Moses and Miracles by Annelise

In Exodus 4 we read that God gave Moses miracles so  that the Israelites would believe his message. The miracles of Aaron and Moses  were also proven greater than the power of the sorcerers in Egypt. We could get  the impression that if a miracle is big enough, it proves that a person’s  message is from God. According to the book of John, Jesus even said about  himself, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you  do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”

Other chapters  in the Torah show us that Moses’ powerful and meaningful miracles were limited  in their significance, according to an existing context of faith. He could not  use them to teach against the faith that Abraham passed down to his descendants,  and certain signs were not enough to sustain the largest of claims.

Some  Christians say that if we ignore or reject the stories of Jesus’ miracles, we  must also ignore or reject Moses, on the same basis. We should therefore look  more closely at the context of miracles in the Torah, so that we can compare it  with the Christian stories.

Moses knew his prophecy was coming to a  nation with prior loyalties. In Exodus 3 he imagined himself telling the  Israelites that the God of their fathers had spoken to him. They would test him,  asking what god had sent him, by what name. God answered, “Thus you shall say to  the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you…” It would have been wrong for the  Israelites to go against their loyalty to their Creator, Jacob’s God, which they  had remembered throughout their time in Egypt, no matter what miracle was  performed.

A similar concept arises later in Deuteronomy 13. One of the  examples in Torah of ways that God tests His people’s hearts is through allowing  miracles to attach to a foreign message. Someone can pass the criteria for a  prophet and even perform great signs, but if they lead people into idolatry  there should be no fear of them.

So we should look at the battle of  powers between Moses and the sorcerers not as a proof to the Israelites about  which message to believe, but as a way of hammering home a point. Especially to  Pharaoh, who had asked, ““Who is the LORD, that I should heed him and let Israel  go?” Even if they had performed miracles and Moses performed none at all, they  could not reject the faith of their fathers, which they had not needed miracles  to accept and to guard to begin with.

Another important point. The early  miracles caused the Israelites to accept Moses’ earlier message. They believed  that God had taken notice of them. After the plagues, if they ignored Moses’  instructions, their firstborn sons would not have been protected. The miracles  of splitting of the sea, defeating the Egyptians, and the presence of God’s fire  and cloud, made them put their faith in Moses even more. But still, none of  these things were enough for them to accept the Torah as God’s words for all  generations of Israelites to come. On this occasion, the Israelites needed God  to speak to them directly. He told Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense  cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you  ever after.” Through this, we understand that some claims could not be proven  well enough to God’s people simply by signs or wonders.

Now we can look  more clearly at the claims about Jesus. Christians argue that Jesus never led  people to worship false gods, and so his miracles need not be disregarded. When  faced with the objection that many themes in the Christian scriptures are not  found in the Torah or prophets, and in fact go against the plain reading of  themes in those books, Christians say that they can still be read in a way that  does not contradict. They believe that since there is no inherent contradiction,  the claims of miracles (including resurrection) are authoritative proofs of  God’s favour towards Christian interpretations. Anyone who ignored the apostles’  stories would be, in this view, as rebellious as a child of the generation who  received Torah ignoring his or her parents’ testimony.

Two very large  objections remain. To begin with, the Jews of our generation do not believe in  Torah because they have heard that Moses did miracles in front of their  ancestors. And because every new claim is made in the context of loyalty to  faith in God as the heart of the nation has known Him before, it is up to the  generation of a prophet or miracle worker to weigh everything up. We simply have  no way of checking whether the claimed prophets and miracles workers (true and  false), such as Moses and Jesus, really did miracles, including coming back from  the grave. Historically it’s possible to doubt them both. We also can’t check  whether anything in a past figure’s message, or the message of their disciples,  was against the loyal heart of the nation to her God and to accepted revelations  from Him. So the way we look at this in hindsight needs to be different from the  way people were able to decide at the time: we have different sets of  information.

In hindsight, we can see that the original Jewish followers  of Jesus did not leave a line of descendants carrying their message through  history. This contrasts with the prediction of the Torah and the prophets that  the testimony of righteous Israel must be passed down from parent to child for  every generation, even in exile, and will be preserved in the midst of a  remnant. Instead, it is rabbinic Jews who have preserved the testimonial  observances in faith and sincerity, until this day. This is really case closed,  for all we can see from where we stand.

Still, it is possible to put  ourselves into the shoes of a first century Jew to consider something that still  matters to us just as much today. There are two witnesses that we should have a  high guard up regarding whom we worship. Our souls tell us that only our Creator  deserves it. And the Torah accepted by the children of Israel tells the Jews  constantly to be careful in this matter of avoiding false worship. It mentions  nothing about how to open the door, despite that caution, to test or take  seriously a claim that a fellow human being ‘is God incarnate’. If the miracles  of liberation from slavery and the sea being opened for a nation to come through  it were not great enough for the nation’s conviction about the commandments of  God’s Torah, then even a man raised from death in front of your eyes could not  use that to compel you to include him whenever you offer what only belongs to  God. Guarding our relationship with God is our deepest human loyalty and  concern. And for those of us who never saw Jesus perform any miracle, the  caution is rightly greater.

