No character in history has influenced the modern world more, or ignored as much, as Pharaoh Akhnaton.
Most of the world
may not even know his name, but those that do discuss such questions as:
1. Who was Akhnaton?
2. Was Akhnaton Abraham?
3. Was Akhnaton Moses?
These may not seem like questions of burning importance but, if the answers
are what a growing number of people suspects, they could turn the theological
world upside down. It would directly affect the religious beliefs of over
50% of the world's population.
Akhnaton was the son of Amenhotep III and Queen Tiy. Some claim that Queen Tiy was a Hebrew, others suggest she might be Hittite, but the only thing known for sure is that she was not Egyptian. She reportedly owned much land and was powerful in her own right. If this were so, it would mean she was not likely to be of the nomadic tribe of Hebrews. The guess of her being Hittite is questionable because common belief is that Rameses II made the first marriage alliance with the Hittites. Whatever her background she was hated by the priests of Amon. These same priests would start rumors about her, hoping to cause her to be in disfavor with the people and the Pharaoh.
When Amenhotep III died, Amenhotep IV ascended to the thrown. He loved his mother very much (some say it was an unhealthy love, but more of that later). When in power he took revenge on those who tried to destroy his mother. Amenhotep IV removed the reference to the god Amon from his name. He became Akhnaton, referring to his new god Aton. The worship of Amon was forbidden; the priests of Amon were dispersed; and some murdered.
Note: 1) e and o were often interchanged in translations so either is usually correct. (2) Amenhotep meant Amon is content and Akhnaton meant useful to Aton. (3) It is also very likely that invoking the name of Amon or Amen is the reason Amen is still said after prayers today.)
Some say that his mother directed him to monotheism, since she was of Hebrew blood. However, as already pointed out, this was unlikely. Some say that his wife, Nefertiti, was of Hebrew blood and it was she that introduced Akhnaton to monotheism. Then there is strong suspicion that Nefertiti was Akhnaton's half sister, daughter of Amenhotep III and one of his lesser wives. Whatever Nefertiti's origins or what part she played in designing the new religion, she and Akhnaton shared many beliefs. Beliefs not commonly held in the world of their time.
Many of today's scholars stress Akhnaton being a Sun worshiper. There may be problems with the translations. Aton was referred to as the 'Light of the World' which is easily misread as the sun. In Christian service today a reference to the 'Light of the World' would not be so easily confused. Therefore, the assumption that Aton was a sun god is not as strong as some would like to believe.
(The history of Akhnaton and Nefertiti does not come easily. When the priests of Amon came back into power, they were not anxious for anyone to remember Aton, or what had happened to them under Akhnaton.)
Soap opera fans may well love the story of Akhnaton's personal life. As mentioned earlier, Nefertiti was thought to be not only his wife but also half-sister. She eventually fell from favor.
Many have their theories as to why this happened. Theories ranging from political intrigue, to a split over religious doctrine. I think it was more basic. Akhnaton had denounced divinity. He was the first Pharaoh not to proclaim himself a god. It would, after all, be awkward to say there is but one god, Aton, and then proclaim yourself a deity. However, he went further than that. In past all Pharaohs had artisans to make their images as attractive as possible. Akhnaton said if any image was to be made of him, it should show him, as he was, flaws and all. The artists' feared punishment, if Pharaoh did not like what he saw. Nefertiti had many likenesses made and they were every where. This would tend to indicate that she was a vain woman and here images were, doubtlessly, enhanced by the artists. I think her vanity irritated Akhnaton and he tired of arguing with her about it.
When Nefertiti was no longer the Pharaoh's consort Akhnaton reportedly made his mother, Tiy, Queen of the land once more. Some say that the story of Oedipus is really the Greek version of Akhnaton's life. The problem is that there is just as compelling of an argument that Akhnaton replaced Nefertiti with their oldest daughter, Meritaten. I believe he choose his mother.
Confused! Well there is more.
The heir apparent to the thrown of Egypt was Tutankhaton. Some say he was Akhnaton's bother, being the son of Tiy. Some say Tutankhaton was Akhnaton's son, born him by Nefertiti. Some say Tutankhaton was just Akhnaton's son-in-law, that he was hand picked to marry Akhnaton's daughter Meritaten. I say it is likely that Tutankhaton was brother, son and son-in-law.
