The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The First Commandment
The First Commandment
"I am the Lord thy God, which have
brought thee out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage."
The Bible Deity and Abraham Lincoln
Were we not quoting the words of one who is supposed to be the God of the universe, we would judge them to have been uttered by some braggadocio leader who was trying to impress his followers with the great deed he had performed.
If George Washington, the Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Army, had made a similar statement at the conclusion of our War for Independence, much of his value as a leader would have been lost.
Egotism and self-praise are not very commendable qualities. Accomplishments should speak for themselves. It is rarely necessary to make worthy deeds appreciated by boasting about them.
Does anyone really believe that if there is a God over this vast universe, he would be so small and petty as to make the egotistical statement which constitutes the first declaration of the Decalogue? Does anyone really believe that this is the most important message such a God could impart to the children of the earth to express his importance and as a manifestation of his power? Is it possible that there are those who believe these are the words of a God who is considered the Creator and Ruler of the universe, the Almighty One who is responsible for all that is?
These words are, however, an indication of the character of a tribal god, attesting to his primitive origin. They place him in an ignorant and superstitious age when deception and "sorcery" enabled the priest-magicians to dominate and enslave the primitive peoples over whom they ruled.
To determine the ethical and moral value of this Commandment, let us assume that the Bible God did free the Children of Israel from the yoke of Egyptian rule (though it might be asked why he permitted their enslavement in the first place). Why, then, did he permit them to become slaves under the yoke of the Romans? Was slavery under one tyrant more desirable than under another?
While he was setting the Hebrews at liberty, why did he not free others who were held in bondage? Was freeing of the Children of Israel the most important problem in the world at that time? The Hebrews were not the only people who were slaves. Were not the other enslaved peoples equally deserving of liberation? Is not slavery itself an obnoxious institution, and are not all peoples worthy of freedom? Slavery at that time was a universal institution. Enslaved humanity under brutal tyrants everywhere filled the air with cries of agony and despair. Why was he so partial to the Hebrews? If this God was omnipotent, there is no question as to his ability to perform the task. If he could and he did not, he deserves the sternest condemnation.
Would not the little knowledge that we have today, acquired after thousands of years of struggle with the forces of nature, have been of more benefit to mankind than the exodus of an insignificant tribe of people? Think of the great progress that would have been made if this God had shown the people how to construct the printing press, the automobile, the electric light, the motion picture, the electric dynamo or the X-ray machine, or to produce anesthesia, or had revealed the secrets of radium, or any one of the hundreds of inventions and discoveries that man has used so advantageously to liberate himself from physical pain and to cure the ills to which flesh is heir. Why, in his first statement to the people of the earth, did not this God reveal the laws that govern nature, and the formulas by which the materials of the earth could be used? The Bible does not contain even the basic law of the earth upon which we live -- the law of gravitation.
While we are speaking of the liberation of the Hebrews from bondage, it will not be irrelevant to mention Abraham Lincoln's efforts to free the Negro slaves in this country. By way of comparison, Lincoln's task was just as arduous as that of the God of Israel; in fact, it was more so, for Lincoln was only a common mortal. He had to combat others stronger than himself. He also had to fight in the open against the invisible foes of racial, political and social prejudices. He had to fight the Bible's own pronouncement that slavery existed by divine approval. In support of the institution of slavery, ministers of religion consistently quoted scriptural edicts, such as Leviticus, Chapter 25, verses 44 to 46:
44. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
45. Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.
46. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigor.
Ministers also quoted Timothy, Chapter 6, verse 1:
1. Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.
These Biblical quotations were flung in the face of Lincoln to justify the enslavement of human beings.
Lincoln was far superior to the God of Israel in this respect: his task was more difficult and his accomplishments far greater. But more important still, and far more valuable than his deeds, was his character. He did not boast of his accomplishments. He wanted no credit other than to know that he had freed human beings from the shackles of slavery.
