Moses and the Midianites

Did Moses Exist?Tradition holds that the Pentateuch, composed of the first five books of the Bible, also called the Torah, was written by the Israelite lawgiver Moses, who is held up therein as the major prophet of the Lord of the universe. The claim that Moses wrote the Pentateuch is not sustainable scientifically; nor are the notions that Moses is either a “godly prophet” or a historical figure in the first place.

Much of the Pentateuch concerns mind-numbing and absurd commandments, ordinances and instructions on how to behave and prepare the tabernacle and other priestly accoutrements and rituals, including page after page regarding bloody sacrifices of various animals. The absurdity of the God of the cosmos being obsessed with animal sacrifice is evident enough, but a significant part of the rest of the tale is likewise repugnant. For example, the founding of Israel as the “Promised Land” is rife with bloodshed and slaughter, as the Lord – speaking quite personally with Moses, his brother Aaron and others for months or years on end – commands his “chosen people” to massacre one people after another, such as the Amalekites, Canaanites and Moabites.

Amid all this wanton bloodshed and genocide, one such sanguine episode stands out for its gruesome detail and matter-of-fact recounting: The massacre of the Midianites in the biblical book and chapter Numbers 31. Reading such a grotesque account leaves one to question how such an individual, group and book could possibly be considered “great” and “godly,” something to brag about for thousands of years.

The LORD said to Moses, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Mid’ianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”

And Moses said to the people, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Mid’ian, to execute the LORD’s vengeance on Mid’ian. You shall send a thousand from each of the tribes of Israel to the war.”

So there were provided, out of the thousands of Israel, a thousand from each tribe, twelve thousand armed for war. …

They warred against Mid’ian, as the LORD commanded Moses, and slew every male. They slew the kings of Mid’ian with the rest of their slain…

And the people of Israel took captive the women of Mid’ian and their little ones; and they took as booty all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods.

All their cities in the places where they dwelt, and all their encampments, they burned with fire, and took all the spoil and all the booty, both of man and of beast.

Then they brought the captives and the booty and the spoil to Moses, and to Elea’zar the priest, and to the congregation of the people of Israel, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho. Moses, and Elea’zar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation, went forth to meet them outside the camp.

And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? Behold, these caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against the LORD in the matter of Pe’or, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD.

Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves….

And Elea’zar the priest said to the men of war who had gone to battle: “This is the statute of the law which the LORD has commanded Moses: only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, everything that can stand the fire, you shall pass through the fire, and it shall be clean….

The LORD said to Moses, “Take the count of the booty that was taken, both of man and of beast…”

And Moses and Elea’zar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses. Now the booty remaining of the spoil that the men of war took was: six hundred and seventy-five thousand sheep, seventy-two thousand cattle, sixty-one thousand asses, and thirty-two thousand persons in all, women who had not known man by lying with him….

Here we see that the God of the universe orders Moses to slaughter men, women and children, after which the Hebrew leader is angry because his men have left the women alive. The excuse here is that the women – all of them, apparently – have been acting against Israel, which is punishable by death. Apparently, the omnipotent Lord just cannot find another solution but to slaughter every last one of them. Naturally, Moses and his men get to keep all the virgin girls as sex slaves, to be counted among the booty, upon which there is great focus.

This revolting account is, again, simply one of the most outrageous of many in the Old Testament, in which the chosen people are depicted repeatedly as slaughtering and pillaging their way around the region for decades to centuries. We of conscience cannot honestly consider such a book to be “God’s Word”; nor should these murderous accounts be held up proudly by anyone. It would be best to call the Pentateuch/Torah a book of fabulous fairytales and leave it at that, rather than insisting that such a despicable story represents “history,” for which there is no collaborating evidence, no archaeological remains, no other literary account confirming this brutal conquest of the Promised Land. The book does demonstrate an increasingly paranoid group of megalomaniacs who believe that the God of the universe favors them and only them, above all others.

In reality, the Bible constitutes a cultural artifact containing large swathes of mythology and some history that should be viewed on the same level as the mythological and historical accounts of other cultures, not a sacrosanct subject to be raised up above all others.

Further Reading

Did Moses Exist?

16 Comments

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  1. Thanks. I actually wrote the religion part in PJ’s Companion Guide or, as I called my version, the “Zeitgeist Sourcebook ([url]http://freethoughtnation.com/contributing-writers/63-acharya-s/376-zeitgeist-sourcebook-part-1-the-greatest-story-ever-told.html[/url]).”

  2. Zeitgeist
    I suddenly remembered what Peter Joseph had said in the 2007 viral internet film Zeitgeist:

    [i]“And then there is the plagiarized story of Moses. Upon Moses’s birth, it is said that he was placed in a reed basket and set adrift in a river in order to avoid infanticide. He was later rescued by a daughter of royalty and raised by her as a Prince. This baby in a basket story was lifted directly from the myth of Sargon of Akkad of around 2250 B.C. Sargon was born, placed in a reed basket in order to avoid infanticide, and set adrift in a river. He was in turn rescued and raised by Akki, a royal mid wife.”[/i]

    [i]“Furthermore, Moses is known as the Law Giver, the giver of the Ten Commandments, the Mosaic Law. However, the idea of a Law being passed from God to a prophet up on a mountain is also a very old motif. Moses is just another lawgiver in a long line of lawgivers in mythological history. In India, Manou was the great lawgiver. In Crete, Minos ascended Mount Dicta, where Zeus gave him the sacred laws. While in Egypt there was Mises, who carried stone tablets and upon them the laws of god were written. Manou-Minos-Mises-Moses.”[/i]

    http://zeitgeistmovie.com/Zeitgeist,%20The%20Movie-%20Companion%20Guide%20PDF.pdf

    and of course 10 commandments are taken from spell 125 of the Egyptian Ancient Book of the Dead.

