Moshe in Pharaoh’s Court (Parsha Sh’mot Ex. 1:1-6:1)

This coming week’s (Jan. 9th; 2021) Torah Parsha (Parsha Sh’mot; Ex. 1:1-6:1) deals with the birth and early life of Moshe. Exodus 2:10 tells us that Moshe was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, however the written Torah tells us virtually nothing about Moshe’s early life in Pharaoh’s court. However Philo of Alexandria tells us much about the education of Moshe. He tells us that he “reached the very summits of philosophy” (On Creation 8) Philo goes into great detail about Moshe’s education in Pharaoh’s court saying:

(20) Therefore the child being now thought worthy of a royal education and a royal attendance, was not, like a mere child, long delighted with toys and objects of laughter and amusement, even though those who had undertaken the care of him allowed him holidays and times for relaxation, and never behaved in any stern or morose way to him; but he himself exhibited a modest and dignified deportment in all his words and gestures, attending diligently to every lesson of every kind which could tend to the improvement of his mind. (21) And immediately he had all kinds of masters, one after another, some coming of their own accord from the neighbouring countries and the different districts of Egypt, and some being even procured from Greece by the temptation of large presents. But in a short time he surpassed all their knowledge, anticipating all their lessons by the excellent natural endowments of his own genius; so that everything in his case appeared to be a ecollecting rather than a learning, while he himself also, without any teacher, comprehended by his instinctive genius many difficult subjects; (22) for great abilities cut out for themselves many new roads to knowledge. And just as vigorous and healthy bodies which are active and quick in motion in all their parts, release their trainers from much care, giving them little or no trouble and anxiety, and as trees which are of a good sort, and which have a natural good growth, give no trouble to their cultivators, but grow finely and improve of themselves, so in the same manner the well disposed soul, going forward to meet the lessons which are imparted to it, is improved in reality by itself rather than by its teachers, and taking hold of some beginning or principle of knowledge, bounds, as the proverb has it, like a horse over the plain. (23) Accordingly he speedily learnt arithmetic, and geometry, and the whole science of rhythm and harmony and metre, and the whole of music, by means of the use of musical instruments, and by lectures on the different arts, and by explanations of each topic; and lessons on these subjects were given him by Egyptian philosophers, who also taught him the philosophy which is contained in symbols, which they exhibit in those sacred characters of hieroglyphics, as they are called, and also that philosophy which is conversant about that respect which they pay to animals which they invest with the honours due to God. And all the other branches of the encyclical education he learnt from Greeks; and the philosophers from the adjacent countries taught him Assyrian literature and the knowledge of the heavenly bodies so much studied by the Chaldaeans. (24) And this knowledge he derived also from the Egyptians, who study mathematics above all things, and he learnt with great accuracy the state of that art among both the Chaldaeans and Egyptians, making himself acquainted with the points in which they agree with and differ from each other–making himself master of all their disputes without encouraging any disputatious disposition in himself–but seeking the plain truth, since his mind was unable to admit any falsehood, as those are accustomed to do who contend violently for one particular side of a question; and who advocate any doctrine which is set before them, whatever it may be, not inquiring whether it deserves to be supported, but acting in the same manner as those lawyers who defend a cause for pay, and are wholly indifferent to the justice of their cause.
(Philo; Early Life of Moses 1, 20-24)

Philo goes on to explain that when the young Moses grew old enough to exercise his rational mind, he quickly learned to master his impulses and emotions:

(25) And when he had passed the boundaries of the age of infancy he began to exercise his intellect; not, as some people do, letting his youthful passions roam at large without restraint, although in him they had ten thousand incentives by reason of the abundant means for the gratification of them which royal places supply; but he behaved with temperance and fortitude, as though he had bound them with reins, and thus he restrained their onward impetuosity by force. (26) And he tamed, and appeased, and brought under due command every one of the other passions which are naturally and as far as they are themselves concerned frantic, and violent, and unmanageable. And if any one of them at all excited itself and endeavoured to get free from restraint he administered severe punishment to it, reproving it with severity of language; and, in short, he repressed all the principal impulses and most violent affections of the soul, and kept guard over them as over a restive horse, fearing lest they might break all bounds and get beyond the power of reason which ought to be their guide to restrain them, and so throw everything everywhere into confusion. For these passions are the causes of all good and of all evil; of good when they submit to the authority of dominant reason, and of evil when they break out of bounds and scorn all government and restraint.
(Philo, Early Life of Moses 1, 25-26)

It was his stoic philosophy that made Moshe ideal to lead Israel, and to bring the revelation of Torah to Israel an the World.

This is the first of what may be a series of Stoic Torah studies. If you would like to see more of these weekly Stoic Torah studies, please support this work of restoration of Hebraic Stoicism by donating by Paypal to

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