12 -THE GREATEST THEOPHANY
Imagine that Extraterrestrials, having observed events on Earth,
have decided to establish contact with the Earthlings. Using their
advanced technology to communicate, they call upon the nations’
leaders to cease and desist from wars and oppression, to end human
bondage and uphold human freedom.
But the messages are treated as a prank, for political leaders and
scholarly savants know that UFOs are a joke, and if there be
intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, it is light-years away
from Earth. So the Extraterrestrials resort to "miracles,"
stepping up their impact on Earth and its inhabitants in
ever-increasing marvels, until they resort to the ultimate show of
force: stopping the Earth’s rotation - where there was daylight on
Earth the .Sun did not set, where there was nighttime the Sun did
Thus concentrating the minds of the Earthlings and their leaders,
the Extraterrestrials decide it is time to make themselves visible.
A huge disklike spacecraft appears in Earth’s skies; engulfed in a
brilliance, it floats down upon beams of light. Its destination is
the Earth’s most powerful capital. There it lands in sight of
stunned multitudes. An opening silently unrolls, letting out a
shining light. A huge, giant robot steps out, moves forward and
freezes. As the people fall to their knees with fear of the unknown,
a humanlike figure appears - the actual Extraterrestrial. "I bring you
peace," he says.
In truth, the above scenario need not be imagined, for it is the
gist of the 1952 movie The Day The Earth Stood Still,
in which the memorable Michael Rennie was the Extraterrestrial who
stepped out in Washington, D.C., and spoke his reassuring words in
English . . .
In truth, the above scenario need not be the summary of a science
fiction movie; for what we have described - in essence if not in
detail - has really happened. Not in modern times but in antiquity,
not in the United States but in the ancient Near East; and in the
actual sequence, the Earth stood still some time after rather than
before the spacecraft appeared.
It was, indeed, the greatest Divine Encounter in human memory - the
greatest Theophany on record, witnessed by no less than a multitude
of 600,000 people.
The site of the Theophany was Mount Sinai, the "Mountain of the Elohim" in the Sinai peninsula; the occasion was the granting of the
Laws of the Covenant to the Children of Israel, the high point of an
eventful and miracle-filled Exodus from Egypt.
A brief review of the chain of events that culminated in the Exodus
would be helpful; it was a path whose milestones were Divine
Abraham - still called by his Sumerian name Abram in the Bible - moved
with his father Terah (an oracle priest to judge by the meaning of
his name) from Ur in Sumer to Harran on the Upper Euphrates. By our
calculations this took place in 2096 B.C., when the great Sumerian
king Ur-Nammu died unexpectedly and the people complained that the
death occurred because "Enlil changed his word" to Ur-Nammu.
Against a background of a growing preoccupation in Sumer with
"sinning" cities in the west, along the Mediterranean coast,
Abram/Abraham was ordered by Yahweh to move southward with his
family, retainers, and flocks and take a position in the Negev, the
dry area bordering on the Sinai. The move took place upon the death
in Sumer of Ur-Nam-mu’s successor (Shulgi) in 2048 B.C., when the
Hebrew Patriarch was seventy-five years old. It was the very same
year when Marduk, in preparation for his seizing of the supremacy
among the Gods, arrived in the Land of the Hittites, north of
Encountering a famine caused by a drought, Abram continued moving on, all the way to Egypt. There he was received by the
Pharaoh - the last Pharaoh of the tenth northern dynasty, who a few
years later (in 2040 B.C.) was overthrown by the princes and priests
of Thebes in the south.
Two years before, in 2042 B.C. by our calculations, Abram returned
to his outpost in the Negev; he was now in command of a retinue of
cavalrymen (probably fast camel riders). He returned in time to
deflect an attempt, by a coalition of "Kings of the East," to invade
the Mediterranean lands and reach the Spaceport in the Sinai.
Abram’s mission was to guard the Spaceport’s approaches, not to take
sides in the war of the Easterns with the kings of Canaan.
the deflected invaders overran Sodom and took Abram’s nephew Lot
captive, he pursued them with his cavalry all the way to Damascus,
rescued his nephew, and retrieved the booty. Upon his return he was
greeted as a victor in the environs of Shalem (the future
Jerusalem); and the exchanged salutations carried a lasting
And Melchizedek, the king of Shalem,
brought forth bread and wine,
for he was a priest unto the God Most High.
And he blessed him, saying:
"Blessed be Abram unto the God Most High,
Possessor of Heaven and Earth; and
Blessed be the God Most High
who hath delivered thy foes unto thy hands.
And the Canaanite kings, who were present at the ceremony, offered
Abram to keep all the booty for himself, and hand over just the
captives. But Abram, refusing to take anything, said thus under
"I hereby lift my hand unto Yahweh,
Possessor of Heaven and Earth:
Neither a thread nor a shoelace
shall I take - nothing that is thine."
"And it was after these things" - after Abram had carried out his
mission to Canaan to protect the Spaceport - "that
the word of Yahweh came unto Abram in an envisioning" (Genesis
"Fear not, Abram," the Lord said, "I am thy shield, [and] thy
reward shall be exceedingly great."
But Abram answered that in the
absence of an heir, what value would any reward be? So "the word of
Yahweh came to him," assuring him that he would have his own natural
son, and offspring as many as the stars of heaven, who shall
inherit the land on which he stands.
To leave no doubt in the mind of Abram that no matter what this
Promise would come to pass, the deity speaking to Abram revealed his
identity to the childless Abram. Until this point we had to take the
word of the biblical narrative that it was Yahweh who had spoken or
appeared to Abram. Now, for the first time, the Lord identified
himself by name:
"/ am Yahweh
who had brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees,
to give thee this land, to inherit it."
And Abram said:
"My Lord Yahweh,
By what shall I know that I shall inherit it?"
