The Two Gods Of The Bible
If one honestly reads the Bible on its own terms, outside of theological filtering and with a critical eye for detail, one can only become aware of an obvious dilemma: The God of the Bible is either schizophrenic or there are two different Gods being mentioned back and forth throughout. When I say Bible, I’m referring to the Torah, what most know as the first five books of the “Old Testament” here in the West.
If one pays attention and reads attentively this near-modern redaction of many ancient writings, one will discover for him or her self that there are two Gods being spoken of and two or three myths for every (perceived as historical) event. The two myths nature of Torah, I have already been presenting in other writings. In this writing, I wish to focus in on and highlight the different natures of the two Gods of Torah.
One God, known as Yahweh in Judea and Elohim in Israel, has form. He is a doer god, meaning he takes action himself in bringing about events. The Yahweh god is also nowhere near omniscient. He is often surprised and angered by the behaviors of humans. The Yahweh god sometimes demands but, more often, reacts to display his power and authority over humankind.
The other biblical God, the Priest’s Elohim, has no physical form at all. He is a talker god, meaning that he commands (in fastidious detail) what all humans must do and has them bring about the events. This proactive Elohim god is not omniscient either but, rather, fore-knowing (a master predictor). As such, he is not surprised by human behaviors, and will deliberately influence humans, specific humans, into doing certain things – whether good or bad – all to simply glorify the power and majesty of his god self.
Modern theistic religions that are based on the “Bible” make a deliberate effort to reconcile these two Gods of Torah into one God. Beyond the blending edits of ancient scribes redacting the scrolls together to create one story book narrative, the specific modern religion’s theology is the method by which to achieve this single-minded focus of these two Gods being actually one God. It’s a major effort in interpretation, and it has a name – fundamentalism. For those of us, who in childhood were indoctrinated in fundamentalist beliefs (whether Jewish, Christian, or Islamic) about the world, the importance of the Bible, and the sacredness of this ancient sets of literature, but have not yet come to awareness that this is a human invented literature, hopefully this essay will help to start this process.
Below I share with you the two versions of God in Torah, through the three different myths of the Exodus from Egypt that were redacted together into one complicated and often contradicting narrative. Note, I say the “myth” of the exodus, because historically connected actual events were recorded for posterity (in all ancient BCE cultures) within fictional national stories, that often impart an idea (philosophical, theological) or teaching (ethical, moral) within its fictional narrative.
In the case of the Exodus, the enslavement of a small number of Jews (to include the priest tribe of Levi) that were living in Egypt by Rameses II in the 19th Dynasty and the exodus of this group of Jews from Rameses III’s Egypt to the greater Jewish/Hebrew population living already in Judah/Israel during the 20th Dynasty (1250 – 1175 BCE) is what led to the myth of “all” the Jews/Hebrews having once been enslaved in Egypt. Now, with this said, let us explore the two Gods of the Bible, below.
Yahweh As Divine Warrior For Israel’s Exodus – Judean Version (written around 1000-900 BCE, probably the earliest version)
(Note, in this version of the myth of Exodus found in the Torah (the “Bible”), Yahweh – who is a physically formed doer God, in contrast to the Priest’s later instituted formless talker God – is a warrior for the Israelis fleeing Egypt. Yahweh rides on the pillar of clouds by day and the pillar of fire by night, and directly fights the Egyptians from the sky on behalf of the fleeing Israelis. It is deliberate that the Yahweh god is portrayed this way in the Judean version, for the Pharaoh is perceived as a god in Egypt. Thus, the powerful Yahweh god defeats the ruling Egyptian god during the exodus, which is in complete contrast to the previous dynasty’s Egyptian god Pharaoh’s defeat and enslavement of Israel within Egypt’s midst.)
Afterward Moses and Aaron came, and said to Pharaoh, “This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’ ” Pharaoh said, “Who is Yahweh, that I should listen to his voice to let Israel go? I don’t know Yahweh, and moreover I will not let Israel go.”
