Akhenaten and Moses

Did the monotheism of Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten influence Moses?


On this stela from El-Amarna, Egyptian King Akhenaten is seen with his wife Nefertiti and their daughters bearing offerings to the sun-disk Aten.

Defying centuries of traditional worship of the Egyptian pantheon, Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten decreed during his reign in the mid-14th century B.C.E. that his subjects were to worship only one god: the sun-disk Aten. Akhenaten is sometimes called the world’s first monotheist. Did his monotheism later influence Moses—and the birth of Israelite monotheism?

In “Did Akhenaten’s Monotheism Influence Moses?” in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, University of California, Santa Barbara, emeritus professor of anthropology Brian Fagan discusses this tantalizing question.

Egyptian King Akhenaten, meaning “Effective for Aten”—his name was originally Amenhotep IV, reigned from about 1352 to 1336 B.C.E. In the fifth year of his reign, he moved the royal residence from Thebes to a new site in Middle Egypt, Akhetaten (“the horizon of Aten,” present-day Tell el-Amarna), and there ordered lavish temples to be built for Aten. Akhenaten claimed to be the only one who had access to Aten, thus making an interceding priesthood unnecessary.

In the free eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.

In the BAR article “The Monotheism of the Heretic Pharaoh,” Donald B. Redford, who excavated Akhenaten’s earliest temple at Karnak (in modern Thebes), describes how Akhenaten instituted worship of Aten:

The cult of the Sun-Disk emerged from an iconoclastic “war” between the “Good God” (Akhenaten), and all the rest of the gods. The outcome of this “war” was the exaltation of the former and the annihilation of the latter. Akhenaten taxed and gradually closed the temples of the other gods; the images of their erstwhile occupants were occasionally destroyed. Cult, ritual and mythology were anathematized, literature edited to remove unwanted allusions. Names were changed to eliminate hateful divine elements; and cities where the old gods had been worshipped, were abandoned by court and government.

Akhenaten destroyed much, he created little. No mythology was devised for his new god. No symbolism was permitted in art or the cult, and the cult itself was reduced to the one simple act of offering upon the altar. Syncretism was no longer possible: Akhenaten’s god does not accept and absorb—he excludes and annihilates.

Did Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten’s adamant worship of one deity influence the Biblical Moses, leader of the Israelite Exodus? Was Akhenaten’s monotheism the progenitor of Israelite monotheism? According to BAR author Brian Fagan, we are talking about two different kinds of monothesisms:

“Israelite monotheism developed through centuries of discussion, declarations of faith and interactions with other societies and other beliefs,” Fagan writes. “In contrast, Akhenaten’s monotheism developed very largely at the behest of a single, absolute monarch presiding over an isolated land, where the pharaoh’s word was divine and secular law. It was an experiment that withered on the vine.”

The Biblical Archaeology Society publication Aspects of Monotheism: How God Is One, edited by Hershel Shanks and Jack Meinhardt, presents an exciting, provocative and readily understandable discussion of the origins and evolution of monotheism within Judaism and Christianity. The book is free for BAS Library members.

When Tutankhaten—the second son of Akhenaten; we know him as the famous King Tut—ascended to the throne, he, working with his advisers, restored worship of the traditional Egyptian pantheon and its chief god, Amun. Tutankhaten also changed his name to Tutankhamun, meaning “the living image of Amun.”

To learn more about the monotheism of Egyptian King Akhenaten, read the full article “Did Akhenaten’s Monotheism Influence Moses?” by Brian Fagan in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.


Subscribers: Read the full article “Did Akhenaten’s Monotheism Influence Moses?” by Brian Fagan in the July/August 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

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In the free eBook Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus, top scholars discuss the historical Israelites in Egypt and archaeological evidence for and against the historicity of the Exodus.


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Epilepsy, Tutankhamun and Monotheism

Where is Queen Nefertiti’s Tomb?

Has Queen Nefertiti’s Tomb Been Located?

Out of Egypt: Israel’s Exodus Between Text and Memory, History and Imagination

When Egyptian Pharaohs Ruled Bronze Age Jerusalem

To See or Not to See: Technology Peers into Ancient Mummies

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on June 8, 2015.


84 Responses

  1. Corey says:

    Catherine is exactly right. This article gets the truth completely backwards, which is normal when secularists attempts to subvert God’s truth.

  2. Catherine Forneri says:

    I just came across this article and was startled by the question posed. I would have asked – Did Moses monotheism influence Pharoah Akhenaten? I can’t think of a single ancient culture, other than the Israelites/Jews, that had a monotheistic worldview. So, to me, it doesn’t make sense for Akhenaten to subscribe to one god, out of the blue, so to speak. I think he must have got that idea from somewhere or someone else.
    Of course, if it was all politically motivated by, perhaps, the fact that the priests were becoming too powerful and threatening Pharoah’s power, I could see a ruler using monotheism as a means of cutting them down. Whether Akhenaten, himself, really believed it or not, would be immaterial in that case.

  3. Jay Wood says:

    John the Baptist was Elijah the that came right before Rapture already happened what are you waiting for jOHN NELSON DARBY 1830 PUT THERE YOU WILL NOT FIND THE RAPTUR IN THE vulgate OR SEPTUITIS FIRST BIBLES


    Abraham was the first monotheist, as he lived 450-650 years before Akhenaten. It is a glaring omission to discuss early monotheism sans the Hebrew patriarch.

