My analysis of Moses


Simple version of Moses's story is that he was raised as prince in the land of Egypt.  He was forced to flee when it was rumoured that he was the son of a Jewish tomb builders.  After a number of years, he returned to take the Jewish population from Egypt back to Canon whence they had come.  He established firm rules on worship of their God - Yahweh - and kept the people in the Sinai desert for a generation.  Jewish people later emerged from the desert to occupy Canaan and later settled around the area we now know as Israel.

What I have never been able to understand is why would a prince run away, only to come back and “rescue” lowly builders / slaves ?  Why would such a prince keep his people in the desert when there was clear opportunity and chance to move out to better lands ?

Lets take the first situation – Moses being driven out of Egypt.

Popular story says he was forced out when he discovered his heritage after accidently killing an overseer beating a Jewish tomb builder. 
Fact is, no prince of that time would think twice after killing any number of people !  Generally, they were raised to believe they can do no wrong.  Till recently, royals the world over believed themselves to be above the law.  Any number of misdemeanours, crimes, lapses of grace, were all dismissed as privileges of their class.  So death of an overseer was the least of his worries.  Disney may make much of a law-abiding, conscientious princes, history tells us otherwise.

So why did the prince of Egypt leave in such a haste and in such disgrace ?

In any country, at any time, the one sure way of ruining a prince’s chance of inheriting the throne is to tell him he is an illegitimate child !!  A bastard can never inherit the throne !  This is especially true if the father or mother or ideally both his parents are dead.  There is than no way to refute the claim.  A maid or any number of servants can be lined up to attest to this crime, and once declared a bastard, the prince can never sit on the throne with ease.  There will always be other pretenders to his throne, claiming greater legitimacy than him. 

This has been the prime instrument of dirty politics since time immemorial.  There is no way to clear your name once the parents are dead – usually the ideal time to float the conspiracy.  The British used it extensively to gain kingdoms and extend their Empire by bringing kingdoms with 'illegitimate heirs' 'under their protections'.  Ofcourse, it was the British who decided who was legitimate and illegitimate. 

Once it was claimed that Moses was not of royal blood, he would have been isolated at court.  In Egypt, royal succession was through the female line – hence the “adoption” by a princess rather than being birthed by a princess was a necessary part of the plot to oust Moses.  If the claim was that he was “adopted”, why not claim he was a son of a slave ?  If you are going to lie, make it big.  Make it so big, no one would think it would have been made up !!

Question arises as to why a princess would knowingly raise a child of undetermined birth as her own !  No princess of the royal blood would have been so foolish as to assume that adopting a child is the same as adopting a pet.  A princess would have been keenly aware of the consequences of such an action.  Even if the princess wasn’t bothered, her parents and guardians would have been aware and would have guarded against such a situation.  They would have been keenly aware of the civil war and fraternal fights that can follow a disputed succession.  If a child had been raised as an adopted child, others with better claim to the throne would have made sure the adopted child “knew his place”.  Its the real politics of all royal families. 

Having researched the subject, I agree with Freud that Mosses most probably left due to theological differences between him and the court.  It is more than possible that Mosses lived at a time soon after the demise of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten.  With the pharaoh’s death, died the idea of monotheism in Egypt.  Mosses, having allied himself with the old king, or becoming influenced by his religious ideas, would have been at odds from the rest of the court.  In Egypt, religion ruled life of people so intimately, that any theological disputes would have been more deadly than political ones.

Having lost his battle in court, and in the royal family, Mosses would have been an outcaste and forced to live in exile.  Being an ex-prince, his face would have been known to the army, ambassadors and diplomats of the times.  This would have precluded a luxurious exile in the frontier town or a foreign city, as you would be a constant target for assassins and political intrigues.  Mosses seems to have chosen anonymity of the desert.  There he could nurse his monotheist leanings and worship in peace. 

