The Egyptian Name Moses
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
A study of Masoretic and Septuagint biblical names indicates that certain names may have an etymological connection to the Egyptian origin of the name Moses. The list gives the English transliteration of these biblical names followed by the names as they are pronounced in the Masoretic and Septuagint texts:
Massa=Masa=Massa Gen 25:14
Mash=Msh=Mosoch Gen 10:23
Mushi=Mwshy=Omousi Ex 6:19 etc.
The Septuagint name for Moses or Mosheh appears to be derived from the Egyptian word ‘ms’ or G17-O35-D54 which means bring, carry away, bring away booty. The plural of ms is m’sw or G17-D36-O35-Z7-D54-Z3 which means carriers, bearers. The ayin in Egyptian or D36 is pronounced as ‘ou’ and ‘oh’ in Greek and as ‘oh’ in Hebrew as is indicated by the pronunciation of the word pharaoh in the Masoretic texts: (Par`oh), thus the word is pronounced as Mouses in Greek and Mosheh in Hebrew.
The Greek name Massa appears to be the Egyptian word ‘msA’ or G17-G39 and it is a variation of the same root as ‘ms’ and means to bring, carry away, bring away booty. Massa is the son of Ishmael according to Gen 25:13,14. Massa’s Egyptian name is related to Moses’ Egyptian name.
The Greek name Mosoch or Mash in Hebrew does not have a cognate word in Egyptian. Mash is the son of Aram according to Gen 10:23.
The Greek name Omousi or Mushi in Hebrew may be be a compound word made up of ‘aAm’ (T14-G17-A1) meaning Asiatic and the word ‘msi’ (F31-B3 ) meaning to be born. So, Omousi would mean ‘born of an Asiatic’ or simply an Asiatic. Mushi is a grandson of Levi according to Ex 6:19. This word does not appear to be related to the Septuagint word Moses or Mouses.
The Egytpian derived names that appear in the Septuagint texts indicate that the Egyptians labeled the caravan tribes from the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant as bearers of burdens which describes the camel caravans of these incense merchants. This designation as caravan merchants appears in the Septuagint name Mouses and Massa, but not in the Septuagint names Mosoch (Mash in Hebrew) and Omousi (Mushi in Hebrew). The Egyptian origins for Mouses and Massa, ‘msw and msA’, indicate that the Egyptians also saw these caravaneers as looters or raiders of other caravans as the word msw and msA not only mean to bring, carry, these words also mean ‘to bring away loot.’
In Hebrew Moses is spelled Mshh which means ‘to draw out’. Mshh also suggests the word mshch which means to anoint. The Greek name for Moses is Mouses and the Egyptian word for a people who carry loads is m’sw or G17-D36-O35-Z7-D54-Z3. G17=M, D36=’, O35=S, Z7=W, D54=S and Z3 is a determinative which means the word is plural. So, it appears that the Greek name Mouses is derived from the Egyptian word for those who carry loads or M’sw. The Hebrew name is completely different as it is spelled mshh which means ‘to draw out.
The biblical name Massa means the same as M’sw in Egyptian. Massa was a son of Ishmael according to Gen 25:14. His name is of Egyptian derivation and means ‘burden’ or ‘ one who carries burdens’ in Hebrew. There is no Arabic cognate for this word. However, the word may have entered the Arabic language as ‘walker, since caravaneers, who carried burdens, would also be known as ‘walkers’. In Arabic, the word ‘m’sw’ could have been transliterated as ‘mashy’ which means ‘walker’ or SAsw (M8-G1-M23-Z7-T14-A1-Z2) in Egyptian.
The Egyptian word for carriers was m’sw. M’sw can also be transliterated into Greek as Mouses as the Egyptian letter D36 is an ayin. The ayin in the word praA or pharaoh was vocalized in Hebrew as an ‘oh’ and Greek as an ‘oh’ and ‘ou’ sound. In addition, Greek names often end with nc (es) which is pronounced as eez in English. This ending can be found in the names Herakles, Ulysses, Ares, Euripides, Aristophanes etc., etc.. So, the Septuagint authors ended Moses name with an nc or es as demanded by the Greek language. Thus, the Septuagint authors wrote the Egyptian word M’sw or Mouses in Greek. The original word was M’sw which means carriers of burdens.
In Hebrew, Moses should have been transliterated as or Mushy from the root ‘mush’. Unfortunately, the Hebrew meaning of ‘mush’ means ‘to withdraw’, to depart, remove, take away. This was not the meaning that the Masoretes, the Arabic speaking translators of the Old Testament, wanted associated with their hero, Moses, so they felt compelled to give him a different name that had another meaning. They chose Mshh (Mosheh), which means ‘to draw out’ in Hebrew, because it referred to the episode where Moses was ‘drawn out of’ water by pharaoh’s daughter’s maid. This episode has set off a hunt for the pharaoh who fostered the infant Moses. The authors of the Septuagint may have speculated that this pharaoh was Amenmesse, the fifth ruler of the nineteenth dynasty.
