Moses and Akhenaton
1. Monotheism and Monomania
The Ancient Egyptians believed in One God who was self-produced, self-existent, immortal, invisible, eternal, omniscient, almighty, etc. This One God was represented through the functions and attributes of “His” domain. These attributes were called the neteru (pronounced net-er-u, masculine singular: neter; feminine singular: netert). In other words, the ALL (neteru) are the One.
When we ask, “Who is God?”, we are really asking, “What is God?”. A mere name or noun does not tell us anything. One can only define “God” through the multitude of “His” attributes/qualities/powers/actions. To know “God” is to know the numerous qualities of “God”. Far from being a primitive, polytheistic form, this is the highest expression of monotheistic mysticism.
The Ancient Egyptians utilized pictorial symbols to represent the divine attributes and actions. As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” As a result, the figures of Isis, Osiris,Horus, Mut, etc., became the symbols of such attributes/functions/forces/energies, and were never intended to be looked upon as real personages.
In Egyptian symbolism, the precise role of the neteru (gods/goddesses) is revealed in many ways: by dress, headdress, crown, feather, animal, plant, color, position, size, gesture, sacred object (e.g., flail, scepter, staff, ankh), etc. A chosen symbol represents that function or principle on all levels simultaneously—from the simplest, most obvious physical manifestation of that function to the most abstract and metaphysical. This symbolic language represents a wealth of physical, physiological, psychological and spiritual data in the presented symbols.
Those who lack understanding of the Egyptian monotheistic mysticism are quick to pronounce Akhenaton as the first monotheist. Akhenaton glorified one Egyptian neter (god), namely Aton—the disk of the sun—over and above all the other neteru (gods/goddesses).
Likewise, the God of Moses declared:
… against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord. [Exodus, 12:12]
The evidence points to Akhenaton as being the historical figure of the person identified in the Old Testament as Moses. This evidence is described below.
2. Monotheist Or Monotypic
In Egypt, the king always represented the divine in man. Akhenaton thought that it was he, Akhenaton the man, who was Divine. It is only the Divine that is both male and female, and the so-called “Amarna art” depicts Akhenaton as both male and female. There are portraits that depict Akhenaton with female breasts, but other portraits do not include this feature. The most compelling portrait is found in the Akhenaton room at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo—one of the nude colossi shows the king as being unmistakably androgynous. Written into this astonishing art is a pervasive deliberate sexual symbolism that depicts him as simultaneously both a man and a woman. His statue shows a unisex human representing the Perfect One—who is neither male or female—as none other than God.
3. Freud and Moses
Sigmund Freud, the Jewish father of psychoanalysis, was intensely interested in Jewish history. He later wrote a book called Moses and Monotheism. Sigmund Freud argued that Moses was an Egyptian, a follower of Akhenaton, who later led the Jews out of Egypt.
Even though the Bible (in Exodus, 2:10) tells us that Moses’ Egyptian adopted mother called him Moshe because, she said, I drew him out of the water, Freud demonstrated that Moshe had a different meaning. In fact, the name Moshui is the Hebrew name which means one who has been drawn out. It was then Freud’s conclusion that the name of the Jewish leader was not of Hebrew origin, but rather from an Egyptian origin.
Mos is part of many compound Ancient Egyptian names such as Ptah-mos and Tuth-mos. We also find some examples of the word mos being used on its own as a personal pronoun and which means rightful person. Such practice was common during the 18th Dynasty.
Many generations later and in a different country, a biblical editor, who may not have had any knowledge of Moses’ original name, attempted to provide a Hebrew explanation of the name. It is also possible that the biblical editor was trying to remove any possible link between Moses and his position as a Pharaoh of Egypt.
Sigmund Freud’s findings (that Moses was not a Hebrew, but an Egyptian) upset some and outraged others. But as the decades have rolled along, Freud’s concept has sunk into the consciousness of Western thought, and at the beginning of the new millennium (of our common era), it no longer seems outrageous.
Next, we shall draw distinct parallels between the historical Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaton and the biblical accounts of Moses.
4. Aton Worship
There were very many neteru (gods, goddesses) in Egypt. Aton was among this multitude of deities, and was not a new idea, but was introduced by Akhenaton. Archaeological evidence of Aton is found in Ancient Egyptian texts dating to the time of the 12th Dynasty, 600 years before Akhenaton was born.
The image of Aton is presented as a sun disk with its rays ending in human hands.
Akhenaton exalted Aton over and above the other aspects/powers/neteru of the One Supreme God.
