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After killing an Egyptian Moses escapes to Midian were he lives for forty years

KJV Exodus 2 : 15

Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.

After having stayed for forty years in midian Moses finally returns to Egypt were he confronts Pharaoh about letting the Israelites go.

KJV Exodus 5 : 1

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.

There is no mention of Pharaoh recognising Moses as somebody who he once lived with In his own palace

Did Pharaoh not recognise Moses?

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The scriptures tell us quite simply that Moses fled to the land of Midian after killing that Egyptian. Then, after that Pharaoh had died, came God's calling to Moses (40 years later) to go to the [next] Pharaoh. Just read Exodus 2:15-23. It's all there, with that critically important little detail at the end,

"And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died..." (Other translations say 'Pharaoh' instead of 'king'.) Exodus 2:23

The new Pharaoh on the throne when Moses and Aaron appeared before him, had never set eyes on either of them, and it is unlikely he had up-to-date briefings on them from 40-year-old (plus) Egyptian papyruses.

Bear in mind also that it is notoriously difficult for Egyptologists to work out which Pharaoh ruled when. There are many differing views. The Bible account, however, just sticks to the title 'Pharaoh' in nearly all instances. One particular Pharaoh is named in the Prophets, but he had not even been born during Moses' lifetime.

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It's likely to be a different Pharaoh, but nevertheless, the name "Moses" was a big deal in Egypt. When we say Ramses or Tutmose or Amenmose then that is the same name, a theophoric name meaning "child of [God]", the omitted God's name most likely the Nile, from which Moses was drawn out. Only Pharaohs were children of gods. It's a royal name.

People didn't just walk around saying "My name is Moses". Nor would anyone believe you if you wandered in from the desert and claimed this name but weren't able to provide evidence of your royal status. Moreover the story of a member of the royal household killing an Egyptian and fleeing to live in the desert is something that many people would remember and tell their children.

So then we have a few options:

  1. Was there a statute of limitations that expired?
  2. Given that Moses appeared with the power of God, perhaps Pharoah decided to deal with him for the sake of diplomacy rather than enforce the law?
  3. Mass amnesia

#2 and #3 are unlikely because Moses would first need to get an audience with Pharaoh before he could perform any miracles. And you don't just walk into Egypt as a no-name goat herder and speak to Pharaoh. Moses most likely had to use his name and royal titles to gain entrance, which suggests people recognized who he was. It's then hard to argue that they forgot why he fled. Moreover, Pharaoh didn't appear as one who would respect the Hebrews enough to give them some kind of diplomatic status.

The jews also likely recognized who he was and, as the most prominent (highest ranking) jew in Egypt, they would at least listen to him, but as a random goat herder talking about seeing a burning bush, they would be less likely to listen.

So it remains a mystery, except we can say this was the power of God at work.

According to Christian Gedge's chronology (which I think are the most accurate chronologies that reconstruct the pre-metonic Hebrew calendar), 1396-1395 was a jubilee period (jubilees were periods of forgiveness and restoration that were in effect every 49 years from month 7 of the 49th year to the end of month 6 of the 50th year), so with an exodus of 1444 when Moses is 80, we have another Jubilee from month 7 of 1445 to month 6 of 1444. Thus if Moses returned to Egypt during that time, he would be returning in a jubilee year, and perhaps this marks why the murder was forgiven or at least overlooked.

Note that I am not saying that Egyptians honored jubilees, or that anyone was even aware of them at that time, but that God honored it, and arranged it so that Moses' murder would not be held against him in that year. It certainly seems like a curious coincidence that this is the year in which Moses returns from hiding and is not prosecuted, and is also 49 years before the next jubilee period.

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  • Given that Ramses, Tutmose, Amenmose respectively mean something like "born of Ra", "born of Thoth" and "born of Amun", then I don't see why "Moses" would be considered a royal name. If it's even related to those other names, it seems to only mean "born".
    – towr
    Aug 1, 2022 at 10:58
  • @towr It means "child of" and the omitted parent means it is a theophoric name, given by Pharaoh's daughter.
    – Robert
    Aug 1, 2022 at 15:56
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The only way it makes sense to me that the new pharaoh wouldn’t recognize Moses is if there was a new, young pharaoh (younger than 40) who had taken over. In that case he would never have interacted with the current pharaoh at the time he returned. Otherwise, if there was a new pharaoh, it wouldn’t make sense for him not to recognize Moses. If the pharaoh was older, he would remember growing up with Moses, in the same household, and studying and playing together in childhood. For example, Joseph still remembered all his brothers many years later when they came during the famine.

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I wanted to add the relevant scriptures. According to scripture, the Pharaoh who sought the life of Moses was dead.

Exodus 2:11-15 NKJV

11 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?”

14 Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?”

So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” 15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.

Exodus 2:23 NKJV

23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.

Exodus 4:19 NKJV

Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt; for all the men who sought your life are dead.

"Pharaoh" was a title similar to "king". So when one died another would become Pharaoh.

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