- Religion and Philosophy
Rediscovering the Exodus 13
There has been an overall purpose and intent behind my authoring this series of articles.It might not have been obvious at first but when I complete the series with this article I will then recap the major points in my next article and hopefully then it will become crystal clear and everyone will appreciate why the raising of what might seem contentious issues and often contra-Judeo mainstream beliefs was necessary.The mandate to do so was raised approximately 150 years ago by my ancestor Professor Doctor Jakob Goldenthal, at the University of Vienna, from his own personal investigations into the origins of our people.I have merely taken on board where he had left off. What he discerned from the ancient documents that were at his disposal, both Karaite and Rabbanite, was that the קִבּוּץגָּלֻיּוֹת kibbutz galuyyot, the ingathering of the exiles was a rabbinic terminology, used nowhere else but in their own discourses but not expressed as originally intended.The meaning had been changed, transformed to suit an alternate purpose and if one wants to actually comprehend the original concept, one should examine Joel 1:3. A minor prophet, as compared to those of the status of an Isaiah or a Jeremiah, you ask? Yes, because as has always been taught by those in my family, “That which is least will be first.”Jakob Goldenthal understood this; you must understand this as well. He also knew that Joel was probably the most ancient of prophets, now dated by scholars to have lived during the middle of the ninth century BCE.That date is significant since it is prior to any of the actual conquests and subsequent exiles, whether we are considering the Northern Kingdom or Judea.It is easy for a prophet to suggest there will be a return of the exiles after there has already been a dispersal and exile into other lands. That really does not take any special insights at all, though I am not disputing the divinely inspired major prophets, but to predict there will be a return when the people have not even suffered a conquest and dispersal, and won't do so for well over another century, that is a real prophet. And Joel was emphatic that when we do return, it will not be after a great war between good and evil, nor with miraculous interventions of messiahs with supernatural powers, heralded by angels blowing heaven's trumpets.But instead, it will happen he claimed exactly in the manner as when Moses led the first exodus to the promised land.Now you have your first clue as to why I have written this series of articles.Not to recap what some perceive as historical incidents of interest but instead as an illumination of our pathway into the future.If I am turning upside down all the traditional beliefs regarding the ingathering then so-be-it. What has been spoon-fed to the world at large bears little connection to Yahweh's design, because those that teach have gone far astray from the original intent and purpose.Instead of providing a pathway of redemption and reaffirmation for our people, they have led us to repeated persecutions and exterminations at the hands of a world that has absorbed and embraced these false teachings that we have been guilty of perpetrating as original legacies and thereby created the likes of a Yeshua (Jesus) and a Mohammed, who’s followers have made us suffer horribly for two millennia. This thirteenth article in the series will focus on early errors stemming from distortions and misinterpretations of the original Exodus. Errors in judgement made because of an all too human element. The original prophecy from Joel has become twisted upon the tongues of those we called our Leaders and we must find our purpose in his vision.
As I highlighted in the previous article, Rediscovering the Exodus 12, the guidance for Josiah’s reformation were passed down from his ancestor Hezekiah. Whereas the books of Kings and Chronicles will praise Hezekiah for his piety, history may not be so exuberant in its praises when they examine his actions more closely. This will be a long aticle but then there is much that Hezekiah and Josiah must be held accountable for.
It is written that when the Children of Israel became afflicted by the hordes of snakes that were in the desert that they pleaded with Moses to find a solution to this problem. And as we know from Numbers 21, he prayed to God and Moses was provided with a solution directly from the Lord.
ח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ שָׂרָף, וְשִׂים אֹתוֹ, עַל-נֵס; וְהָיָה, כָּל-הַנָּשׁוּךְ, וְרָאָה אֹתוֹ, וָחָי.
8 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live.'
ט וַיַּעַשׂ מֹשֶׁה נְחַשׁ נְחֹשֶׁת, וַיְשִׂמֵהוּ עַל-הַנֵּס; וְהָיָה, אִם-נָשַׁךְ הַנָּחָשׁ אֶת-אִישׁ--וְהִבִּיט אֶל-נְחַשׁ הַנְּחֹשֶׁת, וָחָי.