  5. Ben says:

    All things considered, I think that it is much more likely that Israel’s experience in Egypt contributed to their tendency (until their return from exile) to include other forms and objects of worship either in conjunction with or to the exclusion of their worship of God.

  6. JohnB says:

    Your hypothesis might have some merit, had both Akhenaten and Moses lived during the same period. In this article, you point out that Akhenaten reined between 1352 and 1336 BCE. Unfortunately, Moses lived around three-hundred years earlier — the story of the Exodus covers a period between 1657 and 1512 BCE.
    Joseph, whose family worshipped a monotheistic deity loosely known as Almighty God or El Shaddai, brought his family to Egypt 430-some years before the Exodus. Because of Joseph’s position and his achievements, he and those born into his household (the household of his father, Jacob) were treated with respect for many years — even centuries — after his death. It is more likely, therefore, that Joseph — and particularly his father Jacob (Israel) — introduced the concept of monotheism into the religious landscape that existed in Egypt at that time.
    Many scholars incorrectly put the Exodus — those who accept that there was such a thing, anyway — as recently as the 13th century BCE, during the reign of Rameses II (1279 – 1213). But such a timetable denies many of the post-Exodus events that took place in Canan after the arrival of the Hebrews (the almost three-hundred year long period of Judges before the anointing of Israel’s first king (Saul) during the 11th century BCE.
    I never cease to be amazed at the number of supposedly ‘smart’ people who refuse to use the only record of human history that had endured down through the ages as the basis of their research. It appears that they would rather spend their lifetimes trying to prove alternative theories of history and trying to fit those theories into the picture they have drawn for themselves.
    God must be turning in his grave when he sees scholars who profess to be Jews denying the history of their own people; thus denying their own God, Jehovah.

  7. David C says:

    The evidence from the Berlin Pedestal would indicate that Israel was already acknowledged as a people in the southern levant during the reign of Amunhotep II. I am constantly surpised that an academic minded publication would fail to acknowledge this. This would clearly imply that if there was a monotheistic influence between Israel and Egypt, that it went the other way… Akhenaten was borrowing, not creating.

  8. Helen Spalding says:

    Monotheism on in the sense that it was a power grab on the part of the monarch. Once he moved the court to the desert, Egypt really fell apart internationally. And why move to the desert? To create a new power base and protect the “flank” fm those who would assassinate the monarch.

    I see far more politics in the move than religious motivations.

  9. Dr. Saul Pressman says:

    Exodus was 1453 BCE, so if anyone was influenced, it was Akenaten by Moses.
    The Israelites were not monotheists until after the return from Babylon, 1000 years after Exodus. I have written several books on this and they are free for the asking. Dr. Saul Pressman; [email protected]

  10. leo says:

    If thought that Akhenaten saw himself as a god. No?

  11. Piepie says:

    If the Israelites were so monotheistic, why did Aaron make the golden calf, most of them were still polytheistic. I just want the truth also.

  12. Bruce says:

    Odd story. Always trying to discredit the Bible. The Israelites were monotheistic since their beginning. After seeing the miracles performed by Moses the next Pharaoh was afraid and tried to copy the religion of Moses. Why else would he do what he did? Don’t keep fighting the truth to try to disprove the Bible.

  13. Ben hartzel says:

    The guy who wrote this article does not seem to understand history. Really all the comments show that nobody has any idea of a simple history. You don’t need many details just an in depth understanding of spiritual history and all the past knowledge about transcendence. India is where you start and then it will help you understand Egypt and other cultures better. Even Is-ra-el is the same as the Tao. It’s the simple fact that you do not see the similarities, you don’t know truth when you encounter it.

  14. Jean-Raymond Audet says:

    I would then to believe that Judaism is an Evolutionary Form of Atenism and that Moses was the Grandson of Pharaoh Aknenaten and was chase out of Egypt with the Religious Ruling Class of Atenites and their Supporters by the Pharaoh Horembeb and his Son Ramses, who became Ramses 2 into the Sanai trough the Nile Sea which was not the Red Sea! This is like the Story of Jesus because really Jesus was a Disciple of John the Baptist, the true Father of Christianity! JR Audet

  15. Dave says:

    No, it was the other way around. Egypt realized that the God of Moses was the one true God, because they experienced the plagues and saw that the God of Moses protected his people while destroying Egypt, which was oppressing them. The religion of Aten was put in place after God brought Moses and his people out of slavery from Egypt. It only lasted a short while and was considered heresy in Egypt to defy the old gods and declare that there is only one God.

  16. Daale Kimbro says:

    It was Joseph.Not Moses.

  17. Marc. says:

    Sorry guys but educate yourselves. Exodus has been abandoned by mainstream archaeology a long time ago. There was no Exodus. Most scholars agrees Moses never existed. He is the personification of the birth of the Israel. If Moses and such an event would have occurred not only there would be a plethora of archaeological evidence but the Israelite would have talk about it for generations afterwards. Moses is only present in the first books of the Old T. A “God” is pagan personification and every culture in antiquity were pagans at one point of another. The God of Abraham was one of the many deities in the region at that time, an Edomite pagan deity that Israel adopted after the fall of Jerusalem. He was the storm and war God of the region. End of Bronze Age / Early Iron age is when that “God” is born.

  18. Jesse says:

    So Moses must have been Ahkenaten simply because they existed around the same time and because they both worshipped ‘one’ God? Is there anything else to go on?