Thereupon, to convince the doubting Abram, Yahweh
"cut a covenant
with Abram that day, to wit: To thy seed have I given this land,
from the Brook of Egypt to the River Euphrates, the great river."
The "cutting of the covenant" between Yahweh - "God Supreme, Possessor
of Heaven and Earth" - and the blessed Patriarch involved a magical
ritual whose likes are not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible,
either before or afterward. The Patriarch was instructed to take a
heifer, a she-goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon and cut them
apart and place the pieces opposite each other.
"And when the sun
went down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a horror, dark and
great, fell upon him."
The prophecy - a destiny by which Yahweh
declared himself bound - was then proclaimed: After a sojourn of four
hundred years in bondage in a foreign land, the descendants of Abram
shall inherit the Promised Land. No sooner did the Lord pronounce
this oracle than "a burning
smoke and a fiery torch passed between the pieces." It was on that
day, the Bible states, "that Yahweh cut a covenant with Abram."
(Some fifteen centuries later the Assyrian king Esarhaddon, "seeking
the decision of the Gods Shamash and Adad, prostrated himself
reverently." To obtain a "vision concerning Ashur, Babylon and
Nineveh," the king wrote, "I laid down the portions of the
sacrificial animals at both sides; the signs of the oracle were in
perfect agreement, and they gave me a favorable answer." But in that
case, no divine fire came down to pass between the pieces of the
At age eighty-six Abram did obtain a son, by the handmaiden Hagar
but not by his wife Sarai (as she was still called, by her Sumerian
name). It was thirteen years later, on the eve of momentous events
concerning the affairs of Gods and men, that Yahweh "appeared unto
Abram" and prepared him for the new era: the change of names from
the Sumerian Abram and Sarai to the Semitic Abraham and Sarah, and
the circumcising of all the males as a sign of the everlasting
It was in 2024 B.C., by our calculations (based on synchronizations
with Sumerian and Egyptian chronologies), that Abraham had witnessed
the upheavaling of Sodom and Gomorrah following the visit by Yahweh
and the two Angels. The destruction, we have shown in The Wars of
Gods and Men, was just a sideshow to the main "event" - the
vaporizing with nuclear weapons of the Spaceport in the center of
the Sinai peninsula by Ninurta and Nergal in order to deprive Marduk
of the space facility. The unintentional result of the nuclear
holocaust was the blowing of a deathly nuclear cloud eastward; it
caused death (but no destruction) in Sumer, bringing to a bitter end
that great civilization.
Now it was only Abram/Abraham and his seed - his descendants - that
remained to carry on the ancient traditions, to "call on the name of
Yahweh," to retain a sacred link to the beginning of time.
To be safe from the nuclear poison, Abraham was ordered out of the
Negev (the arid district bordering on the Sinai) and to find haven
near the Mediterranean coast, in the district of the Philistines. A
year after the event Isaac was born to
Abraham by his wife and half sister Sarah, as Yahweh had foretold.
Thirty-seven years later Sarah died, and the old Patriarch Abraham
was concerned about the succession. Fearing that he would the before
seeing his son Isaac married, he made his head-servant swear "by
Yahweh, the God of Heaven and the God of Earth," that on no account
would he arrange for Isaac to marry a local Canaanite.
To be sure, he sent him to get for Isaac a bride from among the
daughters of the relatives who had stayed behind in Harran on the
Upper Euphrates. At age forty, Isaac married his imported bride
Rebecca; and she bore him two sons, the twins Esau and Jacob, twenty
years later. The year, by our calculations, was 1963 B.C.
Some time later, when the boys grew up, "there was a famine in the
land, other than the first famine that occurred in the time of
Abraham." Isaac thought of emulating his father by going to Egypt,
whose agriculture did not depend on rains (but on the annual rise of
the Nile’s waters).
But to do that he had to cross the Sinai, and
that apparently was still dangerous even decades after the nuclear
blast. So "Yahweh was seen to him" and instructed him not to go to
Egypt; instead he was to move in Canaan to a district where wells
could be dug for water. There Isaac and his family remained for many
years, long enough for Esau to marry locally and for Jacob to go to Harran, where he married Leah and Rachel.
In time Jacob had twelve sons: six by Leah, four by concubines, and
two by Rachel: Joseph, and the youngest, Benjamin (at whose birth
Rachel died). Of them all Joseph was his favorite; and it was
therefore that the older brothers, envious of Joseph, sold him to
caravaners going to Egypt. And thus the Divine Prophecy, of a
sojourn of Abraham’s descendants in a foreign land, began to be
Through a series of successful dream-solving, Joseph became
Overseer of Egypt, charged with the task of preparing the land
during seven plentiful years for a predicted seven-year famine
thereafter. (It is our belief that in his ingenuity Joseph used a
natural depression to create an artificial lake, and fill it up with
water when the Nile was still rising high annually; then use the
stored water to irrigate the parched
land. The shrunken lake still waters Egypt’s most fertile area,
called Elfayum; the canal linking the lake to the Nile is still
called The Waterway of Joseph).
When the famine became too harsh to bear, Jacob sent his other sons
(except Benjamin) to Egypt to obtain food - only to discover, after
several dramatic encounters with the Overseer, that he was none
other than their younger brother Joseph. Telling them that the
famine would last another five years, Joseph told them to go back
and bring over to Egypt their father and remaining brother and all
the rest of Jacob’s household. The year, by our calculations, was
1833 B.C. and the reigning Pharaoh was Amenemhet III of the twelfth
(A depiction found in a royal tomb from that time shows a group of
men, women, and children with some of their livestock arriving in
Egypt. The immigrants are depicted as, and identified in the
accompanying inscription, as "Asiatics" (Fig. 100); their colorful
robes, vividly painted in the tomb mural, are exactly of the kind of
multicolored striped robe that Joseph had worn while in Canaan.