The story of Queen Tiy being Tutankhaton's mother says that she gave birth to him when she was 50 years of age. Tutankhaton was between nine and 12 years of age when he became Pharaoh (11 or 12 is the more likely ages). Akhnaton ruled for 16 years. Akhnaton's father Amenhotep III was obviously dead before Tutankhaton was born. Both Queen Tiy and the child would have been subject to cries for her death if any but a Pharaoh fathered any child that was her issue. (Some things were unacceptable no matter what god you worshiped.) So, if Tiy was the mother Akhnaton is the only likely father. That would make Akhnaton both Tutankhaton's father and brother.
As for the son-in-law, it was necessary for Akhnaton to pledge Tutankhaton to Meritaten. Akhnaton knew that he could not reconcile with his enemies. The only chance his Brother-Son had of surviving was for the followers of Aton to stay united. There were those who would not look well on Nefertiti being ignored. A sure cure for that was to wed to Meritaten to Tutankhaton. (A marriage that would have been unnecessary if Nefertiti had been Tutankhaton's mother or if Meritaten was the mother. In either case, Tutankhaton would have carried Nefertiti's heritage on his own.
When Akhnaton is believed to have died (about 1350 BC) the priests of gods and goddesses, other than Aton, were sowing dissatisfaction amongst a large segment of the people. The generals had long resented not be allow to fight to expand the Empire (which would have added to their personal wealth). In addition, even among his own followers there were those who did not understand why he put away Nefertiti.
Akhnaton's daughter, Meritaten, knew that the young Tutankhaton would likely be unable to fend off the enemies of the followers of Aton. She sought a marriage with a Hittite Prince. The day before they were to wed the Prince mysteriously died of poison. Meritaten was force to wed Tutankhaton.
The generals and the priests of Amon were quick to reassert themselves. Tutankhaton was renamed Tutankhamen. The boy was easily led. Soon the priests realized the 12-year old boy, entering puberty, was even more easily led by a 23-year-old wife. Consequently, the young Pharaoh also died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances. Now an older, stronger and more suitable husband was found for Meritaten and the cult of Aton disappeared..... .
It is said that an Amorite named Abram came to understand. One god was the creator of all things. With this understanding came a relationship with that god. When Abram was a faithful servant of his new found god he renounced his past, including his name. He took a new name, Abraham, and the seed of a new people, Hebrews, and a new religion, Judaism, was sown.
It is a nice story, but there is no evidence that it ever occurred. Although the written word existed in Abraham's time, nothing was written of him until well over 500 years after he reportedly lived.
On the other hand, we do have the history of Amenophis IV, or Amenhotep IV, who came to reject the gods of Egypt, especially Amon. He came to believe in on god, Aton. With that belief he changed his name to Akhnaton or Ikhnaton, and began what is the first, recorded, worship of one god.
It is hard to tell about a verbal history. The Hebrew people did not write down their history, or scripture, until about the 3rd or 4th century AD. That means that if there history goes back as far as they claim, and allowing for arguments over timelines, then the stories of the Jewish scriptures were passed down verbally for between 600 to 900 years. Judging how well mankind has messed up all of God's other gifts, that seems more than enough time for mistakes, changes and embellishments to have taken place.
The main question is who introduced the Hebrews to the concept of 'One God'? There was bad blood between the Egyptians and the Hebrews. (The why of that comes in the next segment.) And even if there were not, it was common for peoples of this era (or today for that matter) to claim external revelation as internal inspiration.
As the story of Oedipus may well have the Greek version of the life of Akhnaton, so too, the story of Abraham may have been the Hebrew version of Akhnaton's life. However, where the Greeks could afford to highlight what they saw as tragedy, the Hebrew would have to hide it. The tragedy being Akhnaton taking his own mother to wife.
The Greeks, the Hitites and even the Egyptians found the match of mother and son vile. This is the best evidence that Queen Tiy may have been Hebrew but was probably Babylonian. Such a match was common amongst the Babylonian people. It was also obvious that Akhnaton would do anything that would anger the religious old guard of Egypt.
The Hebrews told the story saying that Abraham's wife could not conceive. So Abraham took his wife's hand maiden.
