A major point in Zeitgeist the Movie is its claim that Christianity is no different from pagan religions. It then claims that several passages and Biblical stories had been plagiarized from ancient pagan mythology. — After the film makes the all time favorite claim that the Genesis account of the flood was copied from the Epic of Gilgamesh (which is refuted here), it goes on to make similar claims about the story of Moses,
There is the plagiarized story of Moses. Upon Moses’ birth, it is said that he was placed in a reed basket and set adrift in a river in order to avoid infanticide. He was later rescued by a daughter of royalty and raised by her as a Prince. This baby in a basket story was lifted directly from the myth of Sargon of Akkad of around 2250 b.c. Sargon was born, placed in a reed basket in order to avoid infanticide, and set adrift in a river. He was in turn rescued and raised by Akki, a royal mid-wife.
Zeitgeist makes the claim that the ancient king Sargon was placed in a basket to “avoid infanticide” and is later found by a royal mid-wife. The claim then becomes that since Sargon lived before Moses then therefore Moses must have plagiarized the story.
There is indeed a famous story of Sargon being left in a basket on the Euphrates river preserved in cuneiform tablets of Ancient Assyria. The cuneiform tablet says,
Sargon, mighty king, king of Agade, am I. My mother was a high priestess, my father I knew not; My father’s brothers live in the mountains; My city is Azupiranu, situated on the banks of the Euphrates My mother, the high priestess, conceived me, in secret she bore me; She placed me in a basket of rushes, she sealed the lid with bitumen; She cast me into the river which did not rise over me; The river bore me up and carried me to Aqqi, the water-drawer. Aqqi, the water-drawer, lifted me out as he dipped his bucket; Aqqi, the water-drawer, adopted me, brought me up; Aqqi, the water-drawer, set me up as his gardener. As a gardener, Ishtar, loved me; For 55 years I ruled as king.
The similarity to Moses is obvious to anyone who has read both the story of Moses and the legend of Sargon. But a carefull reading shows that the film, Zeitgeist, in its description of the similarities between the two stories is actually exagerated.
The claim that Sargon’s mother placed him in the basket and set him adrift to save him from infanticide is actually unsubstantiated. Nowhere in the inscription does it say that she did it to save him from anything or anyone. It just simply says she set him adrift. And the way that the tablet says “she [his mother] cast me into the river” kind of gives the impression that this is a case of child abandonment rather than to save his life.
James Holding in his essay gives background information of the importance of Sargon’s mother being a high priestess. He points out that in order to maintain her position she had to avoid pregnancy. This therefore would account for her giving birth in secrecy and would indicate that she was just disposing of her unwanted newborn child.
The fact that the story says she set him adrift also indicates she didn’t care whether or not he survived. This is a major difference between the two stories. — Contrary to what Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments shows, even though Moses was placed in a basket on the Nile river, he was not set adrift. Exodus 2: 3, 4 says that he was placed at the edge of the river among the reeds and his sister “stood” at a distance to watch him. The reeds would have kept the basket from drifting away. He was meant to survive which is not seemingly the case with Sargon.
The claim that Zeitgeist makes that Sargon was adopted by a royal mid-wife is also a mistake. The tablet says that 1) his rescuer was a “he.” And 2) he was a water drawer, not a royal mid-wife. These errors in the description of the story leads me to the conclusion that the film makers did not do independent research in this particular area.
There is one fact about the “Baby in a basket” story of Sargon that many skeptics either do not know, or just do not mention. The Historical website People and Places in the Ancient World (click here) points out,
The reputation of Sargon cast a long shadow. A scribe in 7th century Assyria left this account of Sargon’s origin, supposedly based on a first person account. [ . . . ] It is of course, impossible to know if this Moses like story circulated during Sargon’s lifetime but his humble origins are attested to by his lack of a name.
Also is should be mentioned that the Encyclopedia Britannica points out that what we know about Sargon of Akkad (who reigned from 2334 to 2279 BC) is all based on legends that were written after his lifetime.
— So the evidence is that 1) it looks as if it is impossible to date this particular story of King Sargon I and that 2) the earliest evidence we have of the story we have comes from as late as the seventh century BC. In contrast, the Book of Exodus was written between 1437 and 1397 BC. So plagiarism on the part of Moses is not necessarily what happened.
