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Meaning and etymology of the name Mosheh (Moses)

Mosheh (Moses) Moses

The name Moses is the Greek/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.

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 Moses (masha), which is identical to the name save for the Masoretic additions. It means draw, draw out and is used only two times in Scriptures: 2 Samuel 22:17 in a Psalm of David that was copied into the Psalter as Psalm 18 (see verse 16), "He drew me out of many waters". The other occurrence of the verb is in Exodus 2:10, where Moses is named, "And she named him Moses, and said, "Because I drew him out of the water"."

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.

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.



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