The Septuagint authors acquired the information regarding Amenmesse from the the library at Alexandria and wove some of these details into their tribal lore which they recorded in the Septuagint just as they wove elements of the tales regarding Imhotep into their lore regarding Joseph. Nobody knows Moses original name, but according to Exodus 6:19, it appears that he was generally known to the Septuagint authors as Omousi (aAm Msi in Egyptian which means born of an Asiatic). The Greek name may be a corruption of Amenmesse who may have been a Nubian and a rival of Seti II; also listed as the fifth ruler of the nineteenth dynasty. According to Wiki:
“Seti II also expanded the copper mining at Timna Valley in Edom, building an important temple to Hathor the cow goddess in the region. It was abandoned in the late Bronze Age collapse, where a part of the temple seems to have been used by Midianite nomads, linked to the worship of a bronze serpent discovered in the area. Seti II also founded a station for a barge on the courtyard in front of the pylon II at Karnak, and chapels of Theban triad – Amun, Mut and Khonsu. ”
So, here is the answer to the connection between Amenmesse, Moses and the Judeans. Amenmesse was not viewed as a cruel native Egyptian by the authors of the Septuagint. (The Septuagint authors viewed the Ptolemies as friendly pharaohs who were foreign born like themselves). Amenmesse’s parentage was in doubt which allowed the Septuagint authors to view him as the born-of-an-Asiatic, aAm Msi or Omousi in Greek, hero who challenged the authority of the ruling Pharaoh who enslaved the Midiantes to work the copper mines at Timna and desecrated their god Yhh by building a temple to the Egyptian goddess Hathor. The Judeans were the priestly branch of the Qynites (Kenite in AKJ); the mining clan of the Midianites.
This connection makes sense when one considers the reference to the mines in Deut 4:20: ” But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.”
The Judeans remembered their enslavement by the Rameside pharaohs and Seti II and so made Amenmesse a hero. However, they may have confused him with the Pharaoh Siptah whose parentage was also in doubt. According to Wiki:
“Historically, it was believed that Tiaa, a wife of Seti II, was the mother of Siptah. This view persisted until it was eventually realized that a relief in the Louvre Museum (E 26901) “pairs Siptah’s name together with the name of his mother” a certain Sutailja or Shoteraja.
Sutailja was a Canaanite rather than a native Egyptian name which means that she was almost certainly a king’s concubine from Canaan….”
So, by merging the biographies of these two pharaohs, Amenmesse and Siptah, who was born of an Asiatic mother, and transliterating the name Amenmesse into Koine Greek as Omousi, a play on the Pharaoh Amenmesse’s name and the phrase aAm Msi, the Septuagint authors created the Judean character of Moses as an Egyptian royal, born of an Asiatic, who defeated a native born Egyptian pharaoh who enslaved the Judeans (aka Midianites) to work the copper mines at Timna.
Copper and the forging of molten idols were very important to the Judeans in Canaan and the Septuagint authors in Egypt. There are many, many biblical references to the magic properties of copper which include the copper serpent as a magical cure for snake bite (Numbers 21:8). Egyptians and Judeans had drew very similar conclusions about the magical properties of copper, which can be found in their vocabulary. The Egyptian words for copper which are: iwHw E9-V28-G43-N33AV & Hmt N34-Z1-Z3. Hmt also means minerals so the Egyptians may have been using one word for both copper and brass. Hmty N34-X1-Z4-D40 means coppersmith. Hmt U24-X1-Z1 means skill and the craft of a sculptor. Hmt r U24-X1-Z1-Y1-Z2-D21-Z1 means magic spell.
In Hebrew, the word for serpent is nachash. Nachash is also the Aramaic word for copper in the Book of Daniel. The Hebrew word enchantment, spell is nachash. However, the Hebrew word for smith is charash. This word when pronounced as cheresh also means the craft of magic. This all relates to Moses and Aaron, the master craftsmen and metal smiths (Aaron goldsmith & Moses coppersmith), and how they were viewed by the Judeans in Canaan and the Septuagint authors in Alexandria. The association between metal smithing, the forging of molten idols and magic explains Moses’ & Aaron’s magical powers that caused the transmutation of matter (staff to snake) and the plagues of Egypt. It was necessary for these two to be metal smiths and forgers of idols, as these skills gave them control of the powers of the god(s) whose images they made. Moses crafted the image of Yhwh as a copper serpent.
The Quran does not mention the copper mines at Timna, so the name Moses is not connected to an Egyptian name. However, the Quran transliterates the name Moses as Mwsa. The Quran was revealed in the 7th Century which indicates that the 7th century Jewish tribes in the Arabian Peninsula retained the original name of Moses as it was transliterated from the Egyptian to the Greek. Moses’ name in Seventh century Arabic is mwsa (moosa), which is very close to the Greek transliteration of the Egyptian name m’sw as Mouses. This is conclusive evidence that the Masoretes changed the name from Mouses to Mosheh because the Greek transliteration, Mouses, would have been transliterated into Hebrew as Mushi which means to withdraw, retreat in Hebrew. The Masoretes changed the name to Mosheh because it was consistent with the narrative that Pharaoh’s daughter’s maid drew him out of water. The name Mosheh did not have the negative connotations that were attached to the word Mushi, which is Moses’ Egyptian name as the Masoretes should have transliterated it from Koine Greek into Hebrew.
A similar altering of meaning occurred in the story of Joseph where Joseph’s Egyptian name, transliterated into Greek was Psonthompaneach (psSw ntt w m pnx or the judge whose job is to dole out provision) was exchanged for the phrase tsphnach p’neach which is a transliteration an Arabic phrase, tsafeenah b’eenah’ which means dowry settlement. In this case, the Masoretes could not back translate the Greek into a meaningful Hebrew phrase, so they transliterated an Arabic phrase that was consistent with the narrative. So, there is very strong evidence that Moses’ name came from the Egyptian word m’sw which means carriers of burdens. The name Moses indicates that the Septuagint authors surmised that Moses came from a tribe of caravan merchants who were engaged in the incense trade originating in Yemen. This incense had been traded into Egypt from at least the 16th century BCE and perhaps before that.
In addition it is imperative to note that the Moses story as it is presented in the Quran differs from that presented in the Old Testament. The Mushite priesthood was viewed as a rival by the priesthood in Jerusalem as they followed different traditions. The Mushite priests traced their origin to Moses while the Aaronites traced their origin to Aaron, Moses’ brother.