Yahweh went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light, that they might go by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night didn’t depart from before the people.
The king of Egypt was told that the people had fled. He prepared his chariot, and took his army with him. The Egyptians pursued them. The children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them; and they were very afraid.
Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh, which he will work for you today; for you will never again see the Egyptians whom you have seen today. Yahweh will fight for you, and you shall be still.” And the pillar of cloud moved from before them, and stood behind them.
There was the cloud and the darkness (for the Egyptians), yet gave it (the pillar of fire) light by night (for the Israelis). One didn’t come near the other all night. Yahweh caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all night, and made the sea dry land.
In the morning watch, Yahweh looked out on the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and of cloud, and confused the Egyptian army. The Egyptians said, “Let’s flee from the face of Israel, for Yahweh fights for them against the Egyptians!”
The sea returned to its strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it. Yahweh overthrew the Egyptians in the middle of the sea.
Thus Yahweh saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work which Yahweh did to the Egyptians, and the people feared Yahweh; and they believed in Yahweh and in his servant Moses.
Elohim/Yahweh Who Is Surprised By Moshe’s and Pharaoh’s Behaviors – Israeli Version (written around 900 BCE)
(Note, in this version of the myth of Exodus found in the Torah (the “Bible”), Elohim (the Israeli national El god) is directly connected to the earlier written short-in-content Judean version of the exodus – shown above – by Elohim declaring that he is known by the ancestors as Judah’s Yahweh. It was the priest tribe that brought the Yahweh god to Judah after their exodus from Egypt while in route to their eventual settling in Israel, replacing the worship of El, Baal, and Asherah in Judah in the process. Because we are hundreds of years before the Priest’s development of a formless all-knowing Elohim god, the Elohim known as Yahweh to the ancestors still has the characteristics of the Yahweh god of Judah. Yahweh – who is a doer God, in contrast to the eventual later-instituted talker God of the Priests – is emotionally reactive and responding to events, rather than directing these events, as will be seen in the 2nd Temple Priest’s revamp of the Exodus myth. For example, in this 1st Temple Israeli version of the Exodus, Yahweh gets angry at Moshe’s reticence to do as instructed and he is toyed with by a Pharaoh who keeps promising to let the Israelis go and, then, repeatedly doesn’t.)
Elohim called to him out of the middle of the bush, and said, “Moses! Moses!” He said, “Here I am.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at Elohim. “Now, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to me. Moreover I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Moses said to Elohim, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve Elohim on this mountain.” Moses said to Elohim, “Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”
Elohim said to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Elohim said further to Moses, “You shall tell the children of Israel this, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations.”
“Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and tell them, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt. I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ They will listen to your voice. You shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt, and you shall tell him, ‘Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Now please let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to Yahweh, our God.’ ”
… Unlike the Judean version shared above, this ancient Israeli story of the exodus is very very long, which will make this essay unbearably long if I share all of it. So, to keep the myth somewhat short, Elohim, now called Yahweh, proves himself to Moshe during this burning bush vision by turning Moshe’s staff into a snake and making Moshe’s hand momentarily leprous. Let’s continue, …
Moses said to Yahweh, “My Adonai (Lord), I am not eloquent, neither before now, nor since you have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Yahweh said to him, “Who made man’s mouth? Or who makes one mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Isn’t it I, Yahweh? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall speak.”
Moses said, “My Lord, please send someone else.” Yahweh’s anger flared against Moses, and he said, “What about Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Also, behold, he is coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him, and put the words in his mouth. I will be with your mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He will be your spokesman to the people. It will happen that he will be to you a mouth, and you will be to him a God. You shall take this rod in your hand, with which you shall do the signs.”
… Let us jump, now, to Moshe and Aharon taking their stand before Pharaoh and their God needing to deliver more than one plague to get the Pharaoh to do as Yahweh expects. …
Yahweh said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand he shall let them go, and by a strong hand he shall drive them out of his land.”
