Apologies for the delayed post. I’m doing my best to keep up daily posting here, but my neighborhood got hit with a power outage last night, so instead I spent my time reading and knitting by candlelight.
Exodus begins with what has always been one of my favorite Bible stories, and I’m not sure why. There’s something about the story of the infant Moses that I’ve always loved, though through adult eyes it is far more heart-wrenching.
But before we get to Moses, there is a shift in power in Egypt. Joseph has endured favor in Egypt before, but the new ruler is not so impressed and suddenly the Hebrews are in a position to be oppressed. Unlike God, who remembers time over again the promises he made to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, the ruling elite have no such memory (personal or institutional) and are quick to cast aside those who had favor.
Generally speaking, I’m a fan of government as an ideal. I think that there is potential to govern in such a way that upholds the social contract, that works for the common good. But lately, this has been sorely tested, and upon reading I can’t help but reflect about the danger of putting your trust too deeply in a system that is capricious and changing; do not get so comfortable in the favor of the system when it may change tomorrow.
Women, though some of them are unnamed, also play key roles here. First the midwives, who don’t kill the baby boys of the Hebrews as ordered. They lie before the Pharaoh — that the women are too strong and give birth before they arrive. Of course, that doesn’t stop the Pharaoh from ordering baby boys be drowned.
So Moses’ mother has her baby boy, and she loves him. I wonder, a bit idly, if women would have bonded as instantly with their children in a time when infant mortality was so high? Would they have learned to protect themselves with some emotional distance until they were more confident the child would survive? But I can’t imagine, even as a woman who has no children of her own, that this would be the case. So his mother puts Moses in a basket, seals it up to be water tight, and sets him afloat in the Nile. Where he is rescued by none other than a daughter of the Pharaoh.
Moses’ sister is observing, and she runs to get their mother to serve as a wetnurse. I can’t imagine this. I just…can’t. On the one hand, Moses’ mother gets to raise her child, care for him and nurture him. At the same time, he is not hers. He is the child of someone else and she has to give him up. Would that be better than not seeing him raised, or worse? I don’t know. It boggles the mind.
Then Moses is all grown up, moving right along, and he sees God in a burning bush.
I think I’d be a little freaked here, but he seems fairly calm. So God gives Moses some instructions and he also reveals his name, in a way “I am who I am.” A form of to be.
I’ve, let us say, dabbled in learning various languages and to be is pretty much the first verb form you learn in all of them. (Except, interestingly, Arabic, which as no verb for ‘to be’.) It’s basic and yet…when you think about it, it’s everything. I’m sure Nancy, being much more familiar with languages and Hebrew in particular, can expand more on this but it still kind of blows my mind a little.
God says, I am. God IS. Not, as we think of with other deities, a limited role — I am Aphrodite, Goddess of love and beauty, or I am Sunna, Goddess of the Sun — but simply I am. Moses also gets The Lord, which seems more properly fitting as a form of address, but it doesn’t shake the all-encompassing nature of what comes previously. I am. God is.