Friday, March 11, 2016

History - The fictional stories of Muhammad - Moses (part 1)

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. You can also find the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Moses figures prominently in the Koran and much of his life is covered in its narration of the ancient history of the Jewish people. Moses was born in a time when the Pharaoh of Egypt was growing concerned with the Hebrew population within his borders. He had subjugated then to slavery and he was worrying that, as their numbers grew, they would revolt against him. For this reason, Pharaoh set out to kill the male Hebrew children lest the Hebrews should become too powerful.
"Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, 'Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.'... Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, "Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.'" (Exodus 1:8-10, 22)
However, Muhammad moves this event up till after Moses had returned to Egypt and had his first meeting with Pharaoh.
"And when he brought them [came to them from our presence with] the truth from Us, they said, 'Slay the sons of those who believe with him, and spare their women.' And Pharaoh said, 'Let me slay Moses, and let him call to his Lord. I fear that he may change, your religion, or that he may cause corruption [disorder] to appear in the land.'" (Koran 40:26)
It was in this time that Moses was born. However, Moses' mother was a godfearing woman and sought to spare Moses from the command of Pharaoh.
"So We revealed to Moses' mother, 'Suckle him, then, when thou fearest for him, cast [launch] him into [on] the sea, and do not fear, neither sorrow [fret], for We shall return [restore] him to thee, and shall appoint him one of the Envoys [Apostles].'" (Koran  28:6)
However, the Jewish text gives no record of any prophetic communication between God and Moses' mother and no promise of Moses later being commissioned as an apostle of God.
"The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him." (Exodus 2:2-4)
Moses was spotted floating in the Nile river and rescued by, according to Muhammad, Pharaoh's wife.
"So then the folk of Pharaoh picked him out to be an enemy and a sorrow to them; certainly Pharaoh and Haman, and their hosts, were of the sinners. Said Pharaoh's wife, 'He will be a comfort [joy of the eye] to me and thee. Slay him not; perchance he will profit us [be useful to us], or we will take [adopt] him for a son.' And they were not aware." (Koran 28:7-8)
However, the Jewish history shows that it was was Pharaoh's daughter, not his wife, who rescued Moses and took him as her son. Also, the story says that she was walking with her maidens, there were no men there to object, and no one expressed any concern that this child could grow up to be a threat to Egypt. 
"The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her.  When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, 'This is one of the Hebrews' children.'... The child grew, and she [Moses' sister] brought him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, 'Because I drew him out of the water.'" (Exodus 2:5-6, 10)
The Koran says little about Moses' time growing up in Pharaoh's household. However, later on, when he had grown into manhood, he fled Egypt fearing repercussions due to an incident where he killed an Egyptian and buried him in the sand. Moses spent the next several years as a sheep herder in Midian. The Koran says that the priest of Midian made a deal with Moses for one of his two daughters if Moses would serve and work for him.
"He said, '[truly] I desire to marry thee to one of these my two daughters, on condition that thou hirest thyself to me for eight years [be my hired servent]." (Koran 28:27)
However, he actually had seven daughters and there is no mention of an agreement of servitude as the price to marry one of his daughters.
"Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters... Moses was willing to dwell with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses." (Exodus 2:16, 21
The Koran reports that, after the eight years of servitude, Moses and his family departed from Midan. It was during this journey that he saw the infamous Burning Bush.
"So when Moses had accomplished [fulfilled] the term and departed [and was journeying] with his household, he observed on the side of the Mount a fire." (Koran 28:29)
However, the Jewish story has him still working for his father-in-law, tending his sheep.
"Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God." (Exodus 3:1)
We don't know exactly how long Moses spent in exile from Egypt, but it is likely that it was longer than the eight years ascribed to it by the Koran, for we know that he left Egypt when he "had grown up," (Exodus 2:11) and that he "eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three, when they spoke to Pharaoh." (Exodus 7:7)

It is at this point in the story that Moses sees the Burning Bush.
"Hast thou received the story [history] of Moses? When he saw a fire, and said to his family, 'Tarry you here; I observe a fire. Perhaps I shall bring you a brand from it, or I shall find at the fire guidance [a guide].'" (Koran 20:8-10)
However, as we have said, Moses was not traveling with his family, he was still working for his father-in-law. In fact, the Jewish account clearly states that, after his encounter with God at the Burning Bush, Moses returned home to his father-in-law and his family.
"Then Moses departed and returned to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, 'Please, let me go, that I may return to my brethren who are in Egypt, and see if they are still alive.' And Jethro said to Moses, 'Go in peace.'... So Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt." (Exodus 4:18-20)
Next we will look at Moses' commissioning at the Burning Bush to return to Egypt and his actions and words as he appears before Pharaoh.

More to come...
David Robison

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