Moses, Isaac, & Jacob
© Charles Chandler
Patriarchs' Contemporaries
Pharaohs Patriarchs Hebrews
Amenhotep III Abraham Joshua
Akhenaten Isaac Moses
Horemheb Jacob Eglon
Seti I Joseph Ehud
The Israelites section demonstrated the historicity of the Patriarchs, all of the way back to Adam, through Jacob's move to Egypt, followed by the oppression under Merneptah, culminating in the exile of Israelites from Egypt in — an Exodus of sorts. Still, the Hebrews section demonstrated the historicity of a very different Exodus that happened over 100 years earlier, when Atenists were banished from Egypt by Horemheb in . A number of scholars have considered that some of the stories in the Torah can be traced back to both of those events, while this section explores the hidden significance — if both of those theories are correct, Moses wasn't a distant descendant of the Patriarchs — they were contemporaries. Being born in , Moses was nearly the same age as Isaac, born in . So he would have known Abraham, roughly the same age as his own father Nebi, and Jacob would have been roughly the age of his sons Gershom & Eliezer. Passing away in , Moses was yet alive when Joseph was born in . If the foundational events for both the Israelites & Hebrews occurred in parallel, not in series, we have to wonder where the Patriarchs are in the story of Moses, and vice versa.1 Perhaps they're all there, but the names have been changed.
The overlap in the Israelite & Hebrew histories begins in , when Akhenaten became sole regent, with Moses as his senior vizier. Aaron continued on as high priest in Memphis, while Isaac was banished to Lebanon with his new wife Rebekah. All of them were around 30 years old. Then in Sarah died, and shortly thereafter Rebekah gave birth to Esau & Jacob, who were thus children in the Amarna period, in the same generation as Tutankhamun, born . Abraham died in , passing the Covenant to Isaac.
The Torah says very little about Isaac, at least under that name, but might tell a bit more under alternate names. In Moses fled Egypt to escape prosecution for killing an Egyptian, and he married Zipporah, daughter of Jethro.2 Some scholars believe that "Jethro" was a title, meaning "his excellency,"3 implying that he was royalty. The senior royal in Canaan would have been Isaac, son of Amenhotep III & Sarah, and inheritor of the Covenant after Abraham passed. Being born in , Isaac would have been 40 years old in , and thus old enough to have a daughter ready for marriage to Moses.
If Zipporah was the daughter of Jethro, and if Jethro was Isaac, Zipporah was the grand-daughter of Amenhotep III, and the niece of Akhenaten. As such, this was an important marriage for Moses, having forfeited his titles in Egypt, leaving him without any official stature at all if it were not for Zipporah. Her take on the deal is tough to discern. She is mentioned again in , after Akhenaten died, leaving Moses free to move back to Egypt — she seems to have been indignant about having to circumcise Gershom,4 but the Torah doesn't say why. Reading between the lines, her comment about Moses becoming a "bridegroom of blood" on the circumcision of Gershom implies that the issue hadn't already been settled, which suggests that Moses wasn't Zipporah's first, and which in turn suggests that her children might have been by another father. If she married Moses in , and already had two kids, she would have been 20 years old or so, in which case she would have been born , making her the older half-sister of Esau & Jacob (born in ). She had to have been by a different mother from the twins, whose mother Rebekah was born in . Then Moses would have adopted Gershom & Eliezer on marrying Zipporah, who might have taken exception to her children by another man getting dedicated to the adoptive father's political ambitions back in Egypt, which perhaps wasn't stipulated in the original vows. Sometime thereafter, Moses sent her & the kids back to her father's house,5 and she is mentioned again when Jethro brought her & the kids to see Moses at Mount Seir,6 which would have been on the 1312-Exodus, in which case they would have been married ~28 years by then. But we hear no more of her. And Gershom & Eliezer are conspicuously absent from the list of dispensations to everyone else involved in the formation of the first Hebrew nation. One midrash claims that Moses' sons didn't take to the Torah, and therefore were disinherited.7:21:3 Perhaps they were more interested in their titles as great-grandsons of Amenhotep III than they were in the legacy of a banished senior vizier.
