Most of us are familiar with the story of Moses in the Abrahamic religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam). What many do not realize is that there are also several characters in world mythologies and even a historical figure that have similar stories to the story of Moses.
Let’s begin with the basic story of Moses in the JudeoChristian tradition first. The story is told in the Old Testament, in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Moses is also an important figure in Islam, the Quran mentions that he was a prophet.
According to the Bible, Moses was an Israelite who was born in Egypt. When the Israelites came to Egypt during Joseph’s time, the Pharaoh treated them justly. However, after around 400 years the new Pharaoh became concerned with the military implications of the large increase in the Israelite population. So, he enslaved and oppressed them with forced labor; but the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied. Then he ordered 2 Hebrew midwives to kill all male new-born. But the midwives feared God, so they did not follow the order.
They said to the Pharaoh that Israelite women were stronger than Egyptian women that they gave birth to their babies before they even arrived. Thus, Pharaoh charged all his people to cast all Israelites male babies into the river, while letting the female babies live.
Moses parents were worried that Moses would be killed, so while Moses was still a baby, his mother placed him in an ark of bulrushes and laid it by the river’s brink to keep him safe from Pharaoh.
Moses’ sister stood afar to see what was going to happen to him. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered him while bathing, and felt sorry for the baby. Moses’ sister offered Pharaoh’s daughter to call her own mother and nurse the baby.
Pharaoh’s daughter agreed. From then on, she adopted the baby and gave him the name Moses, which means “I drew him out of the water”.
Later in his life, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and told him to deliver the Israelites out of the oppression in Egypt. So Moses accompanied by his faithful brother, Aaron confronted the Pharaoh.
Because Moses was supported by God, he was able to perform several miracles. One of the miracles was the ability to change his staff into a big snake.
Finally, after performing several other miracles, Moses led the Israelites and began an exodus away from Egypt. But, the Pharaoh pursued them with many chariots until they reached an open sea. Moses stretched out his staff and divided the sea. The Israelites cross the sea via dry land and the Egyptians followed them, but God commanded Moses to stretch out his staff again, and the waters returned, covering the chariots and horsemen.
After being saved from the Egyptians, the Israelites continued their journey to the Promised Land. During their journey, the Israelites continuously rebelled towards the commandment of God via Moses.
The main story is more or less the same in the Quran, the details vary (but I won’t get into that right now). For now, I just would like to point out a part of the story that is not found in the Bible that is the part where the Israelites made a promise to uphold the commandments of God while God raised the mountain (Quran 2:63).
And also in the Quran, Moses finally delivered his people to the holy land. In the Bible, Moses died before he entered and instead it was Joshua who led the people in after many battles.
MAIN TOPICS THAT ARE SIMILAR WITH OTHER STORIES:
- A prophecy of the new born babe that will one day take over an oppressive ruling leader/king.
- Killing spree of babies/children by the oppressive king out of fear of the prophecy.
- Baby afloat in a basket/chest in a river, who grew up to be a leader and finally won against the oppressive king or became a king themselves.
- Parting/drying of the sea (or river).
- Big snake (or dragon).
- Lifting of a mountain (or hill).
JESUS: PROPHECY, KING HEROD’S BABY KILLING SPREE (ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW)
When Moses was born, the Egyptian Pharaoh killed babies/children and then Moses left Egypt. Curiously, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was also born in a similar situation. After Jesus was born an angel commanded his parents (Mary and her future husband, Joseph) to flee to Egypt because the ruler of the land (King Herod) sought to kill baby Jesus because of a prophecy telling that the King of the Jews was born. When Herod failed to find baby Jesus, he slew all children that were in Bethlehem, from 2 years old and younger.
JOSHUA: DRYING A RIVER
After the death of Moses, God commanded Joshua to prepare the Israelites to cross the Jordan River. When the Israelites with the Ark of the Covenant reached the Jordan River, God made the river stopped flowing and rapidly dried up, so the priests carrying the Ark halted, allowing the rest of the Israelites to cross the river.
KHRISNA: PROPHECY, KING KAMSA’S BABY KILLING SPREE, BABY IN A BASKET, PARTING A RIVER, BIG SNAKE, LIFTING OF A HILL
Khrisna is a Hindu god, the 8th incarnation (avatar) of the Lord Vishnu. Khrisna’s mother was Princess Devaki, the sister of King Kamsa. King Kamsa ascended the throne by imprisoning his own father.
A prophecy predicted King Kamsa’s death at the hands of Devaki’s 8th son. Therefore, he imprisoned Devaki and her husband. Before the birth of Khrisna, his parents already had 6 children, whom Kamsa killed one by one. So when Devaki was pregnant with the 7th child, Khrisna’s father transferred the baby to the womb of another woman.
Before Khrisna was born, the skies roared and Lord Vishnu advised Khrisna’s father to take the child across the river Yamuna to the other side to the village of Gokul.
After his birth, Khrisna was secretly taken from the prison cell. Khrisna’s father put him in a basket, and as he left, the doors of the prison parted for him as if by magic. The river parted into 2 to allow him to cross.
When Kamsa found out that Khrisna was taken from his palace, he started a killing spree of all baby boys in his kingdom. But Khrisna was brought safely to be raised by his foster parents in Gokula.
