Daily Archives: March 26, 2012

A wandering Aramean…

I am leaving Genesis, not because it does not still have plenty to challenge, enthral, exasperate and delight, but because there s still a heck of a lot of the Hebrew Scriptures needing some kind of an over-view.
The end of Genesis explains that the Hebrews fled famine in Egypt, where they ended up in the kind of slavery. They were rescued by a great leader, a man with an Egyptian name, Moses.
He took them over a sea, a sea of reeds, into the wilderness, and there, they wandered. It is commonly claimed that one of the most reliably ancient parts of the New Testament is the song of Miriam after the sea-crossing, and readers with a taste for my fiction will find my take on it here.
What we have in the four books (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are the ‘takes’ of various sections of the later Israelites and Jews on what appears to be this very ancient tradition of their peoples, encapsulated thus.
‘‘A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labour on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deut.26. 5b-9)
Another ancient tradition is that while they were in the wilderness, the people of Israel got a set of laws from Yahweh. The different sections of the tradition have different ‘takes’ on the contents of the law. The tradition of our ‘Ten Commandments’ given at ‘Sinai’ appears to be (and not my caution here) appears to be among the later traditions.
But I do not write this because I particularly detest the ten commandments. Will they ever set one on fire? No. Will they tend to lead to a sane society? Yes. They seem to me a pretty sensible set of rules. It must be admitted that they are expressed negatively but what they teach is good sense. Be honest, be true, be kind to those of your family and to your god. What’s not to like?