[b-hebrew] Ramases

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Fri Jul 30 00:10:39 EDT 2004


Thanks for the explanation. The etymology, or perhaps etiology, given for
Moshe in Exodus is obviously legendary, which is why many scholars assume
that the name must actually be Egyptian. The fact that the name Moshe (and
Aaron) is not used could have one of three reasons:
1. As Karl has suggested, pure chance. The biblical text is quite limited.
Especially if the name is Egyptian, how many later Hebrew-speaking
Israelites would use it.
2. Some "minimalist" scholars, such as Van Seters, Garbini and others, have
suggested that the whole Moses story is a very late invention - in other
words, most Iron-Age Israelites did not know of a Moses to name anyone
3. A third explanation is cultural - that Moses and Aaron were held in such
high esteem, as to be above naming people after. The Samaritans don't name
children Moshe, for just that reason, to this day. If they do wish to honor
Moses by naming a child for him, they use Marqeh - Resh + Qoph have the same
numerical value as Shin. This is like the name Jesus, being very rare in the
English speaking world, although its common in Spanish. The fact is, that
Moshe is uncommon in the Talmud as well, and did not become a common Jewish
name until the Middle Ages.


----- Original Message -----
From: <MarianneLuban at aol.com>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, July 30, 2004 1:20 AM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] Ramases

> In a message dated 7/29/2004 1:11:15 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
> leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il writes:
> > While not an Egyptologist, I do know that it means "born of Re". Re, of
> > course, is the sun god. The "mese[s]" is the same element as in Thutmose
> > (there were several pharaohs by that name), and, presumably in "Moses",
> > assuming that that was a real Egyptian name, with some theophopic
> > cut off.
> >
> You're right--sort of :-)  However, the name "ramss" is not quite the same
> "DHwtyms" which means "Thoth is born".  Such a name can't really mean
> of Thoth" because the Egyptians were quite consistent in the order of
> words in any phrase--and nearly all Egyptian proper names were a phrase.
If it
> isn't, then you know it's a nickname, of which the Egyptians were very
> In order to say "Born of Thoth", it would have to be "ms n DHwty".
> is a different story because it is actually a truncated version of
"Ramssw" or
> "Ra fashioned him", actually the name of the grandfather of Ramesses II.
> However, there was a very popular name in the 18th and 19th Dynasties,
> simply "ms".  Since this name constitutes no phrase, no one is quite sure
what it
> is all about.  My guess is it just means "man-child", a strange name for a
> person--but there it is.  It doesn't seem to be a truncated version of a
> theophoric name, because those fit to a certain pattern.  In fact, the
nickname of
> "ms", itself, seems to be "Maya", actually pronounced "Meeya".  But I
doubt that
> the name "Moshe" has anything to do with any of this.  I doubt it's a
> name at all, for a number of reasons.  And the explanation in Exodus is
not a
> satisfactory one, at all--unless you can believe that an Egyptian princess
> would give her adopted son a Semitic name that was even rather a silly
> totally unfitting to his station in life as the son of the princess.
> never had names like "drawn out of the water" or "he who dances with
wolves" like
> the Amerinds did.  Please note that the names of Moshe and Aharon never
> appear in the HB--which would be very odd if these were names that meant
> something in Semitic.  They became used in the Diaspora only when such
> were no longer so well-drawn as even before that Jews had begun to be
> by foreign names quite routinely--mostly Greek or Roman ones.  However, we
> know the name "Joseph" was used before the Roman dispersion--because,
after all,
> Joseph really is a Semitic name the meaning of which is clear.
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