Khrisna performed many miracles starting in infancy. One of them is when he danced on the head of an enormous poisonous snake and killed it, thus saving his village from its destructive intentions.
And like the event in the Quranic Moses, Khrisna lifted the Govardhana Hill in order to teach the Lord Indra a lesson.
KARNA: BABY IN A BASKET
The first wife of King Pandu was Princess Kunti of the Yadav clan (who was also the sister of Khrisna). When she was young, a rishi (a Hindu saint) taught her a mantra (a group of words that are capable of creating transformation) with which she could summon any god and have a child by him.
Kunti could not believe the mantra, so she invoked the mantra and called Surya, the sun-god. A son was born, called Karna, who was as radiant and robust as Surya himself. Though Kunti remained as a virgin, she was unwilling to face the world as an unwed mother. Thus like Moses, Karna was placed in a basket and set afloat on the holy river Ganges, and was found by a charioteer of king Dhritarashtra (Karna’s own uncle).
OSIRIS: FLOAT IN A CHEST & THE PARTING OF A RIVER
In the Egyptian mythology, there is also a story of the god-hero (i.e. Osiris) send afloat in the river, although in this story Osiris was put in a chest/box and sent afloat in the river not as a baby. The reason was more or less the same like the other stories. He was put in the chest by his jealous brother (Seth) who tried to take over his throne.
Yes, this is not the same story but curiously enough when Osiris’ wife, Isis searched for the chest that contained her husband’s body she too made the Phaderus River dried because its strong current hindered her journey.
ZEUS: PROPHECY & CRONUS’ BABY KILLING
In the Greek mythology, Cronus - the leader of the Titans (giants), became a ruler after overthrowing his own parents (the sky god Uranus and earth goddess Gaia). He married his sister Rhea and under his rule the Titans produced many offspring. He ruled for many ages.
However, previously both Gaia and Uranus had prophesied that Cronus would be overthrown by his own son. To avoid this Cronus devoured each of his children as they were born. Rhea got angry and plotted against Cronus. When the time came to give birth to her 6th child, Rhea hid herself and she left the child to be raised by nymphs. To conceal her act she wrapped a stone in swaddling cloth and passed it off as a baby to Cronus, who swallowed it.
This 6th child was Zeus. He grew into a handsome youth on Crete. To avenge his father, Zeus managed to make Cronus drank a magical potion that made him vomited the other children. Rhea convinced Cronus to accept Zeus, allowing his return to Mount Olympus as Cronus's cupbearer. This gave Zeus the opportunity to slip Cronus the specially prepared drink. This worked as planned and the other 5 children were expunged. Being gods they were unharmed and Zeus became their leader.
A war followed between Cronus with the aid of the Titans, and the gods. Zeus with the help of the cyclops won the war over Cronus, and took power.
CIUNG WANARA: BABY IN BASKET & DRAGON
Ciung Wanara is a hero in Sundaland (part of Indonesia) legend.
Ciung Wanara was a prince. When he was born the ruling king, Aria Kebonan (who became a king, because Ciung Wanara’s father, the rightful king decided to become an ascetic) was afraid that he would take over his throne.
So when Ciung Wanara was born, Aria Kebonan switched him with a dog and put him in a basket with an egg and floated them in the Citanduy River. Ciung Wanara was adopted by an old fisherman.
Long story short, later on the egg was hatched by a dragon and became a powerful rooster/cock. Ciung Wanara challenged the wicked King Aria Kebonan by cock-fighting and finally managed to rule the kingdom again.
SARGON: BABY IN A BASKET
King Sargon of Akkad (died at ca. 2215 BCE) was one of the earliest world's great empire builders known to history. He was a king of the Akkadian empire. Not much is known about him.
According to a folktale, like Moses, Sargon was a self-made man of humble origins; a gardener, having found him as a baby floating in a basket on the river, brought him up in his own calling. His father is unknown, his own name during his childhood is also unknown. His mother is said to have been a priestess in a town on the middle Euphrates. Rising, therefore, without the help of influential relations, he attained the post of cupbearer to the ruler of the city of Kish, in the north of the ancient land of Sumer.
Yes, the above stories are not exactly the same but they are definitely similar. I mean, how many heroes/leaders/prophets/gods/demi-gods/kings were prophesied to overthrow a wicked ruling king and sent afloat in the river in box could there be? How many rivers/seas parted/dried up because some people need to cross over do we know of?
There are many other similar stories between various religious stories and myths around the world, not only the story of Moses, but almost all of the major characters in various religions and mythologies. Some of these stories were already there long before the Bible was written. How did these happen?
Did these stories really happen or are they simply fiction? Did people from various nationalities just copy these stories from one another? Who copied from whom?
I believe these stories came from real events. I believe that: ALL world myths and various religious stories actually derived from one Mega Story – the true story of human’s pre-historical events that have been corrupted by many different nations so they became the fairy tales and hard-to-believe stories we know today. This Mega Story does not belong only to one single nation or religion, but it is the true (pre)history of our common ancestors.
How does that Mega Story go? To find out about this, kindly read the complete analysis in MythoReligio series.
Thank you for reading this post.
I hope this has been informative