The Torah says that Jethro was a Midianite priest, but doesn't say what kind of priest. This we can get from elsewhere — he was the originating ancestor, spiritual founder, and chief prophet of the Druze religion, which is considered an Abrahamic faith, and which incorporates teachings of Akhenaten, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, al-Hakim, and Hamza ibn-'Ali.8:314,9:259 If Jethro was just a Midianite priest, it would be odd for such teachings to be considered Abrahamic, but not so odd if Jethro was Isaac, adopted son of Abraham. So the Druze might give us a glimpse into the actual beliefs of the Patriarchs. Consider the following.10:46
When carried to its logical conclusion, as in the case of the Druze philosophy, the doctrine of transmigration dispenses altogether with the necessity for paradise and hell and takes the place of a final judgment. [...] Ibn-al-Jawzi states that [this doctrine] appeared first "in the days of the Pharaoh of Moses," which is correct if taken to mean that it was of ultimate Egyptian origin.
Indeed, the doctrine of transmigration (i.e., a soul leaving one body and entering another, such as in reincarnation) isn't mentioned in the Torah, but for that matter, neither is it in any Egyptian literature — they believed that on dying, a person & personal possessions cross into another dimension. That's resurrection, which is different, so no, transmigration wasn't Egyptian. Of course, Ibn-al-Jawzi didn't say that the Druze got the idea from Moses, or from his pharaoh — he said that they got the idea in the time of the pharaoh of Moses. But Moses never got it, nor did his pharaoh, so Isaac got it elsewhere. Transmigration was gaining broad acceptance in India, and the Mitannians worshiped Hindu gods, including Mitra, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya.11 Isaac's grandfather Terah might have even been from India.12 As possible evidence, the Torah claims that Abraham sent his sons by Ketura to "the east country."13 If any man has to send away his sons, he will send them to stay only with his closest relatives elsewhere. So where was "the east country"? It wouldn't have been Mitanni or Babylonia, or the scribes would have said so, as they did in so many other places. So it was more likely India. For Abraham to have close relatives there, the familial connection couldn't have been distant. If Terah was Indian, and if Abraham was a Brahmin, Isaac would have been raised in a house where Indian gods were worshiped. So the Druze got the idea of transmigration from Isaac, in the days of the pharaoh of Moses, who would have been Akhenaten.
If Abraham & Sarah were Hindus, why doesn't the Torah say so? It's possible that their teachings were suppressed. Herein we can begin simply by acknowledging the absence of teachings coming from the Patriarchs. All other religions give detailed accounts of the beliefs of their founders, while the Torah is oddly silent in that respect concerning the Patriarchs. Abraham was said to be a priest,14:1:28 and a prophet.15 But about all that we know of his prophesy is that he taught that men should mutilate their penises in the interest of inheriting the Promised Land. The same goes for Isaac & Jacob — no words of wisdom — no catchy quotes — just the Covenant, which was the Egyptian custom of circumcision in return for a land grant in Canaan. We should consider this to be an awkward silence on a rather important topic.
The suppression of the Abrahamic prophesy might have begun back in Egypt. Amenhotep III expelled Abraham & Sarah, blaming them for "serious diseases."16 It's possible that the "diseases" were just unwanted ideas — perhaps the Amun priesthood resented the advance of the Mitannians, in Syria, Canaan, and even in the marital alliances with the pharaohs, so they pressured Amenhotep III to reject them. The contagious ideas were then condemned as sick, and the infected prophets were banished to Canaan. It's even possible that Amenhotep III tried to further discredit the prophets by blaming them for the plague that was going around in his time,17 thereby coupling a questionable ideological problem with an unquestionable physiological one. Then both Amenhotep III and Akhenaten left Canaan in turmoil, perhaps out of spite — without the benefit of a stable political situation, Abraham couldn't organize much of a cult based on his ministry. But his son Isaac developed enough of a following to be remembered by the Druze.
