Moses as Cosmic Man

The persona of Moses dominates the whole of the Old Testament. True, Abraham is the father of the Hebrews, but God through Moses forged the Hebrew people into a nation in the most unlikely of situations. He is the soul of the nation; we might even say that he is the part that represents the whole. As God created by separating light from darkness, so Moses was the divine instrument to form Israel from chaos, to order, to rest. The man ascended the Mountain of God, disappeared into the cloud of unknowing, beheld what no other mortal has ever seen, gazing into the secrets of the heavenly temple (Ex. 24:15-18, 25:9). From this, Moses directed the building of the Tabernacle, upon which the glory of God settled so as to dwell once again amongst humanity. Moses is a man of cosmic dimensions.

There are two subtle indicators in the text of Moses’ destiny and greatness to come. His mother saw that “he was good” (2:2). The Hebrew kî-ṭôb is the very same phrase used at creation when God looked upon his work and pronounced it good, thus linking creation itself with Moses. God raised up Moses to perform acts that were parallel to the creative energies of God at creation. He was to separate a whole new people out of the chaos of Egypt, and thus transforming the world forever. As God set boundaries at creation that govern the cosmos, so God through Moses set moral boundaries, law to govern the human race. All creation was made to be a cosmic temple, and Moses is the one tasked to make the tabernacle, a microcosm of the whole. All of this is packed into kî-ṭôb.

The second indicator is in the little boat that his mother made, translated here in the old English word “ark” (2:3). The Hebrew here is the exact same as we have in Genesis 6:14 (tēbat) linking Moses with Noah’s ark, a word used only in these two places. Previously we have seen that Noah’s ark was in fact a Garden of Eden, a microcosm of creation and a temple bobbing on the face of chaos, the watery deep (See October 28, 2013). As Noah was a “first man” like Adam in the ark, Moses is also a “first man” in that it is through him that God established salvation for humanity. All this was set in motion by a slave woman making a reed basket, placing her baby in it, and sending it adrift into the wild Nile to see what God would do with it. All of this is packed into this tiny basket.

Moses functions on a deep psychological level in the Book of Exodus. We might say that he represents what the Orthodox theologians call “the intellect” in the human psyche. By intellect they mean that deepest part of our interiors that orders our more exterior parts like our reason, imagination, emotions, will, and outward to our bodies. The ‘intellect” is the most spiritual and mysterious place in the core of our being where God communes (See the Philokalia). All the other characters in the book are arranged around Moses like these other aspects of the person are arranged around the “intellect.” Egypt is the world which surrounds us, and Pharaoh is the “old man” within, always nasty, and never repents. Aaron his brother, the High Priest, is the will that is so hard to keep in line and the Hebrew nation the emotions and perhaps even the body and senses that craves to be satisfied by the things of this world. In the end Moses achieves for Israel what each one of us is to achieve in our own beings; to subdue our pharaohs and cravings of our flesh and create a sanctuary in our hearts where God can dwell. Indeed, Moses is a man of cosmic dimensions.

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