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‘Moses’ is Egyptian for ‘Newborn’ - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Despite the numerous articles I have written on the Pharaoh who looked after Prophet Moses and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the details of their lives in Egypt based on archaeological evidence, and despite that the holy books have approached the issue in detail and that the story of the Jews in Egypt and the Exodus led by Moses is one of the stories most mentioned in the Old Testament and the Holy Quran, there are still many questions that require answers.

Unfortunately, antiquities have not yet revealed any evidence that could benefit us in this regard. There are some facts that cannot be overlooked in the story of the Exodus for example that the existence [of the Israelites] in Egypt has been confirmed by archaeological evidence ever since the age of the Modern Kingdom [of Egypt]. The beginning of the arrival [of the Israelites] to Egypt could be linked to the groups of immigrants arriving along with the Hyksos. They settled in the eastern Nile Delta and stayed there even after the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt and the beginning of the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt.

As for the name ‘Moses’ it is undoubtedly purely Egyptian meaning ‘newborn’. It might be the name that the Pharaoh’s wife gave to him the moment he was found. Some argue that the name means ‘son of the water’ or ‘water-born baby’ based on the assumption that ‘Mo’ means water and ‘Ses’ might mean ‘newborn’ or ‘son’.

The third fact of the story of the Exodus is that the Holy Quran mentions the king whose palace Prophet Moses was raised in and during whose reign details of the Exodus emerged. However, he is referred to as ‘Pharaoh’. This is in line with archaeological evidence, as those who ruled Egypt during the age of the Modern Kingdom were given the title ‘Pharaoh,’ not ‘king’ and that was also the case before this age.

But there are still questions to which we do not have answers: who is the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Is he the same Pharaoh as the Pharaoh who raised Prophet Moses? Whilst the Old Testament mentions two Pharaohs – one that persecuted and tortured the Israelites and the other under whose reign the Exodus took place, the Holy Quran refers only to one Pharaoh, or at least that is how the following verse is interpreted: “(Pharaoh) said: ‘Did we not cherish thee as a child among us, and didst thou not stay in our midst many years of thy life?’” (Surat al Shuara: 17).

This does not necessarily mean that the Pharaoh who said these words is the same Pharaoh who raised Prophet Moses. Another matter that still puzzles archaeologists is the area where the Israelites stopped during the Exodus and the places they lived in during the period of wilderness, which is known to have continued for about 40 years. Sinai was thought of as the land of wilderness with regards to the Israelites. Moreover, the Old Testament named several places, but unfortunately, the excavations that had been carried out in Sinai, whether by Jewish archaeologists during the Israeli occupation of Sinai or Egyptian archaeologists after the occupation, showed no indications of the existence of the Israelites in Sinai.

What is even stranger is that some people argue that the event did not take place in Sinai in the first place but somewhere else outside of Egypt. Several sites in Yemen have been suggested in this context, but there is no archaeological evidence to support this argument.

Last but not least, debates over the location of Prophet Moses’ grave and the circumstances surrounding his death still arise from time to time. Surprisingly, the Holy Quran does not mention anything about Prophet Moses’ final days, his passing or the location where he is buried. There is wisdom behind this that only Almighty God knows. It was said that the Holy Quran had not referred to the location of Prophet Moses’ grave so that it would not become a place of worship for the Jews where they could worship the prophet after his death, as they had previously disobeyed the commands of God and committed what he had prohibited.