Adonai in Hebrew means my Lord. The last two letters ‘ai’ of the word is a Hebrew pronoun meaning ‘my’ or ‘mine’ and signifying possession. ‘Adon’, meaning Lord, was correctly noted by Sigmund Freud as the Hebrew word for the Egyptian Aton/Aten. As the Egyptian ‘t’ becomes ‘d’ in the Hebrew tongue, Adon is the Hebrew equivalent of the Egyptian Aton. Thus, Adon and Aton/Aten are one and the same.
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The Ancient Egyptians had numerous hymns to all their deities—including Aton. One of these hymns to Aton—often attributed to Akhenaton—is a mirror image of Psalm 104. Here are both versions for you to compare:
Hymn to the Aton
The cattle are content in their pasture, the trees and plants are green, the birds fly from their nests. Their wings are raised in praise of your soul. The goats leap on their feet. All flying and fluttering things live when you shine for them. Likewise the boats race up and down the river, and every way is open, because you have appeared. The fish in the river leap before your face. Your rays go to the depth of the sea.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and the herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth: and wine that maketh glad the heart of man and oil to make his face shine, and bread which strengtheneth man’s heart. The trees of the Lord are full of sap: the cedars of Lebanon which he hath planted: where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies…. So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both great and small beasts. There go the ships.
The similarity of sequence and of images in both compositions is too striking to be a coincidence. As such, many believe that the earlier Egyptian hymn must have been known to the later Hebrew writer.
• • •
Akhenaton chose the Heliopolitan solar form of the Egyptian temple to be used as the place for the worship of the Aton.
Likewise, Moses was the first person to introduce a temple into Israelite worship when he created the tabernacle in Sinai.
• • •
Akhenaton continued the Egyptian practice of a holy boat, which was usually kept in the temple.
Moses also adopted the ark, where the Pentateuch scrolls were kept (Exodus, 25:10). The ark is respected as the second holiest part of the Jewish temple after the Pentateuch itself.
• • •
Akhenaton continued the Egyptian priesthood system and associated rituals.
There was no Israelite priesthood before the time of Moses. Rituals and worship of the newly established Hebrew priesthood were similar to those during the time of Akhenaton. Moses arranged the priesthood in two main levels: the high priests and the ordinary priests. Instructions were issued to them about their specific garments, purification, anointment and how best to go about fulfilling the duties of their offices.
• • •
Across the Nile from Tell-el Amarna, there is the city of Mal-lawi (Mal-Levi), which literally means The City of the Levites. The Levites held priestly positions with Akhenaton at Amarna. Likewise, the Levites held priestly positions with Moses, according to the Bible.
Akhenaton’s two highest priestly officials were:
1. Meryre II, who was the High Priest of the Aton at the Amarna temple.
2. Panehesy, who was the Chief Servitor of the Aton at Akhenaton’s temple in Amarna.
Likewise, Moses’ two highest priestly officials were:
1. Merari, who is described in Genesis, 46:11 as one of the sons of Levi. The Egyptian equivalent of Merari is Meryre.
2. Phinehas, who was the son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron according to Exodus, 6:25. His name in the Talmud is Pinhas. The Egyptian equivalent of his name is Panehesy.
It is therefore evident that we are dealing with the same high officials who served Akhenaton at Amarna and then accompanied him to Sinai afterwards: Yet another confirmation that Moses and Akhenaton are one and the same.
5. The Ruler
Akhenaton’s 18-year reign was mostly a co-regency. He reigned the first twelve years in conjunction with his father, Amenhotep III. It was very probable that the last few years of his reign was a co-regency with his brother Semenkhkare. Both his participation and outright rule of Egypt can be divided into four stages:
1. Early Co-Regency Rule
When Amenhotep III’s health began to deteriorate, Akhenaton’s mother Tiye’s power increased correspondingly. In order to ensure her son’s inheritance of the throne, she arranged for him to marry his half-sister, Nefertiti, who was the daughter of Amenhotep III by Sitamun, the legitimate heiress. It is Nefertiti who is recognized in the Bible as Miriam, Moses’ sister—which is a common mistake in translation between a wife and a sister. [See the end of Chapter 1 of this book for the explanation.]
In order to bypass the legitimate process of the power transfer between succeeding pharaohs, Tiye prompted her husband, Amenhotep III, to appoint Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton) as his co-regent. As such, Akhenaton evaded the coronation rituals that can only be performed by the priests.