9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the pole; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived.
It must not be forgotten that these instructions were passed down from Yahweh, directly to Moses and therefore the Nehushtan was as sacred as any other object ordained by God. It could be treated no differently from the Ark, the laver, the tabernacle etc, because it was a Gift from God. Even the name Nehushtan will be translated as the Gift of a Serpent, or Gift of the Brazen image. But the terminology used in Numbers was extremely significant because the fiery serpent was well known at the time of the Exodus. The reason the Uraeus became part of the crown of the Pharaohs was because it was used as a protective symbol as the Egyptians believed the cobra would spit fire at any approaching enemies. So we know from this statement that the snake that Moses placed on a pole was the Egyptian Cobra, a symbol of the ruling House of Lower Egypt, an object of power that only one of the royal house could wield. Egyptian documents also tell us that it was associated with the sun, which again raises the question from the earlier articles in this series regarding the monotheistic worship of Aten that came about in Egypt shortly after the disappearance of Prince Thutmosis V. The cobra represented the "fiery eye of Re", in which two uraei can be seen on either side of a winged solar disk, so in itself it was not a deity but merely a tool through which God would work. Ignoring the obvious connections to the pagan rituals and religions of Egypt from which the Children of Israel had just fled, then this construct of a serpent on a pole was viewed merely as a medical device, a tool of Yahweh and nothing more. As the picture from ancient Egypt demonstrates, the snake on a pole providing protection was an established device but not a symbol of worship on its own.
But from 2 Kings 18 we read about Hezekiah’s reign as follows:
ד הוּא הֵסִיר אֶת-הַבָּמוֹת, וְשִׁבַּר אֶת-הַמַּצֵּבֹת, וְכָרַת, אֶת-הָאֲשֵׁרָה; וְכִתַּת נְחַשׁ הַנְּחֹשֶׁת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה מֹשֶׁה, כִּי עַד-הַיָּמִים הָהֵמָּה הָיוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מְקַטְּרִים לוֹ, וַיִּקְרָא-לוֹ, נְחֻשְׁתָּן.
4 He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Asherah; and he broke in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did offer to it; and it was called Nehushtan.
What we have are a series of events which Hezekiah did in opposition to his ancestors and in regards to the Nehushtan, specifically in opposition to Moses. So why would Hezekiah have defiled an item crafted by Moses and after five hundred years would he take it upon himself to destroy this “Gift From God?” More appropriately, the questions that one should be asking should have been more like this. “Where had the Nehushtan been for the past five hundred years.” “Why is there no mention of it being placed in the Temple by Solomon?” “How could the Judeans permit their King to destroy a ‘Gift from God’?” The answers are available. The reason that both Kings and Chronicles fail to answer any of these questions is because the Nehushtan did not belong to the Kingdom of Judah. Politics overruled the rule of God once more and just as the hereditary rule of kings was established contrary to the rule of God and the instruction of Moses, now there was a King willing to challenge God directly. It is not as if Hezekiah’s rule was always virtuous and saintly. We are told how he wavered between being both esteemed by Yahweh and brought to the point of death at the hand of God. Concerning the Nehushtan, this was one of those moments where he had lost his way. Monarchs write histories, chroniclers merely record what Kings have instructed them to. Hezekiah would not have wanted or permitted history to record those deeds for which men would have condemned him for. That is both the vanity and the power of kings.
From Samaritan documents and legends we learn that the Nehushtan was in the possession of the High Priest of the Northern Kingdom. It was the symbol of his authority, his icon of his empowerment directly from Moses and Aaron. Archeological evidence in northern Israel of one of High Places shows it to be carved like a coiled snake, once again confirming the affiliation of the snake, symbolic of God’s healing power being held in reverence in only the Northern Kingdom. According to Samaritan legends and what we can glean from 2 Chronicles 30 and 31, following the conquest of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria, the high priests and the Levites from the north travelled to Jerusalem. Chronicles explains this was an invitation from Hezekiah himself in order to unify the people and celebrate the Passover in the rededicated Temple of Jerusalem. Azariah was High Priest in Jerusalem, but when either Amram or Akob his son whom was the high priest of Samaria the answered the invitation it must have created quite the dilemma, especially since the northern high priest was carrying the Nehushtan.