Nor did he demand adoration and worship. His compensation was the satisfaction of destroying the most vicious institution that ever cursed human society, although it had Biblical sanction. And Lincoln did not pose before his liberated Negroes with this statement: "I am Lincoln, your Emancipator, who freed you from your masters and liberated you from the shackles of bondage."
Nor was Lincoln a Negro. The slaves were not "his" people. He was not bound to them by ties of blood. He did his work purely for the love of humanity. No member of the human race was a stepchild to him. He did not flatter them by calling them his "chosen people." His passion was the principle of freedom for all mankind.
Lincoln said that this nation could not remain half slave and half free, and so he set about to make all free. The Bible Deity's performance dwindles into insignificance when compared with that of the Great Emancipator. Certainly, if Lincoln could free the Negro slaves in the United States of America, a God of the universe should have been able to abolish slavery throughout the earth.
If the Bible God had abolished slavery completely, the bloody sacrifice of the Civil War would not have been necessary. When Lincoln freed the Negroes, he did not in turn permit them to enslave others; whereas the Bible Deity sanctioned the barter and sale of human beings.
These Bible laws, presumably with divine approval, established to God's eternal infamy the property right in man, with all the heartrending misery that slavery has brought upon the earth. Consider the intellectual and moral progress that would have resulted had slavery never existed.
The Prologue to the Commandments
This Commandment, "I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," did not suddenly and without cause come into existence. It has its proper place as a prologue to the Decalogue, and is just as much a part of it as the Commandments which follow. Without this introduction, the rest of the Decalogue becomes meaningless and devoid of its original intent and purpose.
Without some such "miraculous" act to commend himself to the people whose God he was to become, the Bible Deity would have had no basis to offer himself as God. Only by the performance of some magical deed could he assume the position as given in the Biblical narrative. Nearly all gods in primitive societies have some such act to commend them to their people.
For the story recorded in the Book of Exodus, I quote Chapter 2, verses 1 to 10:
1. And there went a man of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi.
2. And the woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a goodly child, she hid him three months.
3. And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink.
4. And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
5. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river's side: and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
6. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews' children.
7. Then said his sister to Pharaoh's daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for thee?
8. And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother.
9. And Pharaoh's daughter said unto her, Take this child away, and nurse it for me, and I will give thee thy wages. And the woman took the child, and nursed it.
10. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
The circumstances surrounding the birth of Moses, although free from the element of divinity, nevertheless reveal the "hand of fate." Why he of all the Hebrew children should have been miraculously saved has a definite purpose for the story that follows. A similar bit of folklore was widely current regarding the founder of Rome. Like Moses, Romulus was exposed in infancy and might have perished had it not been for the providential intervention of a she-wolf and a woodpecker! [*1]
Another such tale deals with Sargon the Elder, the first Semitic king who reigned over Babylonia about 2500 years before the present era. As an infant he, too, was put in a basket of rushes among the flags of the Nile. The same fortuitous circumstances surrounding his discovery and preservation appear in his story. In fact, there is preserved in the library of Nineveh a copy of the inscription taken from one of his statues on which were carved the details of his charmed life. [*2]
"Sargon, the mighty king, the king of Agade, am I.
Whether this legend was the basis of the story of Moses in the bulrushes and his subsequent leadership of the Children of Israel, no one, of course, can say.
To continue the narrative, without including minor details of Moses' life, I quote Chapter 2, verses 23 to 25:
23. And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
24. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
25. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
We now come to the part that Moses is to play in this drama of rescuing the Children of Israel from the cruel clutches of the Egyptians.
I quote Chapter 3, verses 1 and 2:
1. Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
2. And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
Magic is an inseparable part of primitive religion, and this accounts for its appearance here: "the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire," and when the bush "burned" it "was not consumed." It is by these demonstrations of presumed miraculous power that the Lord will reveal to Moses how he will accomplish the task set before him.
