As a little girl, I loved watching The Ten Commandments. In the early 70’s—the days before blu-ray and Netflix—its annual Easter broadcast was a big deal. The whole family would sit around the TV with bowls full of popcorn and watch Charlton Heston shout, “Let my people go!”
Imagine my excitement when I heard about another movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, coming to theatres in 2014. A new face, Christian Bale, would light up the big screen with the story of Moses—or so I hoped.
I found the Exodus movie entertaining—though not biblical—and for me, at least, it will never replace the classic story told by Cecil B. DeMille in 1956. However, I nearly stood up and cheered when Exodus: Gods and Kings portrayed Moses as the grandson of Horemheb! That tidbit of fiction is unique to the movie and my book, The Pharaoh’s Daughter, and sprouts from a little bit of fact. Stay with me as we traverse the bulrushes to find fact amid the fiction…
The candidates for which Pharaoh’s Daughter drew Moses from the bulrushes is the subject of much debate—almost as widely speculated as the date of the Exodus itself. Once I chose which expert to believe on the Exodus date (1250 BCE), Scripture determined which Pharaoh was king:
“Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.” ~ Exodus 7:7 (emphasis added)
By adding eighty years to 1250 BCE, sources pinpointed to King Tutankhamen as the king in 1330 BCE, the “pharaoh of the edict” in Exodus 1:15-16:
“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’”
I was both excited and dejected when research suggested King Tut. Excited, because I’m fascinated by the boy king. Dejected, because he was truly a boy king—not old enough to have a daughter capable of bearing or mothering a child.
Because I know the Bible is unshakeable truth, and I’m unwilling to bend historical research, I tried to think outside the box. More research uncovered King Tut’s biological sister—a girl who would have been deemed, Pharaoh’s daughter, the daughter of Tut’s father, King Akhenaten.
To understand the life of Akhenaten’s daughter, we should first picture the life of her father.
King Akhenaten had many wives. Fact.
One he loved; another he feared. Fiction.
Nefertiti, the one he feared (fiction), produced six daughters—no sons. Fact.
Kiya, the Beloved Wife (fact), gave him a son—Tutankhamun (Tut)—and two daughters. Fact.
Nefertiti coerced King Akhenaten to name Kiya’s daughters “decoy names”—names similar to Nefertiti’s daughters—so if the underworld gods sought to steal (kill) Nefertiti’s daughters, perhaps they’d be fooled by the names and take Kiya’s daughters instead. (Fact and fiction—the names are real and thought to be decoys for the gods, but we can’t know if Nefertiti coerced the king.)
Now begins the weaving of fiction: The little decoy princess witnessed her mother Kiya’s death in childbirth. Her fear of death soars. Without Kiya’s protection, King Akhenaten realizes their children will be vulnerable to Nefertiri’s schemes, so he relinquishes his little decoy princess to his top soldier—General Horemheb—who adopts the girl and gives her a new name, Anippe.
When Anippe marries a handsome army commander, she becomes Amira of her husband’s fertile Delta estate. But the word fertile conjures nightmarish memories of her mother’s lifeless body on the birthing stones.
Anippe sees a Hebrew baby floating in a basket on the Nile (biblical Truth) and believes the gods have answered her prayers for a son—without the dangers of childbirth. (Fiction)
She names him after her adoptive father—Horemheb—but in the quiet moments calls him by his Hebrew name, Moses. Will rescuing this boy from the Nile answer her prayers or cost her life?
The Pharaoh’s Daughter mingles Egyptian history, biblical fact, and imagination to tell the story of a girl who grew up in a palace, defied a king, and raised a Hebrew boy to lead a nation. Though the movies tell a different story, I hope you’ll enjoy the unique retelling of this familiar Bible favorite.
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