A Forgotten Assassination
The executioner's stroke slashes through the air - but stops abruptly an inch
from the victim's skull. At the last moment, the deadly blow is arrested, the
weapon touching - but not injuring. Death is a hairsbreadth away. The victim is
shocked ... appalled. He, who was to have reigned as king over his people,
instead has had his identity entirely obliterated by this symbolic execution.
Hereafter he is to have no official existence. Remarkably, this dramatic event
will lead him to become "ruler" over another nation ... a nation which as yet,
does not exist.
The strange episode took
place in Egypt, some 3,500 years ago. This forgotten drama is one of the best
concealed of history's "assassinations". It caused upheavals throughout the
ancient world, traces of which are still to be found today.
This banished heir to the
throne was to become the mythical figure who, as a result of biblical tradition,
is now remembered as Moses. But so effectively was his true identity erased that
the first forty years of his life seem to have been lost to posterity.
At that time, an
execution was performed by the deadly blow of a club to the head, which was then
separated from the body by striking and cutting with a sword. But in Moses'
case, the execution was symbolic; an uncompleted slaying performed in accordance
with an ancient ritual.
The highest priesthood
and 'cult-brothers' in the Egyptian court had conspired against the man who
should have been their future king. They had secretly passed sentence that he
was to forfeit his life. The apparent execution was accompanied by an act of
magical 'excommunication'. Thereafter, he fled Egypt as an outlaw, with neither
power nor name. Nothing was left to him but his life.
This dramatic incident
neither belongs to the tales usually told about Moses nor is it referred to in
the Bible. Nevertheless it is still possible to study such lesser known scraps
of information about his life because of the existence of otherwise rarely used
sources from the ancient world.
Although these old
narratives contain information which is more extensive than that found in the
biblical accounts about Moses, the Bible has become the dominant authority over
time. As a result, these and similar sources have not been taken seriously and
have often been forgotten. (Detailed citations will be found in the main text).
Mystery Concerning the Existence Of Moses
In later times, it became almost impossible to track down either the true
identity of Moses or the correct epoch in which his life took place.
Furthermore, most descriptions can be found of only three short periods of
Moses' life with long "gaps" in between, making research even more difficult.
The mist, which in
particular veils the first 40 years of his life, was also to hide the existence
of a gifted pharaoh-prince, a fascinating personality and a many-sided genius.
This knowledge was partly preserved by descendants of "his other people,"
although not always adequately understood or properly interpreted. These
sources, as well as those handed down by writers in antiquity, still bear
witness to Moses' background and person.
In addition, when
biblical texts are used as the sole source of information, it should not be
taken for granted that Moses existed as an actual person in world history: using
these texts alone he might be perceived as a legendary, mythical hero or
"saga-figure". It is almost as if the curse contained in the magic included by
the priests in his ritual execution still weighs heavily on the case even
thousands of years later.
uncertainty about Moses' precise place in the history of Egypt results mainly
from the lack of fixed points concerning the time and place of many crucial
occurrences in a remote culture, thousands of years ago. Until now, apparently no direct
evidence for or traces of Moses' existence have been found.
The existing versions of
the Bible are secondary transcripts, in particular those edited by Ezra, the
priest, around 400 BC. The oldest physically preserved manuscripts exist only as
fragments that are no more than 2,100 years old. The occurrences related in the
accounts of Moses happened almost 3,500 years ago.
incidents in Moses' life, listed in the order as narrated in the Bible, are as
1. Moses was born in Egypt. The names
of his parents are not mentioned, either when they first appear, or during the
description of Moses' birth and childhood. Three months after his birth, Moses
was placed on the Nile, in a floating woven rush ark. He was found shortly
thereafter by the king's daughter, who raised him as her son, after first
placing him with a wet-nurse (the biblical text in its present form gives the
impression that the wet-nurse was in fact his mother).
2. At the age of 40, Moses had to
flee the country after an episode that can be described as "negligent homicide"
(manslaughter). This is the rationale behind his illusionary execution, as
referred to in Israelitic/Jewish traditional "Rabbinical Writings" especially in
the collected texts of the Midrash and the Talmud.
3. During his exile Moses resided,
among other places, with the priest Jethro "in Midian" - i.e. on the peninsula of Sinai,
according to the ancient traditions - where he married one of Jethro's daughters. Here at
Midian/Sinai, when witnessing an episode whith a (hawthorn-) bush bursting into flames,
Moses had a revelation. This was the prelude to his religious-reform where -
for the first time for an entire people - the concept of a single omnipotent god
(monotheism) was to replace the worship of several gods (polytheism).
4. Hereafter, in the very Egypt, Moses made himself leader of the great numbers
of Hebrews (soon to be known as the Israelites), who, according to genealogical
tables in the Bible, had resided there for four generations. During subsequent
negotiations with the king of Egypt - in the Bible often referred to as the pharaoh (from the Egyptian "per-ao") - Moses' demands of free emigration for the
Hebrews/Israelites were rejected. To put pressure on this king, known as "the
harsh pharaoh", Moses predicted a series of catastrophes. When such plagues
actually struck Egypt, the pharaoh relented, allowing the Israelites to
emigrate: the Easter-festival still existing today was initiated at the time of
their departure. Pharaoh soon regretted his promise, however, Moses and the
Israelites obtained but a short head start, nevertheless escaping over the Red
Sea to Sinai. Thus began exodus, 'the emigration', which was to become the
famous desert wandering, lasting for around 40 years.
5. During a halt near a mountain on
Midian/the Sinai (peninsula), approximately three
months after the start of the emigration, Moses proclaimed his religious reform
in combination with a legal doctrine which included "The Ten Commandments".
Hereafter the desert wandering continued.
6. Following the "40 years" in the
desert and the death of Moses, the Israelites moved into the land of Canaan (the
present area of Palestine/Israel), led by Joshua, chosen by Moses to be his
A wandering people do not
necessarily leave behind archaeological traces. Therefore, it can in no way be
that a Hebrew/Israelitic invasion of Canaan actually occurred, even though today
no concrete evidence exists concerning either this people, or its leader Moses,
or even of the century in which such an invasion might have taken place, more
than three thousand years ago.
One of the most
frequently used methods in current attempts to date Moses and the desert
wandering, has been based on interpretations of Biblical texts dealing with two
cities of Lower Egypt, Ra'am'ses (Rameses) and Pi'tom, both associated
with the Israelites' stay in Egypt. In a later tradition, it has been assumed
that Ra'am'ses, where the Israelites were condemned to forced labour,
was named after the pharaoh Rameses II, who lived in the thirteenth
however, supports numerous arguments against Moses living in the time of Rameses
II. No matter which ruins were suggested as being the ancient city of Ra'am'ses,
improved analytical methods have proven them all to be of a much earlier date. Therefore, originally, the city Ra'am'ses is unlikely to have been named after
this pharaoh. Such predating occurs similarly in the case of Pi'tom.
in Judea show that the collapse of the city wall of Jericho occurred at the same
time as the burning of that city, just as related in the Bible, when Jericho was
conquered by the Israelites at the end of their desert wandering. This is an
event that had taken place up to several centuries before the time of Rameses II.
Still, there is no
agreement on an exact dating of Moses life and time. The common assumption that
Moses lived at the same time as Rameses II (in the thirteenth century BC) has, as
one of its origins, a more than 150-year-old misunderstanding, arising when one
of the first important Egyptologists, Karl Richard Lepsius, published his book,
"Reise vom Theben..." (Berlin 1843, English translation: "Letters from Egypt,
Ethiopia, and Sinai", London 1853), containing a chronology stating this
historical coincidence. However, it appears that Lepsius, and many
others with him, due to their use of inadequate material had placed Rameses II approx.
300 years too early in history, i.e. in the sixteenth century BC.
thereafter, research on Moses' life took a misleading direction, since at the
time of Lepsius the idea that "Moses lived concurrently with Rameses II" was
already widely accepted.
An opportunity for
revision of this mistake was overlooked when Egyptologists obtained knowledge
which permitted a proper re-dating of Rameses II to the thirteenth century BC.