I quote Chapter 3, verses 3 to 5:
3. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
4. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
Moses is ordered to appear before Pharaoh, and the scene for the actual drama is set. I quote Chapter 3, verses 7 to 10:
7. And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;
8. And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
9. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have also seen the oppression wherewith the Egyptians oppress them.
10. Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
The miraculous task that Moses is to perform is to free the Children of Israel from the yoke of Egyptian bondage. The Lord has heard their cry, and he is to send Moses to Pharaoh "that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt."
It is the performance of this deed that is the basis of this Commandment. By what miraculous power is it accomplished?
Moses, the Bible Deity and the Children of Israel
In Exodus, Chapter 3, verses 11 and 12, we read:
11. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?
12. And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.
To "bring forth the Children of Israel out of Egypt" was assuredly no ordinary task, and it certainly was legitimate for Moses to question this god who had appeared to him in a "consuming fire." And this god of consuming fire answered, "Certainly I will be with thee." When the performance is over, the Children of Israel, in appreciation of their deliverance, "shall serve God upon this mountain."
I quote Chapter 3, verse 13:
13. And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?
Moses, however, still manifests some skepticism as to why he was selected for so important an undertaking. He is deeply concerned to learn upon what authority he is to act, and rightly asks: "Behold, when I come unto the Children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?" It is quite evident from this that the Children of Israel would want some certification from Moses that he bore the proper credentials for his mission.
Does this God reveal his name to Moses? [**3] I quote Chapter 3, verse 14:
14. And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
The great I AM speaks. Is that a name? Or is it a designation? Or is it a concealment of the name of the Bible Deity? Will the Children of Israel accept I AM THAT I AM as sufficient proof that Moses represents a real god whom they should follow implicitly? Let us see. I quote Chapter 3, verses 15 to 17:
15. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
16. Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
17. And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
Even if this God's acquaintance with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should fail to convince the Children of Israel of his authenticity, perhaps the promise to relieve them of "the affliction of Egypt" and take them "unto a land flowing with milk and honey" would be sufficient to warrant their acceptance of him. But just how will all this be accomplished?
I quote Chapter 3, verse 18:
18. And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.
All gods of primitive peoples demand sacrifices from their subjects, and this is likewise true of the Bible Deity. The Children of Israel were continually admonished to sacrifice unto their Lord. Dire results would follow if they failed to offer the best of everything that was produced. It might mean his withholding favor and depriving them of fruitful crops, good weather, success in their undertakings, and good fortune as a nation.
The whole custom was born of fear, and the greater the fear, the more numerous the sacrifices and the more elaborate the ceremonies of propitiation. Everything in nature has some meaning which was interpreted to indicate God's pleasure or displeasure. For example, the Indian, we are told, lived in constant fear. The turning of a leaf, the crawling of an insect, the cry of a bird, the creaking of a bough, might mean to him the mystic signal of weal or woe. [*4]
For the Bible Deity and Moses to impress upon the Children of Israel their supernatural powers, they had to perform some extraordinary deeds. These are in the narrative dealing with Moses' contact with Pharaoh and the Hebrews' escape from "bondage." The story would have no value without these events, and Moses could not be looked upon as a deliverer and lawgiver.
I quote Chapter 3, verse 19:
19. And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.
How did the new god of the Children of Israel know that "the king of Egypt will not let you go"? If he had let them go merely on their petition, then how could "I AM" demonstrate his magic powers to rescue them from the cursed Egyptian rule? Judging from what follows, it was not the deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egypt with which the narrative was concerned, but the demonstration of magical powers that this new god had conferred upon Moses.
I quote Chapter 3, verses 20 to 22:
20. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.
21. And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:
22. But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.
If the Children of Israel should still doubt Moses' word as to his intimacy with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then what should be done to convince them? Moses anticipates this doubt on the part of the Hebrews, as we see from Chapter 4, verse 1:
1. And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.
The Bible God replies as recorded in Chapter 4, verses 2 to 7:
2. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.
3. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.
4. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand:
5. That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
6. And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow.
7. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.
Changing a rod into a serpent and the serpent back into a rod may be clever magic, but how does such a demonstration prove that Moses spoke to God? If the only thing necessary to prove the truth of an extraordinary claim were to demonstrate an ability to bewilder, there would be no more mysteries to solve.
If a person claims that he can bring the dead back to life, and in proof of that power pulls a rabbit out of a hat, that is hardly a demonstration of the truth of his claim; it is merely an example of his ability in the art of deception. If he claims that he can fly without wings and without the use of mechanical help of any kind, and in proof of his ability pulls another rabbit out of another hat, that is not proof of his ability to fly, but of his ability to lie, and he will without much hesitation be condemned as a faker. The demonstration of one thing has absolutely no bearing in proving the truth of the other, when there is no relationship between them.
But suppose all these demonstrations of magic prove of no avail, if the Children of Israel still persist in their doubt and insist upon a more convincing demonstration in proof of Moses' claim that he was selected by the Bible God to impart this all-important message, then what is he to do? I quote Exodus, Chapter 4, verses 8 and 9:
8. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.
9. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.
There is one great difference between this god and Moses, and present-day magicians. If the people of Israel did not believe what Moses told them, and they were still skeptical after his demonstration of the rod and the leprous hand, then "thou shalt take the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land; and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land." There can be no comparison between the effectiveness of reasoning and changing water into blood. Such a demonstration would indeed be too effective to be argued about; in other words, the Egyptians would have had to believe what the Bible God, through Moses, told them, regardless of how farfetched and incredible the thing might appear, or suffer the pollution of their land.
The magician of today differs from Moses in another respect. If you suspect trickery in his performance, he does not punish you with a curse; on the contrary, he smiles at your power of detection and merely asks you to applaud his efforts to entertain you.
Compared to the magicians of today, however, Moses was an amateur. On many occasions I have seen professional hypnotists and magicians take a person from the audience, place his hand in a certain position, mumble some magic word, and behold the hand becomes "leprous as snow"! With the same ease, and mumbling the same magic word, the hand is "turned again as his other flesh." I have seen magicians "saw a woman in half" before my very eyes, and with the same ease restore her as she was, without the slightest injury! I have seen them pull a bird out of a woman's hair, with the same ease with which they make an elephant disappear!
I have seen magicians do all manner of wonders, and yet not one claimed that he was on intimate terms with God, or even conversed with him, or that God told him his (God's) name; nor did he perform these tricks in proof of something else. But aside from all that, the significant fact is this: You cannot prove one thing by doing something entirely different which has no relationship to what you set out to prove.
Moses and the Magic Rod
Despite his familiarity with the Bible Deity, according to the Biblical narrative, Moses is still unsure of himself. I quote the Book of Exodus, Chapter 4, verses 10 to 16:
10. And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.
11. And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
12. Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.
13. And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.
14. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he cometh forth to meet thee: and when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart.
15. And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.
16. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.
Well equipped now by training and instruction, Moses is prepared for his task before Pharaoh. In addition to being well versed in magic, he has acquired the power of ventriloquism. "And thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do." But why should a little defect such as being "slow of speech, and of a slow tongue," be a handicap to one who performs so skillfully and who can remedy all such shortcomings with the magical powers of ventriloquism? So Aaron, Moses' brother, will provide him with another tongue to confound Pharaoh the more.
One thing, however, without which no magician can perform is still lacking. It is the most important part of his equipment. I quote Chapter 4, verse 17:
17. And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.
It is "this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs." What can a magician do without his magic wand? [**5]
Now that Moses is ready, fully equipped, let us follow his sleight-of-hand performance before Pharaoh, in his efforts, in the Biblical drama, to free the Children of Israel.
I quote Chapter 4, verses 18 to 21:
18. And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father-in-law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.