2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
3 And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
4 And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
Nefertiti could have sent Akhnaton to his mother Tiy. If Nefertiti had been a Hebrew she would have lived in a time frame that would have allowed it. The Hebrews were of the same Amorite blood and traditions as were the Babylonians. It was not until much later that the moral sensibilities of the Hebrew people became more 'Egyptian'. And it is possible that the reason Nefertiti fell from favor was as simple as not bearing Akhnaton a male child.
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
The Pharaoh was the father of many nations and his name change from Amenhotep to Akhnaton. Had he not been Pharaoh he would never have been allowed to make such a change.
8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
During the reign of Akhnaton the Hebrews, according to the Bible, were supposed to be slaves. Yet records have been found that show the governors of the land of the Canaanites appealed to Akhnaton for protection. The told him that the Hebrews did fall upon Canaanite cites with sword and with fire. It is very likely that Akhnaton allowed the Hebrews to occupy Canaan because Canaanites were loyal to the old gods while the Hebrews had accepted the 'One God'.
of Abraham seemed to be a quilt work of many stories but it is possible
we could draw more parallels with Akhnaton if the priests of Amon had not
wanted to destroy all memory of this Pharaoh.
That part would seem easy to explain, even though large amounts of money has been spent trying to locate Akhnaton's or Nefertiti's tombs. The Pharaoh and his Queen did not believe in resurrection, that their bodies should be mummified so that it might once more arise. They believed in reincarnation and part of that belief was that you could not be born again as long as anything remain of your past life. This being so, it is most likely that they both would have had themselves cremated. The priests of Amon would have been more than happy to make sure this was done. It would have helped erase Akhnaton from the history of Egypt and, according to the teachings of Amon Ra; Akhnaton would be unable to resurrect and would be damned.
A compelling argument that Moses existed, even though nothing has been found in the records of Egypt that mentions anyone named Moses, was that Rameses saw to it that all records of Moses were destroyed. That argument will not stand up because of the fact of Akhnaton.
The religious orders controlled written records. Akhnaton was hated by the religious orders; he was hated by the generals and Rameses order all record of him obliterated. Still some record of Akhnaton survived. Moses, being reportedly of the house of Pharaoh, would have some record survive. Even if he had existed as a Hebrew fondling adopted and named Moses.
It is in the generations of things that the Bible becomes so confusing. One would expect there to be quite a time span between Abraham and Moses but the generations of man were not so long back then. Even so, our record of the Hebrews, in a land with a propensity for keeping records, is spotty. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are only mentioned in the Bible.
The fact that Jacob was called Israel, to some, indicates that at the time the Hebrews had not yet come to believe in 'ONE GOD'. It is said that the name Israel meant that Jacob was accepted by the three main factions of worship, IS = ISIS - RA = AMON RA - EL = SATURN. The Hebrews were split between those that worshiped the day or the night. It is said the night worshipers won out since all Jewish ritual periods seem to begin at sundown, and end at sunrise.
Jacob had twelve sons, the number houses Egyptian mystics said ruled the night sky, that ruled the heavens. These 12 sons each founded a tribe of, what came to be known as, the nation of Israel. Moses, of the royal house of Egypt, came to lead those tribes.
Whoever Moses was he came for the court of Pharaoh, that is fairly sure. Only one of some political power, real or imagined, could have kept the generals and priests a bay long enough for the Hebrews to gather for the Exodus. But they were not escaping slavery.
If they had accepted the concept of 'ONE GOD', and there is evidence that now this was so, then they were at risk from the return Amon Ra and the other gods of Egypt. The priests would want to wipe out all presents of the hated Aton and his worshipers. Most of Akhnaton's converts to Aton were those who would worship whatever or whoever Pharaoh said to worship. Others quickly fled Egypt or were easily dispatched. The Hebrews were a different story. They were many, they controlled Canaan and they were well trained, well-armed, fighters.
Personally, I do not believe the Akhnaton was the Moses. Had he lived he would have still had the power of Pharaoh and would have had time to train a successor. Akhnaton had proven he was of strong character. For 16 to 18 years he ruled all of Egypt, fought off an angry priesthood and held his generals on a tight leash. He was not the type of man to "..go gently into that good night." Though a gentle man and an advocate of peace he still felt strongly about his religious beliefs and would have died rather than yield.