A story appearing in the New Testament might give us another glimpse at the philosophy of the Patriarchs, and which is consistent with a Hindu heritage. When asked who would be married to whom in the afterlife, Jesus answered that on resurrection, deserving people become like angels, without any attachments except to God, and without worldly wants such as any of those that motivate marriage. This is a lot closer to the Hindu concept of Nirvana, being freedom from desires and the suffering they bring, than it is to the conventional western notion of Heaven being filled with all things pleasurable. Then Jesus went on to say that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob believed in the God of the living, not of the dead.18,19,20 This is inconsistent with Christian dogma, wherein the afterlife is much more important than the here & now, while being right in line with Hinduism, wherein not much happens after death, except that the spirit recuperates and prepares for yet another rebirth, if there are lessons still to be learned. Jesus could have fashioned his point around one of the two references in the Tanakh to resurrection, both from the 2nd Temple period,21,22 and thus fresh in the minds of Jewish theologians. Instead, Jesus put it that the God of the Patriarchs was the God of the living. This suggests that Jesus was leaning east in his philosophy,23 and more to the present point, it sounds like he was saying that the Patriarchs were too. But ultimately, Moses' teachings came to dominate Judaism, preserving neither Egyptian resurrection nor Hindu reincarnation, and it wasn't until the 2nd Temple period that Jewish prophets started talking about the afterlife again.
The last clear echo of Hindu ideas in Egypt came in the reign of Seti I (), who took the title of whm mswt, meaning "repeater of births."24:278 Egyptologists have a hard time making sense of this, but it sure sounds like reincarnation. Seti appears to have been sympathetic to the cause of the Hebrews, being the pharaoh who allowed them to cross the Jordan in , thus forming the "land of the Habiru of the Sun" (i.e., the first Hebrew nation). He also befriended the Patriarchs, by allowing Jacob's clan to move to Goshen, and placing Joseph in charge of the palace at Avaris. Perhaps Seti adopted the title of "repeater of births" as a diplomatic gesture for the Mitannians.
Curiously, Jethro also went by the name of Reuel,25 which is cognate with "Ra'El," being one of the Egyptian Sun gods, the way a Canaanite would put it. It would be odd for the leader of the Druze to take the name of an Egyptian Sun god, suggesting that this was forced on him by the pharaoh. Being a contemporary of Otni'El, Ra'El might have been named and positioned as an alternative to Otni'El, giving the people a Sun god to worship that wasn't as offensive to their Egyptian overlords. This is consistent with Elohist passages always using the name Jethro,26,27,28 while Jahwist passages refer to Moses' father-in-law as Reuel.25,29 Otni'El dominated the N/E frontier of Moab & the West Bank, where it would have been a sacrilege to acknowledge a pagan Sun god, so they would have addressed the man by title (Jethro) instead of by name (Reuel), while in the southern provinces, more closely allied with Egypt, and with Isaac ruling from Philistia,30,31 they honored Ra. Still, Isaac's profound impact on the Druze strongly suggests that his loyalty to Ra was in name only.
So in , Abraham died, passing the Covenant to Isaac, son of Amenhotep III by Sarah. Akhenaten was the pharaoh, with Moses as his senior vizier. In , Moses fled Egypt, whereupon he married Zipporah, daughter of Isaac. In , Akhenaten died, leaving Moses free to reclaim the office of senior vizier under the new pharaoh Smenkhare. But in , Tutankhamun moved the capital back to Thebes, reinstating the Amun priesthood, and exiling the Atenist priests, including Moses, Aaron, and 70 other elders. They and Isaac would have been ~50 years old, while Isaac's sons Esau & Jacob would have been ~20 years old.
On the threshold of manhood, Jacob was instructed not to take a Canaanite wife, but rather, to look for a wife in Rebekah's clan back in Mitanni.32 If he was 18 years old at the time, the year would have been . This was shortly before Tut abandoned Amarna in , exiling the high priests to Canaan. Perhaps Jacob was sent away in to make room for Moses' camp soon to follow.
Jacob spent 20 years in Mitanni,33 thus returning to Canaan in . That, of course, was precisely when Horemheb outlawed Atenism, prompting the 1312-Exodus to Moab. So just when the main body of Atenists moved to Moab, Jacob returned from Mitanni and settled in Shechem, on the other side of the Jordan from Moab. That probably wasn't a coincidence. But what was the connection?