  19. Jesse says:

    So Moses must have been Aknaten simply because he existed around the same time as Aknaten and because both religions worship ‘one’ God? Is there any more information to go on besides that?

    I personally don’t find it surprising that Aknaten would want to be worshipped as the ‘sun’, ancient Egyptians had associated many gods with the Sun, Aknaten obviously wanted to be worshipped as a god himself. Also considering the elite satanic families that run this world are ‘Sun’ worshippers, again not at all surprising

  20. Didymus says:

    Seeing as the Exodus took place around 1447 BC, Moses live WELL before Akhenaten. If you use a revised or new chronology it becomes even more of a gap in regards to succession of pharaohs. Bottom line is that Akhenaten probably either went his own way or he learned from the Hebrews. We know that the Hebrews were already in Canaan because of the corespondence in the Amarna tablets which Akhenaten was apart of.

  21. Joe M says:

    Akhenatens brother was Moses.

  22. Richard says:

    Interesting comments, but thought should be given to Moses father-in-law. Remember he sat with Aaron and Moses in the Presence of the One true living God. He had 40 years to teach Moses.

  23. pastor james says:

    Am a pastor .am so exited and l won’t to know ore this history thanks

  24. carolyn andrews says:

    withered on the vine? Islam is the religion that proclaims: There is no god but God.
    The One and only.

  25. Jean-Raymond Audet says:

    Judaism is the Armana Heresy of Ancient Egypt and the Pharaoh Akhenaten is the Father of this so-called Faith that still exist today because of his Grandson Moses! just like Jesus the Gentile Messiah is the Disciple of John the Baptist who is the Jewish Messiah and what We Christian believe today is Paulianity! JR AUDET

  26. Kanaka Honua says:

    It amazes me how we have so much knowledge and understanding of a culture that we are not descendants of. I am further amazed with the lack of knowledge within our own culture.
    I am of hawaiian, portuguese, chinese, welsh and french ancestry. My ancestors, like most, are from all over world. It is my mission to have knowledge and understanding of my ancient cultures. I have spent most of my life learning someone else’s culture (religion). I believe we would all benefit from knowing who we really are.
    Malama Pono (take care, be right)

  27. John says:

    Faith says
    Interesting theories! Moses stole the Pharaoh’s gold and that was why the Pharaoh was chasing him. 40 years in the desert? If a dozen slaves escaped it would have been recorded – 2 million?


  28. John says:

    Why couldnt Moses religion just as easily influence Akhenaten? That would make WAY more sense than a Pharoah turning Egypt upside down for the influence of a foreign religion to which Egypt had been exposed to many. BUT if the accounts of Genesis are correct then it would be enough to influence a young pharoah who watched his father defeated at the hands of the HEbrew GOD.

  29. Zody says:

    So Akhenaten declared himself the one true God, the Aten, as the Pharoah was always considered the embodiment of God on earth. And this created no need for the priesthood, who had all the treasure. Sounds about like when Hitler declared himself Supreme chancellor and dispanded the government.

  30. Dm says:

    Blb, a fundamentalist is someone who mistakes the metaphors of his religion for facts. You are a Fundamentalist.

  31. F.Sawyers says:

    Interesting theories! Moses stole the Pharaoh’s gold and that was why the Pharaoh was chasing him. 40 years in the desert? If a dozen slaves escaped it would have been recorded – 2 million? The stories in the Hebrew Bible appear in other cultures long before the recorded Bible. Borrowing from other cultures was not an unusual occurrence. It is very interesting reading like a good yarn!

  32. john says:

    “Israelite monotheism developed through centuries of discussion, declarations of faith and interactions with other societies and other beliefs,” Fagan writes. “In contrast, Akhenaten’s monotheism developed very largely at the behest of a single, absolute monarch presiding over an isolated land, where the pharaoh’s word was divine and secular law. It was an experiment that withered on the vine.”


    No it didnt! lol

    There were NO Israelites before Abraham! He was the first! God revealed himself to Abraham. It wasnt a result of ‘discussion’ lol What an idiot! It was an issue of supernatural revelation. Thats what separates Judaism and Christianity from ALL other religions. REVELATION.

    There were NO other monotheistic peoples anywhere near Canaan. In fact? There were no monotheistic peoples anywhere on planet earth at this time. There hundreds of gods worshiped in Canaan before the Israelites even existed. The people of Canaan were first conquered by the Amorites and by the sons of Anak who were the giants and the men of renown. The idea of monotheism was UNIQUE to Israel because God Who is ONE revealed Himself to Abraham and then later revealed His Name to Moses.

    Ive never read so much false garbage in my entire life. NONE of which has any foundation in any history. Its just ‘IDEAS’ that people dreamed up to explain away where the Israelites really came from. Total garbage. I feel dumber for having looked at this page.

  33. Hosha Thebes lsrael says:

    YAHWEH was and is the GOD OF the Hebrews. JC has not connection with the children of Israel.

