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In 26:29 and 28:38 it is reported that Pharaoh declared himself the only god, and ordered others to worship only himself. The same thing is repeated in 79:24, where he declares himself to be the highest:

Pharaoh threatened, “If you take any other god besides me, I will certainly have you imprisoned.”26:29

Pharaoh declared, “O chiefs! I know of no other god for you but myself. So bake bricks out of clay for me, O Hamân, and build a high tower so I may look at the God of Moses, although I am sure he is a liar.”28:38

saying, “I am your lord, the most high!” 79:24

But 7:127 mentions many gods:

The chiefs of Pharaoh’s people protested, “Are you going to leave Moses and his people free to spread corruption in the land and abandon you and your gods?” He responded, “We will kill their sons and keep their women. We will completely dominate them.”7:127

How to reconcile these verses?

And also explain them, please, from the point of view of history, because the polytheism of the Egyptians and the fact that the Pharaohs were considered divine has long been proven. But I didn't read that Pharaoh was considered the only and highest god. Maybe there is such information?

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  • It's rather that the Egyptians regarded their Pharaoh as the son or quintessence of their gods in which they believed. The point here is that Pharaoh just wanted to deny his belief in the one true God Musa was reminding them of.
    – Medi1Saif
    Aug 20, 2022 at 13:49

2 Answers 2

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There are several possible explanations for this:

  • It is possible that the Egyptians worshiped a pantheon of gods and Pharaoh was considered its supreme deity. Hence when he says:

    فقال أنا ربكم الأعلى

    And said, "I am your most exalted lord."

    Quran 79:24

    He means that he is the greatest of their gods. And when he says:

    قال لئن اتخذت إلها غيري لأجعلنك من المسجونين

    [Pharaoh] said, "If you take a god other than me, I will surely place you among those imprisoned."

    Quran 26:29

    وقال فرعون يا أيها الملأ ما علمت لكم من إله غيري

    And Pharaoh said, "O eminent ones, I have not known you to have a god other than me..."

    Quran 28:38

    He omits mentioning the lesser deities out of arrogance because they were all considered his subordinates and only worshiped with his consent. As such they were not gods other than him, rather they were only gods because of him. It is also possible that any other deities were considered simply as Pharaoh's aspects or incarnations or manifestations. Hence he did not mention them separately as they were a part of him.

    In any case, Pharaoh's intent was not to deny the other deities of his own religion, rather it was to deny the God of Moses (Allah) who was challenging his authority.

  • It is also possible that Pharaoh himself worshiped other gods, but demanded that his subjects worship and obey only him. This would be a variation of monolatry or henotheism. That is because the conversation which mentions multiple gods is said by the courtiers and addressed to Pharaoh and not to the other people:

    ويذرك وآلهتك

    and abandon you and your (Pharaoh's) gods?

    Quran 7:127

    While the verses 26:29 and 28:38 and 79:24 record what Pharaoh said to other people.

  • It is also possible that Pharaoh alone was considered a deity, however he had ordered his subjects to worship idols of himself (i.e. images of his form) so آلهتك means idols of Pharaoh rather than some distinct deities (see 7:138, 21:59 ). Hence 7:127 is to be interpreted as follows:

    Will you leave Moses and his people to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your idols?

    And the statements of Pharaoh recorded in 26:29 and 28:38 are not contradictory to this, since he is talking about deities and did not consider the idols to be distinct deities.

  • It is also possible that Pharaoh alone was considered a deity, and the word in verse 7:127 does not mean gods, rather it means worship or obedience as evident from some recitations of the verse. Hence it is to be interpreted as follows:

    Will you leave Moses and his people to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your worship?

    Will you leave Moses and his people to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your obedience?

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  • Interesting versions, especially the first two.
    – user51278
    Aug 22, 2022 at 18:22
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I suggest to start from what we know from Egyptian sources:

  • The Egyptian religion was polytheistic.

(1) (2)

  • The Egyptian emperors claimed to be deities and they demanded to be treated alike.

As part of his duties, the king wore a wide variety of nicknames, for example "Perfect God", in which the divine sonship should be expressed with the process of being a reincarnated god of the kingdom in the form of the king. The additional term "Great God" used by Ramses II, on the other hand, refers to the revaluation of the earthly royal office, which was located below the gods in the divine hierarchy. However, Ramses II was not satisfied with holding a “subordinate office” as a “god-king bound by instructions”, which is why he attempted in his official philosophy to use appropriate epithets to elevate the royal office to a level equal to that of the gods.

(German Wikipedia citing E. Blumenthal: Die Göttlichkeit des Pharao: Sakralität von Herrschaft und Herrschaftslegitimierung im Alten Ägypten. Berlin 2002, S. 58–59.)

Not only from the viewpoint of the full revelation, but already according to Abraham, whom the Israelites still remembered, and the reminder of Moses, yet the conventional Egyptian religion would be shirk (avoda zara). A pharao demanding to be worshipped exclusively is a top of shirk, and it is likely that even the polytheists disagreed (see above; it is not evident but possible that the Pharaoh in the time of Moses was Ramses II)

The behaviour of that pharaoh as it is described in the Quran describes an extreme arrogation that even exceeds the common level of arrogance of the Pharaohs in the Egyptian religion.

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  • Yes, it looks like the Pharaoh of the exodus was Ramses 2 or his son Merneptah. Moreover, a large layer of salt was found on the mummy of the latter. It is known that at the time of Ramses, Amon was considered the highest god in Egypt, and he was also the most revered among the gods. So, if Ramses 2 declared himself the supreme god, he declared himself Amon or his incarnation. And is there any historical evidence or books of scientists where it is said about this? And also are there any historical evidence or books of scholars about genotheism in Egypt?
    – user51278
    Aug 21, 2022 at 16:32
  • @Insan You may try to get this book: degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9783050079950/html. I do not have it.
    – Jeschu
    Aug 21, 2022 at 21:47
  • Thanks for your help.
    – user51278
    Aug 22, 2022 at 9:50

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