In my last two posts entitled “Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?” and in “Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus — Part 2“ I narrowed the list of suspects of Pharoahs of the time period that may have been the monarch that could have confronted Moses.
Now, in part 3, I am going to confirm or deny a third candidate that has been mentioned my some.
In the History Channel documentary “The Exodus Decoded” Simcha Jacobovici attempts to identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus by citing The Tempest Stela of Ahmose. He says in the documentary that he attempted to get access to the ancient stela which lies abandoned in the basement at the Cairo Museum. Since he couldn’t get access to it, he reconstructed it, apparently from descriptions of the archaeologist that had discovered it. (The reconstruction is the picture on the side.)
— He attempts to connect the disaster that the stela speaks about to the ten plagues of Egypt that Moses inflicted. These are the points that Simcha Jacabovici uses to tie the Exodus to the Ahmose Stela:
- “The Bible says that at the time of the Exodus there was a great storm. Ahmose’ stela also speaks of a great storm . . .”
- The Bible says that Egypt was enshrouded in darkness. Ahmose’ stela says that Egypt was covered in darkness.
- The Stela says that even though the Egyptians worshiped many gods, that this disaster happened when “God, in the singular, manifested his power.”
Simcha Jacabovici continues, saying:
The Bible describes Pharaoh, but never names him. Because of this stela we now know his name: Ahmose.
Now that we know a major claim that is used to justify the identification of Ahmose as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, we should now see if the Stela that Jacabovici cites actually supports what he claims. — As a matter of fact, the Tempest Stela of Ahmose I does in fact not seem to parallel the Exodus plagues. My personal reading of it only describes a rain storm:
The gods (made?) the sky come with a tempest of (rain?); it caused darkness in the Western region; the sky was unleashed, without [ . . .] more than the roar of the crowd; [. . .] was powerful [. . .] on the mountains more than the turbulence of the cataract which is at Elephantine. Each house, [. . .] each shelter (or each covered place) that they reached [. . .] were floating in the water like the barks of papyrus (on the outside?) of the royal residence for [. . .] day(s), with no one able to light the torch anywhere.
His citation of the stela saying that the storm happened when “god” manifested his power seems to be the strongest evidence to back him up:
Then His Majesty said: ‘How these (events) surpass the power of the great god and the wills of the divinities!’ And His Majesty descended in his boat, his council following him. The (people were?) at the east and the west, silent, for they had no more clothes (?) on them after the power of the god was manifested.
But the problem is that this mention seems to be the only somewhat strong evidence that Jacabovici has from the stela to affirm his belief that Ahmose is the Pharaoh that confronted Moses. But when the entire stela is understood, I just don’t find that claim credible.
Christopher Heard, in his extended review of “The Exodus Decoded”, says:
It should be clear that Jacobovici’s claim that the Tempest Stela of Ahmose reports, from an Egyptian perspective, the same events as the biblical ten plagues story hangs by the slimmest of threads. The Tempest Stela’s catastrophe could, at most, be seen as vaguely parallel to the plagues of hail and darkness, but even here there are enough significant differences to cast serious doubt on the suggested parallel. To try to connect the Tempest Stela with the ten plagues story as a whole, one must suppose either that the Tempest Stela (whose inscription dates within Ahmose’s twenty-five-year reign, as does the catastrophe itself) presents an exaggerated version of only one of ten catastrophes, or perhaps a mangled conflation of two of them, or that the biblical version (whose linguistic properties are characteristic of an era hundreds of years later than any proposed time frame for the exodus) presents a vastly expanded list of plagues based on a single, albeit devastating, thunderstorm.
So, I’m not the only one that disagrees with Simcha Jacabovici. Several learned people, even many who believe that the Exodus story is true, do not think that the connection is there. The fact is that there is no thunderstorm described in the Book of Exodus for any of the ten plagues. — To be fair, Simcha doesn’t say that, but that is what would be implied if, in fact, the Tempest Stela is indeed describing the Exodus story.