  34. Lawrence says:

    I think the comments are almost as interesting as the article

  35. Ehnaton ili Mojsije - Ko je bio prvi monoteista na svetu? says:

    […] ustanova na svetu kad je biblijska arheologija u pitanju. U članku koji nosi naslov Did the monotheism of Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten influence Moses?, profesor antropologije sa Kalifornijskog univerziteta u Santa Barbari, Briann Fagan, raspravlja o […]

  36. Paul Ballotta says:

    “These are the proverbs of Solomon that the men of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, transcribed” (Proverbs 25:2). Apparently this section in the book of Proverbs is the fruitful bounty of the studies of the generation of Hezekiah in the late 8th century, who allegedly (according to the Talmud) hung a sword in a prominent place and decreed that whoever did not study would be pierced with the sword. What happened? A search was conducted from Dan to Beersheba and no one was found to be a dunce. There was a depiction of this Judahite king found in the remains of the royal palace at Ramet Rahal and he has a sort half-smile as if he had a sense of humor, kind of like Senator John Kerry while campaigning for President who had told students that if they study all will go well and they they don’t they will suffer and be deployed overseas in the military (which didn’t go over well with everyone since this was an indictment on the reasons for intervention in Iraq by people who didn’t bother reading foreign policy journals).
    It was after seeing the film, “The Seventh Sign” that I got turned on to Jewish mysticism and what I noticed is this emphasis on an individual’s actions that can tip the balance between good and evil. There is a moment in the film when the couple with the expecting child are in a store and they remark about a crib ornament made of four doves and say “Italy’s finest,” which was a clear reference to the Italian poet Alegheiri Dante and the vision of the four living creatures that bear God’s heavenly throne in the book of Ezekiel that is mentioned in the 29th canto of “Purgatory.” The camera angle shot in the store brings into view a book stand with one entitled, “The Beach House,” which is an obvious reference to the song by Genesis; “Home By the Sea.” It’s about a man who lives in a haunted house where the spirits of the dead visit on a frequent basis:
    “Coming out of the woodwork
    through the open door
    pushing from above and below
    shadows without substance
    in the shape of men…”
    Dante Alegheiri and Joseph Gikatalia were contemporaries who both studied the secular sciences and there is a similarity with the cosmology of “The Divine Comedy” and that according to “The Gates of Light.” When describing the physical world we inhabit, the divine name is Adonay applies which is the lowest level of divinity and therefore it was recommended by the mystics to not use the name Adonay by itself but in conjunction with the name YHVH which was likened to a trunk of a tree from which all other divine names are branches of. The tree of life growing in the middle of the garden (Genesis 2:9) represents the attributes of God numbering 10 that were described as the spheres of the heavenly bodies;consisting of the 7 planets, over which was the realm of the fixed stars, over which was the primordial starting point of it all, the fount of wisdom, located on the tip of the letter ‘yod’ which is the first letter of the name YHVH. Beyond this point is that which preceded the known universe, infinity. So basically “The Divine Comedy,” from the journey to depths of Hell to the attainment of a beautific vision in Paradise can be summed up in a nutshell to the initiates of mysticism:
    King David therefore said, ‘A song of steps, from the depths I call You O god (YHVH)’ (Psalm 130:1). He is saying that he is calling God from his depths, that is, from the highest source, which is called the Infinite (Ain Sof). This is the depth which is the apex of the Yod of YHVH. He therefore said, ‘From the depths I call You YHVH'” (“Meditation and Kabbalah,” p,132).
    Fortunately there are people more qualified to attempt fuse medieval mysticism with Egyptian mythology:

  37. lawrenceh19 says:

    I want to know what really happened. The Bible is a good historical document but it doesn’t tell us everything, but it does encourage us to find these things out (its to the glory of God to conceal a thing, and the glory of the King to search them out).
    Sometimes archaeology will tell us things different to the Bible but don’t shoot the messenger! Instead take a moment to pray and see if you really understood what the Bible was saying! You might be surprised at what God shows you!

  38. Paul Ballotta says:

    Correction: Amon-Re becomes the 10th (or 11th) god…

  39. Paul Ballotta says:

    Commentator FAMiniter #30 made a good point concerning the 2nd commandment’s prohibition of the worship of other gods besides Yahweh as being a monolatric belief that recognizes one supreme god while acknowledging the existence of other gods. The divine name “Elohim” signifies a plurality of gods (plural of “eloha,” the singular term for “god”) and it was used by the priestly authors of the 1st chapter of Genesis in the 5th century B.C.E. In 1 Genesis verses 26-27, humankind is depicted as being made in the image and likeness of God (using poetic dualism common in ancient literature), being created male and female. There are similarities with this notion and with the ancient Egyptian company of the gods known as the “Ennead” that is usually comprised of 9 nine gods, but in the pyramid text of Teta the 1st pharaoh of the 6th dynasty we have a reference to a company of 18 gods that consist of 9 male and 9 female gods (“The Gods of the Egyptians” by E.A. Wallis Budge, vol. 1, p.86).
    On a dedication stela at a mortuary temple in Thebes, Amenhotep III addresses the official god of the 18th dynasty, Amon-Re, in the god’s aspect of the rising sun; “coming forth with all the [gods], while the divine ennead who are behind thee and the Sacred Apes praise thy rising and thy appearing in – the horizon” (“Ancient Records of Egypt” vol. 2, by James Henry Breasted, p.370). The sacred apes are the iconic image of baboons warming their hands and screeching with the first rays of the sun. and in conjunction with the 9 gods of the Ennead this signifies a mystery known to the Jewish mystics during the Middle Ages about the raising of the high priest’s hands to draw down the blessing of God through the meditation of the 10 attributes of God. Thus the god Amon-Re becomes the 19th (or 11th) god in addition to the traditional 9 gods of the divine assembly.
    Some scholars think that the name of the god “Aton” derives from the Cannaanite word “Adon” which means “lord,” and this appellation was used when Abram addressed God as
    “Adonay Yahweh” in Genesis 15:2, concerning the future of his posterity. To which Yahweh directed Abram’s gaze toward the heavens and attempt to quantify the amount of stars in the universe. Well this is not unlike the description of the god Aton in a tomb of an official named Eye in the court of Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton):
    “May he set thee forever and ever; may he endow thee with jubilees like the numbers of the shore, when measured with an ipet-rod; like reckoning the sea when measured with zawets, (or) a statement of the numbering of the mountains when weighed in the balances; (of) the feathers of the birds, (or) the leaves of the trees, in jubilees for the king, Wanre (Ikhanaton)” (Ancient Records of Egypt, vol. 2, p.210).
    According to Rabbi Joseph Gikatalia who wrote the “Gates of Light” in Spain during the early 14th century, the divine name Adonay is likened to a gate through which the heavenly realm is accessible:
    “From the name YHVH all spiritual channels flow and the flux is transmitted to the name Adonoy. The name Adonoy is therefore the storehouse containing all of the King’s devices, and it is the essence that distributes these to all creation It nourishes and sustains all things, through the power of YHVH that is in it” (“Meditation and Kabbalah” by Aryeh Kaplan, p.129).

