Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Man Moses: Part 1

Israel dwelt in Egypt. God blessed His people, making them fruitful in number. Their God was El Shaddai, the God whose Kingdom is the little child.

They were a prized nation, for Joseph, one of the greatest commanders in Egypt, was at their head. But a Pharaoh rose up who knew not Joseph, who knew not the covenant, who knew not that El Shaddai who blesses, and he grew afraid of the strong, numerous nation. He ordered genocide. All male Hebrew children up to two years of age, must be drowned in the Nile. This genocide would be repeated hundreds of years later, when Herod ordered merciless child-slaughter in order to kill the Christ.

But Israel's savior would survive genocide, just as the Savior of all humanity would. In the depths of Goshen, the Israelites' primary region of habitation, lived a man named Amram. His wife, Jochebed, had three children, Miriam, Aaron, and Jekuthiel, a new-born baby. She was a courageous woman. She was a mother. She hid her precious baby boy for three months, and, when she knew she could no longer succeed in hiding him, put him in a basket and trusted to that El Shaddai who gave her this precious child to save him from destruction.

Her little girl Miriam watched the chosen child as it wound its way through the busy, infested Nile, closer and closer to the royal palace. She heard Pharaoh's daughter and her handmaidens washing in the Nile, heard their gasps of surprise as the basket floats into view, saw the princess of Egypt take pity on the child. The Princess Thermuthis knew it was a Hebrew child, a child of not only slaves, but shepherds, an occupation scorned by her people––a nation so degraded in Egypt that the mass slaughter of the Hebrews' children could be executed without a qualm. Yet she loves the child as her own. According to the Midrash, when Moses returns to Egypt as the wielder of the miracles of YHWH, she will be exiled and scorned for being his surrogate mother, and will leave Egypt with him in the great Exodus. Her name will be changed to Bithiah, meaning 'Daughter of Yah', and she will take the Judahite Mered as her husband. Click here to read the Biblical mention of Bithiah.

Miriam seized the opportunity, when this princess was observing the baby with tender interest, to suggest a Hebrew nurse for the child. The princess probably guessed what has taken place, and acquiesced willingly. She took pity on the Hebrew mother. Thus Moses is nursed by his own mother, and, through the strong bonding that takes place, becomes sealed in the Hebrew culture.

Once he was weaned, however, the princess adopted him as her own son, calling him Moshe, which is similar to the Hebrew word 'mashah', meaning 'to draw out' and the Egyptian word for 'child'. Moses, attached through his most formative years of childhood to his Hebraism, will now be raised as a royal Egyptian, with all the privileges and education of a prince of Egypt.

According to Josephus, Moses grew to become the foremost commander of the armies of Egypt. He had great military acumen, though he was slow of speech. One of the most famous stories about his life as a general is in the histories of Josephus, when he led the Egyptians against the Ethiopians who were invading the country. According to the histories, while he was besieging Tharbis, one of the cities of Ethiopia, an Ethiopian princess fell in love with him and wanted to marry him. He agreed to do so if she would deliver the city into his power. She did so, and Moses married her. Click here to read the Bible's account of Moses' Ethiopian wife.

His warrior career came to an end when, one day on visiting his mother-people, he saw a Hebrew slave being maltreated and was so incensed that he murdered the Egyptian overseer and buried the corpse in the sand. The affair was talked about among the Hebrew slaves, and Moses, on hearing from a higher source that it was known in the royal household, and that Pharaoh would most likely execute him for it, escaped across the Sinai Peninsula, a gigantic stretch of barren, desert country that only the strongest could survive in.

Coming to Midian, he stopped to drink at the Midianite well, and, while he was there, saw a group of seven shepherdess sisters being driven away from the water by some rowdy shepherds. Moses, seeing the violence taking place, had enough fighting strategy inherent in his bones to save the shepherdesses from the whole group of shepherds and their flocks, and then enough strength remaining to draw the water needed for the sheep of the seven sisters. The girls' father, a priest of Midian, was so grateful for the service and so awed at what Moses had done that he adopted him as his son, made him superintendent of his flocks, and gave him his daughter Zipporah in marriage.

It was forty years later, while shepherding his father's flocks, that Moses saw the first glimpse of the fire of the God whom he would see face to face in the coming years.


Katherine said...

This is beautifully written! I didn't know about Moses' exploits as a general! That is really neat. Don't you love Josephus? :)

Camille Rose Wolaver said...