Unfortunately, as a consequence, the dating of Moses was automatically moved
forward accordingly, but without any supporting evidence.
The misunderstanding then
spread, aided by the continued uncritical citing of this "false" date by
Egyptologists and scientists in related disciplines. Thereafter, by many it was
regarded almost as a truth that Moses, like Rameses II, lived in the thirteenth
century BC. Unfortunately, this has entered ineradicably into literature.
(Proper dating will be presented in several later chapters and in Appendix 3).
Thus, research on this
subject has remained misdirected, since this un-critical assumption has led to a
fruitless search for traces of Moses in "wrong" centuries. Hereafter, in the
absence of concrete clues or other qualified evidence, Moses could be regarded
as "non-existent" in the strictly scientific sense; an opinion to which many
branches of modern theology currently adhere.
Is it Possible to Use Astronomy to Date the Birth of Moses?
About 500 years ago a learned rabbi, Ytzhak ben Yahuda Abrabanel (1437-1508),
who lived in Portugal, and later Spain and Italy, had connections to other
rabbis in Oriental Jewish society, where many old traditional texts, probably
few of which exist today, were still preserved. In 1497, Abrabanel, in one of
his Hebrew commentaries, "The Sources of Salvation" ("Ma'ajnej hajjeshu'ah"),
was able to recall ancient knowledge concerning a rare astronomical phenomenon,
which had been interpreted as an exceptional celestial premonition.
Here it was elaborately
recorded how, previous to Moses' birth, several heavenly bodies had gathered
unusually in one particular region in the sky, where they formed a close group
within a certain constellation - a phenomenon which astronomers call a
conjunction. Rabbi Abrabanel recorded a traditional description (in the
paragraph called "source 12, gate 2") that a significant and rarely seen
gathering of the planets:
place as a great conjunction in the stars of the constellation Pisces three
years before the birth of Moses ...".
Based on records of, inter alia, the Egyptian kings it appears that since
ancient times specially educated priests were used to make astrological
predictions. Furthermore, certain rare astronomical phenomena during that period
were regarded as sufficiently important to be recorded.
Egyptians of their time did not divide the sky into exactly the same stellar
constellations as in later imported astrology of Babylonian origin, their
terminology can be translated into modern terms. It presents no problem
concerning date calculation. And everywhere in the past certain rare
astronomical phenomena were considered as being of great importance and thus -
to our advantage - they were often recorded.
One such record relating
to the case of Moses was preserved for posterity. The information contained
therein proves to be of value since the astronomical phenomenon referred to can
be scientifically verified and certain fundamental data can be used for an
extremely precise date calculation, using present-day astronomical methods.
mostly occur at intervals of several hundred years only. These are the rare
events where all, or almost all, of the seven then known moving-celestial-bodies
(the planets) are found closely grouped within a very limited area in the sky.
It is technically possible to trace if and when, in the reign of Rameses II (or
during several previous centuries), the planets of the great conjunctions
gathered, as then described, in the celestial region known by Abrabanel - and
also currently - as the constellation of "Pisces".
Such a rare "great
conjunction" actually did take place in complete agreement with the record in
Rabbi Abrabanel's sources, and is furthermore distinguished by being the
greatest planetary-conjunction in the region of Pisces within the entire
millennium in question.
This unique celestial
occurrence is known to have occurred at new moon at the end of
February-beginning of March 1537 BC as can be verified in an ephemeris as
used for historical research; e.g. Stahlmann & Gingerich's "Solar and Planetary
Longitudes ..." (Madison 1963, p. 120), which covers the period back to 2500 BC.
(Additional astronomical data can also be found in Appendix 3 of the present
book). According to Abrabanel's records, Moses was born three years later:
(February-March) 1534 BC.
Knowledge of this kind of
special stellar-combination in the sky before the birth of Moses, existed long
before Abrabanel. This can be confirmed by information found in related biblical
texts (not included in the Bible as such), especially in those handed down by
the rabbis of ancient times, e.g. in works like the Talmud, and others. These texts were transcribed in 300-900 AD, following the considerably older
oral and written traditions (see chapter 7), will hereafter be
referred to collectively as the "Rabbinical Writings".
