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Hatshepsut and Moses

It is likely, though not a foregone conclusion, that Hatshepsut was Pharaoh’s daughter who showed great compassion towards Moses. She treated him as her own son despite her father’s decree to kill all the Hebrew male children. This is of course assuming the earlier date for the Exodus which concurs with 1 Kings 6:1 where Solomon was in the fourth year of his reign four hundred and eighty years after the Exodus. There is an abundance of archaeological objects relating to her reign. The Temple of Hatshepsut is near to the Valley of the Kings at Luxor and there are several items that can be seen worldwide and also closer to her home at the British Museum and Petrie Museum in London.

Hatshepsut in Museums

There are several museums in the United States, Europe and Egypt which possess items related to Hatshepsut and only a few are referenced here. In the Metropolitan Museum in New York it is possible to view a seated statue of Hatshepsut.[i] More easily accessible in London at the British Museum, there is usually Queen Hatshepsut’s obelisk in Room 65, though when I visited a year ago it was on loan. In the same room you can see her flask, red ware jar and cosmetics box[ii] which patterns resemble that of an ornate backgammon set. The Petrie Museum is much smaller than the grander museums, but it is well worth a visit and there are several items referenced and related to Queen Hatshepsut.

Queen Hatshepsut (1497-1457BC) was the daughter of Tuthmosis I and then later married her half-brother Tuthmosis II and was co-regent with Tuthmosis III. In Room 4 at the British Museum there is an Egyptian King List of which some rulers are deliberately defaced when rulers that succeeded them chose to do so. Hatshepsut was no exception and some of the sculptures including her and Tuthmosis III have her depiction either etched out or defaced.

In Exodus 2:1-10, one commentator notes that none of the women are named yet they were integral to Moses’ birth including his mother, the midwives, Pharaoh’s daughter and his sister.[iii] They all show exceptional courage in defying Pharaoh’s orders. The act of his parents putting their son in an ark by the riverbank was not a last resort but an act of faith (Hebrews 11: 23). Whilst much more could be said and lessons for life could be gleaned from the example of all of them, I want to limit our focus to Hatshepsut.

Hatshepsut used by God

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river and saw the ark among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it to her. We may wonder why Pharaoh’s daughter happened to walk past where the ark was floating or why the baby happened to cry at that precise moment or why Moses’ mother was accepted by her, to be his nurse?[iv] Little did the Egyptian princess know that the God of gods was directing her footsteps.[v] Both the sovereignty in God’s great plans in providing a deliverer in Moses and His providence in the lives of individual’s are realised here. The baby wept and she had compassion on him and recognised that he was a Hebrew child. We make our plans yet the Lord directs our steps too.

We are not given an explanation how she knew that he was a Hebrew child and there is much speculation about his appearance or even radiance. We know that he was a beautiful child (Exodus 2:2). Ibn Ezra’s comments sound most credible in that he was circumcised and that she took compassion on him because of his beauty.[vi] Josephus adds an interesting detail in that she perceived that he was a remarkable child and having no child of her own adopted him as her son.[vii]

Miriam who was no doubt attentively observing (Exodus 2:4) and had the courage and presence of mind to ask Pharaoh’s daughter to obtain a nurse from the Hebrew women and her request was graciously granted. The daughter of Pharaoh went above and beyond the call of duty, sparing Moses’ life and also paying the nurse to care for him.

Hatshepsut named him Moses

Who has not heard of Moses? The Targum Jonathan reads, “And the child grew, and was brought to Pharaoh’s daughter and he was beloved by her as a son; and she called his name Mosheh, because, said she, I drew him out of the water of the river.[viii]

For a long time I have pondered the resemblance between the name “Moses” and the similarity between that name and the Egyptian monarchs such as “Tuthmosis” and others. This is noticeable when viewing the respective pharaohs in Room 4 of the British Museum. Unger notes that the Hebrew name “Mosheh” means “the one drawing out” but adds that probably the name was Egyptian meaning “the child” (cf. Ahmose, “son of Ah, the god of light,” and Thutmose, “son of Thot”).[ix]

This naming of the child “Moses” adds further support to the earlier date for the Exodus. Exponents for the latter date draw attention to the supply cities being built, Pithom and Raamses in Exodus 1:11 and try to make the connection with Ramesses II. However, if a list of the Egyptian kings is viewed it is evident that there are several rulers from around the time of the earlier date in the New Kingdom from Dynasty 18 with names akin to Moses including Ahmose, Tuthmosis I, Tuthmosis II and Tuthmosis III. Furthermore Tuthmosis IV reigned from 1400BC-1390BC. This furthermore demonstrates that it probably was Hatshepsut who was actually the Pharaoh’s daughter. With regard to Ramesses as a name of a Pharaoh, that name does not emerge until Dynasty 19 and continues into Dynasty 20.

Indeed we carefully name those we care for and this is certainly the case here. Much discussion has arisen amongst Jewish interpreters throughout the ages concerning what Moses’ name meant in Hebrew and Egyptian and the degree to which Pharaoh’s daughter might have been conversant in both languages. Tur HaAroch makes a more essential point however in that “The name she gave Moses was inspired by Divine input as is appropriate seeing that in due course this child would pull the Children of Israel out of their exile,…”[x]

It is both interesting and remarkable how much of Hatshepsut’s legacy is preserved today linking the past with the present. It is yet more astonishing how the Lord could use the cry of a baby carefully situated by the banks of the River Nile to direct the heart of a princess to preserve his life from her father and to play a vital part in his life before he was used so mightily by God to deliver the children of Israel out of Egypt. This demonstrates that the God of the Bible is in control of history and that He uses great and small alike, to achieve His purposes as He wills. The questions remain, are you walking in His ways and are you for Him or against Him and are you actively trusting in Him?

[i] Seated Statue of Hatshepsut

[ii] Peter Masters Heritage of Evidence in the British Museum (The Wakeman Trust, 2016; London), p100

[iii] Editors John F. Walvord & Roy B. Zuck The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament (Victor, 1989; USA), P110

[iv] William MacDonald Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1995; Nashville), p89

[v] George Williams Williams’ Complete Bible Commentary (Kregel, 1994; Grand Rapids), p44

[vi] Ibn Ezra on Exodus 2

[vii] The New Complete Works of Josephus Translated by William Whiston Edited by Paul Maier (Kregel Publications, 1999; Grand Rapids), Jewish Antiquities Book 2 Chapter 9 7. (232)

[viii] Targum Jonathan on Exodus 2

[ix] Merrill F. Unger Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament (AMG, 2002; Chattanooga), p106

[x] Tur HaAroch on Exodus 2,_trans._Eliyahu_Munk&vhe=Perush_al_ha-Torah,_Hanover,_1838&lang=bi&with=About&lang2=en