First we should read in the details of Jacob's return given in Genesis 31-33. Jacob had prospered in Mitanni, despite every effort of his father-in-law Laban to keep him dutifully impoverished. Then the Lord told Jacob to move to Canaan, bringing his wives, children, servants, herds, & flocks. Laban learned of Jacob's departure, and pursued him all of the way to Gilead, thinking that he deserved some compensation for Jacob's lack of diplomacy. But the Lord visited Laban, instructing him not to say anything to Jacob, good or bad.34 So the Lord had a plan, which he explained to Laban, but not to Jacob. At Gilead, Laban & Jacob built a stone monument to serve as the border between Mitanni & Moab.35 Then comes the bit about Jacob wrestling with the Lord (or a messenger), in which Jacob got his hip dislocated before acquiescing.36 It sounds like Jacob learned the plan, and wasn't pleased. Part of the plan was for the Lord to change Jacob's name to Israel.37 The Lord did this again later,38 so perhaps this was simply when the Lord first informed Jacob of the pending change. Then Jacob met up with Esau,39 after which Esau headed back to Mount Seir, while Jacob quartered his herds & flocks at Succoth (in Moab),40 before moving his family across the Jordan to Shechem.41
These two chapters leave theologians lying awake at nights, wondering why the Lord would grant the supreme honor of eponymous founder of the Israelite clan to someone who only went along to get his leg put back in its socket so he could walk again. Here we can fill in the secular background, which casts an entirely different light on the biblical account. The Jahwist Lord in question would have been Horemheb, who led the 1312-Exodus into the wilderness. So why would he call Jacob back from Mitanni, set him up in Shechem, and give him the new name of Israel?
Scholars are unsure of the etymology of word "Israel," but the obvious inference is that it was a concatenation of Isis, Ra, and Elohim.42,43 Note that in Egyptian, Isis is spelled Is.t, where the trailing "t" is the feminine modifier not used in concatenations. Likewise, El was the combinatorial form of Elohim, which was sometimes just a generic term for "the gods," and when concatenated with other names, "-el" was more of a title than a name. Since concatenations of the names of gods were common during this period (e.g., Amun-Ra, Otni'El, Ra'El), it's hard to imagine how the people at that time would have thought anything except that Is'Ra'El meant "the Isis and Ra gods," the way a Canaanite would put it.
Why would the Lord (Horemheb) install Jacob in the northern province, under the name of Is'Ra'El? Perhaps it was for the same reason that his father Isaac had been given the name of Ra'El — to provide an alternative to Otni'El, giving the people a Sun god to worship that wasn't as offensive to their Egyptian overlords. The continuation of that policy would have been necessitated by the large increase in Atenists on the East Bank due to the 1312-Exodus. It might have only been a couple thousand people total in Moses' camp, but that was a lot of people for that area during that period. Like his father before him, Israel seems to have been a friend of the Atenists, perhaps even naming his son Levi after Moses' grandfather. But Jacob, more than Isaac, is remembered as the father of the nation, which was due to the timing — Isaac had to counterbalance the weight of Moses & 70 elders, but after Moses and all of that generation had died, Jacob inherited the responsibility for thousands of refugees in Moab, who were ready to claim their share of the Promised Land. Marshaling all of those Atenists into the new Is'Ra'El regime would take a good deal more authority. So for Isaac, Reuel was "a" name, while for Jacob, Israel was "the" name, and his clan represents the nation to this day.
We should also note the difference between Ra'El & Is'Ra'El. Ra'El & Otni'El might have been simple alternatives, where the only difference was what to call the Egyptian Sun god (i.e., Ra versus Aten), but the inclusion of Isis in the mix was a direct challenge to the exclusivity demanded by the Aten. In other words, the Ra'El cult might have been monotheistic, but at least in name, the Is'Ra'El cult was not. This would be tough for devout Atenists, especially since they had a history of conflict with the Isis cult.44:b1:§32 So the Is'Ra'El cult was closer to traditional Egyptian religion than the Ra'El cult.
Of course, Judaism does not preserve the worship of Isis or Ra, and instead gets its credenda from the Amarna heresy. So the Lord Horemheb might have commissioned Is'Ra'El as an alternative to Otni'El, but in the long run, Moses' teachings survived, and under the circumstances, that implies something about Jacob's effective position on the matter — if he had actually wanted to eliminate Moses' followers, he could have, but he didn't, and he might have rather done a lot to help them. The most undeniable evidence of that comes simply from the central position given the Israelites in the Torah. This would have been the work of the Deuteronomists, 700 years later, who wove together the stories of Moses and Jacob. Considering Moses' authorship of the credenda, why didn't Genesis tell the story of his ancestors? Instead they claimed descent from Mitannian princesses Sarah & Rebekah. This is all the more extraordinary in consideration of the conflicts between the Israelites & Hebrews in the early days, examined more closely in subsequent articles in this section. Jacob had to have been of such character that he commanded the respect of the Egyptian overlords and the exiles on the frontier, for generations to come.
