1/29/2010                                                                                       View Comments

Moses - revisited!

By James C

Moses and the Burning BushImage by Loci Lenar via Flickr

Just about everyone has some knowledge of Moses, be it from the Bible, the Qur'an, or movies. A historical figure, credited with leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt as well as reputedly being the author of the first few books of the bible and famous enough that he is mentioned more times in the New Testament than any other Old Testament character; and is the most mentioned name in the Qur'an.

You know the story... as a newborn, placed in a basket in the river to save him from Pharaoh’s death sentence on Hebrew babies (shades of future Herod). Then saved and adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter and raised in the palace. Later, kills an Egyptian for "smiting a Hebrew" and flees to Midian where he chances upon the seven daughters of Reuel, a Midian priest. He helped them withstand some unfriendly shepherds and then assisted them in watering their father's flock. When Reuel hears this he gives his daughter Zipporah as a wife (that's faster than online dating!). But there's a slight problem. In Exodus 2 (supposedly written by Moses himself) his father-in-law was Reuel as mentioned above. But in Ex 3, 4 & 18 it's supposedly Jethro... and over in Numbers 10 (also claimed to be a Moses effort) the father-in-law is called Hobab -- go figure?

And the last chuckle? That anyone with a working brain could call this anything beyond mythology! But if you really want to get a bit discombobulated concerning Moses, drop by Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_in_Rabbinic_Literature
and check out what the Rabbis have to say.

There, in addition to his connections to the creation and water, you'll find that he was born circumcised and walked immediately after birth! Except another story has him snipped after eight days. AND.... he spoke on the day of birth and began prophesying at age three! Just imagine what a successful televangelist he would have been. And was his birth an important day?? You bet! At least according to one of the stories, some 600,000 Hebrew children had already been thrown into the river but were saved by Moses birth... hey, maybe they were the 600,000 that left Egypt with Moses some years later.

And I guess it would be a bit of problem growing up in the royal household when it came to giving names. Bithiah, his adoptive mother gave him the handle of Moses. But, depending on which story you follow, he had either seven or ten names. Among them, Jared, Abi Gedor, Heber, Abi Soko, Jekuthiel, Abi Zanoah, Shemaiah and Heman. Can you just imagine the confusion in a classroom full of Pharaohonic kids when the teacher has to conduct a roll call?

As he grew up he became quite sensitive to the plight of Hebrew slaves, helping them when the load was too great or their strength too low. Even convinced the Pharaoh that the slaves were entitled to some rest and got him to give them one free day a week... VOILA! The SABBATH!

And this sensitivity toward the Hebrew slaves is what caused him to flee Egypt. Ex 2 says Moses saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew and so killed him. But the Rabbis have a far more interesting take on this phase. Seems the dude he killed had forced a Hebrew woman to "commit adultery with him." Pharaoh was a bit upset and delivered Moses to the executioner who had a very sharp sword. But Moses' neck became like marble and dulled the sword. Or.... according to another version, angel Michael gave the shape of Moses to the executioner and thereby killed him (did the executioner/Moses lookalike kill himself????? Doesn't say).

Tho Ex 2 takes Moses to the land of Midian, the Rabbis seem to disagree on the timing. Evidently he went to Ethiopia, spent nine years in their army, was proclaimed king, married Adoniya (with whom he had no relations for 40 years) and when she complained about that to the princes and generals they dismissed Moses, gave him treasures and THEN.... he went to the land of Midian. And there, it really gets confusing!

In the next few paragraphs we find the following caveats to confusion…. “Moses was then twenty, or possibly forty, years of age” and “Moses lived for twenty years in Pharaoh's house” and “Moses lived for forty years in Pharaoh's house” and “kept him prisoner for seven, or ten” and “only seven years in Jethro's hands” and “must have been Jethro's captive for ten years” and finally, “After ten (or seven) years.”

