Bithiah

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Bithiah
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The Finding of Moses, Bithiah, 1740, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

According to Hebrew beliefs; Bithiah or in Modern Hebrew Bityah (בִּתְיָה, literally "daughter of God") was an Egyptian princess, and a daughter of Pharaoh. The name of her father is not in the Bible, but Rabbinic Midrash makes her the daughter of one of the Pharaohs of the Exodus, (see Pharaoh of the Exodus). The Bible and Midrash assert that she was the foster mother of Moses, having drawn him from the Nile and bestowed upon him his name (Exodus 2:10).

In Jewish tradition, she was exiled by the Pharaoh for bringing Moses the Levite into the house of Pharaoh and claiming him as her own child. Bithiah left Egypt with Moses during the mass Exodus of the children of Israel. She married Mered the Judahite. Her children were Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah (the father of Eshtemoa).

In the Bible and Midrash[edit]

In the Biblical account, the daughter of Pharaoh who rescued Moses is not named. A daughter of Pharaoh named Bithiah is mentioned in I Chronicles 4:18. The Midrash identifies the two as the same person, and says she received her name, literally daughter of Yah (= YHWH often rendered in English as LORD), because of her compassion and pity in saving the baby Moses. In the Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 1:3), God says to her that because she took in a child not her own, and called him her son (Moses can mean "child" in Egyptian), God will take her in and call her YHWH's daughter (which is what Bithiah means). The Midrash portrays her as a pious and devoted woman, who would bathe in the Nile to cleanse herself of the impurity of idolatrous Egypt. She is mentioned in Chron. 1, 4:18, as being the wife of Mered from the tribe of Judah, who is identified in the Midrash as being Caleb, one of the 12 spies. The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 18:3) also records that she was not affected by the 10 Plagues, and was the only female firstborn of Egypt to survive.

In Islamic tradition[edit]

In the Hadith, Bithiah is known as Asiya, one of four of "the best of women". She is also known as the Pharaoh's wife, not daughter, in the Qur'an. When Moses was born, his mother put him in an ark and placed it in the river. When this ark reached Pharaoh's palace, the courtiers took it out and got it opened before the queen. The Wife of Pharaoh was very much surprised to see a handsome and lovely child and took him in her arms. When Pharaoh (Firaun) came to know about it, he stepped forward to kill the child but Hadrat Asiya - the wife of Pharaoh (Firaun) stood in the way saying: Why do you kill this innocent child, the whereabouts of whose parents are not known! Pharaoh changed his mind. Moses's mother got appointed as a wet nurse in the palace till he grew up. The wife of Pharaoh (Firaun) - Hadrat Asiya was a good-natured lady. When Moses preached the true faith, Hazrat Asia believed in him. Pharaoh (Firaun) persecuted Hazrat Asiya in various ways but she remained steadfast. Muhammad has praised the piety and virtues of the wife of the Pharaoh, i.e., Hadrat Asiya. Hazrat Asiya was subjected to unbearable tortures. She was nailed to a board with either iron nails or wooden stakes piercing her wrists and ankles and flogged in blazing desert heat on the Pharaoh's orders. She laid down her life, but did not forsake her religion.

And God sets forth, as an example to those who believe the wife of Pharaoh: Behold she said: 'O my Lord! Build for me, in nearness to Thee, a mansion in the Garden, and save me from Pharaoh and his doings, and save me from those that do wrong':

—Qur'an, chapter 66 (At-Tahrim), verse 11[1]

Sura al'Fajr verse 10 refers to the Pharaoh of the nails (or stakes):

"And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes?"

In Josephus' works[edit]

The princess of Pharaoh who saved her father's concubine's baby to be called Moses (Thutmosis III) from the Nile was called Thermuthis by the native Greeks. She was also called Hatshepsut in Egyptian. However, Isis is the true name given by the NIV Bible for her. Isis means throne and in African hierarchy the woman has always been the pathway to the throne, until Kandaka Debra (of Sheba) and Solomon's son Baya Aliakum (king Menelik) came of age.

In Christian tradition[edit]

Eusebius of Caesarea (Preparation for the Gospel 9.15) names her as Merris, and Eustathius of Antioch (Commentary on Hexameron MPG 18.785) as Merrhoe.

In movies[edit]

She is often portrayed as being the sister or wife of Pharaoh in adaptations of the story, in order to have Moses appear as Pharaoh's son.

In the film The Ten Commandments, she is portrayed (by Nina Foch) as the daughter of Ramesses I and sister of the Egyptian pharaoh, Seti I, who raised Moses as her own son as her husband had died before they could have children. When Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt, she joins the Exodus.

In the 1956 film, Bithiah is shown as a compassionate and heroic woman, who deeply loved Moses as a mother and wanted him to inherit the throne so he could do good. When Moses is found out to be a Hebrew, the heartbroken Seti, with urging from Rameses, orders her not to see him again. During the first Passover when the Destroyer is killing the first born of Egypt, she is freed, apparently from a form of fairly luxurious house arrest, and takes part in the very first Passover Seder. She grieves over the suffering of her people, but casts her lot with the people of Israel and joins the Exodus. She willingly and gladly gives up her place on her rich litter to help the weaker Israelites. When the Egyptian chariots attack, she tries to interpose herself between the charging army and the people. Her future husband Mered (see I Chronicles 4:18) dissuades her from this noble but suicidal action. When the Egyptian army drowns, it is her grieving reaction that the film shows (rather than the singing and dancing of the people, led by Miriam, that the book of Exodus tells about). Mered comforts her in her sorrow. Later, during the mass worship of the Golden Calf, Bithiah is seen among the few who refuse to participate, and faithfully wait instead for Moses' return with the Ten Commandments.

Porgy and Bess[edit]

In the well known song "It Ain't Necessarily So" from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, the character Sportin' Life expresses skepticism about the veracity of several Biblical stories, including this one: "Li'l Moses was found in a stream/Li'l Moses was found in a stream/He floated on water/Till Ol' Pharaoh's daughter/She fished him, she said, from dat stream".

As a name[edit]

Bithiah's name in its Hebrew form (Batya, בתיה) is commonly used as a female first name in contemporary Israel (see Batya Gur) and means "small stream, brook."

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Bithiah. (n.d.). Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary. Retrieved January 28, 2008, from Dictionary.com website: [1]

Chicago Manual Style (CMS): Bithia is one of the last daughters of the pharaohs. In the temple of Akmenra, to this day there are still hyroglyphics speaking of Bithiah.

  1. ^ Quran 66:11"