The Egyptian Name Aaron
H. Abdul Al-Dahir
Here are some of my thoughts on the Ptolemaic and possibly Nubian influence on the story of Exodus:
Tracing the name of Aaron or Ahrwn is a very daunting task. One must understand the meaning of Aaron’s name in the historical and cultural context of Judeans (originally Midiantes?) who began as caravaneers trading with Egypt and, who, according to DNA (J1c3d) studies, originated in Yemen as merchants of myrrh and frankincense. In order to begin, there is a list of terms with which one must be familiar:
Dedan: Hebrew name for Mineans.
Dedun: Nubian god of incense worshiped in Nubia in the form of a lion aka Apedimak. Dedun was worshiped in Egypt as Maahes.
Mineans: Incense merchants from Hadhramaut whose moon god was Wadd and whose priests were known as Levites. Mineans also worshiped the god Ysrabaal who was known as Ysrael (Israel) in Canaan. Baal is another name for the Canaanite god, El. The Mineans were closely associated with the Midianites who were known as the Shasu of Yahw to the Egyptians.
Timna: Copper mines located in ancient Edom. The Egyptians controlled these copper mines from 1400 to 1200 BCE. It was here that archaeologists located the shrine dedicated to Hathor, the cow goddess who was the patroness of miners. The Bible names them as Midianites. The Midianites became the Biblical Judeans.
Levites: Judean clan of priests and temple attendants
Wadd aka Yhh: Minean moon god whose sacred animal was the snake; the image of which the Semites saw in the topography of the full moon.
Judah: Meaning Yh is Wadd. Their tribal symbol is a lion. Judah is also a location in the tribe of Dan (Josh 19:45) whose tribal symbol is a viper
Maahes (Greek name: Miosis): Egyptian lion god (Apedimak in Nubia), god of perfume, protector of the pharaoh, enemy of Apep, the evil Egyptian snake god. Maahes was also known as Nefertum, the Egyptian god of Perfume.
Moses: (Mouses in Greek): Tribal leader who forged the copper viper or nehushtan, Yh’s sacred symbol
Wadjet: Egyptian viper goddess of Lower Egypt, protector of the pharaoh
Yh/Yhh-Minaean/ Midianite/Judean viper god protector of Judah. Sacred symbol the viper (nehushtan). This viper god had moon associations.
Beersheba altar: Hebrew altar patterned after Egyptian design. 4 Ureas-es (heads of Wadjet) on the corner and snake on altar stone
Galilean Migdal Stone: Depicts Yhh aka Yhwh as an Egyptian ouroboros (snake consuming its tail) surrounding the flower of life
Iah: Egyptian moon god aka Khonsu-protector of night travelers
Ptah: The anthropomorphic creator god of Memphis whose manifestation was Apis, the sacred bull.
Memphis Triad: Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertum
Punt: A land located on both sides of the Red Sea in Somalia and Yemen. The Egyptians considered Punt to be their ancestral home. Both lands provided myrrh and frankincense.
Ahrwn (Aaron): The High Priest to Yhh/Yhwh who forged the ‘golden calf’ of the Exodus. Ahrwn’s name may be derived from any of 3 Egyptian words: Ahrw ( G1-O4-D21-G43-A1-B1-Z3A), aha rw (P6-E23) or Aarw (M17-G1-D21-G43-M2-M2-M2) Ahrw means a group of gods. The final ‘n’ is the Egyptian hieroglyph N35 which means ‘belongs to’. Ahrown’s name may mean ‘belongs to a group of gods’. As for aha rw, this name means warrior lion and Aarw means ‘heaven’ as in the Egyptian heaven ruled by Osiris.
Septuagint: Old Testament texts written in Koine Greek by Greek speaking Hebrew authors living in Alexandria Egypt which was ruled by the Ptolemies.
Masoretic Texts: Hebrew Tanakh which was translated from Greek into Hebrew by Arabic speaking Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes. The texts were translated between the 7 and 11th Centuries AD under the auspices of the Arab Caliphate.