While the Asiatics here depicted are not necessarily the caravan of
Jacob and his family, the painting does show how they had certainly
The presence of Jacob in Egypt is directly attested, according to
A. Mallon in Les Hebreux en Egypte, also by various inscriptions on
scarabs that spell out the name Ya’a-qob (the Hebrew name that in
English is rendered "Jacob"). Written sometimes within a royal
cartouche (Fig. 101), it is spelled hieroglyphically Yy-A-Q-B with
the suffix H-R, giving the inscription the meaning "Jacob is satisfied" or "Jacob is at
Jacob was 130 years old when the Children of Israel began their
sojourn in Egypt; as prophesied, it ended in bondage four hundred
years later. It is with the death and burial of Jacob, and the
subsequent death and mummification of Joseph, that the Book of
The Book of Exodus picks up the story centuries later, "when there
arose a new king over Egypt who knew not Joseph." In the intervening
centuries much had happened in Egypt. There were civil wars, the
capital shifted back and forth, the era of the Middle Kingdom
passed, the so-called Second Intermediary Period of chaos took
place. In 1650 B.C. the New Kingdom began with the seventeenth
dynasty, and in 1570 B.C. the renowned eighteenth dynasty ascended
the Pharaonic throne in Thebes, in Upper (southern) Egypt, leaving
behind its magnificent monuments, temples, and statues in Karnak and
Luxor and its splendid tombs hidden inside the mountains, in the
Valley of the Kings.
Many of the throne names chosen by the Pharaohs of those new
dynasties were epithets by which they asserted their status as
demigods; such was the name Ra-Ms-S (Ramesses or Ramses in English)
which meant "From the God Ra emanated." The founder of the
seventeenth dynasty called himself Ah-Ms-S (Ah-Mose) (Fig. 102a)
meaning "From the God
Ah emanated" (Ah being a name of the Moon God).
This new dynasty
started the New Kingdom that, we have suggested, had forgotten all
about Joseph after the passage of some three centuries. Accordingly,
a successor of Ahmose called Tehuti-Ms-S (Fig 102b) (Thothmose or
Tutmosis I) - "From the God Thoth emanated" - was, we have concluded,
the ruler in whose time the story of Moses and the events of the
Figure 102a, b
It was this Pharaoh who, using the might of a unified and
invigorated Egypt, sent his armies northward as far as the Upper
Euphrates - the region where the relatives of Abraham had stayed and
flourished. He reigned from 1525 to 1512 B.C. and it was he, we have
suggested in The Wars of Gods and Men, who feared that the Children
of Israel would join the warfare in support of their Euphratean
relatives. So he imposed harsh work on the Israelites, and ordered
that any new born Israelite male should be killed at birth.
It was in 1513 B.C. that a Levite Hebrew and his Levite wife had a
son born to them. And fearing that he would be killed, the mother
put him in a waterproofed box of bulrushes of the Nile and placed
the box in the river. And it so happened that the stream carried
the box to where the Pharaoh’s Daughter was bathing; she ended up
adopting the boy as a son, "and she called him Moses" - Moshe in
The Bible explains that she called him so for he was "from
the waters extracted." But, we have no doubt, what the Pharaoh’s
Daughter did was to give the boy the epithet common in her dynasty
with the component Mss (Mose, Mosis), prefixed, we believe, by a
deity’s name that the Bible preferred to omit.
The chronology suggested by us, placing the birth of Moses in 1513
B.C., meshes the biblical tale with Egyptian chronology and a web
of intrigues and power struggles in the Egyptian court.
Having been born to Thothmes I by his half sister wife, their only
daughter, called Hatshepsut, indeed bore the exclusive title The
Pharaoh’s Daughter. When Thothmes I died in 1512, the only male heir
was a son born by a harem girl. Ascending the tfirone as Thothmes
II, he married his half sister Hatshepsut to gain legitimacy for
himself and for his children. But this couple had only daughters,
and the only
son this king had was by a concubine.
Thothmes II had a short reign,
just nine years. So when he died, the son - the future Thothmes
III - was just a boy, too young to be a Pharaoh. Hatshepsut was
appointed Regent, and after a number of years crowned herself
Queen - a female Pharaoh (who even ordered that her carved images show
her with a false beard). As can be imagined, it was in such
circumstances that the envy and enmity between the king’s son and
the queen’s adopted son grew and intensified.
Finally, in 1482 B.C., Hatshepsut died (or was murdered), and the
concubine’s son assumed the throne as Thothmes III. He lost no time
in renewing the foreign conquests (some scholars refer to him as the
"Napoleon of ancient Egypt") and the oppression of the Israelites.
"And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown up, that he
went out unto his brethren and saw their sufferings." Killing an
Egyptian slavemaster, he gave the king the excuse to order his
death. "So Moses fled from the Pharaoh, and tarried in the land of
the Midianites," in the Sinai peninsula. He ended up marrying the
daughter of the Midianite priest.
"And it came to pass, after a long time, that the king of Egypt
died; and the Children of Israel, bemoaning their bondage, cried
out unto the Elohim. And Elohim heard their laments, and Elohim
recalled his covenant with Abraham and with Isaac and with Jacob;
and Elohim beheld the Children of Israel, and Elohim found out."
Almost four hundred years had passed since the Lord had last spoken
to Jacob "in a nighttime vision," until he has now come to take a
look at the Children of Jacob/Israel crying out of their bondage.
That the Elohim intended here was Yahweh becomes clear in the
subsequent narrative. Where was He during those long four centuries?
The Bible does not say; but it is a question to be pondered.
Be that as it may, the time was propitious for drastic action. As
the biblical narrative makes clear, this chain of new developments
was triggered by the death of the Pharaoh "after a long time" of
reign. Egyptian records show that Thothmes III, who had ordered that
Moses be put to death, died in 1450 B.C. His successor on the
throne, Amenhotep II, was a weak
ruler who had trouble keeping Egypt united; and with his ascension,
the death sentence against Moses expired.
