Remember how I talked about success at the end of my first Moses blog post? Let’s look at it again and see what circumstances have prepared Moses to become the prophet. Last time we left off talking about his experience in Egypt, ending right when he marries Zipporah. Let’s take a look at what has happened since he arrived in Midian and before he goes back to Egypt.
Moses’ Temporal Preparation
When Moses gets to Midian he’s in exile from Egypt. He helps the daughters and ends up marrying one. I wish I knew what realationsh were between the Midians the Egyptians. Either way, the people he is now living among, the Midianites, love him. He helps them out as a shepherd. Not only that, but when he leads the childrens of Israel out of Egypt, he is undoubtedly going to be traveling through those lands again. The Midianites can help. Egyptians are most likely “city folk”. Not only that, but Moses himself has been living in the desert. He has some good survival skills.
He was a good shepherd as well. He knew how to guide large groups and take care of them. Moses was the shepherd for the children of Israel.
To summarize my thoughts on Moses’ temporal prep, he learned to live in a desert environment by learning from the Midianites, befriending them, and marrying into them. His job as a shepherd prepared him for his responsibilities for as prophet of the exodus for the next 40 years. I bet he learned a lot from Jethro.
Moses’ Spiritual Preparation
That’s it for the temporal stuff. Now on to his spiritual preparation. Well, he talked to Jesus Christ through a burning bush. This is the first recording of his seeing God, if only as a bush. The Lord charges him to be a prophet and to free the people. At the same time, he gives him the authority to perform signs such as leprosy, snake-to-staff turning, and turning water into blood. I wonder if Moses became a priest of Midian or ever helped out with that? It’s hard to know how close Moses was with God at the time of the burning bush. That being said, after this encounter, he definitely was closer to God and knew him personally.
I’m hesitant to cross reference Prince of Egypt because there is a lot of historical license taken and I think people sometimes don’t realize that it isn’t completely accurate. The story of Moses becomes the movie rather than the scriptures. But in this case, I will mention something from the movie.
While he is talking to Jehovah, he is caught up in the tendrils of fire and it is implied that he is seeing all the things that God wants him to. I like to think this may have happened. Afterwhich, your testimony would be solid and you would know for sure God worked among man.
To summarize his spiritual preparation, his spirituality has increased because he now understands his role on Earth and who he has to rely on to accomplish those things. That understanding isn’t some abstract understanding, it’s a very real and very tangible knowledge.
When you take a step back and look at all the events that have happened in Moses’ life, you realize that they were for his benefit, whether those events were good or bad. I think it would be beneficial for all people to do the same thing occassionally in their lives.
The Return to Egypt
Moses returns to Jethro and asks him to let him return to Egypt and see if his brethren are yet alive. Jethro says to leave in peace. Do you think Moses told Jethro all that he saw? One other part I like to imagine about this was that after coming down from Mount Sinai he was happy. Very happy. There isn’t any scriptural basis to back this up. But when you have encounters like this, where you can feel the spirit so much during such an unearthly experience, you can’t help but be happy. And grateful I would add. I bet he told Zipporah. Maybe Jethro.
The Lord tells Moses to return to Egypt because all the men are dead which sought his life. So Moses gets his wife and two sons and puts them on a donkey and they set off for Egypt. Moses takes the rod of God with him.
Quick tangent: I wonder what it is like being the wife of a prophet? They have wonderful experiences and are perhaps privy to some interesting things. I believe that would take a lot of faith but be a neat experience. Like every member of the church, you would have to come to know for yourself. If you didn’t, you would probably think your sweetheart was crazy. However, once a testimony had been gained of your husband’s calling, you would probably see some cool miracles and bear some powerful witnesses.
Verse 21 says that when Moses goes back to Egypt, he is supposed to do all the miracles that God has granted him power to do. It says that God will harden Pharoah’s heart so he won’t let the people go. When I first read this, I was confused because why would God harden someone’s heart? That seems to defeat the purpose of God. Luckily, I read the Joseph Smith translation of verse 21 and that cleared things up for me.
