on Exodus 2 :5
And the daughter of Pharaoh - Josephus calls her Thermuthis, and says that "the ark was borne along by the current, and that she sent one that could swim after it; that she was struck with the figure and uncommon beauty of the child; that she inquired for a nurse, but he having refused the breasts of several, and his sister proposing to bring a Hebrew nurse, his own mother was procured." But all this is in Josephus's manner, as well as the long circumstantial dream that he gives to Amram concerning the future greatness of Moses, which cannot be considered in any other light than that of a fable, and not even a cunningly devised one.
To wash herself at the river - Whether the daughter of Pharaoh went to bathe in the river through motives of pleasure, health, or religion, or whether she bathed at all, the text does not specify. It is merely stated by the sacred writer that she went down to the river to Wash; for the word herself is not in the original. Mr. Harmer, Observat., vol. iii., p. 529, is of opinion that the time referred to above was that in which the Nile begins to rise; and as the dancing girls in Egypt are accustomed now to plunge themselves into the river at its rising, by which act they testify their gratitude for the inestimable blessing of its inundations, so it might have been formerly; and that Pharaoh's daughter was now coming down to the river on a similar account. I see no likelihood in all this. If she washed herself at all, it might have been a religious ablution, and yet extended no farther than to the hands and face; for the word רחץ rachats, to wash, is repeatedly used in the Pentateuch to signify religious ablutions of different kinds. Jonathan in his Targum says that God had smitten all Egypt with ulcers, and that the daughter of Pharaoh came to wash in the river in order to find relief; and that as soon as she touched the ark where Moses was, her ulcers were healed. This is all fable. I believe there was no bathing in the case, but simply what the text states, washing, not of her person, but of her clothes, which was an employment that even kings' daughters did not think beneath them in those primitive times. Homer, Odyss. vi., represents Nausicaa, daughter of Alcinous, king of the Phaeacians, in company with her maidens, employed at the seaside in washing her own clothes and those of her five brothers! While thus employed they find Ulysses just driven ashore after having been shipwrecked, utterly helpless, naked, and destitute of every necessary of life. The whole scene is so perfectly like that before us that they appear to me to be almost parallels. I shall subjoin a few lines. The princess, having piled her clothes on a carriage drawn by several mules, and driven to the place of washing, commences her work, which the poet describes thus: -
Ται δ' απ' απηνης
Εἱματα χερσιν ἑλοντο, και εσφορεον μελαν ὑδωρ.
Στειβον δ' εν βαθροισι θοως, εριδα προφερουσαι.
Αυταρ επει πλυναν τε, καθηραν τε ῥυπα παντα,
Εξειης πετασαν παρα θιν' ἁλος, ᾑχι μαλιστα.
Λαΐγγας ποτι χερσον αποπλυνεσκε θαλασσα.
Odyssey, lib. vi., ver. 90.
"Light'ning the carriage, next they bore in hand
The garments down to the unsullied wave,
And thrust them heap'd into the pools; their task
Despatching brisk, and with an emulous haste.
When all were purified, and neither spot
on Exodus 2 :5
The traditions which give a name to the daughter of Pharaoh are merely conjectural. Egyptian princesses held a very high and almost independent position under the ancient and middle empire, with a separate household and numerous officials. This was especially the case with the daughters of the first sovereigns of the 18th Dynasty.
Many facts concur in indicating that the residence of the daughter of Pharaoh and of the family of Moses, was at Zoan, Tanis, now San, the ancient Avaris (Exodus 1:8 note), on the Tanitic branch of the river, near the sea, where crocodiles are never found, and which was probably the western boundary of the district occupied by the Israelites. The field of Zoan was always associated by the Hebrews with the marvels which preceded the Exodus. See Psalm 78:43.
To wash - It is not customary at present for women of rank to bathe in the river, but it was a common practice in ancient Egypt. The habits of the princess, as well as her character, must have been well known to the mother of Moses, and probably decided her choice of the place.
on Exodus 2 :5