Countless Jews have given their hearts,  souls, minds, and strength to God through loyalty to the Torah of Moses, and  have nothing to do with Jesus. They themselves stand as a sign that the Jews did  not ignore Jesus out of hardness of heart towards God. They have continued to  teach their children to hold and cherish close relationships of obedience with  Him.

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15 Responses to Moses and Miracles by Annelise

  1. paul says:

    I think the saddest position to place oneself is to be a religious athiest who worships a god that they niether know or believe in.

    Before Abraham was, I AM.

    • Jim says:

      Paul,

      Are your ugly comments really necessary? Your comment doesn’t contribute to the pursuit of truth. It isn’t an argument. It’s just a terribly ugly ad hominem. How do you feel so entitled to slander people, calling people atheists who clearly worship God and pursue knowledge of him?

      Shame on you, sir,

      Jim

    • Sharbano says:

      Who is “I AM”. I guess it must be ME.

      • Annelise says:

        What are you talking about? Do you feel like your existence is not dependent on anything?

        How about all that exists in the reality around you, which you are part of? Are you our Maker? Or are both you and I dependent on beginnings greater than ourselves?

        There was once a group of people who began to study human nature and psychology, with the desire to better understand how we can relate to God. They focused their attention on the way our souls are led by different desires and values; how various aspects of our souls and selves can surrender more deeply to God’s reality, and overcome sadness to have life with joy. Another group was watching these people with disapproval. One man said to another, “How can you spend all your time studying yourself? Be like us and spend your time studying God!”

        The other man replied to him, “I study myself because I’m already sure about God’s reality. He is the foundation; it’s my existence that is a mystery. But you are sure of your own reality, and need to spend your time learning that God is the sustainer of everything that you see.”

        So perhaps you are right in that you focus on yourself and your reality. We need some introspection to be able to get past the illusion that we are all that exists, and be able to get beyond ourselves to serve. We need to marvel at the mystery of creation, the fact that every moment we are being drawn out of non-existence. But when we do so, we will overcome the lie that we are all that was, is, and will be. The Creator comes first. He isn’t an entity inside our world, but the one on whom every sliver and every drop of finite existence rests in order to ‘be’. The eyes of all look to Him; let everything that has breath praise Him.

        • Dina says:

          I think Sharbano was joking. Were you, Sharbano? I’m pretty sure of it.

        • Sharbano says:

          Xtians use the phrase “I AM” as if it is the actual Hebrew reply. The point is; it is Impossible to say I AM in Hebrew. Where is the “am” in saying אֲנִי בְּסֵדֶר
          By translating it falsely it completely and wholeheartedly distorts the actual phrase it is taken from. What Moshe was told is much more explanatory whereas the I AM lacks the entire point of the phrase.

          • Sophie Saguy says:

            The phrase in the bible is “eh’yeh asher eh’yah” and it doesn’t translate as “I am that I am.” The term Ehyeh is a first person future tense conjugation of the verb “to be.” So Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh translated should read: “I will be what I will be” (not “I am” — present tense).

            This clearly says that G-d is as He will be. He is unchanging. He will be in the future exactly as He was to Moses. He is not a man and He will never be a man. G-d does not change — and taking the form of a man is CHANGE.

            There are statements that clearly state that G-d does not change and furthermore that nothing can be compared to Him (as in a human being).

            “I HaShem do not change.” Malachai 3:6

            Change as in being born as a helpless baby who needs to be fed with his mother’s milk, have his diapers changed, learn to speak, read, write and so forth.

            “Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me. I, even I, am HaShem, and besides Me there is no Savior.” Isaiah 43:11

            Before ME no god was formed NOR WILL THERE BE ONE AFTER ME. . .besides me there is no SAVIOR

            G-d doesn’t change. Before Him there was no god and after Him there is no god.

            Kinda leaves the idea of a man-god in the dust, doesn’t it? This is further re-enforced by:

            “I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no G-d! Isaiah.” 44:6

            The first AND the last.

            “I am HaShem, and there is no other; besides Me there is no G-d.” Isaiah 45:5

            No other god besides Him. And again this is repeated:

            “Remember the first things of old, that I am G-d and there is no other; I am G-d and there is none like Me.” Isaiah 46:9

            G-d does not change. G-d is not a man.

            He will be what He will be — now and forever. Unchanging.

            He will be in the future exactly as He was to Moses. He is not a man and He will never be a man.

            Here is statement after statement clearly saying G-d is not a man and that He is unchanging that He will be as He is as He was as He always will be.

            We have clear statements saying G-d does not change. He is what He is. He will be what He will be.

            Go back a few lines in Exodus 3. G-d says:

            Exodus 3:6. And He said, “I am the G-d of your father, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob.”

            Then we have:

            Exodus 3:15 15. And G-d said further to Moses, “So shall you say to the children of Israel, HaShem G-d of your forefathers, the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, and the G-d of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is how I should be mentioned in every generation.”