Note that the Song of Miriam mentions Philistia, Edom, Moab, and Canaan, but not Israel.45 Linguistic analysis reveals that this is one of the oldest passages in the Tanakh, lending credence to its geography.46:124 The passage occurs just after the parting of the Red Sea, when the exiles were casting their thoughts to what lay ahead, which according to the Seder Olam Rabbah would have been in . So Israel didn't exist as a region at this point.47 In the present thesis, just when the Atenists were crossing the Red Sea, Jacob was wrestling with the Lord, and learning of his new name Israel, while Isaac was still the administrator of the Covenant, and Esau was still the heir apparent. So Israel wasn't yet a region, or even a clan — it was just a plan at that point, and Miriam hadn't heard.
Next, why did Jacob build stables at Succoth for his livestock? He was moving his family to Shechem, but he decided to quarter his livestock on the East Bank, soon to be over-run with Atenist exiles from Egypt? He could hardly have expected for there to be any livestock left after the exiles passed through, so this was Jacob leaving everything he worked 20 years to acquire as a snack for the Atenists.
In addition to donating his herds & flocks to the exiles, Jacob might have escorted the 1312-Exodus through the wilderness. It was he (as Israel) who assured Esau (as Edom) that the exiles would take nothing from the land without paying in silver, but Esau swore that he would attack if the exiles attempted to pass through his territory.48 These verses clearly refer to Israel as a person, not a tribe. If we accept the conventional chronology, in which Jacob came three generations before Moses, we have to read "Israel" as Jacob's descendants. But if that's what the authors meant, they would have used "b'nei yisrael" as they did elsewhere, in which they were clearly referring to the whole tribe.49 And the first verse explicitly calls Israel the brother of the king of Edom,50 which wouldn't be said about the whole tribe, who rather would have been called cousins. On being denied passage, Israel then ventured to Mount Hor.51 This could have been Jacob appealing to Horemheb. Then no battle between Esau & Jacob ensued, so somebody more powerful than Esau ruled in favor of the exiles, which only could have been Isaac or Horemheb. Later, Jacob's name is listed repeatedly, as the one that Balaam was to curse,52,53,54 and in the camp in Moab.55
But this is not to say that Jacob had fallen in with the Atenists. While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, Aaron collected all of the gold jewelry from the exiles, and fashioned it into a golden calf, which they said was Israel's god.56 They may have actually meant that it was Jacob's golden calf (i.e., an offering to him) as thanks for leading them through the wilderness. The choice of idols is significant — the Egyptian bull god, which was popular in Memphis (a likely home town for a lot of the exiles), was Apis, whose powers included the ability to mediate between human beings and higher gods, especially Atum (also popular in Memphis, and the prototype for the Aten).57 So if Moses' followers were going to lapse into idolatry, the first step in that direction would be to summon the powers of Apis for assistance in communicating with the Aten. The one to officiate would have been Aaron, if he had been the high priest of Memphis before the Exodus. Jacob would have accepted the offering, especially since it appealed to his Indo-Aryan reverence for cows. But Moses resented the idolatry, and/or the dedication to Jacob, not to mention the loss of all of that jewelry. So Moses confiscated the golden calf, and ordered the Levites to slaughter the idolaters.58 The message was clear — there would be no alliance between Israelites & Hebrews. Once set up on the East Bank, Moses stipulated that the Levites would inherit nothing from Israel.59 So Jacob wasn't going to get anything from the Levites, nor vice versa. This is consistent with someone who would counterbalance Moses, not fall in behind him, or take the lead — just to run parallel, as an alternative.