19. And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.
20. And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.
21. And the Lord said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
The secret reason why Pharaoh would not let the Children of Israel go, as stated in Chapter 3, verse 19, is revealed here. He will not let them go because "I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go." It is easy to know the answers when you possess the power to create the events, control the characters, and provide for the conclusion.
I quote Chapter 4, verses 22 to 24:
22. And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
23. And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.
24. And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him.
The above verses seem slightly complicated, but what are a few complications either in the life of Moses or in a Biblical narrative? Let me repeat it, however: "And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him." What was the reason why the Lord "sought to kill him"?
I quote Chapter 4, verses 27 to 31:
28. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord who had sent him, and all the signs which he had commanded him.
29. And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel;
30. And Aaron spake all the words which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
31. And the people believed: and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.
Moses and Aaron gave a demonstration of their art "and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed." The magic formula worked! That was all that was necessary. It was as simple as all that. Now for the main performance.
Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh
In the Book of Exodus, Chapter 5, verses 1 and 2, we read:
1. And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.
2. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.
The above is more significant than a first reading would indicate. Although this scene is part of the drama, it nevertheless shows how utterly insignificant I AM was to all but Moses and his brother Aaron. Pharaoh contemptuously asks Moses, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?" And Moses and Aaron replied, Chapter 5, verses 3 to 5:
3. And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days' journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.
5. And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.
Moses becomes bolder. He tries to frighten Pharaoh with a threat. He tells him that unless he lets the Children of Israel go, the Lord will visit them with "pestilence or with the sword." The king takes very little stock in Moses' threat, chides him for annoying him, and orders the Israelites to heavier tasks. He takes the whole matter as an attempt on the part of the laborers to shirk their work, and orders a stricter supervision over them.
I quote Chapter 5, verses 6 to 8:
6. And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying,
7. Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.
8. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish aught thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God.
In this impasse, Moses returns to the Lord for further instructions; I quote Chapter 5, verses 22 and 23:
22. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?
23. For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.
The scene opens with Moses berating I AM for sending him on a fool's errand. "Wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it that thou hast sent me?" Moses relates the utter failure of his mission, and Pharaoh's contempt. He cries, "For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people...." But arousing the anger of Pharaoh was part of the plot, and the ineffectual use of the name I AM is about to be remedied, as we shall see in Chapter 6, verses 1 to 3:
1. Then the Lord said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.
2. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord:
3. And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.
Verse 3, quoted above, brings us to one of the most important phases of our study. In it is mentioned the name of the God who is to perform wonders for the Children of Israel. The mystery which enshrouds the name of "I AM THAT I AM" is now revealed as "Jehovah." It is by this magic name that Moses will prevail over the hardhearted Pharaoh.
Priest-magicians have ever used a sacred and fearful name as a means of accomplishing their greatest wonders. Now that the Lord has revealed himself as "Jehovah" to Moses, the miracles and the mighty performances promised are to be done in his name!
I quote Chapter 6, verses 4 to 8:
4. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.
5. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered my covenant.
6. Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:
8. And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for a heritage: I am the Lord.
Up to now it looks very much as if "Jehovah" would fail in his attempt to get the people of Israel to accept him as their God. He keeps repeating that he will free them from their burdens under the king of Egypt, and "bring them into a land" which he had promised to their forefathers.
I quote Chapter 6, verse 9:
9. And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.
Moses, in his appeal to the Children of Israel, cannot arouse their enthusiasm. They have just cause to resent his appeal, for it was they who suffered when the appeals and threats were unavailing. What must be done next? As his people have rejected Moses as their leader because of the failure of the Bible God to fulfill his promises, the Lord again speaks to Moses.
I quote Chapters 6, verses 10 to 13:
10. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
11. Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.
12. And Moses spake before the Lord, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?
13. And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, and gave them a charge unto the children of Israel, and unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
But the experience that Moses has already had makes him doubtful of success, and he answers: "Behold, the Children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?"
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