Yahweh said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn. He refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning. Behold, he is going out to the water. You shall stand by the river’s bank to meet him. You shall take the rod which was turned to a serpent in your hand. You shall tell him, ‘Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness. Behold, until now you haven’t listened.” Yahweh says, “In this you shall know that I am Yahweh. Behold: I will strike with the rod that is in my hand on the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. The fish that are in the river will die and the river will become foul. The Egyptians will loathe to drink water from the river.” ’ ”
And he (Moses) lifted up the rod, and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died. The river became foul. The Egyptians couldn’t drink water from the river. The blood was throughout all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he didn’t even take this to heart. All the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink; for they couldn’t drink the river water. Seven days were fulfilled, after Yahweh had struck the river.
Yahweh spoke to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, and tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh says, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. If you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your borders with frogs. The river will swarm with frogs, which will go up and come into your house, and into your bedroom, and on your bed, and into the house of your servants, and on your people, and into your ovens, and into your kneading troughs. The frogs shall come up both on you, and on your people, and on all your servants.” ’ ” And he brought up frogs on the land of Egypt.
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat Yahweh, that he take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to Yahweh.” Moses said to Pharaoh, “I give you the honor of setting the time that I should pray for you, and for your servants, and for your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, and remain in the river only.” Pharaoh said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like Yahweh our God. The frogs shall depart from you, and from your houses, and from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only.”
Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to Yahweh concerning the frogs which he (Yahweh) had brought on Pharaoh. Yahweh did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courts, and out of the fields. They gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he made his heart heavy.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh; behold, he comes out to the water; and tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh says, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. Else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you, and on your servants, and on your people, and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground they are on. I will set apart in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, to the end you may know that I am Yahweh on the land. I will put a division between my people and your people. This sign shall happen by tomorrow.” ’ ”
Yahweh did so; and there came grievous swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses. In all the land of Egypt the land was corrupted by reason of the swarms of flies. Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land (of Egypt)!” Moses said, “It isn’t appropriate to do so; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to Yahweh our God. Behold, if we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, won’t they stone us? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to Yahweh our God, as he shall command us.”
Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to Yahweh your God in the wilderness, only you shall not go very far away. Pray for me.” Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you. I will pray to Yahweh that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow; only don’t let Pharaoh deal deceitfully any more in not letting the people go to sacrifice to Yahweh.” Moses went out from Pharaoh, and prayed to Yahweh. Yahweh did according to the word of Moses, and he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. There remained not one. Pharaoh made his heart heavy this time also, and he didn’t let the people go.
Then Yahweh said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, and tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go, and hold them still, behold, Yahweh’s hand is on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks with a very grievous pestilence. Yahweh will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt; and nothing shall die of all that belongs to the children of Israel.” ’ ” Yahweh appointed a set time, saying, “Tomorrow Yahweh shall do this thing in the land.” Yahweh did that thing on the next day; and all the livestock of Egypt died, but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died. Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not so much as one of the livestock of the Israelites dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was stubborn, and he didn’t let the people go.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and tell him, ‘This is what Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will send all my plagues against your heart, against your officials, and against your people; that you may know that there is no one like me in all the land. For now I would have stretched out my hand, and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the land; but indeed for this cause I have made you stand: to show you my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the land, because you still exalt yourself against my people, that you won’t let them go. Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as has not been in Egypt since the day it was founded even until now. Now therefore command that all of your livestock and all that you have in the field be brought into shelter. The hail will come down on every man and animal that is found in the field, and isn’t brought home, and they will die.” ’ ”
Those who feared Yahweh’s word among the servants of Pharaoh made their servants and their livestock flee into the houses. Whoever didn’t respect Yahweh’s word left his servants and his livestock in the field. Yahweh said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man, and on animal, and on every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” Moses stretched out his rod toward the sky, and Yahweh sent thunder and hail; and lightning flashed down to the land. Yahweh rained hail on the land of Egypt. So there was very severe hail, and lightning mixed with the hail, such as had not been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and animal; and the hail struck every herb of the field, and broke every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.
Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have defied authority this time. Yahweh is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Pray to Yahweh; for there has been enough of mighty thunderings and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.” Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to Yahweh. The thunders shall cease, and there will not be any more hail; that you may know that the land is Yahweh’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you don’t yet fear before Yahweh, God.” The flax and the barley were struck, for the barley had ripened and the flax was blooming. But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they had not grown up. Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread out his hands to Yahweh; and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the land. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders had ceased, he defied authority yet more, and made his heart heavy, he and his servants.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart heavy and the heart of his servants, that I may show these my signs among them; and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your son’s son, what things I have done to Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that you may know that I am Yahweh.” Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and said to him, “This is what Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the surface of the land, so that one won’t be able to see the land. They shall eat the residue of that which has escaped, which remains to you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which grows for you out of the field. Your houses shall be filled, and the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the land to this day.’ ” He turned, and went out from Pharaoh.
Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve Yahweh, their God. Don’t you yet know that Egypt is destroyed?” Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve Yahweh your God; but who are those who will go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and with our old. We will go with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds; for we must hold a feast to Yahweh.” He said to them, “Yahweh be with you if I let you go with your little ones! See, bad is clearly before your faces. Not so! Go now you who are men, and serve Yahweh; for that is what you desire!” Then they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up on the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land, even all that the hail has left.” Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and Yahweh brought an east wind on the land all that day, and all night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. The locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and rested in all the borders of Egypt. They were very grievous. Before them there were no such locusts as they, nor will there ever be again. For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. There remained nothing green, either tree or herb of the field, through all the land of Egypt.
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and he said, “I have defied authority against Yahweh your God, and against you. Now therefore please forgive my crime again, and pray to Yahweh your God, that he may also take away from me this death.” Moses went out from Pharaoh, and prayed to Yahweh. Yahweh sent an exceedingly strong west wind, which took up the locusts, and drove them into the Sea of Reeds. There remained not one locust in all the borders of Egypt.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.” Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was a thick darkness (a sand storm) in all the land of Egypt for three days. They didn’t see one another, and nobody rose from his place for three days; but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, “Go, serve Yahweh. Only let your flocks and your herds stay behind. Let your little ones also go with you.” Moses said, “You must also give into our hand sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to Yahweh our God. Our livestock also shall go with us. Not a hoof shall be left behind, for of it we must take to serve Yahweh our God; and we don’t know with what we must serve Yahweh, until we come there.” Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Be careful to see my face no more; for in the day you see my face you shall die!” Moses said, “You have spoken well. I will see your face again no more.”
Yahweh said to Moses, “I will bring yet one more plague on Pharaoh, and on Egypt; afterwards he will let you go. When he lets you go, he will surely thrust you out altogether. Speak now in the ears of the people, and let every man ask of his neighbor, and every woman of her neighbor, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold.” Yahweh gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.
Moses said, “This is what Yahweh says: ‘About midnight I will go out into the middle of Egypt, and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the mill, and all the firstborn of livestock. There will be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been, nor will be any more. But against any of the children of Israel a dog won’t even bark or move its tongue, against man or animal, that you may know that Yahweh makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel. All these servants of yours will come down to me, and bow down themselves to me, saying, “Get out, with all the people who follow you;” and after that I will go out.’ ” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.
… Yahweh, then, slaughters the firstborn throughout Egypt, and Pharaoh finally let’s the people go completely, without conditions. Now, let’s jump over to Pharaoh’s regret at letting the Israelis go and his chase to get them back. …
The heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, with captains over all of them. They (the Hebrews) said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you treated us this way, to bring us out of Egypt? Isn’t this the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?’ For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
The angel of Elohim, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them. This, came between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Israel, and he took off their chariot wheels, and they drove them heavily. Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dances. Miriam answered them, “Sing to Yahweh, for he has triumphed gloriously. The horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.” He (Yahweh) made law and judgement for them there, and there he tested them.