Thoughts on the subject:
The Egyptians were familiar with the Minaean tribal confederation according to Risa Tokunaga in the essay entitled, The Relations between Ancient Egypt and South Arabia through the Archaeological and Epigraphical Evidence:
“In the middle of the first millennium B. C., South Arabian kingdoms flourished, not only as a major source of frankincense and myrrh but also as an entrepot of various incense from the eastern coast of Africa and the countries beyond the Indian Ocean. Egypt was one of the most important consumers of the incense throughout antiquity, and how the long-distance trade between South Arabia and Egypt was done actually is of much note. In this article, the relations between ancient Egypt and South Arabia will be considered by using archaeological and epigraphical sources from both Egypt and Yemen.
Except the coffin of a Minaean, all South Arabic inscriptions from Egypt were found in the Eastern Desert, on the ancient route either between Qift (Coptos) and Qusayr (Myos Hormos) or between Qift and Berenike. Though it is impossible to date three inscriptions from the former route, one of them is supposed to be incised after the third century A. D. One from the latter route was incised by a Minaean. Himyarite symbols from the same route suggest that it was used by the Himyarites around the fourth century A. D. From Qusayr al-Qadim, a pottery sherd with a South Arabic graffito was excavated and it mostly belongs to the first century A. D.
Greek inscriptions from Egypt show the existence of a Greek-Egyptian who returned from South Arabia to Idfu (Apollinopolis Magna) via Berenike in the Hellenistic period, and also that of a merchant of Aden who was active in Berenike and Qift between 54 and 70 A. D.
As for South Arabic inscriptions referring to Egypt (Msr), the texts date back from the fifth century B. C. to the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period, and are all Minaean. Together with Msr, they exhibit the names of the caravan cities (Didan, Yathrib, Ghazza etc.) which Minaeans visited on their way to Egypt.
Summing up the information from those materials, the following conclusions can be drawn.
1. Before the Ptolemaic Period, the Minaean merchants came to Egypt via the inland route of Arabia which ran along the Red Sea coast, and most probably they entered Egypt by way of Ghazza.
2. After the foundations of the Egyptian Red Sea ports by Ptolemy II, it seems that Minaeans used the Berenike-Coptos route as well as the Arabian inland route to enter Egypt. A route to Idfu was also available from Berenike. Until this period, it seems that a considerable number of Minaeans were staying in Egypt.
3. In the Roman Period, the main transportation route between South Arabia and Egypt was the seaway. Among the Egyptian ports, Berenike and Qusayr were the most utilized for loading and unloading the merchandise from South Arabia, and for other purposes.”
Dedan (the Minaean tribal federation) may be derived from the name of the Nubian god of incense whose form was that of a lion. According to Wikipedia:
“Dedun (or Dedwen) was a Nubian god worshipped during ancient times in that part of Africa and attested as early as 2400 BC. There is much uncertainty about his original nature, especially since he was depicted as a lion , a role which usually was assigned to the son of another deity. Nothing is known of the earlier Nubian mythology from which this deity arose, however. The earliest known information in Egyptian writings about Dedun indicates that he already had become a god of incense by the time of the writings. Since at this historical point, incense was an extremely expensive luxury commodity and Nubia was the source of much of it, he was quite an important deity. The wealth that the trade in incense delivered to Nubia led to his being identified by them as the god of prosperity, and of wealth in particular.
He is said to have been associated with a fire that threatened to destroy the other deities, however, leading many Nubiologists to speculate that there may have been a great fire at a shared complex of temples to different deities, that started in a temple of Dedun, although there are no candidate events known for this.
Although mentioned in the pyramid texts of Ancient Egypt as being a Nubian deity, there is no evidence that Dedun was worshipped by the Egyptians, nor that he was worshipped in any location north of Swenet (contemporary Aswan), which was considered the most southerly city of Ancient Egypt. Nevertheless, in the Middle Kingdom of Egypt, during the Egyptian rule over Kusth, Dedun was said by the Egyptians to be the protector of deceased Nubian rulers and their god of incense, thereby associated with funerary rites.”
Dedun was worshiped in the form of a lion. The lion god was know in Nubia as Apedimak and in Egypt as Maahes or mA-HsA. mA-HsA was also known as Miysis which was transliterated into Greek as Miosis; a name which is reminiscent of Mouses and Omousi or Mushi. The Minaeans referred to themselves as Ma’in and not as Dedan. In addition, the word for incense in Hebrew is qetorath. Qetwrah was the name of Abraham’s 3rd wife and mother of the caravan tribes. In Arabic, the word to distill is qtr which also means ‘to form a train of camels’. Incense in the language of ancient Egypt was qdrt or (N29-G1-D46-G1-E23-Z1-U33-M17-N33-Z2). The Egyptian word qdrt seems to have been derived from the language of the Arabian Peninsula. Frankincense in Hebrew is lebwnah. In Arabic the word is luban, from the Arabic word meaning ‘white’ (frankincense resin is whitish), so the origin of this word is also Semitic.
The Hebrew name for the Mineans, Dedan, may be a referrence to Dedun, the Nubian incense god whose form was a lion and in this form he was worshiped in Egypt as Miysis or Miosis. So, Dedan and Miosis are of Nubian and Egyptian origin and they are references to the trade in incense. Qetwrah and luban (Laban is Rebecca’s brother) are of Semitic origin. These 2 Semitic words seem to be very ancient references that were absorbed into Hebrew prior to the composition of the Septuagint. However, the Egyptian word for incense was adapted from the caravan tribes from the Arabian peninsula.
As for Dedan, this Biblical reference to the Mineans presents a mystery. Dedan was definitely connected to Nubia or Biblical ‘Cush’ as Dedan was listed as a grandson of Cush in the Table of Nations 10:7. The Egyptians knew these people as Shasw or perhaps as m’sw the word for ‘carriers’ in the language of ancient Egypt. One wonders why the Judeans would refer to the Mineans by a Nubian name and if there was a connection between this Nubian god and his Egyptian counterpart, Miosis which was absorbed by the Hebrews. A connection between the Nubian god, Dedun or Miosis in Ptolemaic Egypt, and the early religion of the Hebrews is suggested in the name Ahrwn which meaning may also be derived from the Egyptian words ‘aha rw’ or warrior lion. This warrior lion may be a reference to the manifestation of Hathor as Sekhmet the lion warrior goddess who was the mother of of Nefertum, the Egyptian god of incense. Hathor was also the goddess of miners and was worshipped at the copper mines at Timna in Edom.
Were the Mineans and the Midianites confused by the Septuagint authors? Much of Yahwism was borrowed from this tribe thru the Midianites including Yhh, the Levites and much of the temple accouterments. It makes one suspicious that much of the Hebrew religion originated in Africa, was then absorbed by the caravan tribes on the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and, was subsequently caravanned north by these tribes that traded in incense. The northern route led to Egypt where the exodus story as presented in Biblical texts was composed.
According to Exodus, Ahrwn forged a golden bull calf, as well as other gods. The verse in Exodus 32:4 says:
“And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
Biblical scholars have surmised that golden calf represented the god El as El was known as Bull El in Canaan. However, the indication is that Ahrwn had fashioned more than one idol. This scene in Ex 32 may be a reference Jeroboam’s golden calves which this Israelite king erected at Bethel and Dan. According to the Exodus account, Moses destroyed the golden calf but the copper viper which he forged was carried triumphantly before the Israelites as they fled Egypt. The episode depicts the ascendancy of Yhh (copper viper) over El (golden calf). This part of the Exodus story was most likely written during the reign of Josiah. The idea that Aaron and Moses were master metal smiths who forged molten idols most likely dates to the Egyptian occupation of the Negev, Edom and Moab when the Shasw of Yhw (Midianites who became the Judeans) worked the copper mines for the Egyptians. However, Ahrwn does not fit into this scenario.
One of the possible Egyptian meanings for the name Ahrwn is ‘belongs to a group of gods’. Since, the Septuagint was written under the Ptolemies in Alexandria, Egypt, that group of gods must have been located in a city especially dedicated to a Ptolemaic god. That god was Serapis. Serapis was an invention of the Ptolemies who attempted to conflate the Greek god Zeus with the Egyptian gods Osiris and Apis. The result was an anthropomorphic representation of the Apis bull which was originally a manifestation of Ptah.
Ptah was referred to as the Greatest of the Masters of the Craftsmen, and he was the patron of the craftsmen. Both Moses and Ahrwn were master craftsmen of the forge. Ptah, whose manifestation was Apis, was a member of a Memphis triad of gods. In the Memphis group, he was the husband of Sekhmet (lion war goddess) and the father of Nefertum (lion god of perfume), who was identified with Maahes (Miosis-the lion protector of Pharaoh and god of perfume). Ptah was also named as the father of Imhotep.
The Septuagint authors were also suggesting the Memphis triad when they indicated that Ahrwn was fashioning more than one idol. In that case, the bull calf would be Apis as Ptah, and the other idols would be Sekhmet and Nefertum. Sekhmet, the lion goddess of war, was a manifestation of Hathor, the cow goddes and patroness of miners. When Hathor became enraged, she took the form of Sekhmet. According to Wikipedia:
“The Book of the Heavenly Cow states that while Ra was ruling the earth, humans began plotting against him. Ra sent Hathor, in the form of the warlike lion goddess Sekhmet, to destroy them. Hathor (as Sekhmet) became bloodthirsty and the slaughter was great because she could not be stopped. As the slaughter continued, Ra saw the chaos down below and decided to stop the blood-thirsty goddess. So he poured huge quantities of blood-coloured beer on the ground to trick Sekhmet. She drank so much of it—thinking it to be blood—that she became drunk and returned to her former gentle self as Hathor.”
Hathor, who was worshiped at the Timna copper mines, was conflated with Asherah to become Qetesh in Egyptian mythology. Jeroboam’s 2 calves were golden. The mummified remains of the Apis bulls were found with death masks made of gold leaf.
The Semitic god El absorbed elements of the cult of Apis who was a manifestation of Ptah. Canaanite El was referred to as Bull El, possibly because the crescent moon resembled the horns of a bull. Ptah was not a moon god, but he shared many characteristics with El including his image as a man whose zoomorphic manifestation was a bull. (see Gen 1:26 for El’s anthropomorphic image). According to Wikipedia:
“Ptah is the Creator god par excellence: He is considered the demiurge who existed before all other things, and by his willfulness, thought the world. It was first conceived by Thought, and realized by the Word: Ptah conceives the world by the thought of his heart and gives life through the magic of his Word. That which Ptah commanded was created, with which the constituents of nature, fauna, and flora, are contained. He also plays a role in the preservation of the world and the permanence of the royal function.”
So, Ptah contributed to the Hebrew image of El which included his role as the creator and maintainer of the universe. El as the demiurge, who created everything from thought and a magic word, was adapted into Jewish theology while the Septuagint authors lived under the Ptolemies. There is nothing in the Canaanite mythology of El which pre-dates Greek and Roman influence that suggests that El was thought of as the creator of the universe who brought everything into existence by uttering a magic word. If the name Ahrwn is Egyptian and means ‘belonging to a group of gods’ or derives from ‘aha rw’ meaning warrior lion (Sekhmet and her son, Nefertum, the lion god of perfume borrowed from Nubia), the origin of Aaron’s name can then be traced to the Memphis triad and Memphis mythology. The Egyptian origin of Aaron’s name may be proof that this aspect of Hebrew theology was borrowed from Ptolemaic Egypt.
In addition, the office of High Priest to Ptah at Memphis was established by the Ptolemies. This office became very important under the Ptolemies.
So, the major actors in the Exodus drama, Ahrwn and Moses were equated to a Memphis triad of divinities and a priesthood precious to the Ptolemies. Furthermore, the son of Ptah, Nefertum aka Miosis, was a god of perfume. The Judeans recognized that their origin was as a clan of the Midianites who were also associated with the mining and crafting of metalic images. These are examples of the infusion of Egyptian mythology into Hebrew tribal lore.