But moving on, just because the Ahmose Stela isn’t connected to the Exodus, that doesn’t show that Pharaoh Ahmose isn’t the Pharaoh of the Exodus. — Another basis that Jacabovici has that he is the Exodus Pharaoh is that he was the Pharaoh that expelled a Semitic race of people called the Hyksos. He believes that the Hyksos are, in fact, the Israelites.
He complains that many historians say the two peoples cannot be equated because the Hyksos and the Hebrews left Egypt separated by hundreds of years. — Just then a skeptic of the Exodus appears on a screen and says that even though one could play with Egyptian dates by moving them by ten years but that they couldn’t be moved by 50 or 100 years. But Jacabovici responds, saying:
But maybe we have to. What if scholars are placing the exodus in the wrong time period? Imagine the confusion if in the future scholars date World War II to the 1990s. They’ll never find any evidence that it actually happened.
Mentioning that many believe that the Exodus happened in the 13thcentury B.C. in the time of Ramses II he also correctly mentions that some scholars “are now breaking with that consensus.” He mentions a calculation that places the Exodus in 1470 B.C. (Hint: that is 23 to 32 years way to early) and then mentioned that the Hyksos expulsion traditionally happened less than a century before. He then says that the events happened to closely together to be a coincidence, so he now has a new date for the Exodus: 1500 B.C.
There several problems with accepting Jacabovici’s conclusions. The first one is the major differences of the “exodus'” of the Hebrews to that of the Hyksos. — The Exodus story clearly shows that Pharaoh lost his will to fight against Yahweh and let the Israelites go. However, in the case of the Hyksos, The Encyclopedia Britannica shows that Ahmose rebelled against the Hyksos and forced them out of Avaris by force of arms.
The second problem is chronological. According to the most reliable Biblical dating, the Exodus happened between 1446 B.C. to 1437, and the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt in 1521 B.C., 75 to 84 years before the Exodus. Jocabovici realizes this but prefers to say that these events that happened nearly a century apart really occurred at the same time and that time was 1500 B.C. He also ignores, or at least overlooks, the the fact that the Hyksos were expelled by war, unlike the Hebrews.
So basically, I cannot agree with Simcha Jacabovici that Ahmose is the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The fact is that none of the “evidence” he presents to support his suggestion really isn’t as strong as he thinks it is.
There have been some attempts to identify the pharaohs of the book of Exodus. Most, if not all, seem unlikely if not impossible. Though not unwarranted, I would be suspicious of most of the assumptions that are made about the identity of the Egyptian Kings that enslaved the Isrealites while they were in Egypt. The Bible is not much help because it doesn’t not name the ones that were responsible.
I’ve looked into a few suggestions and find some more plausible than others.
One of the basis for one of the most famous theories of the identity of the pharaoh that enslaved the Hebrews is found very early in the Book of Exodus. It names cities that the Isrealites were forced to build for the king of Egypt:
So they [the Egyptians] put slave masters over them [the Hebrews] to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. (Exodus 1: 11)
Obviously, the name “Rameses” is familiar. After all, it has been associated with the story of the story of Moses and the Exodus, especially with the movie “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.
The Encyclopedia Britannica says that Ramses II ruled from 1279 B.C. to 1213. His reign lasted for 67 years making him the second longest reigning Pharaoh. — He is famous for a military campaign he lead against the Hittites at Kadesh though he failed to capture it. His failed attempt to win the war had its ramifications however the two nations signed a peace treaty and ended up on good terms. He then married the eldest daughter of the Hittite King.
Anyway, the reference to a city the pharaoh had built called “Rameses” seems identical to the ancient capital city of Ramses II which was called “Pi-Ramesse” or “Per-Ramesses.” Historians of Egypt point out that this city’s actual location “in antiquity” is unknown but that it was founded by King Seti and built on top of older buildings built by the Hyksos. It was then abandoned in the 21st Egyptian dynasty.
As for the Semetic Hyksos, even though I do not agree with certain speculation that they are necessarily interchangeable with the Isrealites, I am sure that they are related and possible intermarried from the time Joseph and Jacob had arrived in Egypt. In my post entitled “Israel’s 430 years in Egypt in perspective” I pointed out that the most reliable Biblical dating placed Jacob’s arrival in 1652 B.C. during the times of the Hyksos rule over Egypt and that these were the kings that “knew Joseph” (Exodus 1:8 ).