Elohim Who Deliberately Hardens Pharaoh’s Will Against Israel – Priest Version (written around 550 BCE)
(Note, in this revamped and much shortened version of the Priest’s myth of Exodus found in the Torah (the “Bible”), Elohim (the Israeli national El god) continues to be known as the ancestor’s Yahweh god. But, the nature of this 2nd Temple Elohim god has changed dramatically from the characteristics of the earlier 1st Temple Elohim god. In the previous versions of the Exodus myth, Yahweh and Elohim-known-as-Yahweh are anthropomorphic and emotionally reactive to events, not at all omniscient about the eventual turn out of events. In this 2nd Temple version of Elohim-known-as-El-Shaddai-and-as-Yahweh, Yahweh is very fore-knowing and very in control of events. So in control, in fact, that humans are but toys to manipulate by Yahweh – all to glorify the power and supremacy of his God-self. In this version, Yahweh deliberately and directly hardens the heart of the pharaoh against the Israelis and, then, destroys Pharaoh and his army to show his authoritative might and power to the Israelis that he has claimed for his own. This is all done through pre-destined events established through the words of God, and is displayed in literary form as a straight-up battle of skilled wits between Yahweh and Pharaoh’s magicians.)
Elohim spoke to Moses, and said to him, “I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shaddai; and by my name Yahweh I was not known to them. I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their travels, in which they lived as aliens. Moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant. Therefore tell the children of Israel, ‘I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments. I will take you to myself for a people. I will be your God; and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God, who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it to you for a heritage: I am Yahweh.’ ”
Moses spoke so to the children of Israel, but they didn’t listen to Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage. Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Go in, speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.” Moses said before Yahweh, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips (I have a lisp), and how shall Pharaoh listen to me?!”
Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I have made you a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and Aaron your brother shall speak to Pharaoh, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land. I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not listen to you, so I will lay my hand on Egypt, and bring out my armies, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh when I stretch out my hand on Egypt, and bring the children of Israel out from among them.”
Moses and Aaron did so. As Yahweh commanded them, so they did. Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh. Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Perform a miracle!’ then you shall tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and cast it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a serpent.’ ” Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, as Yahweh had commanded.
Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers. They also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing with their enchantments. For they each cast down their rods, and they became serpents; but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. Pharaoh’s heart was strong, and he didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your rod, and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their ponds of water, that they may become blood. There will be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ” Moses and Aaron did so, as Yahweh commanded. The magicians of Egypt did the same thing with their enchantments. So Pharaoh’s heart was made strong, and he didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your rod over the rivers, over the streams, and over the pools, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.’ ” Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. The magicians did the same thing with their enchantments.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.’ ” They did so; and Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and struck the dust of the land, and there were lice on man, and on animal; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. The magicians tried with their enchantments to produce lice, but they couldn’t. There were lice on man, and on animal. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is Elohim’s finger;” but Pharaoh’s heart was made strong, and he didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken.
Yahweh said to Moses and to Aaron, “Take handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become small dust over all the land of Egypt, and shall be boils and blisters breaking out on man and on animal, throughout all the land of Egypt.” They took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses sprinkled it up toward the sky, and it became boils and blisters breaking on man and on animal. The magicians couldn’t stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians. Yahweh made strong the heart of Pharaoh, and he didn’t listen to them, as Yahweh had spoken to Moses.
Yahweh spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, “This month shall be to you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth day of this month, they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household; and if the household is too little for a lamb, then he and his neighbor next to his house shall take one according to the number of bodies. You shall make your count for the lamb according to what everyone can eat. Your lamb shall be without defect, a male a year old. You shall take it from the sheep, or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at evening. They shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two door posts and on the lintel, on the houses in which they shall eat it. They shall eat the meat in that night, roasted with fire, and unleavened bread. They shall eat it with bitter herbs. Don’t eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted with fire; with its head, its legs and its inner parts. You shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; but that which remains of it until the morning you shall burn with fire.”
