Moses

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Moses teaching the kids Roman numerals before there were Romans
Light iron-age reading

The Bible

Icon bible.svg
Gabbin' with God
Analysis
Woo
Figures
In the first place, the middle books of the Pentateuch (Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers: Genesis contains no mention of him) allude to Moses in the third person, as in "the Lord spake unto Moses." It could be argued that he preferred to speak of himself in the third person, though this habit is now well associated with megalomania, but this would make laughable such citations as Numbers 12:3 in which we read, "Now the man Moses was very meek above all the men which were on the face of the earth." Apart from the absurdity of claiming to be meek in such a way as to assert superiority in meekness over all others, we have to remember the commandingly authoritarian and bloody manner in which Moses is described, in almost every other chapter, as having behaved. This gives us a choice between raving solipsism and the falsest of modesty.
Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything[1]

Moses is one of the most important prophets in the Abrahamic religions and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.[2]

Moses, the short version[edit]

Moses was born at a time when an unnamed Egyptian Pharaoh wanted to kill every Hebrew baby in the kingdom. Not wanting this for her son, Moses' mother sent him floating off down the Nile until, in a contrived plot twist rivaled only by the Final Fantasy series, he was picked up by said Pharaoh's daughter and adopted. He grew up to be fairly important and quite ballsy. While the early Hebrews were into bondage in Egypt, God appeared to Moses through the medium of an ever-burning bush. Rather than thinking he should lay off the ganja, Moses followed the instructions of the bush for him to lead the Hebrews out into the "Promised Land" (modern-day Israel). The Pharaoh of Egypt at first refused, since the Hebrews were being used as slave labor. However, after ten different plagues fell on Egypt (with God being a dick and "hardening Pharaoh's heart" against the Hebrews for each one), the Pharaoh relented. Pharaoh changed his mind part way through, pursuing the Hebrews as they left Egypt as if it was a Blues Brothers style car chase. Moses, being a miracle man and part of God's chosen people, caused the waters of the Red Sea to part so they could cross, and then promptly let it flood back on the Pharaoh and all the Egyptians in pursuit.

Moses climbed a mountain, hung out with God for 40 days and nights while God wrote His most perfect laws on stone tablets (proving that God is a slow writer, since it took Him nearly seven times longer to scribe His most perfect laws than to create the entire damn universe). Coming down from the mountain, possibly sporting horns[3], Moses had a temper tantrum and broke the stone tablets on which God had so painstakingly written. But God was decent enough to make a second copy. Then, Moses led the Hebrews through 40 years of wandering in the desert, engaging in atrocities such as genocide along the way.

Now that's scientific fact. There's no real evidence for it, but it is scientific fact.

It is interesting to note that a totally unrelated "holy child" (who had no influence on this story whatsoever, trust us), Sargon of Akkad, was placed in a reed basket by his mother, and floated down the river to be found by a different queen, and raised as her own to become one of the most powerful leaders of Akkadia. 1000-2000 years before Moses ever did it. But it's not at all related. Don't worry.

Was Moses a polygamist?[edit]

The Bible mentions as wife of Moses:

  • Exodus 2:21-22
    And Moses was content to dwell with the man: and he gave Moses Zipporah his daughter.
    And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
  • Numbers 12:1
    And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.

Three basic possibilities:

  1. Zipporah and the Ethiopian/Cushite woman are the same person
  2. Zipporah and the Ethiopian/Cushite woman are different people; after Zipporah died (or else was divorced), Moses married the Ethiopian/Cushite woman
  3. Zipporah and the Ethiopian/Cushite woman are different people; Moses had two wives simultaneously (he was a polygamist)

The argument for (1), is based on what is the correct meaning of Hebrew כושית (Kuwshiyth). Accoriding to Exodus 2:15-22, Zipporah was a Midianite. Cush is traditionally understood as Ethiopia, which is some way away from Midian. However, some suggest Cush has some other geographical meaning — hence some argue that Midian is Cush (or part of Cush), and Zipporah was the Cushite. On the other hand, the tradition of identifying Cush with Ethiopia is very ancient, since both the LXX and Vulgate translate Numbers 12:1 with Cush=Ethiopia

With respect to (2), the text nowhere mentions that Zipporah died, or that anything else such happened to her. That she did die, is an assumption without any specific evidence to support it.

Assuming Zipporah and the Ethiopian woman are different people, then Moses had two wives; the text is silent on whether he had them simultaneously or sequentially, so maybe the best approach is to accept that we don't know, and either are possible.

If one accepts Mosaic authorship of the Torah, as many conservative Christians do, then the question of whether Moses was a polygamist is important for its interpretation. Some passages in the Torah have been given both pro- and anti- polygamy interpretations; the question is which interpretation is correct?

Further works[edit]

Traditionally, Moses is considered the writer of the Torah, also referred to as the Pentateuch. This has since been disputed, for multiple reasons, such as the inclusion of the tale of Moses' death and burial in the Book of Deuteronomy, or the self-contradictory statement in Numbers 12:3 that "the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth".

Moreover, many mystery cults within the Abrahamic faiths claim Moses as a founder or early member. Even the Masons claim this. In contrast, the Mandaeans (a small Mesopotamian ethnoreligious group) view Moses (and Abraham as well) as false prophets, leading people away from the true teachings of Adam.

Existence[edit]

Did Moses exist? As the article Evidence for the Exodus explains, scientists and historians now generally believe there is no evidence for the exodus and half a million Israelites did not spend decades wandering in the desert before founding a kingdom in Canaan. The Passover story plays a central role in Jewish culture, so it would be embarrassing if none of it actually happened. Nonetheless, many experts believe there is no evidence for it: some find it entirely fictional, while others think it may be a dim memory of another quite different migration. But the Biblical story of Moses is not supported by any historical evidence.[4][5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]