Israel is my son, even my firstborn (verse 22). Cross reference Hosea 11:1. Israel is called out of Egypt by God. Look at the chapter heading and it compares Israel to Christ because Christ was the firstborn and him and his family were called out of Egypt. This brings up another thing I wanted to bring up. That of Moses being a Christ figure. Like Moses, Christ came down to set his people free. Not from bondage in a physical sense, but rather, in a spiritual sense.
God is saying to let his firstborn (Israel) go, so that they may serve him and if he won’t let his firstborn go, God will kill his firstborn (meaning Egypt’s). Boom shacka lacka! Pharoah better let the people go! When God gives you ultimatums like that, it is best if one simply accepts and obeys. You let my baby go or I will rain down all the misery you could ever want.
Verse 24-27 is in the JST so that’s where I will be for the next four verses. The past few verses have been thoughts of the Lord. Verse 24 starts off back into the story. It’s a sharp transition, be watchful. We left Moses, Zipporah, and their two sons on a donkey going back to Egypt. Now that we remember what’s going on, when Moses and his family were close to the inn, the Lord appears unto Moses and was angry, and about to kill him because he had not circumcised his child. I wish I understood these circumstances more. Why would God get so angry over this to the point of nearly killing Moses? Luckily, Zipporah quickly grabs a stone and circumcises her son on the spot. Then throws the stone at Moses’ feet and says he is a bloody husband. Does “bloody husband” have any significance? Moses is ashamed of what has happened and hides his face from the Lord and says he has sinned before him.
Aaron and Moses Meet the Elders of Israel
The Lord says unto Aaron, to go into the wilderness to meet Moses. So he does in the Mount of God (Sinai) God appears unto Aaron and Aaron kissed him. This definitely didn’t happen in the movie. I thought Moses was coming to Egypt! Now he turned around to meet Aaron at Mount Sinai? Or am I misunderstanding this? Regardless, it’s super cool that they both talked with God. I wish that conversation was recorded in the Bible. That way, we could get a sense of what God had in store for Aaron.
Moses tells Aaron all the words that the Lord told him and all the signs. Moses and Aaron gather all the elders of the children of Israel (leaders). Aaron spoke to all the elders of the word that the Lord had said unto Moses and showed them the signs. The elders believe and in turn the people believed. They bowed down and worshipped God. The people of God were being taught and told by two people. Moses may have been slow of speech and tongue, but Aaron testified of the truthfulness of what he said. Just like missionaries do.
Random tangent: How much contact did Moses have with his original family? Was it like in the movie where he was raised a prince of Egypt and his normal family were slaves? Did he know them well? Really this is one part of the story I don’t understand. When Aaron showed up to Sinai, did Moses recognize him as his brother? Once I can undersand how he was raised, I feel like a lot of the cloudy parts of the story will clear up for me.
Let My People Go!
Chapter 5 starts out in media res, a phrase which here means in the middle of the action. Granted, chapters didn’t exist when this was written so I guess we technically are starting in the middle and continuing on.
Moses and Aaron go into Pharoah and tell him to let the people of Israel that they may “Hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” Pharoah is not happy with this. He says, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” Those are some really really dangerous fighting words. If you say that, you better be watching your back because the Lord will strike you down. Clearly, Pharoah does not know God. His heart is definitely hard. In his mind, he is God, the morning and evening star. If he says night is day and day is night, it shall be writ.
What would be the implications of him acknowledging Israel’s God? Lots. Although I do not know that much about Egyptian polytheism, I do know their society was very centered on the worship of these Gods. One of which was Pharoah. Pharoah was a literal incarnation of a God in the minds of the Egyptians. By agreeing to what Moses and Aaron stated, Pharoah would be denying the very religion, government and society he represented. Israel’s monotheistic view clashed a lot with Egypt’s polytheistic view on life.