It was then that Yahweh called out to Moses from inside the Burning
Bush, telling him that He had decided to "come down and save’* the
Israelites from their bondage in Egypt and lead them back to the
Promised Land, and telling Moses that he was selected to be the
God’s ambassador to gain this freedom from the Pharaoh and to lead
the Israelites on their Exodus from Egypt.
It happened, we are told in Exodus chapter 3, when Moses was
shepherding the flock of his father in law, "leading the flock
beyond the desert, and he came to the Mount of the Elohim, in
Horeb," and saw there the thorn-bush burning without being consumed;
so he went closer to take a look at the incredible sight.
The biblical narrative refers to the "Mount of the Elohim" as though
it was a well-known landmark; the unusual character of the event
was not that Moses had led his flock there, nor that there were
bushes there. The exceptional aspect was that the bush was burning
without being consumed!
It was only the first of a series of amazing magical acts and
miracles that the Lord had to employ in order to convince Moses, the
Israelites, and the Pharaoh of the authenticity of the mission and
the divine determination motivating it. To that purpose Yahweh
empowered Moses with three magical acts: his staff could turn into a
snake, and back into a staff; his hand could be made leprous and
again healthy; and he could pour some Nile water on the ground and
the ground would stay dry.
"The people who had sought thy death are
all dead," Yahweh told Moses; fear no more; face the new Pharaoh and
perform the magics that I granted thee, and tell him that the
Israelites must be let go to be free to worship their God in the
desert. As an assistant, Yahweh appointed Aaron, the brother of
Moses, to accompany him.
In the first encounter with the Pharaoh, the king was not
responsive. "Who is this Yahweh whom I should heed to let the
Israelites go?** he said, "I know not Yahweh and the Israelites I
will not let go." Instead of releasing the Israelites. the Pharaoh
doubled and trebled their quotas of brickmaking.
When the magical
tricks with the staff failed to impress the
Pharaoh, Moses was instructed by the Lord to begin the series of
plagues - "hits," if one is to translate the Hebrew term
literally - that kept escalating in severity as the Egyptian king
first refused to release the Israelites, then wavered, then agreed
and changed his mind.
Ten in all, they ranged from the turning of
the Nile’s water red as blood for a week, through the swarming of
the river and lakes with frogs; the afflicting of the people with
lice and the cattle with pestilences; devastation by hailstones and
brimstones and locusts; and a darkness that lasted three days. And
when all that did not attain the Israelites’ freedom, when all the
"wonders of Yahweh" failed, the last and decisive blow came: All the
firstborn of Egypt, be it men or cattle, were stricken to death "as
Yahweh passed through the land of Egypt."
But the Israelite homes,
marked with blood on their doorposts, were "passed over" and spared.
That very same night, the Pharaoh let them go out of Egypt; and
therefore is the event celebrated to this very day by the Jewish
people as the holiday of the Passover. It happened on the night of
the fourteenth day of the month Nissan, when Moses was eighty years
old - in 1433 B.C. by our calculations.
The Exodus from Egypt was on - but it was not yet the end of the
troubles with the Pharaoh. As the Israelites reached the edge of the
desert, where the chain of lakes formed a watery barrier beyond the
Egyptian forts, the Pharaoh concluded that the escapees were
trapped and sent his fast chariots to recapture them. It was then
that Yahweh sent an Angel, "the angel of the Elohim who had gone in
front of the Israelite host," to station himself and a pillar of
dark clouds between the Israelites and the pursuing Egyptians, to
separate the camps.
And during that night "Yahweh drove back the sea
with a strong east wind, and dried up the sea, and the waters were
divided, and the Children of Israel went into the sea upon the dried
By early morning the dazed Egyptians tried to follow the Israelites
through the parted waters; but no sooner had they tried that, than
the wall of water engulfed them and they perished.
It was only after that miraculous event - so vividly and artfully
recreated for all to see by Cecil B. DeMille in the
epic movie The Ten Commandments - that the Children of Israel were
free at last, free to proceed through the desert and its hardships
to the edge of the Sinai peninsula - all the while led by the Divine
Pillar that was a dark cloud during the day and a fiery beacon at
Water and food shortages, miraculously averted, and a war
with an unexpected Amalek-ite enemy, still were in store for them.
Finally, "in the third month," they arrived in the Wilderness of
Sinai "and encamped opposite the Mount."
They had arrived at their predetermined destination: the "Mountain
of the Elohim.1’ The greatest Theophany ever was about to begin.
There were preparations and stages in (hat memorable and unique
Divine Encounter, and a price to pay by its chosen witnesses. It
began with "Moses going up toward the Elohim," upon the Mount, as
"Yahweh called out to him from the Mount," to hear the precondition
for the Theophany and its consequences. Moses was told to repeat to
the Children of Israel the Lord’s exact words:
If you will listen to me and keep my covenant, then - out of all the
nations - a treasured possession to me you shall be, for the whole
Earth is mine; You shall be my kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Earlier, when Moses was given his embassy at this very same mount,
Yahweh stated his intention to "adopt the children of Israel as his
people," and in turn "to be an Elohim unto them." Now the Lord
spelled out the "deal" involved in the Theophany. With the Covenant
came commandments and laws and restrictions; they were the price to
be paid for qualifying for the Theophany - a unique event by which the
Israelites will become a Treasured People, consecrated unto God.
"And Moses came and summoned the elders of the people, and laid
before them all these words as Yahweh had commanded. And all the
people answered, all together, saying:
’All that Yahweh hath spoken we will do.’ And Moses brought the
people’s words unto Yahweh."
Having received this acceptance,
"Yahweh said unto Moses: Behold, I
shall be coming unto thee in a thick cloud, enabling the people to
hear when I speak with thee, so that in thee too they shall have
And the Lord ordered Moses to have the people consecrate
themselves and be ready for three days hence, informing them that
"on the third day shall Yahweh come down upon Mount Sinai, in full
sight of all the people."