  40. Jay says:

    A correction was made to my earlier message but seems to have been removed overnight. This had to with an instruction to read a translation from right to left but it should be left to right.

  41. Jay says:

    This is a correction. The Greek result with the letter “A” on the left should be read from left to right as Greek is read.

  42. Jay says:

    Another name for Amenhotep is Amenophis III or IV according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1957. In the Pseudopigrapha story of Joseph and Asenath, Joseph actually becomes Pharaoh after Pharaoh dies after learning of the death of his son at the hands of two of Joseph’s brothers. The name, Zaphnath-Paaneah, may be written in Hebrew. Each letter may be translated to Greek directly below each Hebrew letter. With the letter “A” added to the left of the Greek result then it can be read from right to left. If this. Is done with Asenath, Athens Is the result, possibly “Athena”. An old spelling for Athens is Athhenes. In the story, Joseph rules alone as Asenath has moved to a land where fruit grows in the summer (Europe?). From a Jehovah’s Witness Greek/English interlinear NT the sacred name of God is shown in Hebrew in early editions of the LXX that look like “PiPi” to those not familiar with Hebrew.

  43. Paul Ballotta says:

    It should be clarified that it is the root of the personal name Arpachasad (Genesis 11:10), “chasad,” that is thought to be derived from the place-name “Kashdu” in Akkadian, the Hebrew “Kasdim.” It is interesting that the first 3 sons of Shem; Elam, Asshur and Arpachasad, that are listed in the earlier compilation by the Jehovist writer around the 10th century B.C.E., are also the kingdoms that spawned rulers who did what Akhenaten in breaking with tradition:
    “Forty kilometers southeast of Susa are the ruins known as Choga Zanbil. The name means: ‘basket mound’ and refers to the eroded remains of the ziggurat in the center of the site which, before excavation, looked like a reed basket turned upside down. This is the site of Al-Untash-Napirisha (sometimes called Dur-Untash-Napirisha or Dur-Untash-Gal), which was the capital city of the Elamite king Untash-Napirisha (c. 1260-1235 BC). Like other rulers in the Late Bronze Age – such as the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton, the Kassite king Kurigalzu and the Assyrian king Tukulti-Ninurta I – Untash-Napirisha left the ancient religious capital of his kingdom to found a new city which was intended to replace the former capital. However, in none of these cases was the attempt altogether successful” (“Cultural Atlas of Mesopotamia and the Ancient Near East” by Michael Roaf, p. 143).

  44. Paul Ballotta says:

    We can allow for authenticity of the similarities between the “Hymn to the Aton” and Psalm 104; on account of the fact that the diplomatic correspondence between Egypt and her neighbors during the mid-14th century B.C.E., when the language was Akkadian as was found at Tel-Amarna on clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform script. Akkadian was the language of the Akkadian Empire ruled by a Semitic dynasty and the third son of Shem, Arpachasad (Genesis 10:22), is a name that is a puzzle, according to the J.P.S. Commentary on Genesis:
    “As a geographical term it was first applied to the southern part of Mesopotamia but was eventually used for the whole of Babylonia. The first element of the name – Arpa -might be Arip, which is frequently found in Hurrian proper names.”
    The commentary also mentions that a tradition from the Second Temple period connects the last 3 letters of this name with “Chesed” in Genesis 22:22, making this “the name of a seminomadic Aramean tribe that inhabited the desert regions between northern Arabia and the Persian Gulf.” But it wasn’t until the early 12th century B.C.E. when these tribes migrated and settled west of the Assyrian Empire situated on the upper Tigris River. Referred to in Assyrian chronicles as the land of “Naharaim,” (rivers) it became “Aram Naharaiim” in Genesis 24:10, which neatly links this with the Genesis 22:22 reference to Abraham’s uncle Nahor, whose name means river.
    I would think the “Chesed” refers to the Kassite dynasty that ruled southern Mesopotamia as a minority class of elites for 4 centuries and who meticulously copied the literature of the people (archive found at Nippor) they subjugated as well as preserving the temples and their rites. It is likely these nomadic tribes that likely originated from the northern steppes of Iran and Central Asia are mentioned in Genesis 11:28,31, as “Ur of Kasdim”, and not, as nearly every translation says, ‘Ur of Chaldea.” This was a later corruption based on the name of the peoples who migrated into southern Mesopotamia in the early 12th century B.C.E., and were referred to as “Kaldu” who inhabited the marshy south; mentioned in Assyrian records as the “Sea-land” situated near the Persian Gulf.
    If the name Arpachasad denotes both Hurrian and Kassite influence, it’s a small wonder since the Amarna Texts contain examples of foreign correspondence between the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and the rulers of rival empires like the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni and the Kassite kingdom of Babylon:
    “These letters, many found in the archive of Akhenaten’s capital of Amarna, demonstrate the powerful position enjoyed by Amenhotep III as he negotiated to marry the daughters of other rulers. A strong connection between Amenhotep III and the Mitanni king Tushratta is apparent in the letters, while the Babylonian king Burnaburiash, who came to power late in Amenhotep’s rule, appears more suspicious of Egyptian strength. The mid-14th century BC certainly represents one of the high points of Egypt’s influence in the ancient world, and it was the culmination of activities by nearly all the rulers of the 18th Dynasty” (“The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt” by Ian Shaw, p.268).