Want a quick political solution, break the Nehushtan over your knee, discredit and disgrace the Northern High Priest, send him packing back on his way to Samaria and forever prevent the reunification of the two kingdoms. That is what Hezekiah did and that is why the Chronicler, did not even bother to mention the breaking of the Nehushtan whereas the editor of Kings whom was closely affiliated to the Jerusalem priesthood and the Temple made certain that it was portrayed in a positive light even though the excuse that they burned incense on behalf of the Nehushtan was pretty lame at best. One must remember that Kings was written before the Babylonian conquest while the Kingdom of Judah was full of pride and self confidence, whereas Chronicles was post exilic and those that once thought of themselves as invincible and impervious to the fate of the Northern Kingdom had come face to face with the reality that they were as guilty of sin as their northern counterparts.
We read that Josiah undertook similar actions, breaking down the pillars and cutting down the Asherah. This was after these practices were supposedly eradicated by his great-grandfather Hezekiah but obviously were still present in the Jerusalem Temple. Again, one must ask why did the people and the priesthood insist on preserving these practices that were supposedly strictly Northern Kingdom heresies. Obviously, the religion as practiced in the North had the greater antiquity and because the priesthood had been in possession of the Nehushtan, also had the greater claim. This may possibly suggest that the Jerusalem Temple no longer had any similar artefact of similar religious and historical significance, which would mean that the ark was long gone as many scholars suspect.
In Josiah’s efforts to eradicate the remnants of the old religion as was still practiced in the kingdom of Northern Israel and still under the guidance of a heredity line of High Priests descended from the rebuffed Amram or Akob, he went much further than religious law would permit by committing acts that he was praised for but which were actually quite contrary to our beliefs. These included the desecration of the graves of northern priests when he seized several districts within Samaria. Desecration and burning of their bones prior to destroying the altars not only rendered the altars unusable ever again due to their being profaned by human sacrifice (albeit just bones) but Josiah was also attempting to prevent the eventual return of these heretical priests to the Shekinah by not letting them fulfil the commandment of leaving this world as they had come in to it. Furthermore, as Eastern influences of resurrection were now beginning to infiltrate Jewish teachings in Judea, he would have known that the preservation of the bones was necessary for this to happen, and he wanted to ensure that these northern priests were never coming back. Politically, he was attempting to complete what his great-grandfather had failed to do; end the heresy of the northern priesthood, eliminate any threat to southern legitimacy and remove any challenges to his right to rule. Even if that meant attempting to remove every trace of their existence and the proof that in both lineage and divine sanction, those from the north rivalled his, own Jerusalem priesthood.
But what were these Asherah that were considered such an abomination? Some say they were trees or logs erected in respect of the mother goddess, or even the Sidonian fertility goddess known as Astarte (a similar name but certainly not the same), and that Solomon was the first to raise them on behalf of many of his foreign wives. Some ancient descriptions say that they were capped by flames that burned continuously. Maybe so, but weren’t Jachin and Boaz also pillars that were erected as religious symbols of establishment, strength and permanence and reported to have bowls on top in which eternal flames burned. Yet these pillars were considered sacred and remained untouched by Hezekiah or Josiah. In fact we have continued the tradition of the Asherah with our menorahs, yet Rabbanites see no harm in praying to these lights. Moreover, the pillar of Jachin was traditionally considered symbolic of Solomon, through whom God would ‘establish’ a permanent dynasty. And Boaz was associated with his father David. This association went far beyond the fact that David’s ancestry was established by his great-grandfather Boaz marrying the Moabitess Ruth, but more so from the attributes of strength and fortitude associated with the pillar. One must therefore ask how were Hezekiah and Josiah able to distinguish between erected pillars that were considered pagan and those that were considered sacred? The differentiation for them was no different than burning the bones of the Northern Priests but ignoring the fact that both preserved the tombs of their own ancestors whom were far more guilty of desecrating the Temple, leading the people astray, and wilfully violating God’s commandments.