“This is how you shall eat it: with your belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste – it is Yahweh’s Pesach (Passover). For I will go through the land of Egypt in that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and animal. I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt. I am Yahweh. The blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are. When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a memorial for you. You shall keep it as a feast to Yahweh. You shall keep it as a feast throughout your generations by an ordinance forever.”
“ ‘Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; even the first day you shall put away yeast out of your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that breathing-person shall be cut off from Israel. In the first day there shall be to you a holy convocation, and in the seventh day a holy convocation; no kind of work shall be done in them, except that which every man must eat, only that may be done by you. You shall observe the feast of unleavened bread, for in this same day I have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations by an ordinance forever. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty first day of the month at evening. There shall be no yeast found in your houses for seven days, for whoever eats that which is leavened, that breathing-person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a foreigner, or one who is born in the land. You shall eat nothing leavened. In all your habitations you shall eat unleavened bread.’ ”
The children of Israel went and did so, As Yahweh had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. Now the time that the children of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. At the end of four hundred thirty years, to the day, all of Yahweh’s armies (the Israelites) went out from the land of Egypt. It is a night to be much observed to Yahweh for bringing them out from the land of Egypt. This is that night of Yahweh, to be much observed by all the children of Israel throughout their generations.
Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat of it, but every man’s servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then shall he eat of it. A foreigner and a hired servant shall not eat of it. It must be eaten in one house. You shall not carry any of the meat outside of the house. Do not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. When a stranger lives as a foreigner with you, and would like to keep the Passover to Yahweh, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it. He shall be as one who is born in the land; but no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. One law shall be to him who is born at home, and to the stranger who lives as a foreigner among you.” All the children of Israel did so. As Yahweh commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.
… Quick note, circumcision is an Egyptian rite that the Levi tribe brought to Judah and Israel. Now, back to the Priest’s story. …
Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn back and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal Zephon. You shall encamp opposite it by the sea. Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are entangled in the land. The wilderness has shut them in.’ I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will follow after them; and I will get honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies; and the Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh.” They did so.
Yahweh made strong the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued the children of Israel; for the children of Israel went out with a high hand. All the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen, and his army overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal Zephon. Pharaoh came near! The children of Israel cried out to Yahweh.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they go forward. Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. Then the children of Israel shall go into the middle of the sea on dry ground. Behold, I myself will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will go in after them. I will get myself honor over Pharaoh, and over all his armies, over his chariots, and over his horsemen. The Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh when I have gotten myself honor over Pharaoh, over his chariots, and over his horsemen.”
Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the waters were divided. The children of Israel went into the middle of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the middle of the sea: all of Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
Yahweh said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come again on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even all Pharaoh’s army that went in after them into the sea. There remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked on dry land in the middle of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left.
Now, that we’ve experienced the three distinctly different myths of the Exodus that are redacted tightly together as one not-so-smooth narrative in the Torah, the Bible, I have just a little bit more for you. There are actually two mythic traditions in Torah about how Israel came to be. The oldest and original myth, in the pre- and 1st Temple period, is that of Israel wandering around in the desert and the national God finds these wanderers. There is no mention of a visitation at the mountain of Sinai between the national God and Israel in this version of Jewish origins. As such, the Jewish theocratic laws were understood as having been added over time by the succession of the Priests within the land of Israel. Passages throughout the greater TaNaKh (the full Hebrew Bible) support this tradition. But, in contrast to this, within Torah and the greater TaNaKh, is the 2nd Temple period Jewish Israel’s myth of Sinai. This myth, of Moses and Israel receiving the Ten Commandments at the volcanic mountain, became the officially established reason for Israel and for the authority of the Priests in governing Israel. And, this understandably changes the very foundation of focus on the literary purpose and place of Israel within the ancient world. With this historical placement of text now said, here is the more ancient mythic itinerary of the desert wandering and an ancient poem which have no reference to a stop at Sinai for the receiving of the (priest’s) Decalogue:
Israel without the Giving of Law at Sinai
(the Priest record of their travel from Egypt to Israel)
These are the journeys of the children of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their armies:
They traveled from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the next day after the Passover, the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom Yahweh had struck among them. Yahweh also executed judgments on their gods.