Aaron and Moses beg to let the people go three days journey to offer sacrifice, lest he comes upon them with pestilence or sword. Three days journey out, three days journey back and maybe one staying. So they would be gone a week. Imagine if most of your country’s population left for a week or vacation. Obviously not that much work would get done. Not only that, but Pharoah wouldn’t be able to ensure they came back. That’s strange that he would care becaue I was under the impression that Pharoah’s fathers were concerned the Israelites were becoming too numerous. They should be happy the Israelites want to leave. But again, his heart is hardened and all those who gain power are afraid to lose it. He controls the Israelites, they are his workforce. If that leaves, the kingdom is weak and will fall.
Israelite Burdens are Increased
Pharoah commands his taskmasters, as a result of Moses and Aaron’s request, to increase the Israelites’ workload. He said that instead of giving the Israelites straw to make bricks, they have to go out and get the straw themselves. In addition, their workload will not be diminshed, but will increase. Pharoah also doesn’t want any vain words coming from the Israelites as a result. He probably institutes some punishment should they use inappropriate words. The task masters spread the word to the Israelites regarding the straw and they begin to scour the land for straw. They had never gathered it before, so they probably didn’t know where to look, how to grow it or how to harvest it. Maybe it was imported? Because of this, they begin gathering stubble rather than straw. I’m not sure what stubble is. It is grass? Small plants to substitute?
The task master expect them to fulfill these daily tasks to the same extent as if they had had straw. What a terrible burden. Especially since you can’t accomplish efficiency and quality of work if you don’t have the proper materials. It’s like saying you have to make a house of sticks and giving you straw. And asking them to take the same amount of time and produce the same quality. It’s impossible and unrealistic. At that point, you aren’t working to get things done, you are working to torture people. How do the children of Israel feel about this? The task masters beat the officers and demand of them why they aren’t fulfilling their task of making bricks.
The officers of the children of Israel come before Pharoah and ask, “Why are you dealing with your servants in such a manner?” We have no straw to make bricks, yet you are demanding and beating us because we can’t make them. The fault is in your people becuase we don’t have the materials to do the job. How can you expect us to make bricks out of thin air? Pharoah says that the people are idle. Well duh! They can’t do anything. Pharoah is making his servants idle and using their excuse for being idle as justification for not letting them go to the mountain of God to worship. He has gone absolutely insane! His logic isn’t making any sense at all. This is what happens when you give over completely to the devils tempting you. You can’t think straight and you make incredibly stupid decisions. Don’t let this happen to you! I know people who have done this to similar deree and it is crazy the amount of venom and hate they produce. They are just a raging ball of hatred. He then tells them to go work and that there will be no straw given to you. Go now, and fulfill your quotas.
The Israelite officers saw they were in trouble and that there was no getting out of it, so they leave. As they are leaving, they meet Aaron and Moses. This entire conversation must have happened in a very short time. Moses say his part, the task masters tell the officers, the officers, are coming to confirm what they have been told with Pharoah can catch up with Aaron and Moses on the way out. But judging on the description of the slaves owrking, I can also see that this took place over a period of 2-3 days. Maybe Aaron and Moses went and petitioned everyday. Either way, they met those officers on the way from meeting with Pharoah. These officers are ticked at Moses and Aaron. They curse them to their face. Asking that God judge them because they have made the Israelites abhorred in the sight of Pharoah and he seeks to kill them with a sword.
One thing I wonder is how Aaron and Moses are taking this. Prophets are people too. They are mortals, subject to the same thoughts and feelings we have today. Not only does the equivalent of a president hate both of them, but also the very people they have been sent to save hate them. Pretty much every Egyptian and Israelite. That’s a lot of people. If it was me, I would feel pretty down-trodden. The task appointed me would seem impossible now. But at the same time, I think I would turn to rely on my family. Really, that’s all I would have at that point. God and my family. That’s probably what they did. They all encouraged and uplifted each other. That is how Moses and Aaron got through it all I bet.
That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for the next installment in two weeks.