fatefulcontent of the religious history of the Jews.
j6 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMVIIAmong all the events ofJewish prehistory thatpoets, priests and historians of a later age under-took to portray there was an outstanding one thesuppression of which was called for by the mostobvious and best of human motives. It was themurder of the great leader and liberator Moses,which Sellin divined from clues furnished by theProphets. Sellings presumption cannot be calledfanciful; it is probable enough. Moses, trainedin Ikhnatons school, employed the same methodsas the king; he gave commands and forced hisreligion on the people.1Perhaps Moses5doctrinewas still more uncompromising than that of hisMaster; he had no need to retain any connectionwith the religion of the Sun God since the schoolof On would have no importance for his alienpeople. Moses met with the same fate as Ikhnaton,that fate which awaits all enlightened despots.The Jewish people of Moses was quite as unableto bear such a highly spiritualized religion, tofind in what it offered satisfaction for their needs,as were the Egyptians of the Eighteenth Dynasty.In both cases the same thing happened: thosewho felt themselves kept in tutelage, or who feltdispossessed, revolted and threw off the burden1In those times any other form of influence would scarcely havebeen possible.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 77of a religion that had been forced on them. Butwhile the tame Egyptians waited until fate hadremoved the sacred person of their Pharaoh, thesavage Semites took their destiny into their ownhands and did away with their tyrant.1Nor can we maintain that the Biblical textpreserved to us does not prepare us for such anend to Moses. The account of the"Wanderingin the Wilderness"which might stand for thetime of Moses rule describes a series of graverevolts against his authority which, by Jahvescommand, were suppressed with savage chastise-ment. It is easy to imagine that one of thoserevolts came to another end than the text admits.The peoples falling away from the new religionis also mentioned in the text, though as a mereepisode. It is the story of the golden calf, whereby an adroit turn the breaking of the tables of thelaw which has to be understood symbolically(= "he has broken the law ") is ascribedto Moses himself and imputed to his angryindignation.There came a time when the people regrettedthe murder of Moses and tried to forget it. Thiswas certainly so at the time of the coming1 It is truly remarkable how seldom we hear during the milleniaof Egyptian history of violent depositions or assassinations of aPharaoh. A comparison with Assyrian history, for example, mustincrease this astonishment. The reason may, of course, be thatwith the Egyptians historical recording served exclusively officialpurposes.
78 MOSES AND MONOTHEISMtogether at Qades. If, however, the Exodus werebrought nearer in time to the founding of theirreligion in the oasis, and one allowed Mosesinstead of the other founder to help in it, thennot only were the claims of the Moses peoplesatisfied, but the painful fact of his violentremoval was also successfully denied. In realityit is most unlikely that Moses could have par-ticipated in the events at Qades, even if his lifehad not been shortened.Here we must try to elucidate the sequence ofthese events. We have placed the Exodus fromEgypt in the time after the extinction of theEighteenth Dynasty (1350). It might havehappened then or a little later, for the Egyptianchroniclers included the subsequent years ofanarchy in the reign of Haremhab, the king whobrought it to an end and who reigned until 1315.The next aid in fixing the chronology and it isthe only one is given by the stele of Merneptah(1225-1215), which extols the victory overIsiraal (Israel) and the destruction of their seeds(sic). Unfortunately the value of this stele isdoubtful ;it is taken to be evidence that Israelitetribes were at that date already settled inCanaan.1E. Meyer rightly concludes from thisstele that Merneptah could not have been thePharaoh of the Exodus, as one had previouslybeen wont to assume. The Exodus must belong1E. Meyer, I.e., p. 222.
IF MOSES WAS AN EGYPTIAN 79to an earlier period. The question who wasPharaoh at the time of the Exodus appears tome an idle one. There was no Pharaoh at thattime, because the Exodus happened during theinterregnum. But the Merneptah stele does notthrow any light on the possible date of the fusionand the acceptance of the new religion in Qades.All we can say with certainty is that they tookplace some time between 1350 and 1215. Withinthis century we assume the Exodus to have beenvery near to the first date, the events in Qadesnot far from the second. The greater part of theperiod we would reserve for the interval betweenthe two events. A fairly long time would benecessary for the passions of the returning tribesto cool down after the murder of Moses and forthe influence of the Moses people, the Levites, tohave become so strong as the compromise inQades presupposes. Two generations, sixty years,might suffice, but only just. The date inferredfrom the stele of Merneptah falls too early, andas we know that in our hypothesis one assumptiononly rests on another we have to admit that thisdiscussion shows a weak spot in the construction.Unfortunately everything connected with thesettling of the Jewish people in Canaan is highlyobscure and confused. We might, of course, usethe expedient of supposing that the name in theIsrael stele does not refer to the tribes whose fatewe are trying to follow and who later on were