ARK OF MOSES


ARK OF MOSES
ARK OF MOSES (Heb. תֵּבָה, tevah; "box" or "basket"), the Hebrew word tevah occurs in the Bible only as a designation of the ark of noah (Gen. 6–9), and of the ark in which the infant moses was hidden by his mother (Ex. 2:2–6) in order to save him from Pharaoh's decree that every Hebrew male child should be killed (Ex. 1:22). According to the story, the basket was made of papyrus (Heb. gome) like the boats of the Egyptians (cf. Isa. 18:2), caulked with bitumen, and placed among the reeds on the bank of the Nile (models of vessels excavated in Ur are made of bitumen and dry, baked earth; finds in Egypt show the same use of bitumen). Exodus 2:6 implies that it had a lid. An analogous story is told about Sargon of Agade (in: cos, 1 461). Sargon was born in secret; he was enclosed in a basket made of rushes and bitumen, and furnished with a lid; and he was found and adopted by a stranger. In the Sargon story the basket containing the infant is actually allowed to drift, like Noah's ark. The river, in Sargon's case the Euphrates, carries the basket containing him down to where his future foster father, a drawer of water, is at work drawing water. Whereas in the Sargon legend the infant is cast adrift, apparently because his mother wishes to get rid of him without taking his life, in Egyptian mythology the goddess Isis places her child Horus in a reed boat and hides him in a papyrus thicket, where her sister (not that of the infant) spreads her mat over him, in order to save him from the god Seth. Despite the absence of the trait of adoption by a chance discoverer, this Egyptian tradition obviously has much more in common than the Sargon legend with the Exodus story about Moses; and the fact that the latter has Moses discovered and brought up – but without losing touch with his natural kin – by an Egyptian princess is probably independent of Mesopotamian influence. Nonetheless, the motif of overpopulation as a threat requiring drastic measures against humans, does have Mesopotamian parallels. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Helck, in: VT, 15 (1965), 35–48; M. Greenberg, Understanding Exodus (1969), 40, 198–200; C.L. Woolley, Ur Excavations, 2 (1934), 145, 154, 232. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: B. Lewis, The Sargon Legend (1980); W. Propp, Exodus 1–18 (AB; 1998), 159–60.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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