Although the exact year
of Moses' birth is no longer known in the rabbinical tradition, it is still
maintained that the actual date for Moses' birth falls in the Hebrew lunar-month
adar (February/March) - identical to the result obtained by modern
Furthermore, when dealing
with the life of Moses, many ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Jewish authors
and historians have also referred to this same astronomical occurrence. It is
also known in the folklore and traditions of the Samaritans (contemporary
Semitic residents of part of what today is called the Westbank of Jordan).
archaeologists have now mostly rehabilitated antiquity's Jewish historian
Flavius Josephus, formerly regarded as a somewhat doubtful source. It is
generally acknowledged that Titus Caesar (Vespasian), the conqueror of
Jerusalem, gave Josephus scrolls that were taken from The Temple on its
destruction in 70 AD. Ten years later, based on these and other invaluable
sources, Josephus mentioned in his work "Antiquitates Judaicae (2:2)"
('The History of the Jews'), a certain occurrence apparently based on original
astronomical observations that
"... The holy
scholars of Egypt (the astrologer-priests), who, with considerable skill,
could predict the future precisely, had warned the king ..."
- relating that a person would be born, who, together with the Israelites,
would threaten the supremacy of Egypt and would elevate the Israelites to
surpass all other people in skill, winning everlasting fame.
One of the Rabbinical
Writings, e.g. Midrash Rabba's additions and comments on the first and second
chapters of the Book of Exodus, correspondingly relates that
"... the pharaoh
was warned by his astrologers ...".
They warned him of a certain child, who later would intervene in Egyptian
affairs - namely the child that posterity would come to know by the name of
Within the portrait
gallery of characters in the Old Testament, this occurrence can be uniquely
related to Moses since he alone is known to be directly associated with a
concrete astronomical event. - A similar situation is next related in the New
Testament 1,520 years later: here, too, some astrologers appeared, the "Magi",
who, prior to the birth of Jesus, informed the king (Herod) of a certain stellar
observation. Contrary to the case of Moses, unfortunately, this later
observation is further unspecified - thus it would be most difficult to use it
for astronomical dating.
Concerning knowledge of the existence of the great conjunction of ancient times,
it was simply impossible for the late rabbis, or anyone else, to make precise
astronomical calculations in retrospect over such a long period - over 1,500
years since the time of Moses. Thus, the information source about this
phenomenon could not be a late "fabrication" of the date.
Now, this observation from the time of Moses, originating in the remote past and
refined practice of astronomy, can be finally transformed into absolute
time-data using modern astronomical computer technique.
It should be emphasized
that astronomy provides the most accurate dating method in general. And
in the case presented, Abrabanel's "second-hand-source" places in our hands the
key to an exact determination of date, the verification of which can be
The result proves to be
crucial in the previously inadequate placing of Moses in history. Historians and
theologians, however, have not hitherto applied this astronomical approach in
the past. Perhaps, even in those cases where their research could have
elucidated this information, it would have been considered an exotic feature;
hence, professional limitations and attitudes may have prevented recognition of
the fundamental existence of concrete astronomical information. Hopefully, such
misjudgment of this astronomical information will be rectified as according to
the presentation of data in the following chapters.
Among the specialists
there is still great disagreement in the results of archaeological
research regarding the dating of those pharaohs who were contemporary to Moses.
It is a fact that until now, no irrefutable evidence of an absolute dating
has been found.
When dealing with the
period 1600-1200 BC, "relative dating-methods" have been used, resulting in
about 50 years of uncertainty within the frequently changing interpretations,
which are distinguished as high-, middle- and low-dating (see
Appendix 3). The current trend with many Egyptologists is low-dating, a
not insensible, yet provisional arrangement comprising the start of the reign of
Tuthmosis III occurring in 1479 BC. Thus, it is not to be considered as being a
true fact, but a useful opinion, a model, i.e. in essence still fictitious and
Until now, dating
techniques such as carbon 14, pollen, and dendrochronology have not seemed to be
appropriate methods for use in relation to Moses in Egypt. Suddenly, however,
Abrabanel's exact astronomical information contributes to the needed
breakthrough permitting a concrete line of approach to substantiate the dating.