Thank you, Katherine! Yes, I do love Josephus. It's so fun to read all about the things in secular history that you've read about in the Old Testament. And yes, the whole Prince of Egypt-Disney-Moses phenomenon has completely ignoricized most people to who Moses really was! Alex actually told me about his being a general, but if you go on Wikipedia and actually read on all the old Bible heros you find out so many cool things about them that you didn't know before!

Gretchen Emily Wolaver said...

Camille! How dare you say anything against the Prince of Egypt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ? Shame on you!!!!!!!

Camille Rose Wolaver said...

Oh, I do love 'The Prince of Egypt', especially for the music…but there is more to the story, my dear sister!

Amy Elizabeth said...

How interesting! Where did you learn all of the historical tidbits? Also, I love the new background and your music. =) I wonder what became of Moses' first wife? It's so ironic that, having a speech impediment, he was a general. And he must have been very handsome, for the Ethiopian princess to fall in love with him so quickly. =)I think Moshe is a good name, too. Write more when you can! You always have the most insightful and interesting posts! ;) I love you dear =D

Amy Barton said...

Have you seen "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston?

Camille Rose Wolaver said...

Yes, I know…although he was 'slow of speech', he grew to be one of the foremost generals in Egypt. He must have been strong, handsome, intelligent, and courageous…probably very kinisthetic. And he was also the 'humblest man on the earth'! I've known a lot of the stuff previously, from conversations with my brothers on Josephus, but I got all the nitty gritty details from my favorite website: Wikipedia. :) No, I haven't seen the '10 Commandments', but I'd like to!

Wesley said...

Wikipedia?! Ah! You can't trust Wikipedia. :-P

Oh, and The Ten Commandments is one of the greatest movies of all-time, though it's not always entirely Biblical, of course. And the last line of Rameses is pure awesomeness. Also, I'm not sure Moses necessarily had a speech impediment per se, as Scripture indicates in the New Testament - he was mighty in word and mighty in deed. Someone could be mighty in word and deed (e.g. war hero) but not a smooth-talker, like a snake-oil salesman, lawyer, etc. A few historical figures come to mind and even a contemporary comparison. George Washington, our greatest president, was not a good public speaker. He fumbled around a bit. James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, became nervous if he had to speak publicly and thus wasn't a good speaker, unlike a Hamilton. A more recent comparison would be B. Hussein Obama and John McCain. McCain was a war hero and could lead men with courage. He's not as eloquent a speaker as the lawyer Obama, whose job is to bloviate.

Benjamin Wolaver said...

Well done, Camille. Maybe we should make a movie about Moses, but with Lost style flashbacks to his wayward life pre-Sinai. The beautiful princess, the wars of Imperial Egypt, an obligatory scene where Moses rages against being a pawn of the empire who tried to kill him as a boy would all make great theater.

Camille Rose Wolaver said...

Wesley: Wikipedia's truthfulness must depend upon the subject being discussed :)

The 10 Commandments movie sounds more and more intriguing. I'll have to rent it. And yes, many of the greatest heros of history were men who spoke little. The Bible says Moses was 'slow of speech', but the common interpretation that he stuttered cannot be true, if, as the New Testament said, he was 'mighty of word'. I'm guessing he was a man who only spoke when something needed to be said… But, of course, it's all conjecture. And yes, being a person who says truth, even in an uneloquent way, is definitely superior to a Gríma Wormtongue.

Benjamin: Hilarious!

Wesley said...

At any rate, Moses was probably simply a slow speaker but powerful in content. That interpretation seems consistent with both OT and NT. I admit, though, I had to look up Gríma Wormtongue, but I do like the LotR trilogy! I see your suitcases are packed. Go anywhere exciting? :-P

Alex Wolaver said...


Great post! I think it's incredible how the real story of Moses' life is so much more interesting than the typical "Sunday School" version of who he was.

For one thing, it's obvious that everyone would have known he was of Hebrew descent. None of that Prince of Egypt "gee, I didn't even realize he was from a totally different race from us" Egyptian portrayal.

You should do another post on the (legendary) tale of Moses' singlehanded defeat of King Og of Bashan... :-)

Abby said...

Interesting persepecive Camille.

I have never fully read the writings of Josephus, only scanned them but I found them to be intriguing.

Certainly an ineresting take on the life of Moses.

There is one theory that Moses' real name was Hapi-Moses (Hapi being the river god in Egypt) and that his "mother" i.e. the Egyptian Princess named him thus because she was down at the river worshipping Hapi and found the baby Moses (Moses of course meaning "Drawn out"). I don't know if this is true, but it is an interesting tid-bit.

Gretchen Emily Wolaver said...

Camille, this is definitely my favorite of your posts thus far. I can't wait to read the next entry!