During the tour, I was so impressed by an illustration of the Koberger Bible (1483) which is one of the pre-Reformation Bibles in the rare book room. The illustration describes Moses’ figure presented in Josephus: (1) the mother of Moses places Moses in a basket in the Nile; (2) Pharaoh’s daughter saves him and rears him; and (3) at right, based on the tale from the historian Josephus, the infant Moses takes the crown from Pharaoh’s head (Exod 2:1-10).
Josephus narrates the story of the infant Moses being brought to Pharaoh by Pharaoh’s daughter and trampling upon his crown:
She [Pharaoh’s daughter] put him [the infant Moses] into her father’s hands; so he took him, and hugged him close to his breast; and on his daughter?�s account, in a pleasant way, put his diadem upon his head; but Moses threw it down to the ground, and, in a puerile mood he wreathed it round, and trod upon it with his feet (Ant. 2:234).
The rabbinic midrashic tradition recounts the similar tale (Tanhuma Exodus 8; Midrash Exodus Rabbah 1.26; Midrash Deuteronomy Rabbah 11.10; Yashar Exodus 131b-132b). In the midrash, it is Moses who takes the crown from Pharaoh’s head and places it upon his own as a clear intimation that he would some day displace Pharaoh. The infant Moses in the rabbinic tradition is an anti-imperialist. In Josephus, however, it is Pharaoh himself who proceeds to place the crown upon Moses’ head. Josephus may particularly sensitive to the charge of Jewish aggressiveness that such a presentation, like the tale of the infant Moses, would suggest. Hence, when Moses removes from his head the crown that Pharaoh had placed upon it, Josephus is careful to add that he does so out of mere childishness (νη?ι??η?α) (Feldman 1998, 383).
Feldman, Louis H. Josephus’ Interpretation on the Bible. Berkeley: University of California, 1998.
Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. electronic ed. of the new updated ed. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987.
Filed under: Pentateuch