Background of the Book
Moses is considered in the bible as one of the meekest characters who have ever lived in human history. It could be considered that his capacity to control his temper on the Israelites as they are travelling along the wilderness towards the ‘promised land’, Canaan. While this good picture about a good man is painted in the bible, Zora Neale Hurston thinks differently about the man as he writes about him in the book Moses, Man of the Mountain. Considerably, this book, released in 1990 provides a distinct picture on how an African woman understands the course of life that Moses took into account and how his human nature makes him appear just like the others. Taking a rather humorous yet witty approach to the narrative, Hurston is able to determine the connection of the being of Moses to most human individuals at present.
Background of the Author
Both a novelist and a folklorist, Hurston is noted for her ability to bring in new colors to particular write ups that have fascinated the human generations through time. In most of her authored books, she brings about a sense of new understanding on the old time facts that people have been accustomed to. Exploring concepts concerning the bible and the accounts noted in it has been one of the most compelling themes that Hurston uses in her writings. In her book on Moses, she gives out a distinct message that identifies well with her being African and the way she perceives the situation based on the culture that she grew up with and the accounts noted in her nation’s history and people.
Turning around the way Moses’ accounts is interpreted by most bible scholars; Hurston tries to bring Moses’ character into the hearts of those who actually believe on his existence. Through pointing out that he is just like another man, who has been given the power and authority to rule over others, Hurston gives her readers the picture they need to see to be able to determine his value towards the determination of their faith towards God and his capacity to protect them from harm. The account of Exodus brings about a sense of realization that points out how Moses has been used to communicate with his people, to determine their worth into his plans and define their value as his chosen nation.
The Israelites have been described as specifically irritant people. They often complain about their situations and they often show disappointment on Moses’ leadership. Some even believe that he simply is not the right man for the position as he was originally descendant of the Hebrews although he was Hebrew by blood. Some, even his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam felt deeply doubtful later on about him being chosen as the leader considering that he was brought up under the Egyptians’ care. They feel that he would not be able to make a distinct impact on how the people should be able to live under the commands of God if he was not even able to realize the realities of being a Hebrew man.
Some, due to these doubts, feel compelled to go against Moses’ ability to lead the nation. In relation to the biblical accounts, Moses specifically had to deal with particular situations that placed his temper in jeopardy. He tried to manage his emotions through each situation and made sure that he is able to send out the message of God towards his people. The Israelites, no matter how repeatedly they went against Moses’ back, were forgiven and provided the chance to revive their connection with God through Moses’ help over and over again. At this point, it could be noted that the manner of presenting Moses’ character in the bible is largely accountable to how he was with the people of God and how much he wanted to follow the rules that God has commanded him to tell his people about.
In the written work of Hurston though, she points out the political side of the matter. She describes Moses to be a person who was given the chance to rule others and has taken such opportunity at its best. She mentions how God [may be existent or not] and how much possibly Moses could have been creating the rules. She finds it largely impossible for a person to be brave enough to go to Mount Sinai and talk to God. She questions why he was alone, and how the nature’s works could have actually made it possible for the sounds heard by Joshua to be possible thus indicating the manner by which Moses was proven to have been talking to God at the time.
She points out in her writing that Moses’ accounts are recorded in the Bible in relation to going to the mountains to talk directly with God were accounted for while he was alone. No one was likely to have proven that the situation was real or that the account actually occurred. Moses wrote his own history and the history of Israel during his time of leadership. In her write up she argues that because of the account being biographically written, that Moses could have written anything that he wanted especially in the option of getting the attention of the readers into matters he thinks are best able to provide a distinct picture to the message he wants to present. Practically, it could be analyzed that with such control of the data, Hurston likens Moses to a writer like her who can decide what to write about and how to write those things in the manner by which people are supposed to get the message of each piece of writing.
Not only did she question the validity of the record of Moses being the one who has written his history. She mentions how he could have twisted the facts and made everything look relatively rightful to the eyes of those who might support his accounts and his narratives about the history of the Israelites and how he has used God’s [supposed] commandments to lead the people towards the Promised Land. Not to be negative and all. Hurston simply wanted to open the minds of her readers into other possibilities that could determine the real role of Moses in history. The constitution of another vision on who Moses was is determined by Hurston as a relative element that could actually improve the way the new generation of bible readers could actually understand what is implicated by Moses’ experiences in relation to how critics at present should be able to take note of the conditions of irregularities of the historical notes that define Moses’ identity and his being a leader.
