Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Moses and the Crocodile God of Egypt!
When Moses the General led a military campaign invading Ethiopia there were two pharaohs at the time, the dictator Amenemhet III from the 12th dynasty and Sobekhotep IV from the 13th dynasty. A Jewish-Egyptian writer named Artapanus -- who was extant in the 2nd/3rd century B.C. -- was correct in saying that Moses lived at the time of Sobekhotep IV whose Praenomen was Khaneferre -- a unique name in the entire history of Egypt.
by HOIM Staff
In the Hebrew account of Exodus (4:1-3), when Moses saw the transformation of his staff at the burning bush, the word used is nachash -- meaning a SNAKE. However, when dealing with the Egyptian sorcerers Jannes and Jambres (Exodus 7:8-12), the prophet had to cast the rod down before the pharaoh and it immediately became a tannin which means "a CROCODILE" -- one that subsequently swallowed the other staffs! Ezekiel 29:3-5 helps us to understand what is implicit since most of the pharaohs of the 13th Dynasty were considered to be the crocodile god of the River Nile.
The crocodile god was known as Sobek (Sobeq, Sebak, Sebek, Sochet, Suchos) and was an ancient god of crocodiles, first mentioned in the Pyramid Texts. His worship lasted until Roman times, the people of Egypt worshiping him to gain his protection and strength, or reviling him and killing the crocodiles of the area because of the evil that they could do. To his worshipers, he was a god who created the Nile, a god of fertility and rebirth, and the symbolic strength of the ruler of Egypt.
Depicted either as a crocodile-headed man or as a full crocodile, Sobek was shown wearing a plumed headdress with a horned sun disk or the atef crown. In his hands he was shown to carry a scepter and the ankh sign of life. His sacred animal, the crocodile, was both revered and reviled by the people of Egypt -- in some areas, a tame crocodile was worshipped as the god Sobek himself, while in other places, as we have seen, the reptiles were killed. The Egyptians seemed to both respect and fear the power of the crocodile, and as the result of this, Sobek was seen as an ambivalent creature.
Though Sobek was worshipped in the Old Kingdom, he truly gained prominence in the Middle Kingdom, most notably under the 12th Dynasty king, Amenemhet III. Amenemhet III had taken a particular interest in the Faiyum region of Egypt, a region heavily associated with Sobek. Amenemhet and many of his dynastic contemporaries engaged in building projects to promote Sobek -- projects that were often executed in the Faiyum.
Sobek was known as the Lord of Faiyum, and it is thought that his worship originated in that area. In particular, he was very popular in the city of Arsinoe (known as Shedyet by the Egyptians) near the Faiyum, causing the Greeks to rename the city Crocodilopolis. There is a 12th Dynasty temple at Medinet Madi dedicated to Sobek, his wife Renenutet and Horus. The temple was originally built by Amenemhet III and Amenemhet IV, and tame crocodiles were kept in a sacred pool and hand-fed choice cuts of meat and honey cakes and adorned with precious jewels. When the kings of the 12th Dynasty began to build at the Faiyum they favored the Sobek cult -- something that was also adopted by the parallel 13th Dynasty pharaohs.
According to Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson,
"During the 12th and 13th Dynasties, the cult of Sobek was given particular prominence, as the names of such rulers as Sobekhotep and Sobekneferu indicate. Sobekneferu was the sister (and maybe the wife) of Amenemnhet IV, who was the last ruler of the 12th Dynasty -- the first definite female pharaoh of Egypt. There were eight rulers of the 13th Dynasty with the birth name of Sobekhotep, including Sobekhotep II Amenemhat, Sobekhotep III Sekhemrasewadjtawy and Sobekhotep IV Khaneferra" (The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, 2003, p. 273).
