Monday, July 05, 2004

Exodus 2

In this we learn that Moses is the son of a Levite. In Genesis 49, we learn that Levi was a violent man and that his descendants would receive no land in Canaan. Instead, the Levites would become priests. This foreshadows Moses' life, in which he kills an Egyptian and later is allowed only to glimpse the Promised Land.

Moses flees to Midian, where he marries Reuel's (Jethro's) daughter Zipporah, who bears him a son, Gershom. Midian is a name rich in contextual meaning. The Bible Encyclopedia says that the word means "strife." It is also the name of one of Abraham's sons through Keturah, the kingdom that summoned Balaam to work magic against Moses and his diaspora and in Numbers 25 a deadly enemy of that band. After being defeated, Midian makes a comeback in Judges, then is destroyed by Gideon. The name "Midian" therefore carries undertones of magic, conflict, and otherness.

A great deal of debate occurs around the question of whether Zipporah was black. Moses is said later to have taken a Cushite wife. He could have had two wives and there's probably no absolute requirement that a Cushite be black. However, if Zipporah were black, it would be in a long biblical tradition of "the other" being included into the people of God. In any event, it's interesting to see what sorts of passions and strife that this early case of possible miscegenation evokes.


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