96:2.4 The Melchizedek teaching concerning El Elyon, the Most High, and the covenant of divine favor through faith, had been largely forgotten by the time of the Egyptian enslavement of the Semite peoples who were shortly to form the Hebrew nation. But throughout this period of captivity these Arabian nomads maintained a lingering traditional belief in Yahweh as their racial deity.
96:2.5 Yahweh was worshiped by more than one hundred separate Arabian tribes, and except for the tinge of the El Elyon concept of Melchizedek which persisted among the more educated classes of Egypt, including the mixed Hebrew and Egyptian stocks, the religion of the rank and file of the Hebrew captive slaves was a modified version of the old Yahweh ritual of magic and sacrifice.
96:3 THE MATCHLESS MOSES
96:3.1 The beginning of the evolution of the Hebraic concepts and ideals of a Supreme Creator dates from the departure of the Semites from Egypt under that great leader, teacher, and organizer, Moses. His mother was of the royal family of Egypt; his father was a Semitic liaison officer between the government and the Bedouin captives. Moses thus possessed qualities derived from superior racial sources; his ancestry was so highly blended that it is impossible to classify him in any one racial group. Had he not been of this mixed type, he would never have displayed that unusual versatility and adaptability which enabled him to manage the diversified horde which eventually became associated with those Bedouin Semites who fled from Egypt to the Arabian desert under his leadership.
96:3.2 Despite the enticements of the culture of the Nile kingdom, Moses elected to cast his lot with the people of his father. At the time this great organizer was formulating his plans for the eventual freeing of his father's people, the Bedouin captives hardly had a religion worthy of the name; they were virtually without a true concept of God and without hope in the world.
96:3.3 No leader ever undertook to reform and uplift a more forlorn, downcast, dejected, and ignorant group of human beings. But these slaves carried latent possibilities of development in their hereditary strains, and there were a sufficient number of educated leaders who had been coached by Moses in preparation for the day of revolt and the strike for liberty to constitute a corps of efficient organizers. These superior men had been employed as native overseers of their people; they had received some education because of Moses' influence with the Egyptian rulers.
96:3.4 Moses endeavored to negotiate diplomatically for the freedom of his fellow Semites. He and his brother entered into a compact with the king of Egypt whereby they were granted permission peaceably to leave the valley of the Nile for the Arabian Desert. They were to receive a modest payment of money and goods in token of their long service in Egypt. The Hebrews for their part entered into an agreement to maintain friendly relations with the Pharaohs and not to join in any alliance against Egypt. But the king later saw fit to repudiate this treaty, giving as his reason the excuse that his spies had discovered disloyalty among the Bedouin slaves. He claimed they sought freedom for the purpose of going into the desert to organize the nomads against Egypt.
96:3.5 But Moses was not discouraged; he bided his time, and in less than a year, when the Egyptian military forces were fully occupied in resisting the simultaneous onslaughts of a strong Libyan thrust from the south and a Greek naval invasion from the north, this intrepid organizer led his compatriots out of Egypt in a spectacular night flight. This dash for liberty was carefully planned and skillfully executed. And they were successful, notwithstanding that they were hotly pursued by Pharaoh and a small body of Egyptians, who all fell before the fugitives' defense, yielding much booty, all of which was augmented by the loot of the advancing host of escaping slaves as they marched on toward their ancestral desert home.
96:4 THE PROCLAMATION OF YAHWEH
96:4.1 The evolution and elevation of the Mosaic teaching has influenced almost one half of all the world, and still does even in the twentieth century. While Moses comprehended the more advanced Egyptian religious philosophy, the Bedouin slaves knew little about such teachings, but they had never entirely forgotten the god of Mount Horeb, whom their ancestors had called Yahweh.
96:4.2 Moses had heard of the teachings of Machiventa Melchizedek from both his father and his mother, their commonness of religious belief being the explanation for the unusual union between a woman of royal blood and a man from a captive race. Moses' father-in-law was a Kenite worshiper of El Elyon, but the emancipator's parents were believers in El Shaddai. Moses thus was educated an El Shaddaist; through the influence of his father-in-law he became an El Elyonist; and by the time of the Hebrew encampment about Mount Sinai after the flight from Egypt, he had formulated a new and enlarged concept of Deity (derived from all his former beliefs), which he wisely decided to proclaim to his people as an expanded concept of their olden tribal god, Yahweh.