Notice, now, the following from the Zoo Torah: Judaism and the Animal Kingdom website:
"Crocodiles are the largest of reptiles. They can measure well over twenty feet in length, they account for more human deaths than any other large animal, killing around a thousand people in Africa annually. The largest animal attack in recorded history occurred during World War Two, when Allied troops besieged 1000 Japanese troops in a swamp overnight. During the night, the Allies heard terrible screams, and when they entered the swamp on the following day, only twenty Japanese were to be found; the rest had been killed and eaten by crocodiles during the night.
"A crocodile's sense of smell is very acute, and its hearing is also excellent. It can detect the vibrations of a mammal moving around near the water's edge. With great accuracy, it can pinpoint exactly where the footsteps are heading. The crocodile will submerge, and without a ripple in the water, it will cruise towards its prey. It knows exactly when the animal is approaching the water, and at that precise moment, it strikes. The crocodile's powerful tail drives it forwards and it explodes out of the water like a missile. Once it has gripped onto its prey with its 66 teeth, there is little chance of escape.
"Larger prey is first drowned and then broken up into swallowable chunks. The crocodile breaks up a carcass by seizing a limb or part of the body and spinning on a horizontal axis. Using this method they have been known to spin a leg off a human at the hip. The prey is swallowed without chewing; their stomachs are the most acidic recorded for any vertebrate, allowing them to digest even the bones and shells of prey animals.
"As a rabbi, it helps me to know about such things -- it enables me to better understand certain verses in the Torah.
"When YEHOVAH God appointed Moses as the agent to redeem His people, He gave him a miraculous sign:
"Moses responded and said, 'But they will not believe me and they will not heed my voice, for they will say, "God did not appear to you"'. And God said to him, 'What is in your hand?' and he said 'A staff.' God said, 'Throw it to the ground.' And he threw it to the ground, and it became a serpent [nachash], and Moses fled from it. (Exodus 4:1-3)
"Strangely, however, when Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh, a different event is described as having taken place:
"When Pharaoh shall speak to you, saying, Show a miracle; then you shall say to Aaron, Take your staff, and throw it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent [tannin]. (Exodus 7:9)
"Although some explain tannin here to refer to a snake (which the word certainly refers to in other contexts), others explain that in this context, it refers to the crocodile. It relates to a prophecy in the book of Ezekiel:
"...Thus says the LORD God: Behold, I am against you, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great tannin crouching in the river, which has said, My river is my own, and I have made it for myself. But I will put hooks in your jaws, and I will cause the fish of your streams to stick to your scales, and I will bring you up from the midst of your streams, and all the fish of your streams shall stick to your scales. (Ezekiel 29:3-5)
"The great scaly creature that is the king of the Nile is undoubtedly the crocodile. It is the largest, most terrifying animal in Egypt, and the top predator. The Egyptians worshipped the crocodile, and they embalmed hundreds of them, after which they were wrapped in strips of cloth, just as the humans of the time. Pharaoh, king of the nation that worshipped crocodiles in addition to the Nile, is well represented by the crocodile.
"So when Aaron's staff was thrown down before Pharaoh, it became a crocodile. Yes, I know it was different in the movie, but there are many mistakes in that movie. So why did the staff turn into a snake when thrown down by the burning bush, but into a crocodile when thrown down before Pharaoh?
