How did Moses know he was an Israelite?


First I would like to say that I watch your show every morning and I absolutely love it. Thank you so much for what you are doing. I have learned so much!

Now for my question, how did Moses know he wasn’t Egyptian and that he was an Israelite? It’s driving me crazy. Am I missing it in scripture or is the answer found in ancient Jewish wisdom?  Thanks for reading.


Cynthia A.
Boston, Virginia

Dear Cynthia,

We are delighted that you watch our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV show on TCT. We are also delighted with your question! It is a wonderful question that shows a willingness to seek beyond the surface of Scripture and explore it with mature eyes.

We suggest you can find the beginning of an answer in Scripture, by looking in Exodus and in Chronicles, with ancient Jewish wisdom filling in the blanks. In Exodus 2:6 we see that Pharaoh’s daughter knew that the baby she drew from the water was a Hebrew. She even looked for a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby! In 1 Chronicles 4:18,  we find a woman named Bit-Ya, daughter of Pharaoh. The name Bit-Ya translates as “daughter of God,” and ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that God called her by that name saying, “You called Moses your son though he was not; I will call you my daughter though you are not.”

Bit-Ya is given great credit for breaking from the evil of Pharaoh’s house and eventually converting to join the Jewish nation. We see that the name she gave Moses is the one we know him by rather than the name he was given by his birth parents. This is despite their personal eminence and membership in the tribe of Levi.  Considering Bit-Ya’s  greatness and willingness to abandon a life of privilege rather than be part of her birth culture’s wickedness, it is not a surprise that she not only told Moses of his background but also encouraged him to live up to his heritage.

In 1865, William Ross Wallace wrote a poem with the refrain, “For the Hand the rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.” While our society today might spurn that idea saying to women, “Don’t settle for rocking the cradle; go out and rule the world yourself,” we would like to gently suggest that the world would be better off if more women saw Bit-Ya as a role model.

Here is one stanza from the poem:

Woman, how divine your mission
Here upon our natal sod!
Keep, oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.

Of course, Moses himself deserves great credit as well. Many of us choose to forget our heritage and ignore our identity.  Sadly we are easily persuaded to construct a false front over our real selves by three forces acting upon us.  (i) Friends; (ii) Entertainment and the culture; (iii) Inside doubts and fears.  Moses reminds us to remain true to who we really are. 

Wherever the call to truth comes from, whether amazing grandparents who inspire us to live our heritage or a quiet dream inside our souls, we can summon up the strength to turn our backs upon the false promises taunting us to join a decaying culture.  Just as Moses remembered who he really was even while surrounded by the luxurious depravity of Pharaoh, so can we.  It really is very inspiring.

Keep reading with a questioning eye,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

22 thoughts on “How did Moses know he was an Israelite?”

  1. Concerning the 400 years of affliction. The affliction began when Ishmael, the son of Hagar the servant of Sarah, began to mock Isaac. Gen 21:8-13. Isaac is the promised one mentioned at Gen 12:1-3. And the affliction ended with the Exodus from Egypt.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      There are several ways of calculating this Evelyn,
      They were actually enslaved in Egypt for 210 years but the pain began from when God told Adam that his seed will be enslaved.


  3. I just listened to your show about the Book of Esther. It as amazing! Can you please go into this more sometime please.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      We absolutely will do so, Kathy,
      and just to make sure we understand, you do mean our daily television show Ancient Jewish Wisdom on TCT television ( ) right? That was where we most recently discussed some ideas found in Esther.

  4. to Rabbi Lapin,
    Our Heavenly Father is so true to His Word – “Delight yourself in The Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart”. I love and treasure the Book Of Genesis for what it is, viz profound in its depth and teaching for life’s lessons. I became a Christian in 1989 and have longed to know the Ancient Truths in understanding Genesis as from the Jewish perspective. My quest is now satisfied. However, I have tried to secure your book Buried Treasures, but in vain. There are second-hand books available on but from previous experience, they do not post these to South Africa, where I live.
    How shall I be able to obtain this book if it is no longer published and yet advertised?
    Thank you for your ministries, and I look forward to your reply.
    Lynita Kin

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Randal-
      Ancient Jewish wisdom preserves a tradition handed down that Moses was actually born circumcised. This is not unknown and even today, a small number of men are born without a foreskin. This condition is known clinically as “aposthia”. Jewish tradition lists a few other men born with no foreskin but no special moral or any other traits are ascribed. Apropos your question, although ancient Egyptians are not known to have practiced male infant circumcision, there is a fascinating episode about which I have written in which Joseph insisted on adult male Egyptians circumcising before he agreed to open up the storehouses during the famine. But I’m not going into that here and now.

  5. So many times over my recent studying of the Bible I only wished that we all could have been more aware and taught what is currently and on my own past searching. Which is being now revealed by numerous other more educated people It is my prayers that they too, would accept and love ❤️ The Bible. One soul at a time, I’m informed, we can’t save the world 🌎 on our own, only Jesus will be able to do this. I think of myself as a little g and G-d as the big G.

  6. Eight years of Torah now and each cycle I still find nuggets I didn’t see before. In a few paragraphs you’ve pour out many. Toda

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks Vince-
      Looking forward to many more years of revealing new timeless Torah truths for you,

  7. As usual, I learned some new things from your answer. I wouldn’t presume to be a scholar but I always had two thoughts on this subject: 1) Moses biological mother was his wet nurse and scripture says she took him and brought him back later. Does that refer to her taking him to nurse for periodic time periods throughout each day or for a few years, during which time bio mom could’ve informed him of his lineage? Was bio mom part of the palace as an on-staff nanny to Moses?
    2) Exodus 2:14 seems to indicate that possibly Moses’ heritage was no secret and was known to everyone as his fellow Hebrew said to him, “Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian?” That says Moses was not a prince as Hollywood has portrayed him and probably that his fellow Hebrews knew Moses was not an biologically an Egyptian.

  8. Wouldn’t Moses have been circumcised on the 8th day of life? Perhaps this was also a sign that he was Jewish.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Sharon–
      Please see earlier correspondence on this page with Randal Blakely on this topic.

  9. Fabulous question with a fabulous answer! I do recall in Cecile DeMille’s movie, The Ten Commandments (1923), Moses’ Egyptian mother did make the exodus with him and the others. I don’t recall though what her name was in the movie, or if she was the daughter or the sister of Pharaoh.

    1. Lisa, I have to admit that I am not sure we have ever seen the movie other than bits and pieces of it.

  10. I love how you marry the past with current culture. Those of us Whom struggle with religion, find that your powerful words of wisdom bring truth to the values held to be true within. Thank you for what you do, everybody needs a rabbi!

    1. We appreciate the kind words, DJ. We don’t see the Bible as “the past” but as a guidebook to living in all times and all places.

    2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks DJ-
      especially the part you wrote about everyone needing a rabbi! Yes, if for no other reason than my job security, I heartily agree.

    3. I appreciate the input of wisdom from this perspective. I would say he knew he was an Israelite based in circumcision. As an Israelite he would have been circumcised on the 8th day and we know he was hidden for 3 months before he was placed in the Nile. When he was born and it states ‘what a fine son” does not equate to being born circumcised…as some writings suggest

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