Out of Egypt

Jonathan D. Safren yon_saf at bezeqint.net
Mon Mar 26 03:50:31 EST 2001


Why don't we start with the CW that Moses, Hofni, Phineas, perhaps Aaron (and according to one set of opinions in a recent discussion on the ANE List, Miriam as well; but I suggested an Amorite or Canaanite etymology) are Egyptian names? Moses is a hypocorisitc of an Egyptian theophoric name, like Ra--mses, Thoth-mes. I don't remember the suggested etymologies of the other names.
Add to this the anonymous prophet's words to Eli in 1 Sam. 2:17: "Did I not reveal Myself your father's house when they were in Egypt [belonging to/serving] Pharaoh's house?" The story there may be fictional; but this detail, serving as motivation for Divine punishment, would be a strange thing indeed to invent.
It's things like these that lead me to the conclusion that the Exodus traditions have some sort of historical kernel in them, however much it may have been distorted by later accretions and theology. Exactly what sort of kernel? It's a matter of conjecture, like that cited below (and 
which is as good, or as bad, as any other conjecture).
Sincerely,
Jonathan D. Safren
Chairman
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College
44905 Israel
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Polycarp66 at aol.com 
  To: Biblical Hebrew 
  Sent: Monday, March 26, 2001 9:08 AM
  Subject: Out of Egypt


  Some among us hold to a very literal understanding of the BH (and the NT) 
  while others, including myself, do not.  I do not write this to attack the 
  views of those who hold the historicity of these accounts as fundamental to 
  their faith.  I am simply pointing out for the sake of understanding what I 
  am proposing that I do not agree with their position.  Nevertheless, the 
  accounts do not seem to be simply made up out of whole cloth.  Beneath them 
  there usually seems to lie a kernal of fact which has been transmogrified 
  into its present form.  It was customary for kings to give grandiose 
  descriptions of their reigns and accomplishments -- are the accounts of David 
  and Solomon perhaps no different in this respect?  But the accounts of David 
  and Solomon are not my concern here.   It has been fairly well established 
  that Israel grew out of a people indiginous to Palestine.  Why then do we 
  have an account of the entrance of the patriarchs into Egypt and the 
  subsequent exodus many years later under Moses? 

  I have been reading Redford's _Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times.   
  While I do not hold to the view presented in the Torah of the patriarchs 
  going to Egypt with the subsequent exodus therefrom under Moses as literal 
  history, something struck me regarding what Redford says.   

  1) Redford speaks of certain cultural factors which seems to have been 
  acquired by Egypt from mesopotamia.  He maintains that this must have been 
  transmitted by actual persons rather than simply through cultural borrowing.   
  He also posits a northern route for this cultural infusion (by sea).   

  2) The Egyptian god Seth is presented as a boar who slays Osirius.  Osirus' 
  consort Isis flees to the marshes to seek safety.  Her child (Horus -- the 
  falcon) is there hidden in a nest (she is portrayed as a kite).   

  3) Redford also speaks of a "Seth: Peribsen" who (like Akhenaten?) who may 
  have been a "heretic king" who replaced the the Horus symbol with that of 
  Seth.  His name is attested in contemporary inscriptions but is left out of 
  the king list.  His successor Kha'sekhem changed his name to Kha'sekhemwy 
  Nebwy-hotpimef.  Redford explains this as "The Two Powerful Ones have arisen, 
  the Two Lords (i.e. Horus and Seth) are at peace in him."  Perhaps this 
  symbolizes some rapprochement between the two factions. 

  In view of the well-known proscription of pork among Jews, the nest (ark?) in 
  which the child is hidden. and Redford's surmise that mesopotamian culture 
  was transmitted to Egypt by PEOPLE, is it possible that this is the basis for 
  the exodus myth?  Might the Israelites be the descendents of some who fled 
  the "heretic king" who attempted to establis the worship of Seth?  Might the 
  aversion to pork be explained as a result of their aversion to this god who 
  was represented by the boar?  The eagle and kite were also prohibited.  Cf. 
  Lev. 11.13-18 

  13The following you shall abominate among the birds—they shall not be eaten, 
  they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, and the black vulture; 14the 
  kite, falcons of every variety; 15all varieties of raven; 16the ostrich, the 
  nighthawk, the sea gull; hawks of every variety; 17the little owl, the 
  cormorant, and the great owl; 18the white owl, the pelican, and the bustard; 
  19the stork; herons of every variety; the hoopoe, and the bat. (TaNaK, Jewish 
  Publication Society, 1985) 

  Might the prohibition of eating the eagle, kite, etc. also be explained by 
  this originally being the representation of their own God?  Cf.  Deut. 32. 
  7-12 

  7Remember the days of old, 
  Consider the years of ages past; 
  Ask your father, he will inform you, 
  Your elders, they will tell you: 
  8When the Most High gave nations their homes 
  And set the divisions of man, 
  He fixed the boundaries of peoples 
  In relation to Israel’s numbers. 
  9For the Lord‘s portion is His people, 
  Jacob His own allotment. 
  10He found him in a desert region, 
  In an empty howling waste. 
  He engirded him, watched over him, 
  Guarded him as the pupil of His eye. 
  11Like an eagle who rouses his nestlings, 
  Gliding down to his young, 
  So did He spread His wings and take him, 
  Bear him along on His pinions; 
  12The Lord alone did guide him, 
  No alien god at His side.  (TaNaK, Jewish Publication Society, 1985) 

  After considerable time these fugitives would have become acculturated to 
  their Palestinian home so that in many respects the would seem to be 
  indigenous.  During this time the mythology could have developed to the 
  accounts we now possess. 

  Perhaps this would be better submitted to the ANE list, but I was interested 
  in comments from those interested specifically in the HB.  BTW:  Don't be 
  confused by my use of the TaNaK -- I am a Christian) 

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