One Fat Pharaoh


How did the Israelites escape from their slavery in Egypt? If you trust Roy L. Moody, a doctor who visited Egypt in the 1920s, their miraculous rescue was due in no small part to the corpulence of Merneptah, generally believed to be the “Pharaoh” of the Exodus story–who was too fat to run after his own slaves.

An article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, recently reprinted in their online archive, reports how Moody performed his studies on Egyptian mummies–including Merneptah–in 1929. According to Moody’s forensic studies, Pharaoh “was so senile…that he had to send his officers in pursuit of the Jews” instead of going himself. In the biblical version of the Exodus story, Pharaoh did pursue the fleeing Israelites along with his army, all the way to the Reed Sea.

Ultimately, Dr. Moody’s theories were never taken seriously by biblical scholars. But they’re still a fascinating commentary on the  Bible and one of Judaism’s foundational narratives.

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