The children of Israel traveled from Rameses, and encamped in Succoth. They traveled from Succoth, and encamped in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness. They traveled from Etham, and turned back to Pihahiroth, which is before Baal Zephon, and they encamped before Migdol.
They traveled from before Hahiroth, and crossed through the middle of the sea into the wilderness. They went three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham, and encamped in Marah. They traveled from Marah, and came to Elim. In Elim, there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there.
They traveled from Elim, and encamped by the Sea of Reeds. They traveled from the Sea of Reeds, and encamped in the wilderness of Sin. They traveled from the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah. They traveled from Dophkah, and encamped in Alush. They traveled from Alush, and encamped in Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.
They traveled from Rephidim, and encamped in the wilderness of Sinai. They traveled from the wilderness of Sinai, and encamped in Kibroth Hattaavah. They traveled from Kibroth Hattaavah, and encamped in Hazeroth. They traveled from Hazeroth, and encamped in Rithmah.
They traveled from Rithmah, and encamped in Rimmon Perez. They traveled from Rimmon Perez, and encamped in Libnah. They traveled from Libnah, and encamped in Rissah. They traveled from Rissah, and encamped in Kehelathah. They traveled from Kehelathah, and encamped in Mount Shepher.
They traveled from Mount Shepher, and encamped in Haradah. They traveled from Haradah, and encamped in Makheloth. They traveled from Makheloth, and encamped in Tahath. They traveled from Tahath, and encamped in Terah. They traveled from Terah, and encamped in Mithkah.
They traveled from Mithkah, and encamped in Hashmonah. They traveled from Hashmonah, and encamped in Moseroth. They traveled from Moseroth, and encamped in Bene Jaakan. They traveled from Bene Jaakan, and encamped in Hor Haggidgad. They traveled from Hor Haggidgad, and encamped in Jotbathah.
They traveled from Jotbathah, and encamped in Abronah. They traveled from Abronah, and encamped in Ezion Geber. They traveled from Ezion Geber, and encamped at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. They traveled from Kadesh, and encamped in Mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.
Aaron the priest went up into Mount Hor at the commandment of Yahweh and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month. Aaron was one hundred twenty-three years old when he died in Mount Hor.
The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the South in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel. They traveled from Mount Hor, and encamped in Zalmonah. They traveled from Zalmonah, and encamped in Punon. They traveled from Punon, and encamped in Oboth.
They traveled from Oboth, and encamped in Iye Abarim, in the border of Moab. They traveled from Iyim, and encamped in Dibon Gad. They traveled from Dibon Gad, and encamped in Almon Diblathaim. They traveled from Almon Diblathaim, and encamped in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo.
They traveled from the mountains of Abarim, and encamped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. They encamped by the Jordan, from Beth Jeshimoth even to Abel Shittim in the plains of Moab.
Song of Ha’azinu – also known as The Song of Moshe/Moses
Moses spoke in the ears of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were finished:
Give ear, you skies, and I will speak. Let the land hear the words of my mouth. My doctrine will drop as the rain. My speech will condense as the dew, as the misty rain on the tender grass, as the showers on the herb. For I will proclaim Yahweh’s name. Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock: his work is perfect, for all his ways are just. A God of faithfulness who does no wrong, just and right is he. They have dealt corruptly with him. They are not his children, because of their defect. They are a perverse and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay Yahweh, foolish and unwise people? Isn’t he your father who has bought you? He has made you and established you. Remember the days of old. Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.