Moses came back to reclaim the tomb workers.  Why ?  Why not contest for the throne instead ? 
When Moses found out that his step brother was the new king and all hopes of reviving Aten’s worship were dead, he probably thought up the ideal revenge – that of depriving the Pharaoh of his pyramid and tomb !!  This would be the ultimate revenge.  In Egyptian terms, kingdom after death was the greater, more longer lasting kingdom than the one you rules whist living !  By denying a grand tomb to his arch rival, Moses hoped to deprive his rival the one thing all ancient Egyptians valued the most – everlasting life ! 

Over the years, Ramesses had become too entrenched for Moses to dislodge him from the rule of Egypt.  After such a long absence, Moses could not command the loyalty of the army or hope the aristocrats would back his claim to the throne.  This was especially true if he still held on to the beliefs of the heretic king Akhenaten.  So he did the next best thing – ruined the chance of Ramesses ever getting a magnificent tomb !!

Allying himself with the tomb workers, he told them how oppressed they were and how much they should agitate for freedom.  Terming them all to be Semites and of the lineage of Abraham, he inspired them to seek independence. 

From reading the old Bible, here is a curious thing, “slaves” who had just left Egypt, and in such hurry they did not even have time to let their bread rise, yet they had enough gold with them to create an image of a calf !  How ?  First of all, slaves, if indeed these were treated as slaves, where did they get the gold from ?  Indeed – so much so as to create a ritual-worthy image in the form of a calf!  Looking at Egyptian idols of the time, these were no miniatures, but mighty statues of impressive size.  Where did slaves get so much gold ? 

I would reason that these tomb makers were skilled workers and were treated as such.  They were well paid and some even paid in gold !  Their contracts may have been seen as golden handcuffs, a bit like how some well paid singers and actors feel now, but all in all, they were well paid.  Mosses offered them a land of their own, flowing with milk and honey, and away from these exclusive work for a pharaoh who bound them with contracts that “stifled their creativity”.  Wishing to start a new life in a new land, they agreed to follow Mosses. 

As a leader, Moses seems to have been rather big on promises and short on delivery.  In my opinion, those who followed him from Egypt would not have done so if they had known the angry, short tempered, genocidal nature of Moses.He promised to take the pyramid makers to a land flowing with milk and honey.  Those who left Egypt never made it to Israel.  An entire generation passed and Moses died before the pyramid makers managed to get a toe hold in Israel.  Sinai was harsh desert and the people had to rely on manna from heaven just to survive for over 40 years.  Moses was just as tyrannical as the pharaoh, short tempered and rather less communicative than a leader of newly freed slaves should be.  When Moses went up the mountain for 40 days, he left no instructions on how to worship the new G-D or what not to do in his absence.  How did he expect the people to read his mind ?  Yet, Moses ordered the execution of all those who built or worshiped the “golden calf” while he was in the mountains talking to G-D.  How unfair and unjust was his order to kill over 3000 people who had followed him in to the desert ?  Where was his patience and understanding ? 

All those who followed him in the desert died.  In a typical fashion of all “leaders” it’s the followers who are blamed and leadership is absolved of all responsibility.  From time immemorial, kings, generals, politicians, PMs, presidents, corporate CEOs and executives take all the glory and none of the blame for results of decisions they made.  If successful, it was all thanks to their direction and decision making skills.  If unsuccessful, it was because of bad execution at lower level who had no skill or faith or lacked both !

Moses killed a great many of his own people in his wrath at the slightest misdemeanor or any challenge to his authority.  Moses ordered the death of great many non-Israelites during his 40 years wondering on the edge of Canaan.  In some cases he ordered the death of every man woman and child in towns and cities they invaded.  In others, they killed all except virgin women, to be distributed as bounty of war between Israelite soldiers.  Moses died on the eastern shore of the Jordan river, in sight of the “Promised land”. 

Sadly, the generation that signed up for the Promised Land never reached it.  That entire generation died in the wastes of Sinai.  Their pyramid building skills died with them.  They never reached the land of milk and honey.  The next generation was hardier, raised in the desert and was glad to have an opportunity to live in settled lands.  Joshua and his battles were battles of desert tribes with city dwellers.  The Jews had nothing to loose, but the city dwellers had serious reservations about losing to nomadic desert tribesmen. 

Rest, as they say, is history.


© Bhagwat Shah
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