This is not going to be a question about the Bible or God but I believe that is related with the Christianity. I believe in God, I came to my Savior several years ago but recently a friend sent me a website (Spanish language) where the author presented some evidence about how "Sargon I" and Moses have a similar history (see the section around image #15).

I know we have to defend our faith, so how can I refute that argument about Sargon and Moses?


2 Answers 2



There are no sources that claim Moses and Sargon of Akkad are the same person, but many sources do claim that the stories are similar enough to suggest one borrowing from the other. The most notable being that the information we have about Sargon places him in a basket sent down a river, just as Exodus does with Moses.

Similarities between the Neo-Assyrian Sargon Birth Legend and other infant birth exposures in ancient literature, including Moses, Karna, and Oedipus, were noted by Otto Rank in 1909. The legend was also studied in detail by Brian Lewis, and compared with a number of different examples of the infant birth exposure motif found in European and Asian folk tales. He discusses a possible archetype form, giving particular attention to the Sargon legend and the account of the birth of Moses. Joseph Campbell has also made such comparisons.
Sargon of Akkad - Comparisons in Ancient Literature - Wikipedia

Specifically, a story of Sargon's birth places him in a basket and has him sent down the river, much like Moses' birth as detailed in Exodus.

Sources of these tales

Moses' life, including the stories of his birth, are recorded in Exodus. Different scholars will date the writing of Exodus more conservatively or more liberally from the 15th Century BC to the 7th Century BC. The chronology of the story places Moses in the 15th Century BC, however.

Sargon lived and ruled in the 23rd Century BC. However, it seems that most of what we know about him, including the events of his story similar to Moses', are from cuneiform tablets written in about 650 BC called The Legend of Sargon. These tablets were discovered as part of the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh in the 19th Century AD.


There is no doubt that Sargon lived long before Moses. However, neither has surviving stories that clearly out-date the other, therefore there is no bibliographic evidence that the later one is borrowing from the earlier one. But, there is good scholarship in dating the writing of Exodus to the 7th Century BC and the tablets we have of Sargon are also from the 7th Century BC. Additionally, we know that Israel, the originator of the stories of Moses, was in the area where the stories of Sargon would have been kept and read in the 7th Century BC. This should lead one to conclude that the story of Sargon influenced the story of Moses.

Conversely, There is decent scholarship in dating the writing of Exodus much earlier than the 7th Century BC. This lends credence to the idea that Exodus influenced The Legend of Sargon.

Like most claims of authorship, dating, and syncretism, this comes down to which bits of evidence you find more convincing. My impression is that most scholars find the evidence suggesting that The Legend of Sargon influenced Exodus the most convincing. So if you want to "prove" that the stories of Moses influenced the stories of Sargon, you need to convince the other party that Exodus was written earlier than the 7th Century BC and that there is little reason to think that the tablets we have of The Legend of Sargon is not a copy of earlier writings.

Miscellaneous Sources



There is a pattern in ancient legends of heroes left in a basket in a river, then brought up in a royal family. Around 2500 BC, King Sargon is said to have been placed in a reed basket caulked with pitch and hidden in the river. Sargon was a real, historical person, even if the story of being placed in a reed basket is a myth, and he went on to found a huge new empire based on southern Mesopotamia.

The following translation of the Sargon birth legend comes from J.B. Pritchard's The Ancient Near East, Volume I, pages 85-86:

Sargon, the mighty king, king of Agade, am I.
My mother was a changeling, my father I knew not.
The brother(s) of my father loved the hills.
My city is Azupiranu, which is situated on the banks of the Euphrates.
My changeling mother conceived me, in secret she bore me.
She set me in a basket of rushes, with bitumen she sealed My lid.
She cast me into the river which rose not (over) me,
The river bore me up and carried me to Akki, the drawer of water.
Akki, the drawer of water lifted me out as he dipped his e[w]er.
Akki, the drawer of water, [took me] as his son (and) reared me.
Akki, the drawer of water, appointed me as his gardener,
While I was a gardener, Ishtar granted me (her) love,
And for four and [ ... ] years I exercised kingship,
The black-headed [people] I ruled, I gov[erned];
Mighty [moun]tains with chip-axes of bronze I conquered,
The upper ranges I scaled,
The lower ranges I [trav]ersed,
The sea [lan]ds three times I circled.
Dilmun my [hand] cap[tured],
[To] the great Der I [went up], I [. . . ],
[ . . . ] I altered and [. . .].
Whatever king may come up after me,
[. . .]
Let him r[ule, let him govern] the black-headed
[Let him conquer] mighty [mountains] with chip-axe[s
of bronze],
[Let] him scale the upper ranges,
[Let him traverse the lower ranges],
Let him circle the sea [lan]ds three times!
[Dilmun let his hand capture],
Let him go up [to] the great Der and [. . . ]!
[. . .] from my city, Aga[de ... ]
[. . . ] . . . [. . .].