  3. Research,,,
    Is fun! And informative. Old testament , still one of the oldest unchanged stories written by anonymous sources about another story their granddaddy told them about spirituality and god, a true story somewhere lies within…more research.- peace

    1. “a true story somewhere lies within” and …
      “unchanged stories”

      Seriously? Not necessarily.

      Even if it was “unchanged”, it would still be mean nothing, still be of no import. The more outrageous the meme, the more it seems to stick to the human mind. I think you might be missing the point of this article.

      Moses wasn’t a prophet because there is no such thing as prophets. I’m sure there have been, are and will be very intelligent, astute individuals who can look at a situation and predict the outcome of the trend, but “prophet”, not. :Pinch:

      1. [quote]Moses wasn’t a prophet because there is no such thing as prophets. I’m sure there have been, are and will be very intelligent, astute individuals who can look at a situation and predict the outcome of the trend, but “prophet”, not. [/quote]

        Robert M. Price’s podcast “The Human Bible” has a segment called Prophetic Scorecard, which should probably be called Pathetic Scorecard because the prophets so often get it wrong. Seriously, these guys are worse than economists when it comes to predicting things.

  4. Pathological memes and chattel …
    Are like Super Glue. Love how the virgins are just thrown in with the cattle. Maybe these stories were nothing more than the comic books of the day.

  5. Astrotheology
    After stripping the meaning from the many man-god savior myths from earlier scriptures, Rome’s attempts to ‘historicalise’ (hysteria) allegorical writings have been mostly successful, making me embarrassed to be a part of the human race. Never has so much willful stupidity existed on earth and grown into such a mass delusion/psychosis as it has today. This is not how the myths were originally understood, yet EVERYWHERE I look, from news to google, the historical jesus is presented as factual and the truth “refuted” by Xtians. How can one refute the truth? Delusional. Thanks for this website.

  6. Pray hard You clearly,
    Do not have a grasp on my sarcasm, nor are you equipped to continually b-rate my comments. On another post you tried to correct my use of the word “sacred” . You go get dictionary!And watch some Monty python or something and learn what paradoxal comedy is. Besides the material is understood to be important and research not random supposition is needed. Therefore your comment is of no imort, the more outrageous the stupidity and closed mindedness the more it sticks to humanity, I think you didn’t grasp the material of my comment. Perhaps I lie, perhaps I lie down. What a person decides to believe lies in the truth or the lies. Jeesh! I prophecize that I’ll still be me by the time this comment is posted- peace

  7. That’s cool …
    Shane, apologies if I’ve misunderstood you. Sarcasm and irony isn’t always obvious to a reader even if it is to the writer. I’ll read your posts more carefully henceforth. It’s always possible that you don’t fully understand what I’m trying to convey either. Peace, also.

  8. Its all good,
    You are obviously a passionate person, as am I . My apologies if I offend at times in my comments. I am human . And humans make mistakes as well as advances. Let’s advance free thinking . Keepin it bout peaceful parlay about serious matters and stuff . Lol . Although I don’t mind bein put in my place too,, when I deserve it. – peace

  9. FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF ANY RELIGION
    Heaven is for us,
    Hell is for other people

    If we defend and glorify our good , by any means(torture, salvery, killing) we go to heaven.

    If they attack us they go to hell

    THIS CONSTANT IS TO BE USED IN ANY RELIGION

  10. Allegory
    Acharya S,

    What is your take on these OT stories? I say they are ALL allegorical mystic teaching. Randolph Stone had a great book on it, now out of print, unfortunately: http://www.RSSB.org My own:
    http://www.amazon.com/Saviors-Beyond-Qumran-Hammadi-Testament/dp/1441545689/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1329602738&sr=1-1

    1. I can’t believe it’s all mystical allegory. Some of it maybe, especially Genesis and so on, but this particular account sounds like historical bragging about how awesome their God is. Goes a long way to explain why their own neighbours hated the Jews so much.

  11. James Holmes and the Midianites.
    It sounds like God’s Chosen people of Israel, along with God himself, broke almost every commandment of the Ten Commandments when they killed the Midianites.

    It sounds to me like God made his Ten Commandments for everyone (but) his Chosen People to obey.

    It sounds like God also exempted himself from his own Ten Commandments.

    I think James Holmes, the Colorado mass murderer, would have fit in well with God’s Chosen People when they were killing the Midianites.

    It amazes me that congregations sit passively in guilt in their pews while Catholic and Protestant preachers hold the fictitious Bible in their hands and spew its corny and sadistic contents at them.

  12. maxwell
    😮 Jordan..i watched your origins of religion on vatican exposed and thanks for your knowledge . beats me how you are still hooked on the bible and using it for a reference . you admited it was a pack of stories ! i should have thought you would see there cannot be a moral overlord ! that the whole idea of religions is to produce a bastardised underclass who cannot see evil . hence the only good in ANY ANIMAL is their sexual nature which the church potrays as evil..exactly the opposite to the REAL TRUTH . are you for real ?

  13. Those passages from Numbers 31 are quite similar to the passages in Genesis 34:25-30 where Jacob, aka Israel, and his gang slaughtered and looted the people of Shechem and then ran away to Bethel.

    The actions are similar to those described for the desert bandits known as the Habiru by the Egyptians. Some of the Habiru bandits settled in the area of Judea and became known as the Hebrews.

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