This use of astronomical
dating establishes the first practical starting-point, since it leads to the
postulation of several verifiable historical relationships. Its result also
agrees with new, revised archaeological dating; see John J. Bimson, Bryant G.
Wood, and James K. Hoffmeier (Bibliography, groups 4: I and 12: III).
The astronomical approach
gives a result that is also close to a high-dating fixation often used by
one of Egyptology's foremost schools, the French. The discussions in the present
book, however, will not be based solely on this one (however precise)
Pharaoh's Daughter as the First Great Female Figure in History
Based on the above arguments, a re-evaluation of Moses' status and era can now
be made, also supported by the accuracy of the astronomical date calculations,
which can now be directly related to archaeological findings and the preserved
ancient writings concerning Moses. Some of these concrete intimate
interconnections are outlined below,
a. As mentioned in the Bible Moses
grew up "as a son" of "pharaoh's daughter". This is a significant point, to
which until now little importance has been attached. It refers to the possible
historical connection between an Egyptian king's daughter and Moses. It is a
known fact in Egyptology that the designation "Pharaoh's Daughter" (Egyptian:
sat nisut) was a title which was given only to crown princesses, who
also kept it when they became queen. This was noted in the early work of the
language-scholar A.S. Yahuda: "Die Sprache des Pentateuch in ihren Beziehungen
zum Aegyptischen" (Berlin 1929, p. 37, n. 4).
b. According to the Rabbinical
Writings, Moses, with his status as "Son of Pharaoh's Daughter," was given some
of the highest positions in the country. The Pharaoh's Daughter mentioned in the
Bible was thus no ordinary king's daughter, but should be sought amongst "the
women of power". Queen Hatshepsut, the Egyptian king's daughter who might be
identified as responsible for the upbringing and education of Moses, was a young
woman around 1534 BC, the year of the birth of Moses. Her status and dating,
which have been discussed elsewhere, will be substantiated below.
c. Hatshepsut appears as the first
great female figure in history, based on present knowledge that her historical
role in Egypt was more considerable than that of any other female ruler. After
several years as widow of her husband and half-brother Tuthmosis II, who died in
ca. 1509 BC, she became a wilful ruler, a legitimately crowned female
pharaoh, as permitted by a rule remaining standing since the 2nd dynasty. Her
own use of the title pharaoh is considered as not just self aggrandizement and
today most of Egyptologists accept her status as real.
d. Tuthmosis III, Hatshepsut's
nephew, however, gradually usurped her power (see cf. dynasty survey: chapters 9 and
11). This transition took place during the years after 1493 BC. That this was a
critical junction in time will be made clear: e.g. inscriptions of and by
Tuthmosis III permit a determination of the time of his ascension to power. And
this culminated in the same period when Moses fell into disfavour with the court
and had to flee Egypt.
Revising the Time Frame
According to the Rabbinical Writings and "The Acts of the Apostles" (7:23) of
the New Testament, Moses' escape took place when he was approx. 40 years old,
which seems also to be in accordance with the astronomical dating. At some time
after Moses was forced to flee Egypt he took refuge in the wilderness of Sinai
with the above-mentioned priest Jethro.
Following the Rabbinical
Writings, this former adviser to the pharaohs resided at that time in Midian on
Sinai, to which place he himself had fled after having previously fallen into
disfavour. Jethro's place of residence must be sought where archaeologists have
discovered Sinai's only then existing temple - a small, Egyptian mountain-temple
- now to be found as ruins in the region of Serabit el-Khadim.
This temple was also used
by local nomad tribes, the Midianites, who were related to the Qainite people
(the Kenites of the Bible), among others. Here in Sinai, the latter became the
travelling companions of the Israelites during their exodus. Many of these
Qainites worked as smiths, metalworkers, stonecutters and miners in the local
copper mines near the temple; in Arabic, "qain" still means 'smith' or
The mine shafts in this
district are cut into the cliffs, and it was Hatshepsut who - according to
inscriptions she had caused to be engraved here in Serabit - revived the
extraction of malachite, copper ore, and turquoise after the mines had lain
abandoned for almost 400 years. These proved however to be almost worked out and
therefore mining was again discontinued after a few years.
