One question is, what did his parents call him? He was about two (after fully weaned) when he moved into Pharaoh’s house:
Surely he had a name before then? Why does the Torah not tell us anything?
We only know the name that בת פרעה gives him. Textually, that marks her as his “real” mother:
But even then, what was his name? Would an Egyptian princess name her kid משה, from a Hebrew phrase?
The problem with that idea is that משה is a very rare word for “drawing out from the water”. It appears only one other time (actually twice, but it’s the same pasuk) in תנ״ך:
There’s a much more common word:
He should have been called דָּלִי!
The Netziv has an alternate explanation: his name actually was משה, in Egyptian; כי מן המים משיתהו is not the explanation for the name, but the justification for בת פרעה naming him:
For my amusement, I looked up some ancient Egyptian. Moshe meaning “child” fits. “Monius” doesn’t seem to fit any word that means “draw from the water”; the closest I could find is a word meaning “concealed”.
So I’m going to go with the עמק דבר, that Moshe’s Egyptian name was Moshe, and מן המים משיתהו is a לשון נופל על לשון, a Divine coincidence that gives meaning to his name. And that name doesn’t mean “drawn out”, as Ibn Ezra pointed out; it means “one who draws out”:
But what was his birth name? For that, we’re going to have to look at an “extreme” midrashic interpretation, of a pasuk in דברי הימים that is talking about the descendants of Judah:
At the פשט level, these are the children of מרד, from the family of Judah, who married an Egyptian princess, with no connection to our story. His three sons were the leaders (אבי) of three cities in Judah:
But we can’t let that go; if this is part of כתבי הקודש then there must be more to these chronological lists:
And there are only two “בת פרעה”s in תנ״ך: Shlomo’s wife, who brings עבודה זרה into his palace, and the בת פרעה of our story. Only one of these deserves to be called בִּתְיָה, “daughter of ה׳” (we use the name today but generally pronounce it בַּתְיָה):
So the midrash develops all these names as being names for the only son that our בת פרעה had, משה רבינו:
And “names”, especially in the midrash, don’t necessarily represent literally what a person is called, but who they truly are:
So what were Moshe’s ten names?
Notice how the midrash puts the names in our pasuk from דברי הימים together: ירד אבי גדור is the one who brought down the מצוות דאורייתא and established the מסורה of מצוות דרבנן; חבר אבי שוכו is the one who connected G-d to Israel and established the מסורה of נבואה; and יקותיאל אבי זנוח, the one who connected Israel to G-d and established the מסורה of עבודה.
His parents called him טוביה from ותרא אותו כי טוב הוא; full of potential but with no way of knowing how his life would turn out.
The ninth name is שְׁמַעְיָה בֶן נְתַנְאֵל הַסּוֹפֵר in his role as scribe of the תורה שבכתב.
But the tenth, the name שקרוי לו בספר תולדות ברייתו, was משה. Why do we only know that one?
The answer goes back to בת פרעה, and the sacrifice she made to save his life: