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Josephus - Moses

This contains two portions of Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews concerning Moses. The first is his account of Moses being found in the river by Pharaoh's daughter. The second describes the role of Moses as Prince of Egypt leading the Egyptian army into battle

Josephus's account of Moses in the River

Antiquities of the Jews 2.9.5-6

5. Thermuthis was the king's daughter. She was now diverting herself by the banks of the river; and seeing a cradle borne along by the current, she sent some that could swim, and bid them bring the cradle to her. When those that were sent on this errand, came to her with the cradle, and she saw the little child, she was greatly in love with it, on account of its largeness and beauty; for God had taken such great care in the formation of Moses, that he caused him to be thought worthy of bringing up, and providing for, by all those that had taken the most fatal resolutions, on account of the dread of his nativity, for the destruction of the rest of the Hebrew nation. Thermuthis bid them bring her a woman that might afford her breast to the child; yet would not the child admit of her breast, but turned away from it, and did the like to many other women. Mow Miriam was by when this happened, not to appear to be there on purpose, but only as staying to see the child; and she said, "It is in vain that thou, O queen, callest for these women for the nourishing of the child, who are no way of kin to it; but still, if thou wilt order of the Hebrew women to be brought, perhaps it may admit the breast of one of its own nation." Now since she seemed to speak well, Thermuthis bid her procure such a one, and to bring one of those Hebrew women that gave suck. So when she had such authority given her, she came back and brought the mother, who was know to nobody there. And now the child gladly admitted to the breast, and seemed to stick close to it; and so it was, that, at the queen's desire, the nursing of the child was entirely entrusted to the mother.

6. Hereupon that it was that Thermuthis imposed this name Mouses upon him from what had happened when he was put into the river; for the Egyptians call water by the name of Mo, and such as are saved out of it, by the name of Uses; so by putting these two words together, they imposed this name upon him; and he was, by the confession of all, according to God's prediction, as well for his greatness of mind, as for his contempt of difficulties, the best of all the Hebrews; for Abraham was his ancestor of the seventh generation. For Moses was the son of Amram, who was the son of Caath, who father, Levi, was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, who was the son of Abraham. Now Moses's understanding became superior to his age, nay, far beyond that standard; and when he was taught, he discovered greater quickness of apprehension than was usual at his age; and his actions at that time promised greater, when he should come to the age of a man. God did also give him that tallness, when he was but three years old, as was wonderful; and as for his beauty, there was nobody so unpolite as, when they saw Moses, they were not greatly surprised at the beauty of his countenance; nay, it happened frequently, that those that met him as he was carried along the road, were obliged to turn again upon seeing the child; that they left what they were about, and stood still a great while to look on him; for the beauty of the child was so remarkable and natural to him on many accounts that it detained the spectators, and made them stay longer to look upon him.

7. Thermuthis, therefore perceiving him to be so remarkable a child, adopted him for her son, having no child of her own. And when one time she had carried Moses to her father, she showed him to him, and said she thought to make him her father's successor, if it should please God she should have no legitimate child of her own; and said to him, "I have brought up a child who is of a divine form, and of a generous mind, and as I have received him from the bounty of the river, in a wonderful manner, I thought it proper to adopt him for my son and the heir of the kingdom." And when she had said this, she put the infant into her father's hands; so he took him, and hugged him close to his breast; and on his daughter's account, in a pleasant way, put his diadem upon his head; but Moses threw up down to the ground, and trod upon it with his feet; which seemed to bring along with it an evil presage concerning the kingdom of Egypt. But when the sacred scribe saw this (he was the same person who foretold that his navitity would bring the dominion of that kingdom low), he made a violent attempt to kill him; and crying out in a frightful manner, he said, "This, O king! this child is he of whom God foretold, that if we kill him we shall be in no danger; he himself affords an attestation to the prediction of the same thing, by his trampling on thy government, and treading upon thy diadem. Take him, therefore, out of the way, and deliver the Egyptians from the fear they are in about him; and deprive the Hebrews of the hope they have of being encouraged by him." But Thermuthis prevented him, and snatched the child away. And the king was not hasty to slay him, God himself, whose providence protected Moses, inclining the king to spare him. He was, therefore, educated with great care. So the Hebrews depended on him, and were of good hopes that great things would be done by him; but the Egyptians were suspicious of what follow such his education. Yet because, if Moses had been slain, there was no one, either akin or adopted, that had any oracle on his side, for pretending the crown of Egypt, and likely to be of greater advantage to them, they abstained from killing him.

Josephus's Account of Moses and the War against Ethiopia

Antiquities of the Jews 2:10

1. Moses, therefore, when he was born, and brought up in the foregoing manner, and came to the age of maturity, made his virtue manifest to the Egyptians; and showed that he was born for the bringing them down, and raising the Israelites; and the occasion he laid hold of was this:- The Ethiopians, who are the next neighbours to the Egyptians, made an inroad into their country, which they seized upon, and carried off the effects of the Egyptians, who, in their rage, fought against them, and revenged the affronts they had received from them; but, being overcome in battle, some of them were slain, and the rest ran away in a shameful manner, and by that means saved themselves; whereupon the Ethiopians followed after them in the pursuit, and thinking that it would be a mark of cowardice if they did not subdue all Egypt, , they went on to subdue the rest with greater vehemence; and when they had tasted the sweets of the country, they never left off the prosecution of the war; and as the nearest parts had not courage enough at first to fight with them, they proceeded as far as Memphis and the sea itself; while not one of the cities was able to oppose them. The Egyptians under this sad oppression, betook themselves to their oracles and prophecies, and when God had given them counsel, to make use of Moses the Hebrew, and take his assistance, the king commanded his daughter to produce him, that he might be the general of their army. Upon which, when she had made him swear that he would do him no harm, she delivered him to the king, and supposed his assistance would be of great advantage to them. She withal reproached the priest, who, when they had before admonished the Egyptians to kill him, was not ashamed now to own their want of his help.

2. So Moses, at the persuasion both of Thermuthis, and the king himself, cheerfully undertook the business; and the sacred scribes of both nations were glad; those of the Egyptians that they should at once overcome their enemies by his valour, and that by the same piece of management Moses would be slain; but those of the Hebrews, that they should escape from the Egyptians, because Moses was to be their general; but Moses prevented the enemies, and took and led his army before those enemies were apprised of his attacking them; for he did not march by the river, but by land, where he gave a wonderful demonstration of his sagacity; for when the ground was difficult to be passed over, because of the multitude of serpents (which it produces in vast numbers, and indeed is singular in some of those productions, which other countries do not breed, and yet such as are worse than others in power and mischief, and an unusual fierceness of sight, some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and do come upon men at unawares, and do them a mischief). Moses invented a wonderful stratagem to preserve the army safe, and without hurt; for he made baskets like unto arks, of sedge, and filled them with ibex, and carried them along with them; which animal is the greatest enemy to serpents imaginable, for they fly from them when they come near them; and as they fly they are caught and devoured by them, as if it were done by the harts; but the ibex are tame creatures, and only enemies to the serpentine kind; but about these ibex I say no more at present, since the Greeks themselves are not unacquainted with this sort of bird. As soon, therefore as Moses as come to the land which was the breeder of these serpents, he let loose the ibes, and by their means repelled the serpentine kind, and used them for his assistants before the army came upon that ground. When he had therefore proceeded thus on his journey, he came upon the Ethiopians before they had expected him; and joining battle with them he beat them, and deprived them of the hopes they had of success against the Egyptians, and went on in overthrowing their cities, and indeed made a great slaughter of these Ethiopians. Now when the Egyptian army had once tasted of this prosperous success, by the hand of Moses, they did not slacken their diligence, insomuch that the Ethiopians were in danger of being reduced to slavery, and all sorts of destruction; and at length they retired to Saba, which was a royal city of Ethiopia, which Cambyses afterwards named Meroe after the name of his own sister. The place was to be besieged with very great difficulty, since it was both encompassed by the Nile, quite round, and the other rivers, Astapus and Astaboras, made it as very difficult thing for such as attempted to pass over them; for the city was situate in a retired place, and was inhabited after the manner of an island, being encompassed with a strong wall, and having the rivers to guard them from their enemies, and having great ramparts between the wall and the rivers, insomuch, that when the waters come with the greatest violence it can never be drowned; which ramparts make it next to impossible for even such as are gotten over the rivers to take the city. However, while Moses was uneasy at the army's lying idle (for the enemies durst not come into 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 undertaking, 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 great danger the Ethiopians were in, when they had before boasted of their great achievements, she fell deeply in love with him; and upon the prevalency of that passion, sent to him the most faithful of all her servants to discourse with him about their marriage. He thereupon accepted the offer, on condition she would procure the delivering up of the city; and gave her the assurance of an oath to take her to his wife; and that when he had once taken possession of the city, he would not break his oath to her. No sooner was the agreement made, but it took effect immediately; and when Moses had cut off the Ethiopians, he gave thanks to God, and consummated his marriage, and led the Egyptians back to their own land.