These historical facts
also support the idea that Moses' refuge in Sinai occurred in Hatshepsut's time,
since the temple in the Midian-Sinai again was left deserted in the reign of her
If the above analysis is
correct, one might now ask a number of questions. Why did Moses take the risk of
staying with Jethro by this little Egyptian temple, only approximately 180 km
South of (what is now known as) Suez? Why did he not flee to greater security
further from Egypt? What did he know about Jethro? The answers will show that
the circumstances discussed above were all interlinked and far from
coincidental, as outlined below and explained in following chapters.
Seen from a historical
point of view, a hitherto or present understanding of Moses permits only these
two main points of view: Either he lived at the time of Rameses II, or he never existed at all.
supporting evidence will be presented in this book showing: 1)
that Moses really existed in history; 2) that his period
occurred 200-300 years before Rameses II; and furthermore, 3) that
Moses came from an Egyptian royal family and was envisioned to be a candidate
for the royal throne.
In order to support the
supposition of the existence of Moses, the method is that first of all it
is necessary to establish the "right time and place". As mentioned, this was
inhibited by the misleading search for Moses in "wrong" centuries. However, a
few (e.g. French) scientists also currently argue for a dating of Moses in the
fifteenth century BC.
That these suppositions
are realistic can be verified and shown to fit with numerous related
circumstances, for instance also by using the newly rediscovered astronomical
information. Removal of the uncertainty of Moses' "possible" historical
existence can now finally be accomplished once a concrete starting-point has
Based on this revised and
more factually correct time frame, the Bible, the Rabbinical Writings, the
writers of Antiquity, and Egyptology will all provide further historical and
archaeological support and supplementary astronomical check-points concerning
This time frame revision
contributes to the plausibility of many non-biblical traditional texts
concerning Moses - and can be expected to lead to new discoveries. It is
frequently overlooked that much of the information found in the old Egyptian,
Hebrew, or Greek texts are of similar age or historical value as the main
core of the oldest parts of the Bible.
Changes introduced in
later revision of the Bible (see present chapters 5-8) create certain problems
concerning its use as a historical source. However, parts of the biblical
Moses-story will now be proved more historically correct than previously
assumed, when re-examined in the light of this new background.
Egyptological and theological studies, mainly based on linguistic analysis, were
frequently used as the sole authority for the historical description of the
sequence of those events described above. However, history and archaeology are
disciplines with their own accepted viewpoints and methodologies that are, as
all scientific methods, continually under development and improvement.
The method proposed in this book is used to elucidate the relationship between
information from many different, independent, self-consistent, and internally
agreeing written and oral sources. This information is also placed in relation
to non-literary and non-philological data from archaeology, anthropology and
astronomy, all of which supply the basis for the ongoing analysis (an analysis
which will, in itself, demonstrate that the alligations of the oldest parts of
the Bible being 'fabrications' of later times, are insubstantial). Furthermore,
a number of older research results, which have previously been ignored, can now
be seen to strengthen the new discoveries.
- Evidence is presented identifying the year of the birth of
Moses as 1534 BC. (In that case "exodus" occurred in 1455 BC, approximately
40 years after the beginning of his exile).
- The Bible refers to "Pharaoh's Daughter", now found to be a
special title for crown princesses and queens. Her behaviour, title and
dating suggest that this is a reference to Hatshepsut.
- Jethro, with whom Moses resided during his exile, was a
priest in Sinai, most probably at Sinai's only known temple of that period.
This temple was in use at Hatshepsut's time and partially during the time of
her successor Tuthmosis III.
- The reassessment of the time in which Moses lived gives
access to new information, which permits a verification of the reality of
the historical existence of Moses.
Now, access has been given to a long hidden chapter in the history of Egypt -
containing a fateful drama about the young Moses at the court of the pharaoh ...