Complaints and Moses the Man: I’d rather go home! At the beginning Moses’ father Law Reuel the (Sudan) is saying he is not coming along Moses and the Israelites, but rather returns to his country (Artzi) and birth-land (Moladeti). This is possibly the first warning of things not being so great. Moses asks him to come along to share the riches of the promised land, but we lack Reuel’s response.
After after a long walk through the desert (three days) the people complain. A fire breaks out “ravaging at the outskirts of the camp” and the reason for that is assigned to be a punishment of God for rebelling and the place named Taberah.
Perhaps the people do not accept the explanation that the fire was cause by God, we do not know, but we read, that the complaints or whining continues. The dietary riches of the Egyptian days are recalled with the words: “If only we had meat! We remember the fish that we used to eat freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks onions and the garlic.”
What follows is a moment of resignation of Moses. We get an admission of his inability to cope at this moment to lead the people through the desert: 11:11-15:
Following instructions to gather the elders and a promise of meat, migrating birds arrive in great numbers (a natural occurrence rather than a metaphysical occurrence) and the Israelites “are fed.” Presumably some of the animals were ill, carried salmonella or any other type of disease, and given the apparent hunger, it is possible that there was not enough care taken in preparing them. . We read God put a plague upon the Israelites (a punishment for doubting the lord) as some died “with the meat still between their teeth.”
Against prejudice on grounds of skin colour: In the end Aaron and Miriam, Moses brother and sister, rebel “because of Moses’s wife being a Cushite (Ibn Ezra says it was Ziporah, others talk of a second wife, in any case Ziporah or the other woman were likely of North East African background (Sudan / Eritrea)”:
|1. Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses regarding the Cushite woman he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman.||א. וַתְּדַבֵּר מִרְיָם וְאַהֲרֹן בְּמשֶׁה עַל אֹדוֹת הָאִשָּׁה הַכֻּשִׁית אֲשֶׁר לָקָח כִּי אִשָּׁה כֻשִׁית לָקָח:|
|2 They said, “Has the Lord spoken only to Moses? Hasn’t He spoken to us too?” And the Lord heard.||ב. וַיֹּאמְרוּ הֲרַק אַךְ בְּמשֶׁה דִּבֶּר יְהֹוָה הֲלֹא גַּם בָּנוּ דִבֵּר וַיִּשְׁמַע יְהֹוָה:|
|3. Now this man Moses was exceedingly humble, more so than any person on the face of the earth.||ג. וְהָאִישׁ משֶׁה עָנָיו מְאֹד מִכֹּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה:|
|4. The Lord suddenly said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Go out, all three of you, to the Tent of Meeting!” And all three went out.||ד. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה פִּתְאֹם אֶל משֶׁה וְאֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל מִרְיָם צְאוּ שְׁלָשְׁתְּכֶם אֶל אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וַיֵּצְאוּ שְׁלָשְׁתָּם:|
|5. The Lord descended in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the Tent. He called to Aaron and Miriam, and they both went out.||ה. וַיֵּרֶד יְהֹוָה בְּעַמּוּד עָנָן וַיַּעֲמֹד פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל וַיִּקְרָא אַהֲרֹן וּמִרְיָם וַיֵּצְאוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם:|
|6. He said, “Listen to my words. If there be prophets among you, [I] the Lord will make myself known to them in a vision; I will speak to them in a dream.||ו. וַיֹּאמֶר שִׁמְעוּ נָא דְבָרָי אִם יִהְיֶה נְבִיאֲכֶם יְהֹוָה בַּמַּרְאָה אֵלָיו אֶתְוַדָּע בַּחֲלוֹם אֲדַבֶּר בּוֹ:|
|7. Not so is my servant Moses; he is trusted throughout my household.||ז. לֹא כֵן עַבְדִּי משֶׁה בְּכָל בֵּיתִי נֶאֱמָן הוּא:|
|8. With him I speak mouth to mouth; in a vision and not in riddles, and he beholds the image of the Lord. So why were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses ?||ח. פֶּה אֶל פֶּה אֲדַבֶּר בּוֹ וּמַרְאֶה וְלֹא בְחִידֹת וּתְמֻנַת יְהֹוָה יַבִּיט וּמַדּוּעַ לֹא יְרֵאתֶם לְדַבֵּר בְּעַבְדִּי בְמשֶׁה:|
|9. Still incensed with them of the Lord flared against them and He left.||ט. וַיִּחַר אַף יְהֹוָה בָּם וַיֵּלַךְ:|
|10. The cloud departed from above the Tent, and behold, Miriam was stricken with tzara’ath (scales as white] as snow. Then Aaron turned to Miriam and behold, she was stricken with tzara’ath.||י. וְהֶעָנָן סָר מֵעַל הָאֹהֶל וְהִנֵּה מִרְיָם מְצֹרַעַת כַּשָּׁלֶג וַיִּפֶן אַהֲרֹן אֶל מִרְיָם וְהִנֵּה מְצֹרָעַת:|
|11. Aaron said to Moses, “O my lord do not put sin upon us for acting foolishly in your folly.||יא. וַיֹּאמֶר אַהֲרֹן אֶל משֶׁה בִּי אֲדֹנִי אַל נָא תָשֵׁת עָלֵינוּ חַטָּאת אֲשֶׁר נוֹאַלְנוּ וַאֲשֶׁר חָטָאנוּ:|
|12. Let her not be as a stillbirth, which comes out of his mother’s womb with half his flesh eaten away!”||יב. אַל נָא תְהִי כַּמֵּת אֲשֶׁר בְּצֵאתוֹ מֵרֶחֶם אִמּוֹ וַיֵּאָכֵל חֲצִי בְשָׂרוֹ:|
|13. Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “I beseech you, God, please heal her.”||יג. וַיִּצְעַק משֶׁה אֶל יְהֹוָה לֵאמֹר אֵל נָא רְפָא נָא לָהּ:|
|14. The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father were to spit in her face, would she not bear the same for seven days? She shall be confined for seven days outside the camp, and afterwards she may enter.||יד. וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל משֶׁה וְאָבִיהָ יָרֹק יָרַק בְּפָנֶיהָ הֲלֹא תִכָּלֵם שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תִּסָּגֵר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה וְאַחַר תֵּאָסֵף:|
|15. So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not travel until Miriam had entered.||טו. וַתִּסָּגֵר מִרְיָם מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים וְהָעָם לֹא נָסַע עַד הֵאָסֵף מִרְיָם:|
These are powerful word that both deal with prejudice, and for speaking out against the leader Moses in jealousy. The punishment of being prejudiced against the darker skinned woman Moses married, is a skin disease with white flakes. Interesting the prescribed cure is separation from the camp, which we read about in Exodus as one of the ways of dealing with that, possibly also not to spread the disease. After seven days the disease is cured. The story wants us to believe it was because of Moses prayers.
Metaphysical references: There is continued appearance of the God’s presence inside the cloud. I have dealt at length already with the fire and smoke cult that is central to the claim that God rises in the cloud, yet we know that the cloud is most often create by the burning of substances through the priests and Moses himself. Thus as master of smoke Moses is in charge of when the people move (no cloud) and when they remain encamped.
Use of Trumpets. Interesting in context of Yom Kippur. We read that long blows meant that the military force ought to gather, and that short bursts meant to get active.
Haftarah (Zehariah 2:14 -4:7): This is basically a long winded text praising the menorah, but it contains the much used sentence:
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit (ruahi)!”