1. Schmid, K. (2010): Genesis and the Moses Story: Israel's Dual Origins in the Hebrew Bible. Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures

2. Exodus 2:21-22 (J)

3. (2019): Theological Dictionary (Old Testament Hebrew). Abarim Publications

4. Exodus 4:24-26 (J)

5. Exodus 18:2-4 (E)

6. Exodus 18:5 (E)

7. Tanchuma (1100): Numbers Rabbah.

8. Dana, L. (ed.) (2010): Entrepreneurship and Religion. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd.

9. Morrison, T.; Conaway, W. A. (2006): Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries. Adams Media

10. Hitti, P. K. (1924): Origins of the Druze People and Religion: Chapter VI. Dogmas and Precepts. Ams Pr Inc

11. Eduljee, E. (ed.) (1350 bce): Suppiluliuma-Shattiwaza Treaty.

12. Matlock, G. D. (2017): Who Was Abraham?

13. Genesis 25:6 (R)

14. Diodorus (49 bce): Bibliotheca historica.

15. Genesis 20:7 (E)

16. Genesis 12:17 (J)

17. Kozloff, A. (2006): Bubonic Plague in the Reign of Amenhotep III? KMT, 17 (3): 36-46

18. Matthew 22:31-32

19. Mark 12:26-27

20. Luke 20:37-38

21. Isaiah 26:19

22. Daniel 12:2

23. Graves, K. (1919): The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours: Christianity Before Christ (Sixth Edition). Peter Eckler Publishing Company

24. Gilligan, G. (2007): An Ancient World in Chaos. Troubador Publishing Ltd

25. Exodus 2:18 (J)

26. Exodus 3:1-3 (E,J)

27. Exodus 4:18 (E)

28. Exodus 18:1 (E)

29. Numbers 10:29 (J)

30. Genesis 24:62 (J)

31. Judges 1:16 (DH)

32. Genesis 28:1-2 (P)

33. Genesis 31:38 (E)

34. Genesis 31:24 (E)

35. Genesis 31:52 (E)

36. Genesis 32:25 (E)

37. Genesis 32:27-28 (E)

38. Genesis 35:10 (P)

39. Genesis 33:1-3 (E)

40. Genesis 33:17 (E)

41. Genesis 33:18-20 (E,R)

42. Maxwell, J. (2015): Matrix of Power.

43. Rhodes, B. M. (2015): The meaning of the name Israel.

44. Josephus, F. (105): Against Apion.

45. Exodus 15:1-18 (J)

46. Cross, F. M. (1973): Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic. Harvard University Press

47. Friedman, R. E. (1987): Who Wrote the Bible? Simon & Schuster

48. Numbers 20:14-21 (E,J)

49. Joshua 3:1 (DH)

50. Numbers 20:14 (E)

51. Numbers 20:22 (S)

52. Numbers 23:7 (E)

53. Numbers 23:21 (E)

54. Numbers 23:23 (E)

55. Numbers 24:5 (J)

56. Exodus 32:3-4 (E)

57. (2017): Bronze statuette of Apis, Dyn. 18. Virtual Egyptian Museum

58. Exodus 32:28 (E)

59. Deuteronomy 18:1 (D1)

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