Baby Moses Monday: Reflections on a Commentary

there is a commentary on the torah, a midrash, which tells the story of a baby moses.

it is as follows:

“pharaoh’s daughter “loved” baby moses as if he were her own. because he was “so handsome” everyone liked to see him and could not turn away from him. pharaoh himself kissed and hugged moses, and moses would put pharaoh’s crown on his head. pharaoh’s magicians, worried about this behavior, thought moses would eventually take pharaoh’s crown, and so suggested that moses be killed. but jethro (moses’s future midianite father-in-law) argued that moses did not yet have any understanding, and so suggested a test: place a gold piece and a hot coal before moses. If he reaches for the gold, he has understanding and should be killed, but if he reaches for the coal, he has no understanding and there is no need to kill him. the gold and coal were placed in front of moses, and he started to grab for the gold. however, the angel gabriel intervened, shoved the gold to the side, and moses not only grabbed the hot coal, but then put the coal into his mouth. As a result, he became “slow of speech and slow of tongue.” bloggodah

portions of the torah do not appear to support such a story.

first, moses was perceived as being special from birth. this was noted by his mother who found him special.

second, there is the issue of whether or not moses had a born speech defect or was it something acquired. the pertinent section of the torah on this issue is moses’ confrontation with the hebrew after moses killed an oppressive task master.

“he went out on the second day, and behold, two hebrew men were quarreling, and he said to the wicked one, “why are you going to strike your friend?” and he retorted, “who made you a man, a prince, and a judge over us? do you plan to slay me as you have slain the egyptian?” moses became frightened and said, “indeed, the matter has become known!”” exodus 2:13-14.

if moses had a speech problem, wouldn’t a wicked individual had taken the moment to use it in attacking him? thus, one could argue that moses had a small speech defect. alternatively, one could argue that moses did not have a defect at that point in time.

there is another text that is of import. this one is at the time of the burning bush.

moses said to the lord, “i beseech you, o lord. i am not a man of words, neither from yesterday nor from the day before yesterday, nor from the time you have spoken to your servant, for i am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue.” moses said to the lord, “i beseech you, o lord. i am not a man of words, neither from yesterday nor from the day before yesterday, nor from the time you have spoken to your servant, for i am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue. exodus 4:10-11.

god responds, “but the lord said to him, “who gave man a mouth, or who makes [one] dumb or deaf or seeing or blind? is it not i, the lord?

in this passage, moses makes no disclosure of an accident causing his defect. god makes no reference as how to disabilities can arise from accidents. rather, the reference is to a born defect. thus, the most logical conclusion would be the speech problem was a born defect.

thus, the baby moses story has some significant holes. an alternative interpretation is that moses had a born speech defect which was compounded by his confrontation with the hebrew. thus, moses, up until his meeting with god at the time of the burning bush, lacked the voice of moral authority to direct others. it was only when he entered into partnership with god, and god gave him the voice and authority, did he gain his voice to be a leader.

in sum, reading the torah can be insightful. sometimes, there can be parts of a story that we recollect that may not actually be part of the torah’s narrative. do these commentaries augment or diminish our understanding of the torah’s message? this is something for you to consider. i offer no answer.

be well!!

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Published by biblelifestudies

I am a practicing lawyer and long term admirer of the bible

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