Birth of Israel
A conversation pieced together from Akhnaton@yahoogroups.com around January, 2003
I'm wondering if this whole image of Pharoh's daughter rescuing
Moses was symbolic? Egypt at that time (whatever date we put for Moses) owned
the "holy land". If we think of Egypt as a female ‘country’ and call
her the "two ladies" (Wadjet and Nekhbet, the two protective
Goddesses) then we can posit an analogy to the rescue of the Khabiru who came
to Egypt from Syria in a time of drought.
"slaves" of ancient Egypt were more like landless people who had to
sell their services to others, more like our idea of "wage-slaves"
who live in apartments in crowded cities (ghettos?) rather than their own
homes. They are people who cannot grow
their own food.
But why would Pharaoh want to kill off potential workers? Were there strikes? Was there a lot of random violence because the economical situation was bad and the workers were sent away and started robbing the landowners? Were the workers not allowed to buy land? Or, if so, were the newly ‘landed’ former workers stripped of their land? One could see the "moses" story turned on its head as a warning for what happens when you take in the enemy. But after the "hebrews" left, Egypt survived. Who
were the workers then?
Or is Exodus just a tale of people who left Egypt because hard times struck (along with a lot of weird weather and Lake Natron (I think that's the right name) near Victoria Falls overflowing its banks and spreading its red algea-infected water into the Nile--worked backwards...
Been a long time, but I kept your post because there was some answer, or several, lurking in the cosmos and I figured I would find it sooner or later.
you find it rather convenient, in the sense of a literary 'device', that the
Egyptians are accused of killing all newborn Hebrews, and then, a generation
later, the Hebrews killing all the Egyptian firstborn?
The storyteller (or editor/redactor) is obviously steeped in the ‘eye for an eye’ vengeance belief system.
There is even a stronger imagery at play. Whatever happened in Egypt, the process followed the regular steps of procreation.
Joseph is the sperm that penetrates Egypt, and, since one is not the norm in nature, he invites the entire tribe of Jacob to join him.
The key here is that in Western Asia, Jacob is just one of many tribes. If he has a special relationship with his deity, it cannot be much different than any other tribe's relationship to its deity. But in Egypt the 'tribe'
grows and both it and its deity undergo a gestation period - growth of a sense of identity based on Not-Being-Egyptians.
Like any fetus, when it comes to term its host has to expel it! The Hebrews grew in number and the Egyptian administration, the 'Mother' figure (Egypt, after all, boasted about being or coming from the primordial egg) could no longer ‘control’ them. We have no such evidence, but we can suppose.
Since most births are fairly violent and often bloody, the Exodus is right on the money: the 'mother' suffers birthing pain through the ten plagues, which could be something like contractions that can send mothers-to-be into spasms of pain and suffering. And then the newly born 'people' go through the birthing canal, the parted sea, on their way to the 'promised land'. Except that their 'Mother' does not nurture them, but, rather, expose them to the Sinai Desert. There they go through trauma after trauma, becoming more and more insecure and more and more easily manipulatable (if there is
such a word). The Ten Commandments, eight of which are directly taken from Chapter 125 of the Egyptian Am Duat, are Re-Presented to them by a new deity, then the tablets are shattered, adding to their insecurity (neurosis). By the time they reach the Promised Land, they have turned from
a peaceful, hardworking people into a disciplined army that attacks and defeats the Canaanites. Neurotics are turned into psychotics, who make good killers.
Nor does it stop there:
The Hebrews practically died out when Nebuchadrezzar removed them practically to the last man, woman and child to Babylon. It was like a death and rebirth experience, because, once again, their priests juxtaposed their religion not to other tribal religions of their own region, but to a highly evolved polytheism, and their new identity was born: Not-Being-Babylonians.
When Darius, the Persian, overran Babylon and repatriated Israel, it was another birth experience. The mother, in that case, Babylon, died in childbirth. You might even say that the pregnant 'mother' was slain and the 'father', Darius or the Persians, cut the fetus out and gave it life.
There was a third time that the Jews were expelled from Israel by the Romans around 66 AD and 'penetrated' southern France. Their next gestation period in Europe lasted nearly 1900 years until they were repatriated by England and the state of Israel was born in our own time, for the third time. They are on their third reincarnation, as it were, and if we were to examine Biblical history a little closer, perhaps we could identify more deaths and rebirths of this amazing nation. They are so much like their 'brothers' the Arabs that the only way they can find their identity is by living in places where they are not like their neighbors.
I was re-reading an essay by Elaine Pagels, _What Became of God the Mother?_, and came across the same birthing analogy for Exodus that you pointed out. Didn't you mention that you used to be interested in Gnosticism and that you had once interviewed Pagels? Perhaps this is where this imagery comes from? Anyway, Pagels mentions this image in the context of the disappearance of the feminine in the three major
monotheistic religions, and how the feminine image was still present in Gnostic sources, before this imagery was expunged by Christian theologians. In the following passage she cites from _The Great
Announcement_ (or _Pronouncement_), which, to my knowledge is no longer extant, except in fragments, and was attributed to Simon Magus.
Most of what we know about Simon is from accounts of Christian polemicists, like Irenaeus and Hippolytus, so I don't know how faithfully they represent Simon's actual philosophy.
"_The Great Announcement_, a mystical writing, explains the Genesis account in the following terms: "One Power that is above and below, self-generating, self-discovering, its own mother; its own father; its
own sister; its own son: Father, Mother, unity, Root of all things."(22) The same author explains the mystical meaning of the Garden of Eden as a symbol of the womb: "Scripture teaches us that
this is what is meant when Isaiah says, 'I am he that formed thee in thy mother's womb' [Isaiah 44:2]. The Garden of Eden, then, is Moses' symbolic term for the womb, and Eden the placenta, and the river which
comes out of Eden the navel, which nourishes the fetus."(23) This teacher claims that the Exodus, consequently, symbolizes the exodus from the womb, "and the crossing of the Red Sea, they say, refers to
the blood." Evidence for this view, he adds, comes directly from "the cry of the newborn," a spontaneous cry of praise for "the glory of the primal being, in which all the powers above are in harmonious
22. Hippolytus, _Refutationis Omnium Haeresium_, ed. L. Dunker, F. Schneidewin (Göttingen, 1859), 6.17.
23. Ibid., 6.14.
24. Irenaeus, _Aduersus Haereses_, ed. W. W. Harvey (Cambridge, 1857), 1.14.7-8.
I thought Erle would be pleased by this observation since I believe he was of the opinion that Amarna was the Garden of Eden. If the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus was the blood of birth, then it isn't too
much of a stretch to reason by this logic that Moses was the baby who was created in the paradise of the womb, which would have been Egypt.
says that Simon speaks of this Eden as being the "caul" that covers
the fetus , so this would correspond to the veil that hides the true identity
of Moses, connected to the navel of the earth,
the _omphalos_, in Amarna.