The landing, Yahweh indicated to Moses, would create a danger for
anyone coming too near. "Thou shall set bounds round about" the
Mount, Moses was told, to keep the people at a distance, telling
them to dare not try to go up or even touch the Mount’s edge, "for
whosoever toucheth it shall surely be put to death."
As these instructions were followed, "it was on the third day, when
it was morning," that the promised Landing of Yahweh upon the Mount
of Elohim began. It was a fiery descent and a noisy one:
"There were thundering sounds and
flashes of lightning, and a dense cloud [was]
upon the Mount, and a Shofar sound, exceedingly strong; and all the
people in the encampment were terrified."
As the descent of the Lord Yahweh began, "Moses brought forth the
people from the encampment toward the Elohim, and they stationed
themselves at the foot of the Mount," at the boundary that Moses had
marked out all around the Mount.
And Mount Sinai was completely engulfed by smoke,
for Yahweh had descended upon it in a fire.
And the smoke thereof rose up like that of a furnace,
and the whole mount quaked greatly.
And the sound of the Shofar continued to wax louder;
As Moses spoke, the Elohim answered him in a loud
(The term Shofar associated in this text with the sounds emanating
from the Mount is usually translated "horn." Literally, however, it
means "Amplifier" - a device, we believe,
that was used to enable all the Israelite multitude, standing at the
foot of the mountain, to hear Yahweh’s voice and his talk with
Thus did Yahweh, in full view of all the people - all 600,000 of
them - "descend upon Mount Sinai, on the top of it; and Yahweh called
Moses up to the top of the Mount, and Moses went up."
It was men, from atop the mount, from within the thick cloud, that
"Elohim spoke the following words," pronouncing the Ten
Commandments - the essentials of the Hebrew Faith, the guidelines for
social justice and human morality; a summary of the Covenant between
Man and God, all of the Divine Teachings succinctly expressed.
The first three Commandments established monotheism, proclaimed
Yahweh as the Elohim of Israel, the sole God, and prohibited the
making of idols and their worship:
I - I am Yahweh thy Elohim who hath brought thee out of the land of
out of the house of bondage.
- Thou shall have no other Elohim beside me;
thou shall not make for thyself any sculptured image of likeness
anything that is in heaven above,
or that is on the earth beneath,
or that is in the waters under the earth.
Thou shall not bow to them
nor worship them . . .
Ill - Thou shalt not utter the name of Yahweh thy Elohim in vain.
Next came a Commandment intended to express the sanctity of the
People of Israel and their subjection to a higher standard of daily
life, by setting aside one day a week to be the Sabbath - a day
devoted to contemplation and rest, applying equally to all people,
to humans as well as to their livestock:
IV - Remember to keep the day of the Sabbath and sanctify it.
Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work;
but the seventh day is the Sabbath of Yahweh, thy
On it thou shalt not do any work -
neither thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter; neither thy
servant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle;
As also the stranger who is within thy gates.
The fifth affirmative Commandment established the family as the
human unit, headed by the patriarch and the matriarch:
V - Honor thy father and thy mother,
that thy days may be prolonged upon the land
which Yahweh thy Elohim
And then came the five No’s that established the moral and social
code between Man and Man rather than, as at the beginning, between
Man and God:
VI - Thou shalt not murder.
VII - Thou shalt not commit adultery.
- Thou shalt not steal
IX - Thou shalt not bear false witness against
X - Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; Thou
shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, neither his servant or
maidservant, his ox, his ass, nor anything that is his.
Much has been made in countless textbooks of the
Laws of Hammurabi,
the Babylonian king from the eighteenth century B.C, that he
engraved on a stela (now in the Louvre Museum) upon which he is
shown receiving the laws from the God Shamash. But that was only a
listing of crimes and their punishments.
A thousand years before Hammurabi Sumerian kings established laws of social justice - you
shall not take away the donkey of a widow, they decreed, or delay
the wages of a day laborer (to give two examples). But never before
(and perhaps not even thereafter) did just ten commandments state,
so clearly, all of the essentials that a whole people and any human
being had to be guided by!
To hear the booming divine voice coming from atop the mount had to
be an awesome experience. Indeed, we read that as,
"all the people
perceived the thundering and flashes and the Shofar’s sound and the
mountain engulfed in smoke, they were seized with fear and moved
away and stood at a distance. And they said unto Moses: ‘Speak thou
with us and we will listen, but let not the Elohim himself speak to
us, lest we die’."
And having asked Moses to be the conveyor of the
divine words rather than hearing them directly, "the people stood
farther away; and Moses went toward the thick fog where the Elohim
was," for the Lord had summoned him:
And Yahweh said unto Moses:
Come up to me, on the Mount, and remain there;
And I will give thee the stone tablets
with the law and the commandment
which I have written, to be taught to them.
This (in Exodus chapter 24) is the first mention of the Tablets of
the Law and the assertion that they were inscribed by Yahweh
himself. This is restated in chapter 31, where the number of Tablets
is stated to be two, "made of stone, inscribed by the finger of
Elohim"; and again in chapter 32:
"Tablets inscribed on both of
their sides - on the one side and on the other side were they
inscribed; and the Tablets were the craftwork of Elohim and the
writing was the script of Elohim, engraved upon the Tablets." (This
is reasserted in Deuteronomy).
Written on the Tablets were the Ten Commandments as well as more
detailed ordinances to govern daily conduct by the people, some
rules of worship of Yahweh, and strict prohibitions against the
worship or even uttering the names of the Gods of Israel’s
neighbors. All that the Lord intended to give Moses as Tablets of
the Covenant, to be kept forever in the Ark of the Covenant that was
to be built according to detailed specifications.