The dating of the arrival of the Hebrews in Egypt is relevant to the dating of which Pharaohs of the Exodus. — I have already pointed out that Exodus 12: 40 gives the impression that the Hebrews had remained in Egypt for 430 years. So if this is to be taken at face value then the year of the Exodus should be 1222 B.C., during the last years of Ramses II. — It would seem that the dating of the Exodus to Ramses’ reign is vindicated, however there is a major problem with simply assuming this date.
The problem is that there is ample evidence that Exodus 12: 8 originally said that the 430 before the Exodus weren’t only spent in Egypt since Joseph and Jacob, but also in Canaan from the time of Abraham’s call from Haran. — Such Biblical manuscripts are the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, Galatians 3: 16-17, and even Josephus’ account of the Exodus confirms this:
They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt. (Antiquities of the Jews 2, 15, 2)
In my earlier post, I show that even the simple math in the Biblical time-line confirms this alternative reading:
Genesis 12: 4-5 says that Abram (later called Abraham) migrated from Haran to Canaan when he was seventy-five years old. He was one-hundred years old when his son Issac was born (Genesis 21: 1). — Then when Issac was sixty when Jacob was born (Genesis 25: 24-26). Abraham would have been 160 at the time. And when Jacob arrived in Egypt on Joseph’s invitation and was presented to the King he was 130 years old (Genesis 47: 9).
So this means that there was a gap of 215 years from the time Abraham first went to Canaan to when Jacob arrived in Egypt.So, by subtracting that number from 1867 we find that Jacob arrived in Egypt in 1652 B.C., during the rule of the Hyksos kings, and another 215 years before the Exodus of Moses in 1437 B.C. Add it up and it comes to 430 years.
1 Kings 6: 1 helps even more by establishing the Exodus 480 years before the fourth year of King Solomon’s rule (i.e., 957 B.C.) placing the Exodus in 1437 B.C. So this understanding seems to be inescapable. — Therefore, this would render the theory that Ramses II was the Pharaoh that confronted Moses as irrelevant because this shows that Moses lead the Hebrews out of Egypt 158 years before he began to rule Egypt.
Also, some scholars apparently think the name “Rameses” in the Book of Exodus is only a deliberate anachronism which was supposed to help later Jewish readers identify certain locations.
The question is, if it wasn’t Ramses II then who was it? The answer should be simple: Simply search for a Pharaoh that ruled Egypt in 1437 B.C. — But it is not all that simple because of uncertainties in the precise dating of Egyptian dynasties. But it is still possible to narrow the list down. Also it is possible to conclude that Moses dealt with the Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.
The list is narrowed down to only two Egyptian Pharaohs:
Thutmose III: 1504 B.C. – 1450, or possibly 1479 – 1425
Amenhotep II: 1427 B.C. – 1392
Note: for the first set of dating of Thutmose’s reign as well as Amenhotep’s I sourced Tour Egypt.net and for the second set for the former I used the Encyclopaedia of the Orient. — Get my point? There isn’t full certainty about Egyptian dates so we have to make do with what we have and accept both dating options for the Pharaoh of the Exodus as relevant.
Mostly because of the uncertainty of the Egyptian dating, we cannot just say which one of these two pharaoh’s confronted Moses and his God, but still, narrowing down the list of possible suspects wasn’t so hard. But there may be a way of figuring out which one it is.
InAgainst Apion 1, Josephus wrote a defence of his former historical works because several critics didn’t believe his accounts. He then claimed to cite an Egyptian historian named Manetho word for word on the Exodus. — It should be mentioned that many scholars don’t believe Josephus’ citation, but not all of it has been shown to be irrelevant.
It is true that Manetho’s account has questionable elements in it, but some of it (at least to me) seems to have a ring of truth. — Manetho associates the Hebrews with the Hyksos. I’ve already said I don’t believe the Hyksos and Hebrews are 100% interchangeable, but that I believe close relations after Jacob and Joseph are likely. If that’s true then such an association would be understandable, at least. Josephus accepts the connection as he cites him:
I shall quote Manetho again, and what he writes as to the order of the times in this case. He says “After this people or shepherds had left Egypt to go to Jerusalem, Tethmosis, who drove them [the Hyksos] out, was king of Egypt and reigned for twenty five years and four months, and then died; …” (Brackets, emphasis mine)
Once read, I think this citation Josephus makes is revealing because he names “Thetmosis” which is obviously “Thutmosis” or Thutmose. And it so happens, there was a Pharoah named Thutmose at the right time (more or less) in Egypt.
