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    Pharaoh & official power – Va’era

    The Torah readings at this time of year constantly make mention of Pharaoh.

    In some scholarly opinions this name is from a Semitic/Hebrew root (pey-resh-ayin) that means to pay a debt, and the Egyptian ruler of ancient times bore this name because he claimed the payment of taxes or death duties from the populace.

    Ibn Ezra strongly rejects this notion and insists that “Pharaoh” was a title. He says the word is not Hebrew but Egyptian and possibly means “sun god”.

    There were Pharaohs in various Biblical ages. Hence we find in Jeremiah 44:30 a Pharaoh named Hophra and in Jeremiah 46:2 a Pharaoh called Neco.

    “Pharaoh” was thus not a personal name but an official title. It went out of use some time in the Greek period.

    When the Torah attributes a statement or act to “Pharaoh” it indicates the expression of official power.

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