            EVERY GENERATION — not worshipped “in the name of Jesus” or as Jesus. But as the G-d of Israel.

            But perhaps the most important part comes next. G-d has just told us He is the G-d of the past the G-d of our fathers. The G-d of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. He has then told us He is the G-d of the future I will be what I will be.

            This is my name FOREVER. This is how I should be mentioned in every generation.

            His name FOREVER.

            Jesus was a god they did not know (Deuteronomy 13) a god who was a man (G-d is not a man) and a god with a different name (Jesus).

            Not Jesus. Not a man-god.

            G-d is not a man.

            G-d is unchanging.

            Deuteronomy 32:39, See now that I myself am He! There is no god except Me .

            This is His name forever.

            This shows clearly that G-d will NEVER be a man.

          • Sharbano says:

            Indeed! Sophie,

            I would also say that when Moshe asked G-d His “Name” he was asking by “which” Name He would come. Would it be Elokim or one with mercy, Hashem.
            There’s not enough time today to go into it but I had thoughts on Rambam’s idea that Xtian’s relationship to Yeshu is not necessarily idolatry. This has always confounded me but I have developed an idea on this. I may try Sunday to expound.
            Shabbat Shalom

  2. Jim says:

    Annelise,

    Well said. Well said, indeed.

    Jim

  3. Sophie Saguy says:

    HilkhotYesodei Hatorah, 8,1-2 (the Rambam): “The Jewish people did not believe in Moses our teacher because of the miracles he performed. If one believes in something because of miracles, he may suspect that they were performed through sleight of hand or sorcery…We believe in Moses because of what happened at Mount Sinai. Our own eyes saw, not a stranger’s, our own ears heard, and not another’s…The revelation at Sinai is the only real proof that Moses’ prophecy was true and above suspicion.

    What is our source of belief in Him?

    The revelation at Mount Sinai. Our own eyes, not some stranger’s, saw; our own ears and not another’s heard … the voice spoke to him and we heard, “Moshe, Moshe, go tell them the following….

    How is it known that Mount Sinai alone is proof of the truth of Moses’ prophecy that leaves no apprehension? (Sh’mot / Exodus 19:9):

    Behold! I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people will hear Me speaking to you, so that they will believe in you forever. It appears that before this happened, they did not believe in him with a faith that would last forever, but rather with a faith that allowed for suspicions and doubts….

    Moshe our teacher knew that one who believes in a person because of miracles has apprehensions in his heart, and that he has doubts and suspicions. Therefore he sought to be released from the mission saying,

    “They will not believe in me”

    until the Holy One Blessed be He informed him that these wonders were only intended as a temporary measure until they left Egypt. After they left, they would stand on this mountain [Sinai] and all the doubts which they had about him would be removed….This is what is meant by (Exodus 3:12):

    This will be your sign that I sent you: when you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve G-d on this mountain.

    Thus we do not believe in any prophet who arises after Moshe because of the miracles that he performs alone, as if to say: If he performs a miracle we will listen to everything he has to say. Rather, [we listen to him] because it is a Mitzvah which we were commanded by Moshe who said: if he performs a miracle listen to him.”

    According to 2 “gospels” Jesus saw the holy spirit descend (no one else). Another “gospel” says it was John. Who was it? Are we to believe what ONE person tells us as “truth”? Then why not believe Joseph Smith of the Mormons or Mohammad — or any other person who says they are a god? Christians don’t believe miracles — they believe some anonymous author who tells them there was a miracle — even though there are no historical records of it (the Romans!). In Judaism 3 million of our own ancestors hear G-d Himself speak. They didn’t rely on some third party anonymous source. . . And then they lived for 40 years in the desert with G-d Himself guiding them to Eretz Yisrael!

    D’varim 4 and D’varim 13 (Deuteronomy) make it clear that Judaism is a religion based not on “blind faith” but on fact — an actual experience of listening to G-d and following His directions. D’varim 4 and D’varim 13 (Deuteronomy). We do not “believe” because someone told us to, or even because of “miracles” or “supernatural / spiritual” experiences — but because we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears — and then taught it l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation).

    We don’t need to “prove” this to anyone. Judaism is not a proselytizing religion and it does not matter if others believe it or not. Yet two major religions, Islam and Christianity, claim to believe in the Jewish G-d and the Jewish bible (although many Muslims think Jews corrupted the bible, the Koran says this is untrue). . .

    Aside from the Kuzari Principle which presents good arguments on how impossible it would be to fake Judaism’s National Revelation we also have many ancient artifacts dating back 3000 years and DNA showing that the Jewish priestly class was founded by a common male ancestor at exactly the time Sinai / the Exodus occurred.

    You wouldn’t believe someone who wants to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge — why do you believe the anonymous writings of some Roman (most probably) — particularly when it contradicts the eternal words in the Torah?

  4. Dina says:

    The correct translation is, I believe, “I Shall Be has sent me etc.” and not “I Am has sent me.”

    Thanks,
    Dina

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