96:4.3 Moses had endeavored to teach these Bedouins the idea of El Elyon, but before leaving Egypt, he had become convinced they would never fully comprehend this doctrine. Therefore he deliberately determined upon the compromise adoption of their tribal god of the desert as the one and only god of his followers. Moses did not specifically teach that other peoples and nations might not have other gods, but he did resolutely maintain that Yahweh was over and above all, especially to the Hebrews. But always was he plagued by the awkward predicament of trying to present his new and higher idea of Deity to these ignorant slaves under the guise of the ancient term Yahweh, which had always been symbolized by the golden calf of the Bedouin tribes.
96:4.4 The fact that Yahweh was the god of the fleeing Hebrews explains why they tarried so long before the holy mountain of Sinai, and why they there received the ten commandments which Moses promulgated in the name of Yahweh, the god of Horeb. During this lengthy sojourn before Sinai the religious ceremonials of the newly evolving Hebrew worship were further perfected.
96:4.5 It does not appear that Moses would ever have succeeded in the establishment of his somewhat advanced ceremonial worship and in keeping his followers intact for a quarter of a century had it not been for the violent eruption of Horeb during the third week of their worshipful sojourn at its base. " The mountain of Yahweh was consumed in fire, and the smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. " In view of this cataclysm it is not surprising that Moses could impress upon his brethren the teaching that their God was " mighty, terrible, a devouring fire, fearful, and all-powerful. "
96:4.6 Moses proclaimed that Yahweh was the Lord God of Israel, who had singled out the Hebrews as his chosen people; he was building a new nation, and he wisely nationalized his religious teachings, telling his followers that Yahweh was a hard taskmaster, a " jealous God. " But none the less he sought to enlarge their concept of divinity when he taught them that Yahweh was the " God of the spirits of all flesh, " and when he said, " The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. " Moses taught that Yahweh was a covenant-keeping God; that he " will not forsake you, neither destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers because the Lord loves you and will not forget the oath by which he swore to your fathers. "
96:4.7 Moses made a heroic effort to uplift Yahweh to the dignity of a supreme Deity when he presented him as the " God of truth and without iniquity, just and right in all his ways. " And yet, despite this exalted teaching, the limited understanding of his followers made it necessary to speak of God as being in man's image, as being subject to fits of anger, wrath, and severity, even that he was vengeful and easily influenced by man's conduct.
96:4.8 Under the teachings of Moses this tribal nature god, Yahweh, became the Lord God of Israel, who followed them through the wilderness and even into exile, where he presently was conceived of as the God of all peoples. The later captivity that enslaved the Jews in Babylon finally liberated the evolving concept of Yahweh to assume the monotheistic role of the God of all nations.
96:4.9 The most unique and amazing feature of the religious history of the Hebrews concerns this continuous evolution of the concept of Deity from the primitive god of Mount Horeb up through the teachings of their successive spiritual leaders to the high level of development depicted in the Deity doctrines of the Isaiahs, who proclaimed that magnificent concept of the loving and merciful Creator Father.
96:5 THE TEACHINGS OF MOSES
96:5.1 Moses was an extraordinary combination of military leader, social organizer, and religious teacher. He was the most important individual world teacher and leader between the times of Machiventa and Jesus. Moses attempted to introduce many reforms in Israel of which there is no record. In the space of one man's life he led the polyglot horde of so-called Hebrews out of slavery and uncivilized roaming while he laid the foundation for the subsequent birth of a nation and the perpetuation of a race.
96:5.2 There is so little on record of the great work of Moses because the Hebrews had no written language at the time of the exodus. The record of the times and doings of Moses was derived from the traditions extant more than one thousand years after the death of the great leader.
96:5.3 Many of the advances which Moses made over and above the religion of the Egyptians and the surrounding Levantine tribes were due to the Kenite traditions of the time of Melchizedek. Without the teaching of Machiventa to Abraham and his contemporaries, the Hebrews would have come out of Egypt in hopeless darkness. Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro, gathered up the residue of the traditions of the days of Melchizedek, and these teachings, joined to the learning of the Egyptians, guided Moses in the creation of the improved religion and ritual of the Israelites. Moses was an organizer; he selected the best in the religion and mores of Egypt and Palestine and, associating these practices with the traditions of the Melchizedek teachings, organized the Hebrew ceremonial system of worship.