Otto Rank (The Myth of the Birth of the Hero) discusses several quite similar hero accounts from around the Mediterranean region and even as far away as India. Of these, the story of Sargon is probably the oldest transmitted hero myth in our possession. On page 13, Rank says the biblical story of the birth of Moses presents the greatest similarity to the Sargon legend, even an almost literal correspondence of individual traits.

Relevance of the parallels

Parallels between the birth stories of Sargon and Moses are little more than an interesting diversion if we know that Moses was a real person who authored the Pentateuch and led the Israelites out of Egypt. It therefore becomes relevant to see what the consensus of scholars is on each of these traditions.

D. M. Murdock (Did Moses Exist?, page 26) says that as long ago as the seventeenth century, the French Catholic priest Richard Simon wrote his Critical History of the Old Testament, in which he reasoned that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch. Murcock cites Richard E. Friedman, who says that there is hardly a Bible scholar in the world actively working on the problem who would claim that the five books of Moses were written by Moses.

Gerard Gertoux (Moses and the Exodus Chronological, Historical and Archaeological Evidence, pages 127-128) says that most archaeologists and Egyptologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as a 'fruitless pursuit'. He says there is also a consensus among biblical scholars that there was never an Exodus of the proportions described in the Bible.

Literary conclusions

Carol A. Redmount says, in 'Bitter lives', published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, page 63, that recent research indicates that even more of the extant Exodus account than previously thought comes from periods during or after the Israelite monarchy or even the Exile. So, to a large extent, the story of Moses was written a thousand years after he was supposed to have lived. It then becomes credible that the story of his birth was based on the story of Sargon's birth.

Moses was not Sargon I, but his story appears to have been influenced by the story of Sargon.

  • 2
    Mosaic authorship is often more nuanced than he wrote it versus he didn't. John Sailhamer has a fascinating argument that the canonical form is the result of development that accords with the role of teachers like Ezra who were charged with making the sense of it plain for the people to understand. So Moses could be the author of the source material while at the same time bearing signs of being contemporary to 300-200 B.C. Jan 27, 2016 at 2:40
  • 3
    @Coeus Unfortunately people seem to place more weight on the writings of a professor than writings that were inspired by the Almighty God. They say the same about Jesus and how Him being born of a virgin was a copy from older stories, nevertheless it is not true. These inscriptions came thousands of years after the Torah was written. "The legends which grew up around Sargon and his dynasty were still being written, copied, and performed in the last days of the Assyrian Empire (612 BCE)." Jan 27, 2016 at 17:01
  • 2
    @Coeus It is true that the oldest copy of the Sargon inscription dates to around 800 BCE, but it is also true that the oldest copy of Genesis we have dates to 2nd century BCE. What is more important is when the original autographs were written. The inscription we have comes from Assyria and is therefore a copy of a much earlier inscription because Sargon was king of Akkad. The Akkadian period ended around 2170 BCE, so the legend had probably developed by then. Jan 27, 2016 at 20:20
  • 2
    @Coeus As to your friend's comments, you can not honestly dispute that the Moses story is a copy, but you can choose to remain strong in your faith. Many Christians remain believers even in the knowledge that the Moses account is not literally true. Jan 27, 2016 at 20:23
  • 1
    @Coeus - Also, it is important to remember that The Bible is written by a variety of authors. JEPD theory holds that some books were even written by multiple authors. Therefore, simply because one book or one part of a book is fabricated or embellished, does not mean that that the whole Bible from cover to cover is. Even if the birth story of Moses isn't true, what bearing does that have on the rest of the text(s), much of which is corroborated by other archeology? Jan 28, 2016 at 7:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .