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 Moshe - What's in a name?

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Join date : 2007-09-08
Age : 59

PostSubject: Moshe - What's in a name?   Tue Jan 08, 2008 5:01 pm

Moshe is an Egyptian name. Now that we are in Exodus we will be with him a lot. Here is some info on his name and origin.

The familiar name Moses is actually Moshe in Hebrew. The final -s in the
English comes from the ancient Greek translation of the Bible known as
the Septuagint: a terminal sigma was added because Greek does not permit
masculine proper nouns to end in a vowel.

The Book of Exodus offers its own explanation of how Moses acquired his
name. It’s a pun based on the circumstances of his discovery in a
floating basket.

Three months after Moses was born, his mother placed him in a basket and
hid him among the reeds along the Nile so that he would survive
Pharaoh’s decree to murder all Hebrew baby boys. When Pharaoh’s daughter
came to the river to bathe, she spied the baby and adopted him as her
own. Moses’ sister, who had been stationed near the river to see what
would happen, offered to find a wet nurse for the baby. She returned
with Moses’ (and her) own mother.
"And the child grew," the Book of Exodus recounts, "and she [Moses’
mother, masquerading as a nursemaid] brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter,
and he became her son; and she named him Moses (Hebrew, Moshe), for she
said, ‘Because I drew him (meshitihu) out of the water’" (Exodus 2:10,
Revised Standard Version).

There are many puzzling things about this statement, beginning with the
identity of the woman who names the child. Most likely, "she" is the
Egyptian princess, since she had adopted the child as her own and
presumably would be the one to name him.1 Yet, it seems improbable that
an Egyptian princess would be capable of making such a sophisticated pun
in Hebrew, or, for that matter, that she would even give her foster
child a Hebrew name.
In any case, let us assume that whoever named Moses knew Hebrew. How
valid, then, does the Hebrew etymology seem? As an Egyptologist, I must
here rely on the arguments of Hebrew scholars, who generally agree that
it simply doesn’t make sense.2 The biblical etymology—which says the
baby’s name is based on his having been drawn out of water—would lead
one to expect a name that means "the one drawn out" or "he who was
drawn"; that is, a passive form. But Moshe has an active participle
behind it;3 the name means "the one who draws." (That’s why Isaiah calls
him "the drawer" of his people [Isaiah 6:3].) The passive form would
result in a name like Mashuy, not Moshe.

The Egyptian language provides a far more plausible etymology.4 The name
Moses is related to common Egyptian names like Amenmose, Ramose and
Thutmose,* which are formed of a god’s name followed by mose.5 These
compound names mean something like "Amen is born" or "Born of Amen" or
"The offspring of Ra" or "The child of Thoth." When the name Mose
appears by itself, as it occasionally does in Egyptian, it simply means
"the Child" or "the Offspring."6 But in Egyptian, Mose most frequently
appears along with the name of a god as part of a compound name.

Most likely of all, the name Moses (assuming that he originally had a
longer name) is short for Ramose, a popular name related to the name of
the reigning pharaoh, Ramesses II.**—would also mean "Ra is born," but
his name is normally written R‘-ms-sw (roughly, Ramessu) and means
"Ra-fashioned him," using another meaning of the verb msi, that is, "to
fashion, form." The two senses of the verb are related, however, in that
Egyptians thought of the fashioning of a divine statue as equivalent to
the god being born.) It was a common custom among the Egyptians to
rename foreign slaves or captives after the pharaoh.

The technical term for a compound name with a divine element is a
"theophoric" or "theophorous" name, derived from a Greek word meaning
"bearing [derived from] a god."7
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