Home » Columns » Moses Divorces Miriam

Moses Divorces Miriam

Publishing Date : 07 May, 2019

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER



He and his god Jehovah-Adad gang up against his popular half-sister wife

Exactly 2 years, 2 months, and 20 days since the Nation of Israel’s departure from Egypt,  the sentient cloud that hovered over the Tabernacle lifted. It was  a signal for the nation to break camp at Mount Sinai and commence the onward march to the Promised Land. The commencement of the march was indicated by the blast of a trumpet by  Aaron as per the enshrined protocol.  


The movement was not haphazard: it was orderly. The nation was divided into four groups of three tribes each. Group 1, also known as the Eastern Group (because its camp was located east of the Tabernacle),  comprised of the tribes of Judah; Issachar; and Zebulun. It was led by the tribe of Judah.  Group 2, also known as the Southern Group, consisted of the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. It was led by the tribe of Reuben. Group 3, also known as the Western Group, was made up of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.


It was led by the tribe of Ephraim. And  Group 4, also known as the Northern Group,  constituted the tribes of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali. It was led by the tribe of Dan. However, when the nation was on the move, the Levites marched right behind the tribe of Zebulun and in front of the tribe of Reuben. Marching at the head of each tribe was the tribal leader, who bore the tribal banner.


Whilst the nation was on the march, the tribe charged with responsibility for handling components of the dismantled Tabernacle, also known as the Tent of Meeting, was the Levites. The Levites were divided into three groups, each descended from one of Levi’s three sons, namely Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.


The Kohathites took care of what was described as “the most holy things”. Puzzlingly, the Kohathites were not allowed to directly touch these things or even glimpse them. They carried them once the priests had wrapped them up. The items were borne on their shoulders. The Kohathites were supervised by Eleazer, Aaron’s oldest surviving son. The Gershonites carried the Tent itself, the curtains that screened off various areas, and the ropes that supported the curtains. The Merarites carried the wooden structure on which the cloth curtains would be hung once the Tent was erected.


Both the Gershonites and Merarites were supervised by  Ithamar, Eleazer’s younger brother.  Whereas the Kohathites carried their burdens on their own shoulders, the Gershonites and Merarites were provided with two wagons  and four oxen and four wagons and eight oxen respectively. The Levites were eligible to do Tabernacle-related duties between ages 25 and 50.

ISRAELITES SET UP CAMP AT KADESH

When the Israelites set out from Mt Sinai, their guide was neither Moses nor Aaron. It was Hobab, a brother-in-law of Moses by his Midianite wife Zipporah. Moses had prevailed upon Hobab to head the procession because of his thorough logistical knowledge of the Arabian region. Throughout the entire journey, Moses kept communicating with Adad using the Ark of the Covenant as well as invoking his name both for protection and overall guardianship.


The caravan marched 11 days before they set up camp at an oasis called Kibbroth-Hataavah in the greater  Kadesh Barnea region just on the border with Edom, today’s Jordan. At the time, Edom was controlled by the Amorites,  a nation of rather tall people who were descended from  Canaan, Ham’s fourth-born son.


Having set up camp and erected the Tabernacle, the Israelites camped according to a predetermined arrangement.  Immediately surrounding the Tabernacle were the Levites, with the Merarites to the north; the Kohathites to the south; and the Gershonites to the west. The eastern flank of the Tabernacle was reserved for Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons.


The outer boundaries were occupied by the 12 tribes. They were Asher, Dan, and Naphtali to the north; Gad, Reuben, and Simeon to the south; Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh to the west; and Issachar, Judah, and Zebulun to the east. It is not stated where the Egyptians who had come along in the exodus were camped. Most likely they affiliated themselves to an adopted tribe.

MOSES ACCUSES ADAD OF CAUSING  EVIL

Meanwhile, the Israelite multitude had been pestering Ishkur-Adad, the Anunnaki Jehovah of the exodus, through Moses as early as the third day of their journey. They kept complaining about the gravity of the hardships they were facing. If there was one thing Adad hated, it was whining. Adad abhorred whingers, especially in light of what transpired in relation to the case of the Golden Calf. He thought such people were rabble rousers who could instigate the entire nation to rise up against him.


So this time around, Adad didn’t even talk. He acted there and then, without warning, as captured in NUMBERS 11:1-3 thus: “Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.  When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down.   So that place was called Taberah, because fire from the LORD had burned among them.”     


