Search for Moses’ Foster-mother

Dec 14, 2021 | Bible Archeology | 0 comments

According to the record in Exodus 2:5-10,

“The daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river and her maidens walked along the river’s side. When she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it and when she had opened it, she saw the child and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him and said, ‘This is one of the Hebrews’ children. . . . And the child grew and she brought him to Pharaohs daughter and he became her son, so she called his name ‘Moses’, saying, ‘Because I drew him out of the water.’”

Many consider this an implausible story. They question the possibility of an Egyptian princess adopting a slave child and proposing to make him the next Pharaoh. Others have regarded it as factual and have tried to locate it in its historical setting. Dr Siegfried Horn of Andrews University, Michigan, claimed that Queen Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty was the princess.

Matching the Biblical date of the Exodus, about 1445 BC, with the usually accepted date for the 18th Dynasty would produce an approximate synchronism, but the known historical facts do not fit the story.

When Tutmoses II, the husband of Hatshepsut, died prematurely, his son by a secondary wife was immediately crowned as Pharaoh Tutmoses III. On Hatshepsut’s death, Tutmoses III assumed the throne and became the greatest pharaoh that ever ruled the land of Egypt. There is no place for Moses in this scenario.

However recently some scholars have challenged the standard Egyptian chronology and called for a revised dating that would locate the Moses story in the 12th Dynasty. The most likely contender for the princess whoadopted Moses would be Sobekneferu, the daughter of Amenemhet III.

Amenemhet had two daughters but no sons have been positively identified. Amenemhet IV has been suggested as a son of Amenemhet III, but he could just as plausibly be the son of Sobekneferu. He is a mysterious figure who may have been a co-regent of Amenemhet III or even of Sobekneferu. Dr Donovan Courville claims that he should be identified as Moses, the foster son of Sobekneferu.

Josephus wrote:

“Having no child of her own, she thought to make him her father’s successor.” Antiquities of the Jews Book II, chapter ix, par. 7

Certainly there seems to be no historical record of her having a son. When her father died she assumed the throne and ruled for only four years. Having no heir, the dynasty came to an end and was replaced by the 13th Dynasty.

If Sobekneferu was the foster-mother of Moses, the circumstances seem to fit the story. She would not have been down by the river taking a bath because she had no bathroom in the palace. The river god Hapi was the fertility god of Egypt and she would have been down there observing a religious ritual and praying to the fertility god for a baby. The arrival of the beautiful Hebrew baby would seem like an answer to her prayers.

Amemenhet probably ruled for 43 years. If MOses was born near the beginning of his reign, he would have fled from Egypt forty years later near the end of his reign. Moses showed his sympathy for the Israelites by murdering an Egyptian task-master who was flogging an Israelite.

“When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses, but Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian.” Exodus 2:15

If Sobekneferu was Moses’ foster-mother she was certainly well qualified to fill the role. She was one of Egypt’s few reigning queens and set the pace for the mor famous Queen Hatshepsut. Wriing in KMT (1998 spring edition) Dr Gae Callender of Sydney’s Macquarie University has presented a well-researched article on Sobekneferu.

Gae frankly admits that very little is known about Sobekneferu’s reigh, but then proceeds to delineate a lot of interesting material on this remarkable queen. The writer is understandably vague about the relationships of these last monarchs of the 12th Dynasty.

“Sobekneferu may have been a sister or half-sister of Amenemhet IV, whose reign lasted just over nine years. He perhaps share a co-regency of an uncertain length with Amenemhet III.”

The name ‘Sobekneferu’ means, “The beauties of Sobek”, the crocodile god. The rulers of the 12th Dynasty established a religious and economic centre in the Fayyum Oasis where the crocodiles were nurtured and worshipped.

Sobekneferu left very few known statuesof herself and none of them are complete. Three life-sized basalt statues of her were found in the delta at Tel el-Daba, but they were all headless and, in fact, were subsequently lost! No one knows where theyare today. In 1973 the Louvre in Paris purcased a large reddish saatue which has no arms, legs or heard. When complete it would have stood 5’2″ in height. This may be a representation of Sobekneferu.

Queen Hatshepsut presented herself as a male pharaoh, but she was not the first queen to have done so. In the British Museum there is a cylinder seal of Sobekneferu which gives her Horus name in a masculine form. In a glorious mixture of gender pronouns, she also refers to herself as “She whose appearance is stable, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Sobekneferu of Shedet, she lives.” Her pernomen was “Son of Re, Sobekneferu”. In another conglomeration of sexes, the statue in the Louvre depicts her wearing a male kilt worn over a female shift. No wonder Gae Callender comments,

“To put it simply, Sobekneferu may have been uncertain exactly what sex she should be for the official record!”

The four statues referred to above have no heads, so her facial appearance cannot be determined from these, but Dennis Forbes, the editor of KMT speculateson the possibility of another statue belonging to Sobekneferu. Dr Dorothea Arnold of New York’s Metropolitan Museum commented on a head that is in that museum. It as a beautiful young face and has been assumed to belong to Amenemhet III, who left many statues of himself, but they all depict him as a sour-faced monarch with features appropriate for a pharaoh who cruelly enslaved the Israelites. The Metropolitan Museum head bears no resemblance to Amenemhet III and as it has no inscribed name, it may be the head of Sobekneferu.

Article used with permission of Diggins Online. You can find more useful material at Apologtetics Courses, Free Courses and Brethren Assembly. Secular materials can be found at Coins Encyclopedia and Guide For Income

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