  45. Caroline Ferris says:

    It makes a lot more sense that the Israelites would have influenced the Egyptians regarding monotheism, rather than the other way around. It is not a stretch to see that a Pharoah in a polytheistic culture could be influenced by his powerful Hebrew viziers, resulting in the anomalous and temporary conversion of Egypt to monotheism. When the foreigners were expelled, whether by the end of the Hyksos reign or the Exodus, this influence was removed and Egypt reverted back to its traditional polytheism.

  46. FAMiniter says:

    As to Ahkenaten, one might due well to read Naguib Mahfouz’s book “Ahkenaten: Dweller in Truth” in which he sees Ahkenaten as a forerunner of Muhammad. As the historicity of Moses is greatly in question, and, even assuming he existed, the time frames given by scholars for Moses and the Exodus are all over the place, ranging from the 16th to the 9th centuries bce, any suggestion about a connection between Ahkenaten and Moses is speculation based on hypothesis.

  47. FAMiniter says:

    In response to some of the comments here, I recommend Robert Wright, The Evolution of God (Little, Brown 2009). Wright sets out the progression of the ancient Hebrews from polytheism, to monolatry to monotheism over the course of many hundreds of years. I especially commend Chapters 6 and 7.

    Despite the efforts of later (5th c bce) editors to eradicate the residual polytheistic and monolatric statements in the Hebrew Bible, many remain. In Gen. 3, Yahweh speaks to his council worried that Adam and Eve “will become like us”. Psalm 82 has God meeting with his divine council. Again in Genesis, the “Sons of God” mate with human women producing giants. The Sons of God are taken by many scholars to refer to the 70 sons of El, now that we have the Ugaritic texts to inform us. Again, in 1 Kings 22, Yahweh presides over a meeting of the host of heaven. Then, of course, Job 1 and 2 have Yahweh in council with the sons of god, including the one known as the Adversary (or Prosecutor, as it is a legal term). The roots of this concept go back to Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian roots.

    Eventually, the concept became monolatric, with Yahweh being chief among the gods. Even the commandment to have no other gods before him does not deny the existence of other gods, only that they shall not be given preference to him. Monotheism, Wright argues, does not become a clear concept until maybe the 8th or 7th centuries bce, maybe even later.

  48. Dr. Robert Grant says:

    Long ago when reading a book now out of print called THE LAST HERETIC about Akhenaten the author translated some of his hymns of praise to the one true God as he understood Him and I was moved by how much they sounded like the Psalms of David.
    Seems there is a connection here and the critical factor to determining who influenced who is the dating of the exodus and of Moses. If that event/person is placed in the mid 1400s then who influenced who is a question now answered.
    Accept for a moment the thought that the new pharaoh rejected the corruption of the established religious order of his day and tried to create something better he recalled from the time of his grandfather. An interesting thought

  49. Rik Blumenthal says:

    It is the Jewish year 5775. 5775-2015 = 3760 BCE. If Ahkenaten reigned from 1352-1336 BCE, why would one hypothesize that he influenced a religion formed over 2400-years before he came to power, rather than the 2400-year old religion influenced his new one?

  50. ayman tour guide in egypt says:

    all what i believe that Akhenaton got his ideas of the one god cult from the the Jewish believe and also he had know a lot from their books about not only the god but about how Adam was looks like before Eve comes out of him and that affected on his figure on the wall of the temples
    there is a lot to tell about that if any one is interested

  51. caseyc11 says:

    This is goofy. There is only one God…and he’s been around allot longer then Moses.

  52. Taseti says:

    Long before there were the 10 commandments and Moses there were the 42 negative confessions of maat known of and followed by the egyptians (africans). These 42 confessions include things like I have not killed, I have not stolen, etc. Moses was raised as an egyptian and eventually became an egyptian priest. He would have known of the these 42 “commandments” and included some of them within the 10 commandments…
    Acts 7: 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. Exodus 2:19 And they said, An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and also drew water enough for us, and watered the flock.