Akhenaton became a co-regent in or about Year 28 of Amenhotep III. At about Year 33, he transferred his residence to Tell el-Amarna, 200 miles north of Luxor (Thebes). His reign had two groups of dated inscriptions. One was related to the Luxor (Thebes) residence, which started at Year 28 of Amenhotep III. The other one was related to the Amarna residence. A correspondence in date, year by year, between the two groups of inscriptions can be easily established. For example, Year 28 of Amenhotep III equals Year 1 of Amenhotep IV. Year 33 of Amenhotep III is equal to Year 6 of Amenhotep IV, etc. Amenhotep III died in his Year 38, which was Akhenaton’s Year 12.
In his fifth year of co-regency, Amenhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaton in honor of the Aton.
Because of the hostile climate that Akhenaton created, he left Luxor (Thebes) with Amenhotep III and went to reside at Tell el-Amarna (200 miles [330 km] north of Luxor). Akhenaton named his new residence Akhetaton, meaning the city of the horizon of the Aton. This area is also called Amarna/Tell el-Amarna. The name is, however, derived from the name in the second cartouche of Akhenaton’s god; namely. Im-r-n.
Amram, or Imran, was the name given in the Bible to Moses’ father, and it is precisely the same name Akhenaten gave to his father, the Aton.
Yet another confirmation that Moses and Akhenaton are one and the same.
The co-regency ended when his father died in Akhenaton’s Year 12.
2. Sole Ruler
Akhenaton became sole ruler after Amenhotep III died in Year 12 of Akhenaton. He failed his duties as an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh, to continuously perform the necessary rituals for the proper relationship and communication with the neteru (the powers of the universe) in order to maintain the welfare of the state and insure the fertility of the earth so that it may bring forth sustenance. The Ancient Egyptian pharaoh was never meant to be a ruler or a leader of an army. However, throughout his reign, Akhenaton relied completely on the army’s support for protection.
3. Late Co-Regency Rule
With the temples inactive, the pressure mounted on Akhenaton, who ignored his main function as the high official priest of all temples and shrines. As a last resort (or as a ploy), Akhenaton, in his Year 15, was forced to install his brother, Semenkhkare, as his co-regent at Luxor. This action only delayed the inevitable outcome.
Semenkhkare left Amarna for Luxor (Thebes), where he reversed Akhenaton’s hostile actions and began a reconciliation process with the priests there.
In his Year 17, Akhenaton suddenly disappeared. At or about the same time, Semenkhkare died suddenly. The co-regency of Akhenaton and Semenkhkare was succeeded by the young prince, Twt-Ankh-Amen.
In his Year 17, Akhenaton may have been warned by his uncle, Aye, of a threat on his life. He abdicated and fled to Sinai, with his followers. The sudden departure is evident in the lack of burial, or even of sarcophagi, in any of the nobles’ or royal tombs of Akhetaton.
Although Sinai was part of Egypt from the early days of Egyptian history, there was no established governing authority there, because of its sparse and nomadic population.
The sudden disappearance of Akhenaton is echoed in the biblical story of Moses when he escaped to Sinai, after he slew an Egyptian. The account of how Moses slew an Egyptian may have been mentioned in the Amarna Tablets. Among these tablets is a letter, sent from AbdKhiba, King of Jerusalem, to Akhenaton, in which AbdKhiba accuses Akhenaton of not punishing some Hebrews who killed two Egyptian officials:
… the Khabiru (Hebrews) are seizing the towns of the king … Turbazu has been slain in the very gate of Zilu (Zarw), yet the king holds back … Yaptih-Hadad has been slain in the very gate of Zilu, yet the king holds back.
Did the final blow to Akhenaton’s reign lie in letting the Hebrews get away with two murders?
4. King Without Power—“Co-regency” with Twt-Ankh-Aton
Even though Akhenaton abdicated and fled from the scene, he was still regarded as the legitimate ruler. As long as he was alive, the pharaoh was regarded as being the legitimate pharaoh.
Akhenaton would not let go of his powers and as a result he made (through co-regency) his 10-year-old son Twt-Ankh-Aton the official Pharaoh. Being of a minor age, this allowed Akhenaton, his father, to be in control for four more years, and during this time the boy King was still called Twt-Ankh-Aton.
This “co-regency” ended four years later, Year 21 of Akhenaton, when Aye (Akhenaton’s uncle) became the de facto guardian of the young King. Subsequently, the young King abandoned the Aton (at least officially) by changing his name from Twt-Ankh-Aton to Twt-Ankh-Amen.
At this point in time, the exclusiveness of Aton as the “only/prime god/neter” ended and Akhenaton, who was still alive in Sinai, was king no more.
