Thursday, April 06, 2006

Take the Levites from among the children of Israel (Exod 6)

Sheesh, Blogger's acting up a bit for me today, and after getting sidetracked by yesterday's topic which started out as a look at chapter six, but ended up being...well, whatever it was. Hopefully this will post today.

Well, here we are at Exodus chapter 6, and the first point that we get to is "Did Abraham know God's name?" I thought to myself, "Ah, I must have answered this back in Genesis. Looking back, I found that I specifically did not answer it in this post. Poop. Well, there is only one explanation that I can think of, but I have to admit, it's a tenuous one, especially in light of the verse the SAB uses to point it out, and, in my opinion, a possible contrast with Exodus 3:14. Well, here it is: As I touched on sort of tangentially in this really old post, and a bit more directly here, Moses wrote the book of Genesis, but was not there when the events took place. Since he wasn't there, I'm not sure one can rightly assume that any dialogue can be considered a direct quotation. If Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob ever mentions YHWH, it may be the case that Moses is inserting the name editorially, so to speak. In case the above problems I admitted are not clear, I'll spell them out. If Abraham actually named a place after YHWH, then one would think he knew the name, and an actual place-name seems more permanent rather than a bit of spoken dialogue. Secondly, if Moses telling the Israelites that "I AM" spoke to him was supposed to be significant, then one would think that name was already known.

At least I did answer the other issue, that of God being seen by someone or not, right here. Phew.

In verse 12, the phrase "uncircumcised lips" is marked as absurd. Really, I'm not sure what to say to this, as I myself have always found it sounding a bit absurd as well. Culturally, circumcision was a big deal to the Israelites, and while circumcision is literally something done to the foreskin of the penis, the Bible speaks of uncircumcised ears, hearts and nations, and it seems to metaphorically refer to not being dedicated to God as is proper.

Later in the chapter, as we get a genealogy of Moses, the lifespans of several forefathers are called absurd. As I mused in a previous post, I'm not sure what the specific threshold is for ridiculously long lifespans, but it seems to be somewhere between 127 and 133, and I don't know why. Something that the SAB fails to mention here, although I'm surprised because it's pretty glaring, is that despite the fact that 400-odd years have passed since the last mention of Levi in the book of Genesis, Moses is only Levi's great-grandson. Something weird is definitely going on here, either these long-lived people are having children in their old age, or the genealogy is telescoped in some manner. There's no clear-cut contradiction even if you take it literally, it just seems very odd, that's all.

The last point the SAB brings up in this chapter is another one I have already addressed. Moses' parents were siblings, and thus their relationship was incestuous. But didn't God condemn incest? Yes, He did, but not yet. I discussed this issue when Abraham mentioned that Sarah was his wife.

There are no more points to address as given presently, but there is something that I'd never noticed before this morning that the SAB might want to point out as absurd just because it's a little bit funny, I think. Is it a sign that Moses may not be a very good writer? In verse 14, we read "These be the heads of their fathers' houses..." This seems to be an introduction to a list of the sub-families of the twelve tribes, listed in order of the birth of the sons of Jacob. One problem, though; it goes Reuben, Simeon, Levi--Oh! That's Moses' tribe! Let's talk about Moses' ancestry and family, shall we? Okay, but what about the other nine tribes? We don't get back to this list until Numbers 26, nearly 90 chapters later! Something that's an issue to consider in some places in the Bible is that few of the Biblical authors were professional writers, and none of them had word processors.

2 comments:

Erasmus T. Shytwitte said...

I'm up to this point of Exodus as well... I'm getting the impression that incest is used in the bible to verify that the founders of the Hebrew faith were "truly" Hebrew - all the family members that marry outsiders and their resulting children (Ishmael, Esau, etc.) fall on the wayside.
I'm also reading Freud's "Moses and Monotheism", and while it's not the most religion-friendly book, it raises a lot of suspicion that Moses could have been Egyptian. This genealogy shows that Moses is not only a Levite, he's a DOUBLE Levite (which, given their tendency towards violence, is an identity I would not like). I have a hunch as well that the weird "bridegroom by blood" episode has something to do with reaffirming Moses's Israelite identity.

...but that's enough hot air out of me...

Brucker said...

Interesting thought about the "bloody husband" bit. While it may not be very clear what the passage is specifically supposed to mean, the fact that Moses' Hebrew (specifically Levite) heritage is important, and that the moment of that exchange comes at the time he is about to return to his people does carry the suggestion of symbolism. The blood of Moses' sons had to be shed specifically because it was Israeli blood. Definitely thought-provoking.