Shared motifs between Sinuhe (c.1900 BCE) and the Moses story (c.450 BCE)

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Jan 21, 2000, 3:00:00 AM1/21/00
Shared motifs between Sinuhe (c.1900 BCE) and the Moses story (c.450 BCE)

-Sinuhe is implicated in a murder and flees from Egypt.
-Moses is implicated in a murder and flees from Egypt.

The difference between the two above is that Sinuhe was actually innocent of
the murder in the original story.

-Sinuhe flees across the sea towards Jordan.
-Moses flees to Midian.

-Sinuhe is stranded in the desert and nearly dies of thirst. Amunenshi, a
ruler of a small community in Upper Retjenu, saves him and gives him water
to drink.
-Moses rescues Jethro's daughters from some shepherds and then he gives
water to their flock.

-Sinuhe is given refuge by Amunenshi until it is safe for him to return to
-Moses is invited to eat with Jethro and then also invited to live with him.

-Sinuhe is married to Amunenshi's daughter.
-Moses marries Zipporah, Jethro's daughter.

-Sinuhe's wife gives him children and Sinuhe is happy with his new life.
-Zipporah gives Moses a son, Gershom.

Quotes from The Tale of Sinuhe:

'I did not plan to reach his Residence, expecting strife to happen.I arrived
at Cattle-Quay. I crossed in a rudderless barge blown by the west wind.I
travelled in the night time.'

'Thirst's attack overtook me, and I was scorched, my throat parched. I said,
'This is the taste of death.' But I lifted up my heart and gathered my limbs
together as I heard the noise of cattle lowing, caught sight of Syrians,
and a leader of theirs, who had once been in Egypt, recognized me.'

'Then he gave me water, while he boiled milk for me. I went with him to his
tribe, and what they did was good. Country gave me country.'

'I do not know what brought me to this country - it is like some plan of

'He placed me at the head of his children. He joined me to his eldest
daughter. He had me make my choice of his country, from the choicest of what
was his. It was a good land called Yaa (think about that one.'

Josephus also matches the Sinuhe narrative when describing the rewards that
Jethro bestowed upon Moses in Midian:

'So he made him his son, and gave him one of his daughters in marriage; and
appointed him to be the guardian and superintendent over his cattle; for of
old, all the wealth of the barbarians was in those cattle.'

While Sinuhe is away from Egypt, he constantly receives reports in his new
country. He learns that the king, Senwosret, is stronger than ever, but
Sinuhe is still not sure whether it is safe for him to return to Egypt or
that he was implicated in the murder of the previous king, Amenemhat.

Sinuhe lives many years away from Egypt and becomes assimilated into
northern Palestinian/Syrian culture. He does many expeditions for Amunenshi,
fighting off enemies and using his Egyptian experience to bring peace to the
people of Retjenu. He also fights against a local hero who wishes to rob
Sinuhe of his land. We also find these same stories in the much later Moses
tradition, but not from the Torah. We find these stories in the Talmud,
Josephus and the Koran. But first some more quotes form Sinuhe:

'I spent many years there, and my children became heroes, each man
subjugating his own tribe.'

'The ruler would have me do many missions as the commander of his army.
Every country for which I set out, I made my attack on it, and it was driven
from it's grasslands and wells.'

Now the Moses tradition. In the Talmudic folklore, it is written that after
Moses fled from Egypt, he first enters the service of an Ethiopian king. He
stays with him for a few years and fights alongside him against his enemies.
Moses becomes so popular with the people that after the king passes away,
Moses is given the kingship. It is only when his foreign status is
questioned that Moses moves along.

Josephus also recounts this late tradition:

'But Moses prevented the enemies, and took and led his army before those
enemies were apprized of his attacking them; for he did not march by the
river, but by land, where he gave a wonderful demonstration of his sagacity.

Josephus also recounts Moses having affairs with the daughter of the
Ethiopian king:

'However, while Moses was uneasy at the army's lying idle, (for the enemies
durst not come to a battle,) this accident happened: - Tharbis was the
daughter of the king of the Ethiopians: she happened to see Moses as he led
the army near the walls, and fought with great courage; and admiring the
subtility of his undertakings, and believing him to be the author of the
Egyptians' success, when they had before despaired of recovering their
liberty, and to be the occasion of the great danger the Ethiopians were in,
when they had before boasted of their great achievements, she fell deeply in
love with him'

So far it is quite evident that the Moses tradition is a much later version
of what was first an Egyptian story (even that was not historical) with the
odd geographic and cultural changes necessary for it to take it's place in
Jewish folklore. But what about the return to Egypt? Moses spent many years
in Midian, he grew a long beard, he was a family man and head of a tribe.
What happened to Sinuhe? After many years had passed, Sinuhe had nearly
become a naturalised Syrian. He also long hair, wore a long beard, clothed
himself in animal skin. He had acquired many cattle and occupied himself
with looking after his animals. But he still missed his home country and
didn't want to die in a foreign land. He prays to God, repents and asks to
be allowed to return home.

'.I became great, and grew copious in wealth and grew plentiful of
cattle.For now God has acted so as to be gracious to one with whom He was
offended, whom He led astray to another country. Today, He is satified,'

'Whatever God fated this flight - be gracious and bring me home! Surely You
will let me see the place where my heart still stays. What matters more than
being buried in the land where I was born? This is my prayer for help, that
the good event befall, that God give me grace! May He act in this way, to
make well the end of someone whom He made helpless, His heart sore for
someone He compelled to live in a foreign country! Does this mean that He is
so gracious today as to hear the prayer of someone who was far off, who
shall then turn from where he has roamed the earth to the place from which
he was carried away?'

God answers Sinuhe's prayers. Soon, the king of Egypt hears of Sinuhe's
condition and that Sinuhe is still alive. He sends a decree to Sinuhe,
calling him back home and tells him that he has no reason to fear anything
for the ones who were responsible for the death of the old king have
vanished. It is noe safe for Sinuhe to return, grow old and be laid to rest
in his own country.

'The years were made to pass from my limbs. I became clean shaven, and my
hair was combed.I was clad in fine linen; I was anointed with fine oil. I
slept in a bed.I was given the house of a Governor.'

It is here that the narrative differs. Where Sinuhe is allowed to return
home and back to civil life after serving time away because of a murder he
never commited, Moses returns to Egypt, still guilty of murder and leads the
mythical tribes of Israel to the promised land. This part of the Moses story
is used as a vehicle-story to introduce the mythical Israel of the Old
Testament. The mythical Israel of David and Solomon, both of whom were also
based on legends of Egyptian kings. This time historical kings. The warrior
Tuthmosis III and the suffering servant Tuthmosis IV became the basis for
David, while the magnificent Amenhotep III and his immensely wealthy yet
tragic kingdom became the basis for the legendary Solomon. But that's
another story.

Jul 22, 2019, 11:07:11 AM7/22/19
I have a different view to moses story, whereby to deduct the pharaoh of exodus, whose mummy to be seen at cairo museum. read it at this link
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