When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the children of men, he set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel. For Yahweh’s portion is his people. Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, in the waste howling wilderness. He surrounded him. He cared for him. He kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle that stirs up her nest, that flutters over her young, he spread abroad his wings, he took them, he bore them on his feathers. Yahweh alone led him. There was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the land. He ate the increase of the field. He caused him to suck honey out of the rock, oil out of the flinty rock; butter from the herd, and milk from the flock, with fat of lambs, rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat. From the blood of the grape, you drank wine. But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked. You have grown fat. You have grown thick. You have become sleek.
Then he abandoned God who made him, and rejected the Rock of his salvation. They moved him to jealousy with strange gods. They provoked him to anger with abominations. They sacrificed to demons, not God, to gods that they didn’t know, to new gods that came up recently, which your fathers didn’t dread. Of the Rock who became your father, you are unmindful, and have forgotten God who gave you birth. Yahweh saw and abhorred, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. He said, “I will hide my face from them. I will see what their end will be; for they are a very perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God. They have provoked me to anger with their vanities. I will move them to jealousy with those who are not a people. I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in my anger, that burns to the lowest Sheol (place of the dead), devours the land with its increase, and sets the foundations of the mountains on fire.
“I will heap evils on them. I will spend my arrows on them. They shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured with burning heat and bitter destruction. I will send the teeth of animals on them, with the venom of vipers that glide in the dust. Outside the sword will bereave, and in the rooms, terror on both young man and virgin, the nursing infant with the gray-haired man. I said that I would scatter them afar. I would make their memory to cease from among men; were it not that I feared the provocation of the enemy, lest their adversaries should judge wrongly, lest they should say, ‘Our hand is exalted, Yahweh has not done all this.’ ”
For they are a nation void of counsel. There is no understanding in them. Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and Yahweh had delivered them up? For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves concede. For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, of the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are poison grapes. Their clusters are bitter. Their wine is the poison of serpents, the cruel venom of asps.
“Isn’t this laid up in store with me, sealed up among my treasures? Vengeance is mine, and recompense, at the time when their foot slides; for the day of their calamity is at hand. Their doom rushes at them.”
For Yahweh will judge his people, and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone; that there is no one remaining, shut up or left at large. He will say, “Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge; which ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you! Let them be your protection.
“See now that I myself am he. There is no god with me. I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal. There is no one who can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to the sky and declare, as I live for all of time, if I sharpen my glittering sword, my hand grasps it in judgment; I will take vengeance on my adversaries, and will repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood. My sword shall devour flesh with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the head of the leaders of the enemy.”
Rejoice, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants. He will take vengeance on his adversaries, and will make atonement for his land and for his people.
Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he and Joshua the son of Nun.
Note, there are additional passages throughout the greater TaNaKh (the full Hebrew Bible) that shares this very ancient view of Israel’s origin.
Judaism as an ethno-religion was not always monotheistic, and to say such is to be willfully ahistorical. Judaism slowly evolved from its original polytheistic form to a henotheistic form and, ultimately, into a modern monotheistic form over a period of 1,500 years (1200 BCE to 300 CE). It began with pre-monarchical/monarchical polytheistic Judaism (1200 BCE to 600 BCE) – which reverenced the gods Yahweh, El, Baal, and the goddess Asherah, and brought us the myths of the Garden of Eden, Noah and the flood, Avraham and his family gods, the escape from Egyptian slavery, and wandering in the desert. Then arose the temple theocracy henotheistic form (700 BCE to 70 CE) – which reverenced Yahweh as a formless Elohim that is superior to all the gods and goddesses of the local pantheons (the highest “creator” god), and introduced us to the myths of the Six Days of Creation, the lineage of the ancient patriarchs between Adam and Avraham, and the priestly seven day calendar and religious laws. From this evolving Jewish heritage we now have the rise of the present rabbinical monotheistic form of Judaism (300 BCE to present) – which reverences Yahweh Elohim as the only existing one true “creator” god and all other names for “God” are referencing this not directly knowable and utterly formless Yahweh Elohim, and has brought us the first complete Hebrew “Bible” redaction, the written Talmud and the Mishnah, and all the present religio-cultural observances/laws and theology that we are so familiar with today.
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