Also this subject is debated and in the following text we will again try to limit ourselves to those facts that are clear. The text of the Bible itself is still very helpful.


As the Hebrews, living in peace amidst the Egyptians, became numerous and powerful, a new Pharao "who had not known Joseph" , feared the demographic effect of the Hebrews, that indeed had become more numerous and powerful than the Egyptians, Exodus 1: 9. He also wrongly feared that the Hebrews might join with possible enemies, Exodus 1-10. The main enemies were the Hittites and the Sea People . Hittites for centuries had been living also in Palestine, Genesis 23: 3-20. Part of the Sea People became the Philistines.


It is uncertain who this Pharao was. He may have been Horemheb, a military man of common origin, last of the 18th Dynasty, who set to demolish all memory of monotheism and contrary to his people did not like the Hebrews. Less probable is Seti, predecessor of Ramses II, because the time of his reign would be insufficient for the described demographic developments during the oppression , Exodus 1: 12.


The Pharaos of Egypt wielded absolute power, like "L'Etat c'est moi". They had the right and the habit of making the people work for them with little more than food as reward, especially for their great building and construction projects. This was the lot of both Egyptians and Hebrews.


In order to act against the risks he saw, this Pharao planned two actions. One was to appoint Egyptian taskmasters that had to oppress the Hebrew workers, at the same time increasing their tasks. But the Hebrews continued to expand their numbers, Exodus 1: 11,12. The second action was to shrewdly and then violently counteract the birth and growing up of male children. He was quite unsuccessful, probably on account of the excellent relations between the Egyptian and Hebrew common people, Exodus 11: 3 ; 12: 35, 36.


The Hebrews originally had been assigned the land of Goshen, eastern Nile Delta. But now they lived also elsewhere. The parents of Moses lived near the Nile, where the Pharao had his Palace. This can have been either at Memphis at the basis of the Delta or at Tanis, near the Mediterranean. The King as well as his daughter often went down to the river. The princess, after having found Moses, unknowingly gave him in fact back to his mother, who kept Moses until he "had grown up (wa-yigdal)" , Exodus 2: 10. Then she gave him again to the princess who had paid for the child's care.


Growing up for at least two but possibly more years with his own mother, Moses certainly had learned to understand and probably to speak Hebrew and he knew his own identity. Then of course he learned perfect Egyptian at the Pharao's Palace. Also at the Palace here was no secrecy about Moses being Hebrew. Inevitably all Egypt knew who was Moses, the Hebrew boy and then adolescent who grew up like the son of the daughter of Pharao. As soon as Moses became adult ( again indicated as "had grown up, wa-yigdal" ) he established contacts with the Hebrew labourers that were mistreated by the Egyptian overseers. Foster-Grandfather of Moses may have been Pharao Seti, predecessor of Ramses II, but this remains uncertain.


Shortly after the Exodus the Hebrews, through Moses on the Sinai mountain received the Torah , all written in Hebrew. The language had been spoken and maintained by the Hebrew people, who at the same time had to know the considerably different local language, Egyptian. Hebrew had in the 430 years of development between the settlement in Egypt and the Exodus remained very similar to sister languages like Aramaic and Phoenician. It had not been influenced to any important extent by Egyptian.



Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Thursday 10 January 2013 at 20.00.31