Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bo 2 - Ra?

Steg wonders if the word "ra'ah" in Sh'mos 10:10,

"וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם, יְהִי כֵן ה' עִמָּכֶם, כַּאֲשֶׁר אֲשַׁלַּח אֶתְכֶם וְאֶת-טַפְּכֶם; רְאו כִּי רָעָה נֶגֶד פְּנֵיכֶם",
"And he said to them: 'So be HaShem with you, as I will let you and your small children go; see, though, that evil is before your face'." ,

is at all related to the Egyptian sun-deity Ra.

In a comment there, Dave of BaLashon provides a link to an short article on this topic in the Journal of Biblical Literature, which is only accessible from academic institutions (like the one which I'm currently situated at, late at night). To quote my comments on Steg's post (it's easier than writing something from scratch):

I was also wondering about that recently, but wasn't sure if it was more than a coincidence (depending on the equivalence of the 'ayin in the Ancient Egyptian language), but the name "Ra'amses" should have tipped me off.

I skimmed through the article linked to by Dave, and to quickly summarize, you were m'chavein to Midrash Lekach Tov (compiled by R' Toviah ben Eliezer in 11th century CE), who also says that this deity is identical to Ba'al Tzefon. Louis Ginzberg notes that this idea can be combined with the Midrash ShHSh"R quoted by Rashi which says that ra'ah was a star which symbolized blood and death to be a reference to Re', the sun deity of Egypt, symbolized by a red glowing disk (the sun in the minds of desert-dwellers, after all, is vastly different than the sun in our minds).

The author of the article explains that the statement of Pharaoh is thus a mocking retort along the lines of, "Yeah, your God had better be with you when I send you and your children, as you'll be entering the desert, where Re' is strongest."

He also supports the idea that Re' is Ba'al Tzefon by noting that once the Hyksos were expelled in 16th c. BCE (around the time of the shi'bud), Re' became amalgamated with the deity Amon, whose name has the same meaning in Egyptian, hidden, as the Hebrew tzafon.



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