Our dialogue with Anaiah, an educated Jew from the 500’s B.C., continues.
St. Barnabas Blog: Last time, you were talking about God’s plan for saving the world, which involved Joseph’s unexpected success and the migration of his family to Egypt to escape a famine. You said that the return from Egypt was significant.
Anaiah: That’s correct. The book of Genesis ends with Joseph’s family in Egypt, apparently safe for the moment. The book of Exodus begins, more grimly, with a “new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph.” This new king, or Pharaoh, was concerned that the Israelite people, who were growing in numbers, would rebel or join with Egypt’s enemies, so he sent taskmasters to oppress them and, when that didn’t work, commanded all male children among the Israelites to be killed.
SBB: The Israelites must have wondered where God was in all of this.
Anaiah: They would soon find out. One of the Israelite mothers refused to kill her male child and instead launched him in a basket on the Nile to see if he would be found and adopted by an Egyptian family. As it turned out, he was adopted by a royal princess and named Moses.
SBB: Is that a Hebrew name?
Anaiah: Maybe. The author of Exodus suggests that “Moses” might be connected with the Hebrew word that means “I drew him out [of the river].” But it may also be significant that several Pharaohs were named Thutmose or Thutmoses, so Moses may have been a royal name.
SBB: Did Moses rise to fame and fortune as Joseph did?
Anaiah: No, he chose not to. The first incident recorded of him is that he visited the Israelites to see their condition of forced labor, something we can assume that other members of the royal family did not do. Moses went further. When he saw one of the Egyptian taskmasters beating an Israelite, he killed the oppressor. Pharaoh heard of this killing and tried to capture Moses, but Moses left Egypt and went to the land of Midian.
SBB: Where was that?
Anaiah: It was probably what you would call the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia, across the Gulf of Aqaba from the Sinai Peninsula. In this remote place, Moses settled down, married, and had a son.
SBB: So Moses felt safe because he was beyond the reach of Pharaoh, it seems.
Anaiah: Yes, but not beyond the reach of God. What I am going to tell you next is a great mystery. One day, while keeping his father in law’s flock, an angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush. Moses looked, and the bush was blazing, but not consumed. Then God called to him out of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” Then God said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
SBB: Wow! I have a lot of questions about that.
Anaiah: I will address them next time. In the meantime, ponder this event and how you would have reacted if you had been there.
SBB: I can’t wait with my first question: did this really happen?
Anaiah: Yes, it did. Everything that follows bears witness to the reality of this event.