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Weíre currently in the midst of repeating the story of how Moses retrieved the law from God, but I just want to talk about the differences. After feeding the elders, and inviting Moses and Joshua higher up to receive his commandments, God tells the remaining seventy to just stay where they are and wait for Moses to get back. But he also tells Aaron and Hur, and any of the elders who are in a dispute, to head back down. Moses then goes up into a thick cloud of smoke at the top of the mountain.

Itís not entirely understood why God tells some of the elders to head back down. Moses is going to be on the mountain for several weeks, so some commentators claim that God sent the elders down to act as judges in the camp in Mosesí absence. However, I still have a hard time believing these aspects of the story. The Israelites are living in spitting distance of God almighty, a being of such great terror that he enforces his ďjusticeĒ in the most torturous manner possible! Picture it like this: youíre standing in a courtyard with several generally nice people. There is a tower in the center with a well-armed sniper looking down at you. The sniper tells you that he will shoot dead anyone who does anything wrong, and just to show he means business, he randomly plugs one of the people in the courtyard. This isnít too far off from the God of the Old Testament. Now, which of the Israelites would be foolhardy enough to sin in his presence? Which of them wonít purposely take a loss in a dispute and settle it as quickly as possible just to stay off Godís radar? The need of a judge seems unnecessary.

And what about the elders who will be hanging out on the side of the mountain for the weeks that Moses will be chatting with God? Surely God isnít going to let them starve to death? Heíll probably use his God-magic to keep them safe and well-fed. But if his magic can keep them sedated, why canít it work on the Israelites at the base of the mountain? And why doesnít he just settle the disputes himself? In this version of the story he doesnít mind having people see him, and believers claim heís all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere at once. Who better to judge than he? The story just doesnít fit with how believerís explain God.

If youíre wondering who Hur is, heís the nobody who helped hold up Moses during that farcical battle with the Amalekites. Remember that gem?



Baughbe writes:


The reason I guess for it taking so long up on the mountian is that God keeps repeating himself. Otherwise it would have taken, oh about half an hour?

Samael writes:


Redacted for content (the only redaction the Bible's editors made), God is actually telling Moses his entire family lineage every time he addresses him. :p

"Thou, Moses, son of Mosie, son of Moseth, son of Mozart, son of Mark and Bob, son of Tiny Tim... shalt not steal. Thou, Moses, son of Mosie, son of... shalt not bear false witness."

By the way, I think I've deciphered a minor riddle. Remember all those passages about grabbing the back of one's thigh to swear an oath? Apparently the word "yarek" has historically been translated to mean "thigh," but this really IS a euphemism. The same term is used to refer to a woman's womb in Numbers 5 (a WONDERFUL section I've been arguing about on another site), revealing that yarek, in fact, refers to the genitals. So when you make an oath while gripping someone's yarek...

The same thing appears to have happened for Greek mythology as well. The god Dionysus is said to have been implanted in Zeus's thigh, but now it has been contested that the word for thigh, in fact, means testicle, which makes infinitely more sense (I guess?).

Just another lesson in anatomy from the folks who brought us REALLY murdering fetuses!

Monty writes:


"But if his magic can keep them sedated"

Unless I misinterpreted what you were saying, I think you mean "sated."

TheAlmightyGuru writes:


@Samael: I remember reading something like that for the Greek; an explanation for why testimony and testicle share the same prefix, but others claim that this comes from a corruption of spelling and that testimony comes from "testis", while testicle comes from "testes".

The talk page on the Wikipedia article keeps changing about this topic as well. But they've never made any mention to a Hebrew crossover.

Either way, it seems a bit too silly to be true, but then, I've been surprised before.

Richard writes:


Would it really surprise anyone in that penis-obsessed culture if they really did swear oaths while gripping each others' junk?

Richard writes:


Bad grammar, pardons.

Would it really surprise anyone IF that penis-obsessed culture really did swear oaths while gripping each others' junk?

Samael writes:


From the context I gather, when you'd "swear by the back of one's thigh," you were actually bowing your head into their lap, arms around their waist or folded over their knees. Yes, the holy penis is everything to these people.

Yeshivakid writes:


@Samael: From what I've read and understand over the years, it IS actually referring to the testicles instead of the thigh. (The OT is FULL of similar euphemisms like that.) The idea was to put your trust in someone's promise by showing each other a vulnerable side, but also symbolizing virility and the source of life. Kind of like a blood pact. Also at that time, genitalia were not at the same level of "ew, gross" factor that the current Western culture has adopted.

Here's a little article on the subject, which also brings up a fascinating idea that the method of steepling one's hands to pray (more in Christianity than Judaism - Jews don't steeple their hands) is reminiscent of how the people of the time might have touched a religious figure's testicles or something as an oath or means of purity. It's a far-out theory, but very interesting to consider.

Yeshivakid writes:


@TAG: It amazes me how little I thought to even question any of the rampant repetition in the OT as a kid. Though we did learn it all in Hebrew, so I suppose it's not as obvious when you're also focusing on trying to translate at the same time.

Samael writes:


That's the site I came across while I was researching the Sotah, the ritual observed in Numbers 5. Apparently the word, yarek, also referred to women's genitalia as well. The majority of the translations available from the Bible all say "thigh" (and some, following that train of thought, translate to "hip"), but others went the more logical route and specified womb.

It was actually really good research, as it led me to discover that the same ritual from Numbers 5 is also in the Mishnah, one of the first major redactions to Jewish laws and customs, wherein they debated the contents of the Torah and ultimately edited or even did away completely with various customs, such as the death penalty being applied to darn near everything, and the Sotah itself.

Which said something to me - in 70 CE, even the most stringeant observers of Jewish law were throwing away certain parts of the Bible as being barbaric and foolish.

Yeshivakid writes:


@Samael: That's one of the biggest differences between followers of the OT vs the NT. Growing up, even going to a more extremist school, we were never told to take the more archaic laws literally today. The rabbis made it very clear that most of the more barbaric customs and stipulations (stoning, death penalties, slavery, extreme misogyny (though mild misogyny is still alive and well in many areas)) are entirely unrealistic and not applicable in the era we now live.

The biggest things they carry over that Orthodox Jews still follow today (and maybe slightly adapt to modern technology and behaviors) are the laws of Kashruth, the Sabbath, and the holidays. Leaving out the death penalty for everything, of course. The laws followed are mostly of a personal and familial nature now, focusing on the specific things you should or should not do - not necessarily on the reality of a harsh punishment.

The harshest archaic punishment I remember learning was still applicable today is the spiritual ostracizing that is threatened if you do certain things, like eating the meat of a pig, doing a list of things forbidden on Yom Kippur, and one or two others. But that's also more of a personal thing, like between you and god, and you won't be considered truly part of the Jewish people anymore or something like that, regardless of how others treat you. I don't know how accurate that description is however. It's been a while, and my memories are full of resentment. :p

toutomoutochan writes:


@Yeshivakid Actually, the custom of steepling your hands together when you pray comes from Medieval fealty ceremonies. That's the attitude with which you would address your lord (the person to whom you're swearing fealty). So, people would address God the same way (as their Lord).


Oh the irony!