The granting of the Tablets was an event of lasting significance,
embedded in the memory of the Children of Israel and therefore
requiring witnesses of the highest standing. Therefore Yahweh
instructed Moses to come up to receive the
Tablets accompanied by his brother Aaron and Aaron’s two priestly
sons and seventy of the tribal elders.
They were not allowed to come
up all the way (only Moses could do that), but close enough "to see
the Elohim of Israel." Even then all they could see was the space
under the Lord’s feet, "made as of pure sapphire, like the color of
skies in clearness." Coming that close they would have normally lost
their lives; but this time, having invited them, "Yahweh against the
nobles of Israel did not put forth his hand."
They were not struck
down, and lived to celebrate the Divine Encounter and witness Moses
going up to receive the Tablets:
And Moses went up on the Mount,
and the cloud enveloped the Mount.
And the glory of Yahweh rested upon Mount Sinai,
covered by the cloud, for six days;
and on the seventh day He called unto Moses
from inside the cloud . . .
And Moses went into the cloud
and ascended up the Mount;
And Moses was on the mount forty days
and forty nights.
Since the two tablets had already been inscribed, the long time
Moses stayed atop the Mount was used to instruct him in the
construction of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan ("Residence") in which
Yahweh would make his presence known to the Children of Israel. It
was then that, in addition to the architectural details that were
given orally, Yahweh also showed Moses the "structural model of the
Residence and the model of all of the instruments thereof."
included the Ark of the Covenant, the wooden chest inlaid with gold,
in which the two Tablets were to be kept, and on top of which the
two golden Cherubim were to be emplaced; that, the Lord explained,
would be the Dvir - literally, the Speaker - "where I will keep the
appointments with thee, speaking to thee from between the two
It was also during that Divine Encounter atop the Mount that Moses
was instructed about the priesthood, naming as
the only ones who could approach the Lord (besides Moses) and
officiate in the Tabernacle Aaron, the brother of Moses, and the
four sons of Aaron. Their vestments were elaborately prescribed, to
the smallest detail, including the Breastplate of Judgment
containing twelve precious stones inscribed with the names of the
twelve tribes of Israel.
The Breastplate was also to hold in
place - precisely against the priest’s heart - the Urim and Tumim.
Though the exact meaning of the terms has eluded scholars, it is
clear from other biblical references (e.g. Numbers 27:21) that they
served as an oracular panel for obtaining a Yes or No answer from
the Lord in response to a question.
The inquiring person’s question
was put before the Lord by the priest, "to ask for the Decision of
the Urim before Yahweh, and in accordance thereof to act." When King
Saul (I Samuel 28:6) sought Yahweh’s guidance whether to engage in
war with the Philistines, he "inquired of Yahweh in dreams, by the
Urim, and through prophets."
While Moses was in the presence of the Lord, back in the encampment
his long absence was interpreted as bad news, and his failure to
show up after several weeks as an indication that he might have
perished by seeing God; "for is there any any flesh" - any mortal
human - "who hath heard the voice of a living Elohim speaking from
inside the fire, and stayed alive?"
It was thus that,
seeing that Moses was not coming down from the Mount, gathered by
Aaron and said to him: ‘Come, make for us an Elohim who could lead
us, for this man Moses, who hath brought us out of Egypt - we know
not what is become of him."
So Aaron, seeking to invoke Yahweh,
built an altar to Yahweh and placed before it the sculpture of a
calf inlaid with gold.
Alerted by Yahweh, "Moses turned and went down from the Mount, with
the two Tablets of the Testimony in his hand." And when he neared
the camp and saw the golden calf, Moses was furious,
"and he threw
the tablets out of his hand, and broke them at the foot of the
Mount; and he took the calf which they had made and burnt it by
fire, and [its gold] he ground into a powder, and strewed the dust
upon the waters."
Seeking out the instigators of the abomination and
having them put to the sword, Moses beseeched the Lord not to
abandon the Children of Israel. If the sin cannot be
forgiven, let me alone bear the punishment, he said; let it be me
who is "blotted out of the book" of life. But the Lord was not fully
appeased, keeping the option of further retribution;
hath sinned against me, indeed from my book shall be blotted out."
"And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned."
himself, discouraged and despairing, picked up his tent and pitched
it outside the encampment, far off from the camp. "And when Moses
left for the tent, all the people rose up and stood every one at the
door of his tent, and watched Moses go, until he would enter the
tent." A sense of a failed mission pervaded him and them all.
But then a miracle happened; Yahweh’s compassion became manifest:
And it came to pass,
when Moses was entering the tent,
pillared cloud descended,
and stood at the entrance of the tent,
a voice spoke to Moses.
And when the people, all of them,
saw the pillar of cloud standing
at the entrance to the tent,
the whole people rose up and prostrated
themselves, each at his tent’s entrance.
And Yahweh spoke unto Moses face to face,
as a man would speak unto
When the Lord spoke to Moses from inside the
Burning Bush, "Moses
covered his face, for he was afraid to look at the Elohim." The
Elders and nobles who had accompanied Moses up the Mount, went up
only halfway and were enabled to see only the Lord’s footrest - and
even then it was a wonder that they were not smitten.
At the end of
the forty years of wandering, as the Israelites were ready to enter
Canaan, Moses in his testamental review of the Exodus and the great
Theophany made a point of stressing that "on the day Yahweh hath spoken unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire, ye
saw no visage of any kind:"
Ye came near and stood at the foot of the Mount,
and the Mount was engulfed with fire
reaching unto the midst of heaven,
and [there was J a dark cloud and thick fog.
And Yahweh spoke unto you from inside the fire;
ye heard the sound of the words,
but the likeness of a visage ye saw not -
only a voice was heard.
This, obviously, was an essential element in the do’s and don’ts of
close encounters with Yahweh. But now that the relenting God was
talking to Moses "face to face" - but still from within the
cloud-pillar - Moses seized the moment to seek a reaffirmation of his
role as the leader chosen by the Lord. "Show me thy face!" he begged
of the Lord.
Answering enigmatically, Yahweh said:
"Thou canst not see my face,
for no Man can see Me and live."
So Moses pleaded again: "Please, show me thy glory!"
And Yahweh said:
"Behold, there is a place by me; go and stand there
upon the rock. And when my glory shall pass by there, I will put
thee in the cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand
until I have passed by; and I will then remove my hand, and you
shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen."
The Hebrew word that has been rendered "glory" in English
translations, in all the above quoted instances, is Kabod; it stems
from the root KBD whose seminal meaning is "weighty, heavy."
Literally then, Kabod would mean "the heaviness, the weighty thing."
That a "thing," a physical object and not an abstract "glory" is
meant when applied to Yahweh is clear from its first mention in the
Bible, when the Israelites "beheld the Kabod of Yahweh," enveloped
by the ubiquitous cloud, after the Lord supplied them miraculously
with Manna as their daily food.
In Exodus 24:16 we read that
"the Kabod of Yahweh rested upon Mount Sinai, covered by the cloud,
for six days" until He called Moses up on the seventh day; and verse
17 adds, for the benefit of those who were not present, that "the
appearance of the Kabod of Yahweh, on top of the Mount in full view
of the Children of Israel, was like a devouring fire."
Indicating a manifestation of Yahweh, the term Kabod is so used in
all five books of the Pentateuch - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, Deuteronomy. In all instances, called the "Kabod of
Yahweh," it was something concrete that the people could see - but
always engulfed by a cloud, as though within a dark fog.
The term is repeatedly employed by the Prophet Ezekiel in his
descriptions of the Divine Chariot (where the footstool is described
almost identically as in the verses regarding what the Elders of
Israel had seen halfway up Mount Sinai). The Chariot, Ezekiel
reported, was engulfed with a bright radiance; this, he said, was
"the appearance of the Kabod of Yahweh."
On his first prophetic
mission to the exiles dwelling at the River Khabur, he was
addressed by the Lord in a valley where "the Kabod of Yahweh was
stationed, a Kabod like the one seen before." When he was carried
aloft and taken to see Jerusalem "in divine visions," he again "saw
the Kabod of the God of Israel, as the one I had seen in the
valley." And when the envisioned visit was completed, the "Kabod of
Yahweh" stationed itself upon the Cherubim, and the Cherubim raised
their wings and "lifted off the earth," carrying the Kabod aloft.
The Kabod, Ezekiel wrote (10:4) had a luminosity that shone through
the cloud that shrouded it, a kind of a radiance. This detail
provides an insight into a facet of a Close Encounter by Moses with
the Lord Yahweh and his Kabod. It was after Yahweh had relented of
his anger, and told Moses to fashion two new stone tablets, similar
to the first two tablets that Moses had broken, and come up again to
the top of Mount Sinai to receive again the Ten Commandments and
This time, however, the words were dictated to
Moses by the Lord. Again he spent forty days and forty nights atop
the Mount; and all that time "Yahweh stood
with him there" - not speaking from a distance, through an Amplifier,
"but staying with him."
And it came to pass,
when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai and the two Tablets of
the Testimony in his hand - as Moses was coming down from the Mount -
he knew not that the skin of his face radiated when He was speaking
And Aaron and all of the Children of Israel,
seeing Moses, saw that the skin of his face radiated;
and they were afraid to come nigh unto him.
"Moses put a covering-mask upon his face. But when Moses was
coming before Yahweh to speak with him, he would take off the
covering mask until he left and came out to speak to the Children of
Israel whatever he was instructed; but when the Children of Israel
would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was
radiating, Moses would put back the covering-mask, until the next
time that he would go to speak" to the Lord.
It is evident from this that Moses, when he had been in
proximity of the Kahod, was subjected to some kind of radiation that
affected his skin. What exactly the source material of that
radiation was we do not know, but we do know that the Anunnaki could
(and did) employ radiation for a variety of purposes.
We read of
that in the tale of Inanna ‘s Descent to the Nether World, when she
was revived with a pulsating radiance (perhaps not unlike that
depicted on a clay plaque from Mesopotamia, in which the patient,
protected by a mask, is treated with radiation - Fig. 103).
We read of
it, used as a killing beam, when Gilgamesh tried to enter the
Restricted Zone in the Sinai peninsula and its guardians directed
the radiation at him (see Fig. 46). And we have read in the Tale of Zu what had happened when he removed the Tablet of Destinies from
the Mission Control Center in Nippur: "Stillness spread all over,
silence prevailed; the sanctuary’s brilliance was taken away."
A physical object, one that can move about, station itself, upon a
mountain, rise and take off, shrouded in a cloud of dark fog,
radiating brilliance - this is how the Bible describes the Kabod -
literally, "The Heavy Object" - in which Yahweh moved about. It all
describes what we nowadays call, out of ignorance or disbelief, a
UFO - an Unidentified Flying Object.
In this regard it will be helpful to trace the Akkadian and Sumerian
roots from which the Hebrew term had derived. While the Akkadian Kabbuttu meant "heavy, weighty," the similar-sounding
(paralleling the Hebrew Kabod) meant "Wing-holder" - something to
which wings are attached, or perhaps into which wings can retract.
And the Sumerian term KI.BAD.DU meant "to soar to a faraway
We can only speculate whether the Kabod looked like the winged
"Divine Black Bird" of Ninurta, the wingless (or with wings
retracted) bulbous vehicles depicted in the murals of Tell Ghassul -
or as the rocketlike object that Gilgamesh had seen rise from the
Landing Place in Lebanon.
Might it have resembled an American shuttlecraft. We wonder, because
of the similarity to it of a small figurine, discovered a few years
ago at a site in Turkey (the ancient Tuspa). Made of clay, it shows
a flying machine that
combines features of
a modern shuttlecraft (including the engine
exhausts) with the cockpit of a single-seater plane (Fig. 104b). The
partly damaged image of the "pilot" seated in the cockpit, as well
as the totality of the artform, bring to our mind Mesoamerican
depictions of bearded Gods accompanied by rocketlike objects (Figs.
Figures 104a, 104b, 104c. and 104d
The Archeological Museum in Istanbul, which has been
keeping this figurine, has not put it on display; the official
excuse is that its "authenticity" has not been established. If it is
authentic, it will serve not only to illustrate ancient "UFOs" but
also to add light on the links between the ancient Near East and the
After Moses had died and Joshua was chosen by the Lord to lead the
Israelites, they advanced up the eastern side of the Jordan River
and crossed it near Jericho; almost at every turn, they were
assisted by divine miracles. Of them all, the one scholars and
scientists find the hardest to accept is the
tale of the battle in the valley of Gibeon, when - according to the
Book of Joshua chapter 10 - the Sun and the Moon stood still for a
And the Sun stood still, and the Moon stayed,
until the people had avenged themselves of the enemies.
Indeed it is all written in the Book of Jashar:
The Sun stood still in the midst of the skies
and it hastened not to go down,
about a whole day.
What could have caused the Earth’s rotation to stop, so that the Sun
rising in the east and the Moon setting in the west seemed to stand
still, for the better part ("about a whole") of a day (of
twenty-four hours)? To those who take the Bible on faith, it is just
one more divine intervention in behalf of God’s Chosen People.
the other extreme there are those who discount the whole tale as
mere fiction, a myth. In between are those who, as for the ten
plagues that befell Egypt and the parting of the waters of the Sea
of Reeds (associating the events with the volcanic explosion on the
Mediterranean island of Thera/Santorini), seek a natural phenomenon
or calamity as the cause. Some have suggested an extraordinarily
long eclipse; but the Bible states that the Sun was seen, and there
was daylight for a prolonged daytime, not that the Sun was obscured.
Because the long day began with "great stones" falling from the
skies, some have suggested as an explanation the close passage of a
large comet (Immanuel Velikovsky, in
Worlds of Collision, postulated
that such a comet was caught into a solar orbit and became the
Both Sumerian and Old Babylonian texts speak of celestial upheavals
that were observed in the skies and that called for incantations
against the celestial "demons." Treated as "magical texts" (e.g.
Charles Fossey, Textes Magique; Morris Jastrow, the
Religion Bahyloniens und Assyriens; and Eric Ebeling,
Tod und Leben) such
texts described an "evil seven, born in the vast skies, unknown in
heaven, unknown on Earth" who "attacked Sin and Shamash" - the Moon
and the Sun, upsetting at the same time Ishtar (Venus) and Adad
Prior to 1994 the possibility that seven comets would
"attack" our celestial region all at once was so remote that the
text seemed more a fantasy than a reality witnessed by Mesopotamian
astronomers. But when, in July 1994,
comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke up
into twenty-one pieces that impacted Jupiter in quick succession - in
full view of observers from Earth - the Mesopotamian texts assume an
Had a comet broken up into seven pieces and caused havoc-in our
celestial vicinity, impacting Earth and breaking its rotation? Or,
as Alfred Jeremias (The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient
Near East), reproducing what he called "an important
astral-mythological text," treated it as possibly an unusual
alignment of seven planets that, with the resulting immense
gravitational pull, affected the Sun and Moon from the perspective
of Earth - making the Sun and Moon appear to stand still because in
reality it was the Earth whose rotation was temporarily halted.
Whatever the explanation, there is corroboration for the occurrence
itself from the other side of the world. In both Mesoamerica and
South America, "legends" - collective memories - have persisted of a
long night of about twenty hours during which the Sun failed to
rise. Our investigations (fully reported in
The Lost Realms)
concluded that this long night occurred in the Americas circa 1400
B.C. - the same time when the Sun did not set in Canaan for a similar
period. Since one phenomenon is the opposite of the other, the same
occurrence - whatever its cause - that made the Sun appear to stand
still in Canaan, would have made the Sun fail to rise on the
opposite side of the Earth, in the Americas.
The Mesoamerican and South American recollections thus validate the
tale of the
Day the Earth Stood Still - not the movie script, but
olden biblical tale. And with that, we need neither science fiction
nor fantasies to accept the tale of the greatest Theophany ever as
the memorable fact that it has been.
Circumcision: Sign of the Stars?
When Yahweh "cut a covenant" with Abraham, the Patriarch and all
the males in his household were required to be circumcised: "Every
male among you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin,
and it shall be a token of the covenant between Me and you. He that
is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every male
throughout your generations . . . This shall be a covenant in your
flesh, an everlasting covenant" (Genesis 17:11-14). Failure to do so
would have excluded the offender from the people of Israel.
Circumcision was thus intended to serve as a unique "sign in the
flesh" distinguishing the descendants of Abraham from their
neighbors. Some researchers believe that circumcision was practiced
among royalty in Egypt, as evidenced by an ancient illustration (see
p. 312) - though the depiction might be that of a puberty rite rather
than a religious circumcision.
With or without a precedent, what was the symbolism implied by the
requirement to Mul (translated "circumcise") the Hebrew males? No
one really knows. Unexplained, too, has been the origin of the term;
linguists seeking parallels in Akkadian or later Semitic languages
have come up empty-handed.
We suggest that the answer to the puzzle lies in Abraham’s Sumerian
origin. Searching for the meaning there, the term assumes a striking
significance, for MUL was the Sumerian term for "celestial body," a
star or a planet!
So when Yahweh instructed Abraham to Mul himself and the other
males, he may have been telling him to put the "sign of the stars"
in his flesh - an everlasting symbol of a celestial connection.
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