Several commentaries point out that the story of Moses’ exposure in the Nile parallels other legendary figures. Moses joins Hercules, Cyrus, Romulus and Remus, and Oedipus as an infant child given up to nature, to the wilds, to death who is nevertheless destined for greatness.
Of course Moses’ story dramatically differs from many of these. In fact the circumstances of Moses’ birth are the photo negative of the typical hero. First, Moses’ family is anonymous and ordinary, whereas these Persian, Greek, and Roman narratives have these infants coming from important families: royalty, clergy, or even deity. Secondly, there has usually been some omen or prophecy foretelling the child’s greatness; Moses has no such herald of his birth. He enters the world literally “hidden” by his nameless parents, another Hebrew son to be cast into the Nile. Thirdly, the rescued infant usually grows up with a hidden identity to be discovered at the climax of the story or at least after some great struggle. Moses, on the other hand, apparently knows who he is from birth as do all the people directly involved. Ironically, it would appear that the only one ‘in the dark’ about Moses’ identity may have been Pharaoh.
Finally, these differences seem significant to the scope of their stories. Where the pagan legends seem to put great stock in the original status, fate, the gods which ensure that the infant’s exposure will not end in death but at last a return to greatness (even if in sorrow e.g. Oedipus), Moses’ story is not about return but Exodus. Where the typical story structure leads a person of fame into anonymity back into fame. Moses leaves anonymity for the fame of Pharaoh’s palace only to finally seek out a “fame” apart from Egypt, a “fame” of the wilderness and Sinai.
Jeremy Bunch says
I have one thought. I would point out, and I think you were alluding to this, that it is Christ’s story that resembles Moses’ story.
Actually, that would be backwards if we understand the true typology here.
Even though the pagan stories differ greatly at many points, there are the similarities. And this is status quo for the pagan and secular story tellers (even if the story may be historical and true). What is typical and status quo is that they can’t escape the pattern of the great story.
The problem is that they always tell the story wrong.