Moses meaning | Moses etymology

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Moses in Biblical Hebrew
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The name Moses in the Bible

The name Moses is the Latin version of the original Mosheh. Moses is a Levite, brother of Aaron and Miriam. Because his mother Jochebed (a daughter of Levi) was the aunt of his father Amram, Moses was both a grandson and a great-grandson of Levi (Exodus 6:20). (Actually, there are some generations missing because between Levi and Moses there are about four centuries). Moses is also often considered the author of the Torah and is the first leader of Israel.

Moses is the most referred to Old Testament hero in the New Testament, but his name is spelled four different ways. Seventy-one times this name is spelled either as Μωσης (Moses) or Μωσευς (Moseus, in all four Gospels, Acts the Pauline letters, Jude and Revelation), four times as Μωυσευς (Mouseus, in Acts 15:1 and 15:5, 2 Timothy 3:8 and Hebrews 9:19), and three times as Μωυσης (Mouses, in Acts 6:14, 7:35 and 7:37).

Etymology of the name Moses

The etymology and original meaning of the name Moses have been long disputed. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names derives it from the Egyptian word for water, mo, and the verb to save out of water, 'uses'. BDB Theological Dictionary relates it to the Egyptian word mes, mesu, meaning child, son.

Then, of course, there is the Hebrew verb משה (masha), which is identical to the name save for the Masoretic additions:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

Since it is highly unlikely that the Egyptian princess was speaking Hebrew when she said it, Moses was probably known by the Egyptian word for Draw Out. Then, when he began to play a role in a Hebrew text, his name must have been subsequently translated into Hebrew.

HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament devotes an article to the name Moses and notes that this name is a 'Qal active participle' of the verb masha, and concludes that the name Moses doesn't mean He Who Was Drawn Out, but rather He Who Draws Out. "The name is explained not because Moses is derived from masha but because it resembles it in sound" (says HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament ). HAW further states that the consensus today is that Moses has to do with the Egyptian word for child (as BDB Theological Dictionary reports).

This in turn suggests that the emphasis in Exodus 2:10 should not be placed on the verb drew — 'because I drew him out of the water' — but on the princess who claims right to adopt and name Moses because she drew him out: And she named him because she drew him out of the water.

Also note that the name Moses not only strongly resembles the verb that means to draw out, it obviously also resonates with the action of lending and borrowing, that is: receiving something that may be used at one's discretion but of which no ownership can be claimed and which some day will have to be returned to the rightful owner.

Moses meaning

That Moses went on to become the founder of an independent Israel, and author of a text that contained unprecedented insights in the nature of man, may have reminded a Hebrew audience of the third creation day, when dry land came forth from the waters. To that audience, the name Moses means He Who Extracts, or He Who Draws Out Of The Waters.

Additional note on Moses

Efforts of early historians to find Moses somewhere in history have failed and the search is now largely abandoned. Most Bible critics today embrace the view that Moses was not a historic figure in the sense that he was a human individual, but very few write the whole episode off as pure fiction. The Bible is simply too subtle and too brilliant for that.

Nobody and no corpus of wise scribes could have composed the Torah at will at any point in time. In fact, here at Abarim Publications we are convinced that the origin of Bible is truly inexplicable if any Divine intervention is denied. Our planet is riddled with inexplicable relics from an ancient past, but the Bible surpasses them all in mysteriousness. There is nothing in humanity's present possession that can hold a candle to the complexities and unfathomable wisdoms of the Bible. In our humble view, "Moses" may be a literary device that represents the effort of a minority of unrelated people, to preserve humanity's wisdom; a spiritual force without a name or a face that nurtured our greatest treasure on the stormy waters of mankind's evolution.

We got something that came from the past, and we have no idea how it got here. It comes from pre-history, and its ultimate source was called YHWH.

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