For Josiah the distinction was easy. He laid the blame for all the obscene wealth and corruption that existed in his family at Solomon’s feet but more so the impending doom of his royal line was also the result of Solomon's blasphemy. Religious exuberance and extreme wealth often find themselves in conflict as he soon discovered himself. One must choose between one or the other or ultimately fall victim to religious hypocrisy. To Josiah, removing the cancer associated with his illustrious ancestor was the solution to his dynasty's survival.
Current archaeological exploration indicates that Solomon did actually possess those fabled deposits of copper that would have made him one of the wealthiest monarchs in all of the Middle East. Evidence shows that with the help of Phoenician engineers a seaport was built at Ezion-geber. But copper refining and exporting was only one source of Solomon's proverbial wealth. As the King's chief export, the royal fleet departed from Ezion-geber carrying raw ore, and returned with valuable imports from Arabian and nearby African ports all of which would have been owned by his Royal merchant offices that he then sold to the populace for a healthy profit. Nor can we overlook his lucrative business of trading horses, which conveniently the newly found Book of Deuteronomy condemns on behalf of Josiah. True, Solomon only served as the middle-man trading horses from Egypt and Asia Minor, primarily for his father-in-law but in many ways, this function on behalf of the Egyptian Pharaoh only further increased Josiah’s hatred for the land of Egypt. "And Solomon's import of horses was from Egypt and Kue, and the King's traders received them from Kue at a price" (1 Kings 10:28). Kue was likely in Hittite country which would suggest that Solomon was quite the international profiteer. According to 1 Kings 10:29 "A chariot could be imported from Egypt for 600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150" Considering that pictures from Egypt show that their chariots are pulled by either two or four horses means that these transactions were very lucrative.
Solomon reestablished his realm into twelve districts, thus ignoring old tribal boundaries, which served as the nucleus of his highly efficient kingdom. Upon this realm he levied heavy taxation, expected free donations of labor (1 Kings 9:20, 21), and has special levies (1 Kings 5:13-18).
Being a skilled politician, Solomon developed ties of amity with the important maritime nation of Tyre. Besides this, as then was the custom, he cultivated royal marriages. Solomon married an Egyptian princess (1 Kings 3:1, 2), and royal women in surrounding smaller kingdoms. The ancient practice of such marriages is well described in the Amarna Letters in which Egyptian pharaohs married Hittite women and Mitannian princesses.
Solomon did fulfill his father's dream and built a magnificent Temple in Jerusalem, which is described in the Bible. These buildings were grandiose, intending to proclaim the wealth and extravagance of the new monarch. His three major projects included his personal house, the house of the Forest of Lebanon, and the Temple (1 Kings 7). Solomon placed within the Temple all of the things which David had dedicated for the house of the Lord including the silver and gold, and the vessels (1 Kings 7:51). But what was this house of the Forest of Lebanon if not made up of poles and great pillars and what was its intended purpose so early in Solomon's reign. These Asherah obviously had a function beyond worship of a perceived Mother Goddess by both Hezekiah and Josiah but what that purpose may have been was lost to the annals of time.
But by no means was Solomon a saint or keeper of the religion of Israel for which we should proclaim him as being both wise and loved by God. That is merely rabbinical folklore to both justify and explain what was passed on for religious consumption. We know that Solomon married many foreign wives, in addition to the daughter of the Pharaoh and that some of these women were Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonines, and Hittities. It was even written that when Solomon became old his wives turned his heart away from Yahweh, and he worshipped other gods. (1 Kings 11:1-8, 33). And we know that due to his idolatry the Lord became angry with Solomon and told him, “Forasmuch as you have done this, knowing he should not go after other gods; and have not kept what I have commanded, and not kept my covenant and statutes, I will surely tear your kingdom away from you, and give it to thy servant.” (1 Kings 11:10-11). As can be seen, the establishment of Kings was never consecrated nor sanctified, just as Moses had forewarned. And just as Hezekiah challenged God in regards to the Nehushtan, so did Josiah challenge the Almighty in regards to the Davidic dynasty which had already been cursed in the time of Solomon. He attempted to preserve an eternal and hereditary line of kings even though it was condemned. He sought the establishment of a messianic Davidic dynasty but one rewritten under his own terms and not God's. And that leads us full circle to Joel 1:3. If Joel was correct that the kingdoms would be exiled and the return would only occur in a manner similar to the original exodus from Egypt, then Josiah was arrogant enough to feel he could change the outcome if Egypt was eliminated from the equation and pervert the Lord's impending justice.
