Pharaoh’s Daughter

Moses and Princess

Bible Reference: Exodus 2:1-10

Heart of the Story: The Pharaoh of Egypt’s daughter saw a papyrus reed basket floating in the Nile River. The basket contained a baby. The princess named the baby Moses and reared him as her son. Although scholars speculate about her name, they are unsure exactly who she was.

Back Story: The previous two blogs—one on Midwives and one on Moses’s parents—are part of the backstory to this Bible passage. There are two possible dates for the Israelites exodus from Egypt. The first puts the date in the 15th century BC; the other has the Exodus occurring 200 years later in the 13th century BC. A literal reading of the Bible uses the 15 century date.

In 15th century BC, pharaohs were members of Egypt’s Dynasty 18. Egyptian dynasty records suggest that the Egyptian princess who rescued Moses was Hatshepsut. However, the great Jewish historian, Josephus, disagreed. Josephus identified Pharaoh’s daughter as Thermuthis. Other scholars suggested that the royal princess who rescued Moses was named Myrrina or Mercis.

Story Line: The Bible narrative depicted a princess who was decisive and had a firm will. Most scholars agreed that she was the only daughter of Pharaoh. Likely, she had no children of her own. Her plan was for her Pharaoh father to declare Moses as the next ruler of Egypt when he died. Although Moses is credited with writing Exodus, he preserved the anonymity of both the Pharaoh who ordered Israelite new born males to be killed and his daughter who saved Moses’s life.

Assuming Hatshepsut was the princess who rescued Moses from the Nile River, she would have been 6-7 years old at the time. She knew that her father ordered that all Israelite male babies be killed; yet, even as a young girl, she had the strength to defy her powerful father. According to Josephus, the infant Moses rejected all the wet nurses that the princess provided for Moses. When Marion (Moses’s sister) suggested an Israelite wet nurse, the princess agreed. Marian brought Jochebed (Moses’s mother) to the princess. The infant Moses immediately accepted Jochebed’s breast and the milk she offered him.

Pharaoh’s daughter named the Israelite infant Moses which means “I drew him out of the water.” Pharaoh’s daughter payed Jochebed to keep Moses with her and to breast feed him. In ancient times, boys were breast fed longer than girls. Jochebed may have breast feed Moses until he was in his third year of life. The Bible is silent on events in the lives of  Moses and the royal princess during these three years. Likely the princess visited the baby Moses periodically during the three years.

After Moses was weaned, Pharaoh’s daughter took Moses into the Egyptian royal court.For 40 years Moses was cared for and educated as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, having all the privileges of a son of the royal court. Stephen declared that “Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds” (Acts 7:22).

Some historical references include speculative narratives of the royal Princess’s life. For example, that she left Egypt in the Exodus and later married an Israelite. Another story depicts her as reigning over Egypt as both sole regent and co-regent with her step-son. One Jewish rabbi averred that the royal Princess converted to Judaism and never died in her natural life. Instead, she entered God’s paradise.

Reflection: Whatever other truths about Pharaoh’s daughter, she rescued the baby Moses from certain death. In her story we see evidence of God nurturing the life of Israel’s great leader.

Copyright: February 26, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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