[by Dean Smith] As I read of Israel’s deliverance out of Egypt found in the Book of Exodus, one thing always puzzled me. Why didn’t the Pharaoh just order a hit job on Moses?
Moses came before the Pharaoh several times asking permission for Israel to leave Egypt. Each time the Pharaoh said no and then Moses announced another plague. There was plenty of opportunity for the Pharaoh to end it all by simply taking out the Jewish leader.
But the Pharaoh didn’t do it?
The reason I believe is because God protected Moses, but perhaps in a different way than you would think. Oddly the reason is wrapped up in Moses’ name.
The book of Exodus starts with the children of Israel enslaved in Egypt. The Israelis were driven to Egypt by a famine in Canaan. Because Joseph had risen to VP in charge of everything, his family was welcomed with open arms and grew over the centuries to number around a million people.
This all happened during the reign of the Hyksos, cousins of the Jews, who conquered Northern Egypt driving the Egyptian government south.
But the Jews comfortable life on the watered plains of the Nile ended with an ominous single line announcing a new king in Egypt (Exodus 1:8). This happened when Pharaoh Amhose I drove the Hyksos out of Egypt.
This shift in government resulted in a crucial change in how the Jews were treated. The new king worried that if the Hyksos tried to retake Egypt, the flourishing Israelis might join their enemies (Exodus 1:9-10).
Driven by this unrelenting fear, Amhose ordered all the male children born to the Israelis be put to death (Exodus 1:22).
This new decree changed life dramatically. No longer was the birth of a male child jubilantly celebrated. It was desperate times as families tried to hide their baby boys from the prying eyes of the Egyptians.
But what was curious here is how these newborn boys were to be killed. The Pharaoh coldly ordered the baby boys thrown into the Nile. Since the Egyptian army was undoubtedly enforcing the edict, the simplest way would have been to kill the children on the spot.
Why the extra effort?
The god of the Nile
The answer to this question is found in Ezekiel 29 and 32, where the prophet of God delivered a searing judgement against the Pharaoh of Egypt. However, the prophecy takes an unanticipated turn. The judgement starts off in chapter 29.
“I am against you pharaoh, King of Egypt,” then the prophet shifts gears and begins to rail against, “The great monster that lies in the midst of the river that has said my Nile is mine and I have made it” (Ezekiel 29:3 NASV).
Is Ezekiel still talking about the pharaoh or is he now addressing a far more sinister being in land of the pyramids?
The next five verses vividly describe the monster’s doom. God would drag it from the depths of the Nile with a hook, slaughter it and allow the birds of the air to gorge on its decaying flesh. It was a graphic description of what God planned to with this monster. It wasn’t pretty and it would stink to high heaven.
Though this prophecy was given long after Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, it hinted of something peculiar in the spiritual realm — that had existed in Egypt from ancient times.
The Egyptians had a pantheistic religion made up of three main deities — the Nile, the sun/pharaoh and the ox. The monster in the river represented the satanic spirit behind the Nile god Hapi. The idol for this deity was portrayed with a human body and a head of an animal.
The significance of Hapi in the Egyptian religion was corroborated with discovery in 2000 of the submerged city of Heracleion located at a point where the Nile River once emptied into the Mediterranean Sea. According to archaeologists, the city’s destruction was so unexpected that people had little time to collect their belongings or even move their ships moored in the harbor indicating either a massive earthquake or tidal wave destroyed the city.
Among the ruins on the ocean bottom, archaeologists stumbled upon three immense pink granite statues 5.7 meters in height. Two of them are of an unidentified pharaoh and his wife and the other of the Nile god Hapi.
We know that the Egyptians regularly made sacrifices to this Nile god as there are images carved on the walls of Egyptian monuments displaying the ritual. The act of throwing the Jewish babies into the Nile was little more than a heightened form of this sacrifice.
Moses, a god?
This made Moses’ survival even more intriguing. His mother took him down to the Nile to obey the Pharaoh’s edict, however, instead of throwing her son in the water she put him in a waterproofed basket.
The basket, containing the deliverer, floated on the Nile above the gaping jaws of the demonic monster. Untouched, the child was eventually found by the daughter of the Pharaoh and raised in the Royal family.
But how Moses ended up in the Pharaoh’s court is a story in itself. God took advantage of the Egyptian’s beliefs to bring in the deliverer.
Women, particularly the affluent ones, would bathe in the Nile for ritual purposes, as they believed the Nile god increased their fertility and even prolonged their life. Paintings on the walls of ancient tombs show women taking these ritual baths.
If the daughter of Pharaoh was down at the Nile for just such a ritual bath, it would explain why she so eagerly accepted this baby in a basket. Though she realized he was a Hebrew child, she believed the Nile god had miraculously provided a son for her – the ultimate fertility rite.
The pharaoh’s daughter called him Moses, which meant “for out of the water I have drawn him.” His name would broadcast Moses’ divine origin to all who could hear. As far as the Royal family was concerned, Moses was the provision of Hapi.
With these auspicious beginnings, Moses fit right in with the Pharaohs. For centuries, the Pharaohs of Egypt had pulled a massive con on their people convincing them the Pharaohs were gods — half gods, half men. Egyptians feared and obeyed the Pharaohs because of this.
God knew it was a con and took advantage of this belief. And when Moses slaughtered Hapi, the Nile god, by turning the river to blood (Exodus 7:20), the Pharaoh was fully spooked. He had no idea who he was dealing with. Moses had come from the Nile and now he was killing Hapi.
God knew Moses was not a god. Moses knew he wasn’t. And though Moses spoke of Jehovah and His power, the Pharaoh, because of his own muddled theological beliefs, was uncertain if Moses was a man, or like the pharaoh a god, but one powerful enough to dispatch a major deity of Egypt. The plague of darkness showed Moses could even deal with Egypt’s sun-god (Exodus 10:21-23).
As one of the three major gods of Egypt, the Pharaoh was officially nervous.
And over the following plagues, the Pharaoh was ready to buckle and let the Jews go and would have if God hadn’t purposefully hardened the Pharaoh’s heart several times (Exodus 7:13; 8:19 and 9:12 as examples).
Because of this nagging suspicion about Moses, the Pharaoh did not try to kill the deliverer of Israel.
The conman had been conned by his own beliefs.
- Alistar Lyon, Lost City’s treasures found (National Post, Hollinger Canwest Publication: Don Mills, Ontario, June 8, 2001);
- David Keys, An underwater city yields fabled treasure (The Globe and Mail: Toronto, Ontario, June 8, 2001)