So, after a year or two of being breastfed by his biological mother, our mystery child is returned to Pharaoh’s daughter, and now that he can eat solid foods, he finally gets a name. And he shall be called Squishy! Er—Moses.
“Moses” is the modern equivalent of the Biblical Hebrew word Mosheh. You may notice that the original name doesn’t have an extra S at the end; this comes from the Ancient Greek Septuagint. Mosheh has a vowel sound ending, but in Greek, masculine names can’t end with a vowel sound, so the name was altered to “Moses,” which held over to the English translation.
Now, Exodus 2:9-10 says that Pharaoh’s daughter named the child Moses because he was drawn from the water, and sure enough, biblical scholars identify the word Mosheh to mean “drawn”. Of course this creates a rather odd conundrum; if Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t want anyone to find out that Moses was Hebrew, why on earth did she give him a HEBREW NAME!
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, she didn’t name him the Hebrew word that means “drawn,” she used the word with the same meaning in her native Egyptian. The Israelites just translated it into Hebrew when they wrote about him. But due to the way we use names, I have a hard time believing that. For example, the name “Gary” has it’s root with the Germanic word for spear, gar. Yet, when you see a guy named Gary, you don’t translate his name into English and call him Spear, you simply call him Gary because that’s his name. Names are ways for us to identify people so they usually transcend their native language. Maybe a name’s spelling or pronunciation changes a bit to fit the new alphabet, but the overall sound remains intact.
So, if that’s the case, then Moses is actually an Egyptian name, which means we should look for an Egyptian etymology. Well, in Egyptian, mose (remember the S wasn’t there initially) is used as a suffix meaning “born of,” which was common among royalty. For example, Thutmose means “born of Thoth” and Ramose (or Ramesses) means “born of Ra.” But, Moses is just the suffix by itself. Was there originally an Egyptian god’s name prefixed to Moses? Did the Hebrews remove it because the pagan name offended them?
You know what, I believe I’m over-thinking this too much. Let’s not forget that, beyond the bible there is no evidence whatsoever of Moses ever existing. So, in reality, Moses is just a fable of the Hebrew people, so his name’s origin doesn’t need a legitimate etymology. Besides, even the Hebrew scholars can’t agree whether the name means “drawn out” as in drawn out of the water, or “draw out” as in draw the Israelites out of Egypt.