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Bithiah

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Bithiah, in Hebrew Bitya (בִּתְיָה, literally daughter of God) was the daughter of a Pharaoh of Egypt. 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).

Edwin Long 002

Edwin Long's 1886 painting of Batya finding the baby Moses

In the Bible and Midrash

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

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.

In Josephus' works

The daughter of Pharoh who drew Moses (MO Yses) from the Nile was called Thermuthis and not Bithia.

In Christian tradition

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

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 forbids her from seeing 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.

Sources

  • 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.

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