6. The Exile
No evidence has ever been found regarding the date of Akhenaton’s death. Akhenaton’s city, including his tomb, was substantially destroyed. However, archaeologists were able to reconstruct, from many small fragments, Akhenaton’s sarcophagus, which is the outermost of a series of coffins that would protect his mummy. The presence of the inner coffins would indicate burial. This absence indicates otherwise. No fragments of the inner coffers were ever found. Additionally, the actual canopic jars that would have contained the viscera of the deceased have never been found. The absence of these jars, or their fragments, from Akhenaton’s tomb is more strong evidence that he was never buried there.
According to the Talmud, when Moses was 18, he fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian. He then became a soldier and fought on the side of the King of Ethiopia. After the King won, Moses became very popular. As a result, when the king died, Moses was appointed as their new king.
The Talmud tells us that (like Akhenaton) the legitimacy of Moses as King stirred up the society. As a result, the Talmud account says, that even though the people loved and wanted him, Moses resigned voluntarily, and departed from their land. The people of Ethiopia bestowed great honors upon him.
There are many similarities between The Talmud story of Moses and the Akhenaton story at Amarna:
1. Moses was elevated to the post of king for some time before going to Sinai. Akhenaton likewise.
2. The Talmud reference to Ethiopia, which is described as being a city, was mistaken for the Amarna location. It is also possible that Ethiopia was mistaken for utopia.
The account of the reign of Moses in the Talmud indicates that he resigned his post, but did not die at that time. The logical conclusion is that he died and was buried outside Egypt proper—in the Egyptian outpost at Moab—as shown next.
7. The Death of Moses/Akhenaton
The account in the Old Testament of the failure of Moses to reach the Promised Land, his death and his burial in an unmarked grave is another curious episode.
We are told initially that when his followers complained of thirst, Moses used his rod to smite a rock and bring forth water. It was called “the water of Meribah”—a location in the north-center of Sinai, south of Canaan. It was this action that would later haunt him.
Some time later, when the Israelites were camped on the banks of the Jordan near Jericho and opposite Canaan, Moses learned, according to the Book of Deuteronomy, that he was to be denied the opportunity to cross the river, no matter how hard he pleaded:
I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.
… the Lord said … speak no more unto me of this matter …
… thou shalt not go over this Jordan. [Deuteronomy 3:25-7]
Later in the Book of Deuteronomy, we have an account of the actual death of Moses. The Lord said to him:
Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab’ (the borders between Sinai and eastern Jordan) ‘that is over against Jericho; and be-hold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: And die in the mount … Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin
… thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel. [Deuteronomy 32:49-52]
It is irrational to believe that God would punish Moses for providing water for his thirsty people. It is more logical to believe that trespassing onto Egyptian water wells may cause the Egyptian authorities to punish him for such a violation—as confirmed by the Egyptian records.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Seti I (C. 1333-1304 BCE) received a message about the chaos in Sinai:
The Shasu enemies are plotting rebellion. Their tribal leaders are gathered in one place, standing on the foothills of Khor (a general term for Palestine and Syria), and they are engaged in turmoil and uproar. Each of them is killing his fellow.
In response, Seti I led his army promptly to Sinai. Seti I’s war scenes, on the exterior north wall of the great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, show that his first campaign against the Shasu (the tribes in Sinai) occurred when they attacked the small settlements along the Road of Horus, the ancient highway connecting Egypt with western Asia. This took place immediately after the Exodus from Egypt, possibly when they trespassed to obtain water from Egyptian settlements along that road. Seti I chased them as far as the city of Canaan, Gaza and, as a result, killed their leader, Moses, and many of his followers. Subsequently, they fled into Sinai for what the Old Testament calls “the forty years of wandering”.
To prove that the Shasu and the Israelites are the same group of people, scholars studied:
1. The Shasu appearance in Sinai, in Year 1 of Seti I’s reign, and their subsequent movements over the following 100 years. This information was provided from ancient Egyptian records.
2. The biblical accounts of the Exodus and their subsequent movements over 100 years.
Scholars concluded that both of them followed the same route at exactly the same time sequence; i.e. the Shasu and the Israelites are one and the same group of people.
The Talmud provides a different account than the Old Testament of how Moses died. There is a Talmudic reference to a confrontation and a struggle between Moses and the ‘Angel of Death’ on the Mount before he died. This had persuaded some biblical theologians scholars to believe that Moses was killed.
It seems more likely that Moses, using his royal scepter (symbol of authority), entered one or more of the Egyptian settlements along Horus Road to obtain water from their wells. Such actions were reported to Seti I, who reacted by chasing the Shasu, here identified as the Israelites, into northern Sinai. If these Talmudic references to the death of Moses are correct, it must have been there that Seti I confronted Moses/Akhenaton before the latter’s death.
[An excerpt from Ancient Egyptian Roots of Christianity by Moustafa Gadalla]
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