Through this book, Hurston tries a critical approach in presenting how Moses’ survival in the Nile River and his being raised in Egypt could have played a great role on who he has become and the role that he played in the lives of the Israelites. With all the arguments she presented regarding Moses, she brings about the new generation of readers into a point of realization that specifically identifies well with his normal state as an individual, a person in power and an individual with full control of the possibility of imposing rules to a group of people through the distinct hierarchy that the normal nature of politics subjects him to.
Comparison of Data on Bible Accounts
Moses, as the bible describes him, is a Man of the true God (Ezra 3:2). Regarding this identity, he was pointed out to have been able to determine the distinct condition by which the people of Israel were put under his care. It specifically means that God has trusted him with an extensive task that requires him to explore his capacities as a leader and develop his character and attitude towards particularly hard-to-deal-with situations as he leads the people of God. Born as a Hebrew but brought up as an Egyptian, the bible distinctively puts Moses in a position of being able to see through the situation of his people and become concerned about their life and how they are treated by the Egyptians. Somehow, some biblical critics point out that such condition of personal development on the part of Moses’ biography puts him in the proper position of seeing the facts and being affected by them directly.
Being a leader of the Hebrews, Moses’ position allowed him to guide them accordingly. The bible points out that he guided them according to God’s commandments and nothing more. He was pointed out to have followed God’s instructions to the detail making it possible for him to make miracles and perform different extraordinary actions that made him an exceptional man of his time (Exodus 4:1-9). The accounts in the bible pertaining to Moses’ ability to perform miracles identifies well with the position he takes that places him in command of all the Hebrews whose lives have been placed upon his hand by God himself. Through the years of guiding the Israelites [the Hebrews], Moses’ developed a sense of control on his emotion, especially in the manner by which he deals with the hearsays he had to deal with and the kind of attention he needed to give to the people’s grave comments about his leadership and his was of approaching matters especially in line with the need of the nation to conquer other nations as they find their way towards the Promised Land.
During the course of his leadership, Israelites died during the journey they had to deal with in the wilderness. Several other individuals from other nations had died due to the battles and wars the Israelites have completed. The deaths, according to Hurston’s research were more than just thousands but several millions. Considerably, such conditions of dealing with political missions by the people of Israel is something highly detestable in the eyes of the law dedicated towards identifying human rights and the clauses that define it. Could it be that such rule may not be applicable to the God of Moses?
In her writing, she points out how bible-loving people, supposedly peaceful as they are, need to rethink the way they see Moses and that of his God’s example. She points out that peace belongs to the peaceable, how they could a peaceable being be tolerant towards the death of many people for the sake of determining discipline? Justifying actions of violence against other individuals or groups of people may not be easy to handle especially in the eyes of those who know the history of the bible and how a supposed loving God could accept violent conditions of discipline towards people who do not follow his rules and call such superior being rather impartial.
Based from this reading reaction and discussion, Moses’ character as defined in the bible may not have been fully explored under the conditions of the current society. Hurston’s writing is rather modern, dedicated to the modern readers. Her desire of placing a distinct presentation on how the people of today should utilize current forms of thinking as means of their interpretation of what Moses is and what he shows in relation to his role in the lives of the Hebrews during his time. Setting a comparison with politicians at present, Hurston brings about a vision on how Moses should be accepted in the eyes of the modern society.
Bringing about a sense of modernity in the accounts of the Bible with regards the history of Moses and the Israelites specifically makes it easier for modern readers to relate to Moses and his experiences as leader and as a human being. Nevertheless, this reading might have a distinctively separate value for those who are believing in the bible and are trying to see its nature and its presentation as a rather presentation of what God is and how he was able to determine his character in dealing with the desires of his people, their demands and their needs for survival.
Hurston, ZN. (1990). Moses, Man of the Mountain. Harper Perennial; Reprint edition.
Atwell, James E. (2000). "An Egyptian Source for Genesis 1". Journal of Theological Studies 51 (2): 441–477. doi:10.1093/jts/51.2.441.
Bernstein, Richard J. (1998). Freud and the Legacy of Moses. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Assmann, Jan. Moses the Egyptian: The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Harvard University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-674-58738-3.
Barenboim, Peter. Biblical Roots of Separation of Power, Moscow : Letny Sad, 2005.
Barzel, Hillel. "Moses: Tragedy and Sublimity." In Literary Interpretations of Biblical Narratives. Edited by Kenneth R.R. Gros Louis, with James S. Ackerman & Thayer S. Warshaw, 120–40. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1974.
Buber, Martin. Moses: The Revelation and the Covenant. New York: Harper, 1958.
Chasidah, Yishai. "Moses." In Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities: Anthologized from the Talmud, Midrash and Rabbinic Writings, 340–99. Brooklyn: Shaar Press, 1994.