M is for Moses

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Photo credit: gregstier.org

Moses. The very name evokes visions of power and leadership. The Bible, Torah and Qur’an extol him as prophet and giver of the law. The Jews say he actually wrote the Torah. You could safely say that his footprints are all over Jordan.

Everyone knows the familiar story of Moses’ birth and adoption by the royal family. One day, he let his hot temper get the better of him and murdered a slave master and ran from Egypt. After crossing the Red Sea, he found himself in Midian on the eastern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba, part of the northwest Arabian Peninsula.

He had only just arrived in Midian and his temper flared again when some shepherds were pushing some girls away from the water well so they could water their own sheep. He waded in and threatened the boys, chased them away and watered the girls’ sheep for them. This, in itself, was rather extraordinary because that was a job for women and children, not for a man. (Exodus 2:17)

The Midianites were descended from Midian, a son of Abraham and Keturah. (Genesis 25:1-2) They had connections with the Moabites and worshipped a pantheon of gods including Baal-peor and Ashteroth, the Queen of Heaven.

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Photo credit: dustinkeirstead.blogspot.com

The father of the girls, Reuel (also called Jethro) had his daughters invite Moses into their tents. So, they fetched him back and eventually Reuel offered his daughter to Moses in marriage.

For the next forty years, Moses was a shepherd. “And it came to pass in the 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. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.” (Exodus 2:23-25)

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Photo credit: tabletmag.com

I should note here that some historians have suggested that the origins of the worship of Yahweh originated in Midian, perhaps after Moses’ encounter with him through the burning bush. (Exodus 3:1-22) It was here that God instructed Moses to go back to Egypt to rescue the captive Jews.

After a bit of arguing and bargaining with Yahweh, Moses and his brother Aaron left Jordan for a while.

 

 

Following the hullabaloo and catastrophes in Egypt, Moses and the Israelites ran across the Red Sea and landed in Ezion-geber (Numbers 33:35) near present day Aqaba.

Photo credit: jesuswalk.com

Photo credit: jesuswalk.com

Moses wanted to take the more direct route north, on the King’s Highway and asked the King of Edom for permission. The king was having no part of that and told him to stay out of Edom. He feared the impact of the influx of thousands of refugees on his lands and flocks. To punctuate his decree, he massed his soldiers to attack if the refugees made any move on their territory.

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My cousin, Marsha Gail, and me at Moses’ Rock

So, they continued onward, skirting around Moab, using an ancient caravan trail. They finally made camp near Petra, in a town now known as Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses). They needed water, of course, and God told Moses to speak to a certain rock and water would spring forth. We all know by now how headstrong Moses was. Instead of speaking, as he was told, he hit the rock with his staff. A stream of water commenced to flow and is still there to this day. I can tell you that the water is icy cold and tastes wonderful!

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Part of the stream given to Moses

Because of this, and several other instances of disobedience, Moses wasn’t allowed to do more than catch a glimpse of the promised land. After they left Petra, they moved further north and Moses was summoned to Mount Nebo. God showed him what he’d been leading his people toward for the past forty years and then told him to forget about setting foot on it. So, Moses died there and God himself buried him. Many archaeologists have attempted to locate his grave, but it remains a secret to this day.

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This is as close to the promised land that Moses was allowed to get. At least he got a beautiful view!

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead… And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Moses, the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” (Deuteronomy 34:1-6)

I get a special thrill walking in the footsteps of the holy men and women of the Bible, Qur’an and Torah. The hopes and dreams of millions and millions of people were seeded here, and flourished through modern times. Many discoveries have reshaped what we know of our monotheistic beliefs, many have twisted them to their own perverse desires, but the crux of the message is still there if we want to take it on. Love your neighbor as yourself and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

My Grandmother (God be good to her) and my Mother said those two things to me nearly every day of my life. I’m eternally grateful to them for instilling in me a love of this land and especially of this history!

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