We all know the story of baby Moses placed in an "ark of bulrushes" by his Hebrew mother and floated on the water to find a home with Pharaoh's daughter. But this was not the first time in history that such a mode of transportation was chosen for a Semite child of humble beginnings who would become a leader of a great nation.
At the time of Isaiah, Sargon was the king of Assyria (Isa. 20:1). History books refer to him as Sargon II, however, named after the great Sargon, the first Semite king to rule ancient Sumer and Accad.
The middle of the third millennium BC was tumultuous in war-ravaged Sumer. Fortress cities fought for supremacy against each other with first one, and then another, vying for and gaining control, only to lose it again in another battle. Umma and Lagash were two cities frequently in opposition. Around 2450 BC, a monument was raised in Lagash heralding the triumph of King Eannatum over the Ummans.
At about 2375 BC, Lugalzaggesi of Umma exacted revenge and sacked the city of Lagash, burning their temples. (ref.1) The heady aroma of victory was not to endure as the forces of Lugalzaggesi were crushed at Nippur by Sargon the Great, bringing to power a new ruler who in time conquered the "four quarters of the world," namely Amurru to the west, Subartu to the north, Sumer and Accad to the south and Elam to the east. (ref. 2)
What gave Sargon's rule historical punctuation was that the inscriptions from his reign were set down in a language not used previously for official pronouncements - a Semitic language. A shift to Accadian, a language precursor to biblical Hebrew, after centuries of Sumerian inscriptions was a real attention getter for archaeologists.
A short testimony from Sargon has been pieced together from two incomplete Neo-Assyrian tablets and one Neo-Babylonian fragment. It begins, "Sargon the mighty king, king of Agade, am I." Sargon goes on to describe his humble birth.
According to Sargon himself, a Semite woman gave him birth. She placed baby Sargon in a reed basket waterproofed with pitch, and set him adrift upon the headwaters of the Euphrates. The basket drifted downstream and was found by a Sumerian farmer irrigating his fields who reared little Sargon in his home.
The parallel lives of Sargon and Moses are intriguing. Both were born to Semite mothers. Both were placed in reed baskets lined with pitch and set afloat. Both were reared in the homes of non Semites, one Sumerian, the other Egyptian. As young men, both became part of their respective royal courts. Both confronted rulers. And both became mighty leaders over a great nation.
Did the mother of Moses know the oral tradition of the great Sargon, and choose a proven survival method for her precious son? Did God direct the steps of both mothers and their sons who would become men of destiny? Or, is it all just coincidence?
Ref.1. C. C. Lamberg-Karlovsky and Jeremy A. Sabloff, Ancient Civilizations: The Near East And Mesoamerica, (Menlo Park: The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, Inc., 1979), 163.
Ref. 2. Andre Parrot, Sumer (France: Thames and Hudson, 1960), 170.