"One explanation is that the staff appeared in different forms depending upon the context. With Moses' encounter with YEHOVAH God, he saw a snake, a creature that symbolizes a fearsome evil power. The message was that YEHOVAH is all-powerful and can change a supportive staff to an evil force at will -- and the reverse. But when the staff transformed in front of Pharaoh and his court, it became a crocodile, the symbol of Pharaoh who claimed to be the god of the Nile:
"'It shall become a crocodile' -- Why did God tell him that it would be a miracle involving a crocodile? Because Pharaoh is compared to a crocodile, as it says, 'the great crocodile crouching in the river' (Ezekiel 29:3). When Moses would depart from Pharaoh, he would say, 'If Moses comes back to me, I will kill him, I will impale him, and I will burn him'; and when Moses entered, Pharaoh instantly became as mute as a stick. (Midrash Shemos Rabbah 9:2)
"Yet if Aaron's stick symbolized Pharaoh, then when the stick miraculously transformed into a crocodile and swallowed all of the other crocodile-sticks, this may appear to be demonstrating that Pharaoh does indeed possess power! But the important part of the symbolism is that afterwards it reverted back to a stick:
"God said: This evil person boasts and calls himself a crocodile, as it is written, 'The great crocodile...' (Ezekiel 29:3). Go and tell him: See this staff, it is a piece of dry wood; it shall become a crocodile with life and soul and swallow up all the other staffs, and it is destined to revert to a dry piece of wood. The same is true of you; I created you from a putrid drop and gave you empire, and you boasted and said, 'My river is my own and I have made it for myself.' Behold, I shall turn you back to nothingness and chaos. You swallowed up all the staffs of the tribes of the children of Israel, behold I shall cause you to disgorge all you have swallowed....(Midrash Yalkut Shimoni, Shemos 7:181)
"As the Midrash says Pharaoh's power stemmed from YEHOVAH God in the first place, and was limited; it was revoked when he became arrogant and abused it. Man should never become overly convinced of his own power. Even the mighty crocodile, powerful and terrifying, is nothing more than a toy in the hand of YEHOVAH God.
"In the hand of man, though, caution is recommended."
The strength and speed of the crocodile was thought to be symbolic of the power of the Pharaoh, and the word "sovereign" was written with the hieroglyph of a crocodile. It was thought that Sobek could protect the Pharaoh from dark magic. During the 12th and 13th Dynasties, the cult of Sobek was given particular prominence and a number of rulers incorporated him in their coronation names.
When Moses the General led a military campaign invading Ethiopia there were two pharaohs at the time, the dictator Amenemhet III from the 12th dynasty and Sobekhotep IV from the 13th dynasty. One of them became jealous and envious of General Moses' deeds. Moses was alerted that the pharaoh wanted to get rid of him and subsequently had to flee to Midian in modern-day Saudi Arabia. This sequence of events is backed up by a Jewish-Egyptian writer named Artapanus -- who was extant in the 2nd/3rd century B.C. He was correct in saying that Moses lived at the time of Sobekhotep IV whose Praenomen was Khaneferre -- a unique name in the entire history of Egypt.
It would be very ironic -- and fitting -- if Moses used a miracle from YEHOVAH God to make a mockery of the name of the pharaoh who caused him to flee for his life from Egypt to Midian, since this pharaoh -- as did many subsequent ones -- had "Sobek" as part of his name or Nomen. SOBEKHOTEP means "SOBEK IS PEACEFUL" -- referring to the Nile crocodile god being peaceful!
Since all the pharaohs in the long history of Egypt with the Nomen "Sobekhotep" belonged only to the 13th Dynasty (with the one exception of Sobekhotep VIII, who belonged to the 16th Dynasty), this would clearly place Moses at the time of the parallel 12th and 13th Dynasties of the Middle Kingdom. Since the 12th and 13th Dynasties were parallel, Amenemhet III was contemporary with Sobekhotep IV.
Writes David M. Rohl --
"Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV began his reign in circa 1529 BC, according to the 'best fit' astronomical retrocalculations for the Ammisaduga Venus observations. The Bible gives a date of 1527 BC for the birth of Moses (using Thiele's widely accepted chronology for the kings of the Divided Monarchy period and the chronological data provided by the Bible for the eras of the United Monarchy and Judges)...the simple fact is that the New Chronology DOES place a ruler called Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV at the time of Moses' birth as determined from the biblical tradition. Furthermore, this is the only king named Khaneferre throughout the whole of pharaonic civilization" (Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest. Crown Publishers, Inc.: New York, NY, 1995, p. 283).
For more information on the chronology of the time of Moses and the Exodus out of Egypt, be sure to read our article, A New Look at the Dynasties of the Exodus.
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Preparing the Way for the Return of YEHOVAH God and His Messiah!
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