  53. Lana says:

    So glad to see BAR explore topics of this nature! I read it’s pages for scholarly discussion on issues that she’d light on the Bible, its writers and those who lived it’s stories. I do not take these stories literally but I do find God very much alive within its Spirit. That Spirit is always strengthened in my life when gaining information about the culture and practices of ancient peoples and God works through all of us to manifest the Love Christ died to bring into the world. Thank you BAR for being open minded and a little blasphemous at times! It helps me think and in so be a better pastor as I teach the Bible to so many hungry for a different take on a timeless truth.

  54. Vridar » Hidden Meanings and Memories says:

    […] Just as I concluded a series of posts addressing Moses and the Exodus and its relationship to Akhenaten’s revolution I see Bible History Daily has picked up the theme and renewed the momentum with an article Akhenaten and Moses. […]

  55. Steve says:

    Apparently. . . Ahkenaten thought there was something to this whole “Monotheism” thing. . . seeing as how his entire Canaanite sphere of influence was taken over by stateless, nomadic Monotheists.

  56. Steve says:

    Moses was a contemporary of Thutmose III.

    Which means that Ahkenaten was a contemporary of Joshua.

    Which means that Ahkenaten tried to institute Monotheism right as Joshua and the other “Apiru” (stateless nomads) were taking over Canaan.

    Which means that Ahkenaten tried to institute Monotheism as a counter to the Joshua’s God (the God of Israel).

  57. kolyah ben Abraham says:

    Ahken-ATEN, was the pharaoh who was convinced of monotheism by one of his advisors Zaraph-Panea, who ix none other than the Biblical Patriarch Joseph, son of Jacob. He is the only historical pharaoh to have changed from polytheism to monotheism, and biblically speaking, the bible tells that Joseph had convinced a pharaoh of his God’s power by interpreting the pharaohs’ dreams. It says of that pharaoh, that he had asked many of his advisors, yet np pne cpuld help him with his troubling dreams, which shows he was a polytheist at that point in the story, and after they brought Joseph to him, and he correctly interpretted pharaoh’s dream, the pharaoh placed Joseph, a monotheist over ALL his House; which indicates that Joseph’s pharaoh, allowed Joseph’s God to have dominion over the entire kingdom of Egypt. Again, only One pharaoh fits this thought, Ahken-ATEN. Why do I hyphenate his name? Why the other proof I have of course. Upon the Temples to ATEN thereare hieroglyphs, and other symbols carved upon the main crossbeams connecting the columns & pillars. One is a Circle with Falcon’s wings, which represent Ahken-ATEN, and another symbol right there beside it, is of a Circle with Two serpents, 1 to the right and 1 to the left. The priestly tribe of Israel, was called Levy, both Moses and Aaron were of the tribe of Levy. At Isaiah 27:1 the name of The Sword of the God of Israel is written, “Upon Levy-ATEN the piecing serpent, and Upon Levy-ATEN the binding serpent”, a word that has been intentionally mistranslated to English as “LEVIATHAN”. The actual word comes from Levy-ATEN, the royal priesthood of the ATEN, and it means; “Unified with ATEN”. Now, as to it being a solar deity? Sorry, AhkenAten, the longest lived pharaoh was no dummy, he knew of Ra, the god of the sun. He would NOT have replaced it with another of the same type. The English word ATEN-tion, and ATEN-uate both come to mind, meaning “to bring to focus”, or to purify, or to Enlighten Spiritual consciousness. the symbol of Levy ATEN, is commensurate with the Zoroastrian, and East Asian Yin/Yang, the SINGULAR SPHERE of Duality, the Two serpents on the medical staff, and the zodiac sign of Libra. all connect. Of course this is only my opinion, and I could be wrong, too many coincidentals nake this feel true in my guts though. Sincerely…

  58. John Fry says:

    Many people believe that the exodus happened at the end of the 13th Dynasty. When the exodus is placed there, we find a great Amount of Archaeology Evidence that supports the Exodus account. For example the Ipuwer Papyrus talks of “THE PYRAMID BUILDERS” [after the 13th Dynasty they no longer build Pyramids] and talks of the plagues on Egypt that are described in the Bible.

  59. Donald E. McClary, Sr. says:

    I wll not state my opinion of this article, I just want you to realize that “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

  60. Tzedekh says:

    As stated above, scholars are divided regarding dating of the Exodus, though probably not evenly. Of those who accept its historicity, I believe most favor the later dating (1290 B.C.E. or later).

  61. Roger Easson says:

    Dr Saul, how do you date so definitively a fictional character that has no historical documentation outside of the Jewish scriptures?

  62. Roger Easson says:

    In MOSES THE EGYPTIAN Jan Assman makes just this argument in 2003. I’m surprised that his work is nowhere referenced!

  63. Kurt says:

    Spiritual and moral qualities lacking. Some scholars suggest that whatever concept of sin was manifest in certain Egyptian religious texts was the later result of Semitic influence. Yet, confession of sin was always in a negative sense, as the Encyclopædia Britannica (1959, Vol. 8, p. 56) comments: “When [the Egyptian] confessed he did not say ‘I am guilty’; he said ‘I am not guilty.’ His confession was negative, and the onus probandi [the burden of proof] lay on his judges, who, according to the funerary papyri, always gave the verdict in his favour—or at any rate it was hoped and expected that they would do so.” (Contrast Ps 51:1-5.) Ancient Egypt’s religion appears to have been mainly a matter of ceremonies and spells, designed to achieve certain desired results through the providence of one or more of their numerous gods.