What I also find interesting is that most historians credit Ahmose I with the Hyksos expulsion instead of Thutmose. — Ahmose was a predecessor of Thutmose III. The best conclusion I can make is that both accounts have truth in them, but that Manetho’s is somewhat more questionable. But still, I don’t think we should doubt everything Manetho said. After all, if he can rightfully name a Pharaoh that “expelled” the Hebrews which lived at the correct time frame, then there may indeed be something to his “historical” account. — But again, the Israelites and the Hyksos cannot be equated, at least not 100%, though the Hyksos seem to be the Pharaohs that “knew Joseph.”
It should be realized that the “Hyksos Expulsion” is not the same as the Exodus of Moses because one has to remember that Pharaoh Ahmose, the one that expelled the Hyksos, was long dead in 1437 B.C. when the Exodus seems to have occured. — The association of King Thutmose III by Manetho may be out of knowing that the two peoples were related. — And finally, I am going to add that the other suspect for the Exodus, Amenhotep II, should by no means be ruled out. As a matter of fact, Professor William Shea (from Andrews University) wrote a paper on the subject which provides evidence of the possibility entitled “Amenhotep II as Pharaoh of the Exodus.”
The history in the Bible is very interesting although many misunderstand it, even Christians and Jews.
A very popular belief is that the Isrealites were slaves in Egypt for 430 years which is based on Exodus 12: 40. Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years.
To better understand this detail, we need to know when Moses lead the Jews out of Egypt. 1 Kings 6:1 gives an important detail:
In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the LORD.
The Bible says that Solomon began to construct the Temple in Jerusalem 480 years after the Exodus and in the forth year of Solomon’s reign. — Several Christian historians put the year of the Temple’s construction in 965 B.C. However my independent source, the Encyclopaedia of the Orient, puts the first year of his reign in 961 B.C. That would make the year of the temple’s contruction 957 B.C. So all that has to be done is add 480 to the year. The year that results as the Exodus out of Egypt is 1437 B.C.
Now here is where the problem comes in. If we add 430 years to 1431, then we get 1867 B.C. for when the Iseralites first come to Egypt. If the Isrealites were in Egypt in 1867, then Genesis 41: 41-43 poses a problem:
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
This may not look like a big deal. But the fact that the Bible says that Joseph was placed in a chariot in Egypt would actually be a historical error in the Bible, if this indeed happend around 1867 B.C.
The horse and chariot were introduced many years later by the Hyksos who ruled Egypt from 1674 to 1567 B.C. So it would appear that the writter of Genesis made a historical mistake. However, there are some ancient sources that say that Exodus 12: 40 may actually have originally said that for 430 years, the Isrealites were “in Canaan and Egypt,” including the time Abraham first migrated to Canaan.
So now we have an alternate wording, but which one was intended by the writter of Genesis? It may be possible to find that out by looking at the timelines given in the Bible.
So this means that there was a gap of 215 years from the time Abraham first went to Canaan to when Jacob arrived in Egypt. So, by subtracting that number from 1867 we find that Jacob arrived in Egypt in 1652 B.C., durring the rule of the Hyksos kings, and another 215 years before the Exodus of Moses in 1437 B.C. Add it up and it comes to 430 years. So, it appears that the writter of the Exodus intended the reading to be “in Canaan and Egypt.”
— Moses was eighty years old at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 7:7) So he was likely born in 1517 B.C., after the Hyksos lost power, which is probably what is meant when it is said that he was born in the time of a Pharoah who didn’t know Joseph (Exodus 1:8). It appears as if the Pharoahs who “knew” Joseph were the Hyksos.
There’s a another fact to back that idea up. The Hyksos were Semites from Canaan, like Joseph and the Hebrews. This could explain why the Pharoah was willing to give Joseph a position of trust and favor his family because they were ethnically similar and came from the same general area.