From a military standpoint, Josiah’s decision to attack the forces of Egypt on his own, especially after Pharaoh Necho made it clearly that he sought only passage across the land in order to wage war against the rising threat of Babylon made absolutely no sense. In fact, one might state with all honesty that it ranks with one of the more incredibly stupid acts of Jewish kings ever committed, though the editors of Kings and Chronicles don’t present it in that manner. Josiah was still tributary to the Assyrian Empire but by this time it was beginning to disintegrate and from the Medes, a new threat was rising in Babylon. Already, excursions into Gaza were being made by the Babylonians and a swift attack and defeat of the Babylonians at this time could have likely resulted in a destabilization of that fledgeling army and an end to any immediate threat by Babylon. By attacking the Egyptian forces, Josiah not only prevented Necho from gaining a distinct advantage in the border disputes but he managed to inflict enough damage on the Egyptian forces that they were no longer strong enough to eliminate the Babylonian threat. So in essence, Josiah’s unprovoked declaration of war on Egypt may have given Babylon the opportunity to stabilize its leadership, and ultimately lay siege to Judea and the destruction of Jerusalem. In Chronicles, it is made clear that Josiah’s decision was without God’s blessing and in fact contrary to God’s design in which through Pharaoh the Lord sent a message to Josiah to let the Egyptians pass.
It was not a matter of Josiah being convinced that Egypt was the scourge of God, but more likely the threat to his belief of his being part of an everlasting dynasty. If the prophecy of Joel could be proven incorrect, an event only achievable if Egypt was removed from the equation, then there would be no second Moses or Exodus from Egypt, and he assumed his family and kingdom could escape its impending destruction. Instead he became an unwitting tool of fulfilling that prophecy. And so the king who dared to proclaim his lineage to be a never ending dynasty under God, and who had his biographer write in Kings that he would meet a peaceful death without seeing the destruction of his family and dynasty, met his end from an arrow upon the battlefield and in doing so, sowed that very extinction he dreaded.
What’s it all mean? For everyone's sake I will recap all the points that have been raised throughout this series of thirteen articles and place them under the illuminated magnifying glass of the Ingathering prophecies. What will be revealed will challenge messianic beliefs of both Rabbanites and modern day Karaites. The significant drift we have experienced from what was intended and what we now choose to believe will be definitely highlighted. Of course there will be those that will be offended because they will feel the Tanach is being challenged. On the other hand, I consider it not challenged but revealed, What serves as our Tanach was scrutinized by Pharasaic and Rabbinic scholars from the second century BCE until the third century ACE and they in turn tossed out any ancient document that did not agree with their own agenda. And who were some of these sages that had the divine inspiration to meet the challenge of approving or disapproving the sacred writings; as we know from their own descriptions, they were tanners, or olive grove tenders, a shepherd or two. We only have to examine the life of a certain Rabbi Akiva, a shepherd who freely admits that as a young man he didn't know a single word of the Torah. Fortunately for him, he had the opportunity to marry his employer's daughter, a wealthy merchant who's sheep flocks were only one of the owner's invested interests. Not having to work any longer for a living, Akiva enrolled in studying the Torah and became so inspired that he considered himself the eyes of Yahweh and able to identify the coming of the Messiah. He did a splendid job, picking Bar Kochba as the messiah, plunging the remnant of our nation into a three year war that saw the end of our communities in Judea,the completion of the exile, the death of close to half a million Jews, the sale of at least an equal number into slavery, and the birth of two thousand years of anti-semitism and repeated attempts of our genocide because the Roman Empire saw Jews as a plague to be eradicated because of this man the Rabbanite consider one of their greatest and most inspired sages. So if these were the men that eventually codified the Tanach, then I say it's time to reexamine what is written.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana