Global Studies 2A:Comparative Political and Religious Systems
Monday, February 02, 2004
How does Moses help create Israel? What is the definition of a nation/people? by Rachel
Moses goal was to release the Jews from Egyptian oppression. Why? Because God startled him from the bushes and cried, “And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people , the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” (3:9) After that God uses Moses as a tool of holy smiting as the Pharaoh denies the sons of Israel their freedom over and over again. Moses goes to the Pharaoh, is denied, and there starts the seven plagues. Moses acts as the hand of God, like his messenger and therefor does whatever God tells him to do. After the last plague, the people of Egypt chased the sons of Israel out of Egypt. “And the Egyptians were urgent with the people, to send them out of the land in haste; for they said “we are all dead men” (12:33)
In asking the question “Does Moses help create Israel?” Most people would say yes. However, if you examine it more closely you would see that Moses himself does nearly nothing to create Israel. He only acts as a puppet of God. Moses organizes his people by heads of the family, however only by Gods orders. This helps give the people an identity, along with their shared of blood, and sharing of experience.
Once they get out of Egypt, Moses still plays the same role, although now he acts more of the guardian and leader of the sons of Israel instead of the liberator. He drowns the pursuing Egyptian army in the Red Sea, he brings forth water in the desert, and he tells his people of the foods that God shall provide. Exodus even quotes that the Lord did all of this and not Moses (who they call his servant.) “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore. And Israel saw the great work which the Lord did against the Egyptians, and the people feared the Lord; and they believed in the Lord and his servant Moses.” (14:30) None of these things are a result of Moses’ own virtue, however. Moses establishes many of the critical aspects of a state (rather, god does these things through moses). He provides a code of law (the Ten Commandments) he establishes a few social guidelines: the three feasts of passover, new year, and other various rituals.
People have something in common, or many things in common. In the case of Exodus, it is bloodlines (the sons of Israel), and shared experiences (oppression of the Egyptians, escape from Egypt). Their religion and belief in God, is the most important thing in common, however. In Exodus, Moses decides to kill 3,000 people who had worshiped a false idol. “And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose, then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said “Who is on the Lords side? Come to me.” (32:25) “And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put every man his sword on his side, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.” (32:27)
A nation is people bound under the same habits: law, customs, language, ideology, etc. They have common interests, are protected by the same armies, and benefit from the same trade. While a nation may have many different groups of people in it, they all follow the same laws. However, the nation that Moses and God make, is a nation of the sons of Israel, which is more of a settling in, rather than a rebirth.
Reflection on Moses
“How did Moses help create Israel? What are the definitions of a nation/people?”
The book of Exodus is about Moses freeing the people of Israel from the Egyptians. The Israelites are the descendents of Jacob, Isaac and Abraham who have the covenant with God that God will one day give their descendents the Promised Land. In Exodus, God works through Moses to make this happen.
Moses does not really create Israel, God does, but Moses is important because he is God’s human vessel on earth. God chooses Moses to be the figure that does start the creation of Israel. God starts by giving Moses the tools he will need to make the slaves of Egypt follow him, signs that God is with Moses, like the rod that can become a snake. He also tells Moses to use his brother Aaron as the public speaker because Moses is “…Not eloquent [and] slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10) Basically God forces Moses to do what he wants, which is to free the Israelites in Egypt and give them Israel. So Moses and his family and his brother go to Egypt where the talk to the Pharaoh, who isn’t willing to negotiate with Moses for the freedom of all his slaves, and he actually makes things harder for the slaves. But eventually the Pharaoh is willing to agree with Moses, after he sees some of the signs of God, but God doesn’t want him to agree. “And I will harden the Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.” (Exodus 7:3-4) So God is not only helping Moses and his people, but he is using them as a way to destroy much of Egypt for his own reasons, that don’t affect Moses and the Israelites. He is taking what they want, which is to be free, a step further and actually punishing the Egyptians for keeping these people as slaves. But really it is not the Egyptians fault because how could they know that these people had a covenant with God before Moses told them? The people for Israel themselves didn’t even know anymore. God is basically manipulating both parties so that he can do what he wants. If it was just Moses and the Pharaoh they would have come to an agreement in the beginning, as soon as the Pharaoh sees God’s power, but God doesn’t want that because then he doesn’t get a chance to show off his power. So “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 10:20) so that “I may show these signs of Mine before him.” (Exodus 10:1) Moses basically becomes a pawn for God; God uses him on his quest to get power over the Egyptians. But by following God’s instructions Moses frees the Israelites, and brings them through the red sea towards the Promised Land. He also not only gets the people to the land they are promised but starts to create them as a nation, by getting their laws from God and starting to set up their society, and they way it will run in the future.
Moses helps the Israelites to start a nation. In the bible, a nation is very much based on ancestry. It starts with the heads of the household, and then goes down through their children. The nation originally builds up because it is not just the descendents of a particular family, but also everyone that they bring into their household, their wives and some of the closer relatives of their wives, and also any slaves or servants. But it isn’t just people that make up a nation. As civilizations in the Bible become more and more advanced, more and more makes up a nation. Firstly you have to have had land, have land currently or be getting land in the future. A nation without land will never progress because they have no way to promote and enforce their own culture and social values because technically they are under the jurisdiction of whatever nation’s land they are on. So in order to become a nation you also need to have you own rules, laws and culture that differs from your neighbors. In the Bible both Israel and Egypt are a nation, but originally Israel is just another part of Egypt because they are under Egypt’s rule, and they don’t get to practice their own culture. But after they have been freed from Egypt they get their own laws and their own ways of doings things that are different then what they had to do in Egypt. Each nation has to have at least slightly different rules and a different culture then the rest of the nations because then there would be no point to being separate nations. The Bible emphasizes this by showing the importance of the Israelites separating them from the Egyptians in order to be a nation that has the covenant of God. A nation or a people needs there own land, and culture in order to survive.