Sigmund Freud wrote Moses and Monotheism which was not published until after his death in 1939. Apparently he didn’t want the trouble of defending his unusual theory on the early history of the Jews from attacks. I read this book many years ago when an undergraduate and it probably influenced me in unknown ways although not as much as Abraham Maslow which I encountered about the same time in 1957 before he became famous. This post came about because yesterday I was discussing Moses with my coffee shop interlocutors and as usual it devolved into a stupid argument which everyone seemed to enjoy. It seems everyone has a vaguely supportable theory as to how our modern-day religions came into being. I like mine as I am sure you like yours and my friends like theirs. Here’s mine for the origin of the Western monotheistic religions of the Book.
The Ancient Egyptian polytheistic religion was well over a thousand years old in 1398 BC when Tiye, later Queen, was born into a branch of the Royal family. She married the pharaoh Amenhotep III while both were still children by modern standards. They ruled for about 39 years until he died. Her son Akhenaten then ruled with his wife the beautiful Queen Nefertiti. Because of her intelligence and forcefulness Tiye had great influence on both of these pharaohs and it was at this time the state religion converted from a polytheistic one into a monotheistic one. Tiye may well have been the primal force behind the conversion. Tutankhamun (King Tut) was born 1341 BC when Tiye was about forty-three years old and he became pharaoh when he was nine years old probably about the time of her death. It was during her life that the state religion converted to monotheism and immediately after her death and King Tut’s short reign that it reverted to the old entrenched priestly polytheism. It appears that either she was totally responsible for the new Amarna religion or at a minimum had tremendous influence for the foundation of that religion.
My argument is simply that the monotheistic religion coexisted with Queen Tiye and died with her. Many people living at that time would probably have liked the new monotheistic religion and wanted to continue practicing it. When the polytheistic old guard priest class reasserted itself with the death of King Tut, (a possible homicide) it did so with a vengeance. They forcefully suppressed the new religion and tore down or defaced their monuments. That desecration is physically apparent to this day. What isn’t so apparent but would be an obvious action concomitant with this physical destruction is that if the priests were destroying the monuments they were also suppressing the beliefs and the believers inspired by what was represented by those monuments. These monotheistic believers would have been prevented from worshiping publicly and would have been forced to practice their religion in secret. That happened in Japan after the Japanese Roman Catholic Church was declared illegal and went underground after the Shimabara Rebellion in the 1630s. That church was called Kakure Kirishitan existed in secret for hundreds of years. The same thing may have happened in Egypt causing the timing of The Exodus to be difficult to establish.
Apparently a time came when the authorities in Egypt became annoyed with them and they were told to reconvert to the standard state religion of their ancestors or leave the country. Some chose to leave as a group and after they were departing as an easily identifiable cohesive group they were pursued by the Pharaoh’s army with the intent of exterminating them and eliminating the problem. This was a group of people who were unwanted in their place of birth and unwanted elsewhere and therefore they had to impose themselves in a new land through force or die. They stormed and captured Jericho and later all Israel successfully. Anther example of this was the Aztecs in Mexico. where a ostrocized group came into a new land and formed a new empire. Each of these cases are examples of a group of people forced by circumstance to become a cohesive force or die. They chose to unite.
This theory makes a consistent rational of reasons for leaving Egypt and explains the uncertain timing of the event because the monotheists had gone into secret worship to escape persecution for worshiping the religion which I think was first created by Queen Tiye. Apparently some disaffected old polytheists had come along on the Exodus which accounts for the Golden Calf story. This all happened almost a thousand years before most of the modern Bible was written so the religion went through many changes before it came to what we recognize as the people of the Book religions.