mixed Egyptian-Israelite origins.
The positions held by Joseph and his wife, who was the kingâs âornamentâ ( khrt nsw ), a post which might be said to combine the duties of a modern butler and lady-in-waiting, meant that both had to live in the royal residence. It was thus that the young prince, Amenhotep, grew up with, and fell in love with, Tiye. Then, after his fatherâs early death when the young prince was about twelve, he married his sister, Sitamun, who was most probably an infant, in order to inherit the throne, but soon afterwards also married Tiye and made her, rather than Sitamun, his Great Royal Wife (queen). The evidence that Tiye was about eight at the time of the wedding indicates that Tuthmosis IV must have appointed Joseph to his various positions, including vizier, early in his short eight-year reign.
Tiye, we know, was the mother of Akhenaten â but she must also have been the mother of Moses if he and Akhenaten were the same person.
While the second chapter of the Book of Exodus describes the daughter of Pharaoh as being the royal mother of Moses, the Koran claims that the mother was the queen, Pharaohâs wife. It is strange that, as both holy books must have had the same origin, whether Godâs inspiration or a literary source, they should not agree in this important matter, particularly when Egyptian custom would not have allowed an unmarried princess to adopt a child. How then has the variation arisen?
There are two sources for the misunderstanding. In the first place, the scribe who wrote down the Book of Exodus was faced with two traditions â that the mother of Moses was an Israelite and that she was b-t Pharâa, literally âthe house of Pharaohâ. Unaware, as she had already been omitted from the Joseph story in the Book of Genesis, that Joseph had a daughter named Tiye, who became Pharaohâs wife, he resolved this initial difficulty by creating two mothers, one Hebrew, who gave birth to Moses, and one royal, who adopted him and brought him up as her son. That he chose to identify this adoptive mother as a princess rather than a queen has a philological explanation.
The word for âdaughterâ and the word for âhouseâ were written identically b-t in early Hebrew and open to misconstruction by anyone not familiar with Egyptian usage. To an Egyptian the word âhouseâ was also used â and, indeed, still is â to signify a wife: to a Hebrew it meant either âhouseâ in the sense of a building or âhouseholdâ. Later, both Hebrew and the language of Ancient Egypt, which had no written vowels, began to use some consonants like y to indicate long vowels. Thus, for example, we find a slightly different spelling of b-t Pharâa in the Book of Genesis account of events when Jacob, the father of Joseph, died. Joseph, who wanted permission to take him back to Canaan for burial, did not speak to the king directly but to b-y-t Pharâa, the Hebrew word signifying âthe house of Pharaohâ: âAnd when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh â¦â (Genesis, 50:4). âPharaohâ itself means literally âthe great houseâ. Thus b-y-t Pharâa signifies the âhouse of the great houseâ, which in the Egyptian sense would mean the queen, whom in this case I regard as Josephâs own daughter, Tiye, whose intercession he sought in the matter of his fatherâs burial.
There is an example of similar usage earlier in the Book of Genesis when the brothers who had earlier sold Joseph into slavery made their second trip to Egypt at a time of famine. On this occasion Joseph revealed his true identity and was so moved that he âwept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heardâ (Genesis, 45:2). This has been construed as meaning
Marie-Louise Gay, David Homel