    Though the claim is made that a form of monotheism existed during the reigns of Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaton), when the worship of the sun-god Aton became nearly exclusive, it was not a true monotheism. The Pharaoh himself continued to be worshiped as a god. And even in this period there was no ethical quality to the Egyptian religious texts, the hymns to the sun-god Aton merely praising him for his life-giving heat but remaining barren of any expression of praise or appreciation for any spiritual or moral qualities. Any suggestion that the monotheism of Moses’ writings derived from Egyptian influence is therefore completely without foundation.

  64. JohnB says:

    As has been pointed out, Moses pre-dated Akhenaten by about a century. Should this story not read, therefore: “Did Moses’ Monotheism Influence Akhenaten?”

  65. Tzedekh says:

    I haven’t yet received the new issue, so I don’t know whether he mentions this, but Fagan is not the first to suggest the connection. In Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud did just that, suggesting that the Hebrew God was a combination of the life-giving sun god, Aten, and the jealous, violent Midianite volcano god, Yahweh.

    To Dr. Saul Pressman: Scholars are divided over the dating of the Exodus. Some even reject its historicity.

    One of the earliest attempts at monotheism was made by Menes (perhaps identical with Narmer), the first pharaoh of a united Egypt, c. 3100 B.C.E.

  66. Terry says:

    The article should be more properly titled, “Was Akhenaten influenced by Moses monotheism?”, since Moses lived decades before him. People compare the hymn to the aten to pslams 104. David couldn’t have borrowed from the hymn, because it laid buried at the abandon Amarna. It’s more reasonable to assume Akhenaten borrowed from the psalm which would make its original author Moses or perhaps Joseph or some other Israelite. In the Amarna letters the ruler of Jerusalem asks why the king favors the apiru invading the land over him. He may have favored them cause he knew who they were and who their single God was. Akhenaten was simply attempting his own version of monotheism. It died when he did and Moses’ monotheism has never been lost, but has spread throughout the centuries, and the world.

  67. Michael says:

    I always thought it was because God said:
    שְׁמַע, יִשְׂרָאֵל: יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ, יְהוָה אֶחָד.

  68. Warth Publishing Inc says:

    Using the acronym BCE ,instead of BC is what caused me to cancel my subscription to BAR.
    What is the real definition of BCE, before Christ, you people are pathetically trying to rewrite history..

  69. johnh374 says:

    Extremely disappointing article, with a strong anti-supernatural bias.

  70. Dr.Howard Davis says:

    No way to edit! Meant to say ‘Why not go into a profession he and the other liberals really believe in?

  71. Larry Ledford says:

    Stories like these led me to drop my subscription to BAR. They reflect an eye for disproving rather than any real support of the worship of God.
    Moses was influenced by God and not Egypt. If he was influenced to monotheism by Egypt then god is no different than the Egyptian gods.

  72. Dr.Howard Davis says:

    Even having an article such as this shows how liberal and how low on the scholarly shelf the Bible is as a guide to God and truth! Moses was’ influenced'(not by some pharaoh) by the God Himself at the burning bush! Exodus! Read Genesis and see one God is manifested all throughout that book!
    I say go into another profession liberal unbelieving professors like Erhman who denies all of the historic Christian tenants of our faith. Why go into a profession he really believes in? Liberal archeology magazine editors/writers; If you don’t believe in the Bible find another line of work. Simple. Research Homer or Chinese history, but leave our beautiful Bible alone with your ridiculous, far out ,unbelieving theories and postulates which always over time prove to be untrue.
    How well did the NT writers warn this would happen. As Jude said thy would ‘slip in to the church ‘ even’ denying the Lord that bought them.’

  73. Dr. Saul Pressman says:

    5. Moses precedes Akhenaten in history. Therefore, if there was any influence, it was the other way around. The Pharaoh of the Exodus was actually Thotmose III who died at the Red Sea in 1453 BCE. Akhenaten reigns 1381 – 1364 BCE, some 70 years later.
    – Dr. Saul Pressman

  74. David says:


    Reading the article, I did not get the same message you did, apparently. What I read was that this is a thought, but the concepts are mutually exclusive, as noted in the following quote:

    According to BAR author Brian Fagan, we are talking about two different kinds of monothesisms:

    “Israelite monotheism developed through centuries of discussion, declarations of faith and interactions with other societies and other beliefs,” Fagan writes. “In contrast, Akhenaten’s monotheism developed very largely at the behest of a single, absolute monarch presiding over an isolated land, where the pharaoh’s word was divine and secular law. It was an experiment that withered on the vine.”

  75. Raymond usiayo says:

    Monotheism predated the Egyptians and their Pharaohs,Noah’s family was monotheistic.

  76. bob says:

    What in the world?!? This should be “Biblical” You need quotation marks if you’re going to say that the Israelites were influenced into monotheism. Try this out…

    God sent plagues and freaked out the Egyptians into KNOWING that He alone is God! Read the book of Exodus. Then think about your own life, and whether you are ready to face God. If you’re going to have to pay for your sins you need a Savior. Jesus is the only one who can save you from your sins because He lived a perfect life, conquered death on the cross for YOUR/Our sins, and God rose Him from the dead. Put your faith in Him and live out that faith. Then come back and re-write your article.

  77. Gboyega Adejumo says:

    There’s a school of thought that believes the Both Moses and Akhnaten were one and the same person, entity if you will.

    And I also happen to belong to that school of thought.

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