And remember Ex 4:24-25 when Moses was headed back to Egypt and God sought to kill him. Moses’ wife, Zipporah grabbed a sharp stone and circumcised their eldest son. The Rabbinical stories claim that: “On the way he met Satan, or Mastema, as he is called in the Book of Jubilees (xlviii. 2), in the guise of a serpent, which proceeded to swallow Moses, and had ingested the upper part of his body, when he stopped.[14] Zipporah seeing this, concluded that the serpent's action was due to the fact that her son had not been circumcised, whereupon she circumcised him and smeared some of the blood on Moses' feet.[14] A heavenly voice was then heard commanding the serpent to disgorge the half-swallowed Moses, which it immediately did.

Let’s see, now… your husband is being swallowed by a giant snake and so you INSTANTLY CONCLUDE that it’s because of #1 son not having been circumcised???? Quite a jump to conclusion. Just imagine how upset (and pained) that kid would have been if her conclusion had been wrong!!

Anyway, all of the above speculations and disagreements occurred before Moses spoke to Pharaoh about letting his people go. But no sense bothering you with more and more. Those interested can go to the Wiki link above and chuckle through the rest.

And the last chuckle? That anyone with a working brain could call this anything beyond mythology!


webmdave said...

I didn't get a notice on this one, Dave.

James, I just want to add a little more to what you said. Moses wasn't historical. He's being smuggled off to Egypt is the same motif as Krishna, Christ, and some others. The "I AM" bit can also be found in the story of Krishna/Vishnu too. Moses's god was a volcano god too.

Of course, there is all the lameness you mentioned in the story of Moses too, even without having to point out those other things.

So, as you noted, anyone with a working brain can tell it is pure mythology.

webmdave said...

But you have to admit, it made a great movie!

webmdave said...

its not any weirder then the creation story, jonah and the whale, talking donkeys, Samson, Spirit guides that talk to the dead or the many other bizzare stories in the bible that people believe fully and literally.

webmdave said...

James, this was a very interesting essay. I think your strongest argument -against the Christian stand - that Moses was mythological is the Bible's naming of 3 different fathers-in-law. Clearly those writers were just repeating old stories they had heard, despite the fact that the Bible is supposed to be "the Word of God (was god confused on this issue?)." For the rest of us, all that magic associated with Moses is quite sufficient to qualify him as mythical. Thanks for the post.

webmdave said...

If you ever want to see a Christians head spin like a top, just mention the fact that nobody knows who wrote one word of it (or when it was written.) The whole damned book is no less fiction than is "The Night Before Xmas".

webmdave said...

"And the last chuckle? That anyone with a working brain could call this anything beyond mythology!"

And not even good mythology. Myths are pretty clear on who is who and the actions that take place.

webmdave said...

...and to think that there are many people living their lives by the "good" book!

What a load of nonsense, really!. Yes, the stories are rehashes of older myths anyway, just like Mithra/Jesus.

webmdave said...

"I think your strongest argument -against the Christian stand - that Moses was mythological is the Bible's naming of 3 different fathers-in-law."

No disagreeing but trying to build my own case/response/rebuttal to the xtian reaction. What if Moses had more than one wife at one time (polygomy) or, due to death or divorce, Moses may have had a different wife/father-in-law at different times? Or his father-in-law may have gone by more than one name? Thanks.

webmdave said...

Moses saw a burning bush.
No one else could see.
Moses heard a booming voice
No one else could hear.
Moses murder! Sacrifice!
Kill me lots of souls of tonight!

Moses! Bloody machoist!
General Sir! Psycho-TICK!
Delusion spewed on faithful twits.
Paranoid schizophrenic fit.

webmdave said...

Searchin, you make valid points. Fortunately, most xtians aren't nearly as clever as you.

Maybe a better Bible-based argument is that only a mythological guide could be so incompetent as to require 40 years to lead his people through the Sinai desert, a distance of less than 150 miles? Actually, I wouldn't use that one either, but I might throw it out there for a chuckle.

webmdave said...

"Fortunately, most xtians aren't nearly as clever as you."

Unfortunately, I have heard "reaches" like these from the religious mind to rationalize/defend the biblical texts. Was just trying to get my response prepared.

webmdave said...

I've never been able to find any evidence outside the Bible that Moses
and the Exodus actually took place.

But if it did happen, I think I know why it took them forty years to go
just 150 miles.

Moses's wife just kept on nagging him "For God's sake Moses! When are
you going to finally stop and ask for directions?"

I guess us guys haven't changed much in 3,000 years.