Of course the fire did not simply strike from the void of space: it was unleashed from Adad’s flying saucer, referred to as “the Glory of God” in the Bible. But the Israelites simply did not learn lessons, for this was not the last time they would ever step on Adad’s toes. For not very long after, Moses again was approached by a deputation of the nation led by what the Pentateuch authors call “the rabble”, their characterisation of the non-Israelite component of the exodus. 


These ring leaders made it clear to Moses that they were fed up of living on manna (not Ormus but Tamarisk manna, the flat cakes made from sweet, coriander-like seeds that were their main source of livelihood) and that they wanted proteinaceous food in the form of meat, failure to which they would hasten off and a beat a path back to Egypt, where they enjoyed “fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, and garlic”.


Now, in hankering after meat, the people were not demanding the impossible: there was a precedent. Adad had supplied them with quail meat – not miraculously but naturally – whilst  they were camped at the Wilderness of Sin. So what they were basically asking for was a repeat of the same treat.  In fact, Moses sympathised with them because when he approached Adad over the matter, he put it to him that he wasn’t doing enough to cater to the needs of his chosen people and if things continued as they were, he (Moses) would rather Adad killed him and thus spare him the agony of seeing his people in perpetual misery.


These were Moses’ exact words as per NUMBERS 11:11-15:  “Why have You dealt evil to Your servant? And why have I not found grace in Your eyes  that You placed the load of all this people on me? Was I myself pregnant with all this people, or did I generate it, that You should say to me: Carry it in your bosom just as a foster father carries a suckling child, to the ground about which You had sworn to their fathers? From where would  I find flesh to give to all this people? For they are lamenting to me,  saying: Do give  us flesh, and let us eat.  I am not able, by myself alone, to bear all this people, for it is too heavy for me. So if  thus You are doing to me, kill me, I pray, yea kill me. If I have found grace in Your eyes then do not let me see  Your evil.”
    
ADAD SMITES “GLUTTONIES”

In the Bible, the repercussions of this statement have been downplayed, but it was a rather rash and reckless outburst. In point of fact, it was this outrage at Adad THAT FORFEITED MOSES THE OPPORTUNITY TO SET FOOT IN THE PROMISED LAND. First, Moses accused Adad of sabotaging him, of virtually leaving him to his own devices. He thought Adad was evil and inconsiderate as he had saddled him with a responsibility he could not bear.


He contended that he had been given a role Adad well knew was certain to fail – call it a booby-trap. You could not level such an accusation against the hot-tempered Adad and get away with it. Second, Moses basically threw in the towel. He made it clear that he simply did not have what it took to lead the nation of Israel. That was outright surrender folks. For put differently, Moses was pleading with Adad to replace him, short of killing him,  with somebody else.


The Pentateuch writers make rather light of Adad’s response when in truth Adad snorted with rage and told Moses point blank that his role as leader of the Nation of Israel would be restricted to the wilderness only: when Canaan was won, Moses would have no part to play in its affairs whatsoever.  Thanks to his foolishly indiscrete remarks to his own god, Moses had wrecked his chances of leading his people into the Promised Land.


In order to demonstrate to Moses that he actually was not indispensable, Adad ordered him to appoint 72 people who were to be groomed as prophets. The Pentateuch writers obviously over-dramatise the event  when in reality it was not as theatrical as they put it. The 72 were subjected to the full spectrum of training prophecy entailed, which must have taken weeks or months:  we know, from Sumerian records, that one did not simply become a prophet overnight. It was a skill that had to be honed because it also involved knowledge of astronomy and astrology.  The 72 later began to prophesy though the exact nature of their prophecy is not specified.


The quails, the birds that seasonally flew in the direction of the Arabian Peninsula from the Mediterranean region, soon began to flood in. It was either it was the season they did so or Adad used his “magic” to set them on the inland journey. Remember, the Anunnaki had technology that interfered with nature and so it was easy for Adad to so tamper with the weather and have the quails set course for Arabia.


The result was such a haul of quails there was enough meat to sustain the Israelites for a full month. That was the brighter side of the coin. On the flipside, Adad still nursed a grudge against his chosen people for their incessant grumblings and naggings about his capacity to provide for them. Even as the people were gorging their mouths full with quail meat, Adad struck: he unleashed a plague that claimed a unspecified number of scalps. The body count must have been in the thousands as the plague is described as “severe” as Kibroth Hattaavah (NUMBERS 11:34), the name the camp site was given, meant graves of lust”. Apparently, Adad equated his people’s yearning for fleshy food to sheer greed.

MOSES TERMINATES MARRIAGE WITH SISTER-WIFE MIRIAM

From Kibroth, the Israelites moved to Hazeroth. There, Moses had a dream on the basis of which he prophesied.  Summoning Aaron and Miriam over, he told them that Adad, had spoken to him in a dream and exhorted him to divorce Miriam, his half-sister wife,  and take a new wife,  a Cushite. (Of course NUMBERS 12, in which the story is related, does not put it as blunt as the Pentateuch writers didn’t want the readers to get to know that Moses and Miriam were husband and wife, just as they didn’t want to  disclose the fact that Moses was once pharaoh of Egypt.)


Both Miriam and Aaron, who had a very high regard for Miriam, were  outraged. What  had Miriam done? And if it was indeed Adad who spoke to Moses by way of a prophecy dream, why didn’t he also talk  to Aaron and Miriam using the same medium? Was Moses the only prophet amid the Israelites? Hadn’t Adad ordained 72 prophets? Weren’t Aaron and Miriam part and parcel of the trinity of the Israelite leadership (as MICAH 6:4 lays bare)?


Of course Miriam had not done anything amiss that warranted her being given the boot by her husband. Her only sin was that she did not shrink from challenging him and she was more popular to the Nation of Israel than he was.  As such, Moses looked askance at her and suspected that she harboured designs to topple him.


Who was the Cushite woman Moses had decided or had been ordered to hitch by Adad? Kush was the Hebrew name for ancient Ethiopia, which included modern-day Sudan.   The Cushites were the  descendents of  Kush, the eldest son of Ham, one of Noah’s three children. Cushites, however,  not only were found in Ethiopia: there were Cushites in the land of Midian, which the Israelites had departed, as well as in Canaan. HABAKKUK 3:7 identifies a place called Cushan with  Midian.


In 2 CHRONICLES 14:11, Asa, King of Judah, defeated the Cushites of a place called Gerar and Gerar was not in Ethiopia but  Canaan. 2 CHRONICLES 21:16 mentions that the Arabs (of Arabia) were neighbours of the Cushites. Clearly, the Cushite woman Moses married was a Canaanite. He did so for strategic purposes in that the Israelites now were poised to invade Canaan  and the unnamed Cushite woman was valuable for intelligence purposes.

ADAD AFFIRMS MOSES’DECISION, PUNISHES MIRIAM

Whatever the case, Miriam, emboldened by the knowledge that Moses had of late not been in Adad’s very good graces, was adamant that she was not going to consent to the divorce, whereupon Moses brought the matter before Adad. Using his alter ego, the mysterious, sentient Pillar of Cloud, Adad summoned the three to the Tent of Meeting. There, he angrily   lashed out at Aaron and Miriam as captured in NUMBERS 12:6-9. Adad stressed to the duo that he did talk to Moses in dreams and visions as he was his leading  prophet and that they were wrong in attempting to pick up a quarrel with him for whatever Moses told them had his blessings.


But of the two, it  was Miriam who was punished, which suggests she was the real thorn in the side of Moses and Aaron was no more than a morale-boosting ally. The Pentateuch says Adad struck Miriam with leprosy for her intransigence, after which she was kept in quarantine for seven days. However, the more reliable apocryphal BOOK OF JASHER documents that  Moses had Miriam imprisoned indefinitely, releasing her seven days later after the Israelites almost  rose up in arms to have her freed.


“The voice of the tribes of the congregation were on the side of Miriam,” the BOOK OF JASHER says. “They gathered themselves unto Moses and said, ‘bring forth into us Miriam our counsellor’”. Both accounts, however, are in one accord about one thing – that the Israelites only set off from Hazeroth once Miriam was freed, evidence of here rock-star popularity. The Nation of Israel not only had sympathy for her in respect of her being dumped by Moses: they identified with her.  


The differing accounts further exposes the Pentateuch writers’ penchant for  undermining Miriam at every opportunity and their predilection to sullying her standing consistent with their misogynistic undertones. It is also probable that the story was not remotely close to the way it is related in Numbers. The Pentateuch writers most likely invented it simply  to justify Moses’ divorce of Miriam.


NEXT WEEK: ADAD’S ORGY OF KILLINGS

Cartoon

Polls

Do you think the courts will help put the UDC, BMD impasse within reasonable time ahead of the 2019 General Election?

banner_14.jpg
banner_12.jpg

POPULER BRANDS