96:5.4 Moses was a believer in Providence; he had become thoroughly tainted with the doctrines of Egypt concerning the supernatural control of the Nile and the other elements of nature. He had a great vision of God, but he was thoroughly sincere when he taught the Hebrews that, if they would obey God, " He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will multiply the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land—the corn, wine, oil, and your flocks. You shall be prospered above all people, and the Lord your God will take away from you all sickness and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt upon you. " He even said: " Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the power to get wealth. " " You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. You shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you. "
96:5.5 But it was truly pitiful to watch this great mind of Moses trying to adapt his sublime concept of El Elyon, the Most High, to the comprehension of the ignorant and illiterate Hebrews. To his assembled leaders he thundered, " The Lord your God is one God; there is none beside him "; while to the mixed multitude he declared, " Who is like your God among all the gods? " Moses made a brave and partly successful stand against fetishes and idolatry, declaring, " You saw no similitude on the day that your God spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire. " He also forbade the making of images of any sort.
96:5.6 Moses feared to proclaim the mercy of Yahweh, preferring to awe his people with the fear of the justice of God, saying: " The Lord your God is God of Gods, and Lord of Lords, a great God, a mighty and terrible God, who regards not man. " Again he sought to control the turbulent clans when he declared that " your God kills when you disobey him; he heals and gives life when you obey him. " But Moses taught these tribes that they would become the chosen people of God only on condition that they " kept all his commandments and obeyed all his statutes. "
96:5.7 Little of the mercy of God was taught the Hebrews during these early times. They learned of God as " the Almighty; the Lord is a man of war, God of battles, glorious in power, who dashes in pieces his enemies. " " The Lord your God walks in the midst of the camp to deliver you. " The Israelites thought of their God as one who loved them, but who also " hardened Pharaoh's heart " and " cursed their enemies. "
96:5.8 While Moses presented fleeting glimpses of a universal and beneficent Deity to the children of Israel, on the whole, their day-by-day concept of Yahweh was that of a God but little better than the tribal gods of the surrounding peoples. Their concept of God was primitive, crude, and anthropomorphic; when Moses passed on, these Bedouin tribes quickly reverted to the semibarbaric ideas of their olden gods of Horeb and the desert. The enlarged and more sublime vision of God which Moses every now and then presented to his leaders was soon lost to view, while most of the people turned to the worship of their fetish golden calves, the Palestinian herdsman's symbol of Yahweh.
96:5.9 When Moses turned over the command of the Hebrews to Joshua, he had already gathered up thousands of the collateral descendants of Abraham, Nahor, Lot, and other of the related tribes and had whipped them into a self-sustaining and partially self-regulating nation of pastoral warriors.
96:6 THE GOD CONCEPT AFTER MOSES' DEATH
96:6.1 Upon the death of Moses his lofty concept of Yahweh rapidly deteriorated. Joshua and the leaders of Israel continued to harbor the Mosaic traditions of the all-wise, beneficent, and almighty God, but the common people rapidly reverted to the older desert idea of Yahweh. And this backward drift of the concept of Deity continued increasingly under the successive rule of the various tribal sheiks, the so-called Judges.
96:6.2 The spell of the extraordinary personality of Moses had kept alive in the hearts of his followers the inspiration of an increasingly enlarged concept of God; but when they once reached the fertile lands of Palestine, they quickly evolved from nomadic herders into settled and somewhat sedate farmers. And this evolution of life practices and change of religious viewpoint demanded a more or less complete change in the character of their conception of the nature of their God, Yahweh. During the times of the beginning of the transmutation of the austere, crude, exacting, and thunderous desert god of Sinai into the later appearing concept of a God of love, justice, and mercy, the Hebrews almost lost sight of Moses' lofty teachings. They came near losing all concept of monotheism; they nearly lost their opportunity of becoming the people who would serve as a vital link in the spiritual evolution of Urantia, the group who would conserve the Melchizedek teaching of one God until the times of the incarnation of a bestowal Son of that Father of all.
96:6.3 Desperately Joshua sought to hold the concept of a supreme Yahweh in the minds of the tribesmen, causing it to be proclaimed: " As I was with Moses, so will I be with you; I will not fail you nor forsake you. " Joshua found it necessary to preach a stern gospel to his disbelieving people, people all too willing to believe their old and native religion but unwilling to go forward in the religion of faith and righteousness. The burden of Joshua's teaching became: " Yahweh is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. " The highest concept of this age pictured Yahweh as a " God of power, judgment, and justice. "
96:6.4 But even in this dark age, every now and then a solitary teacher would arise proclaiming the Mosaic concept of divinity: " You children of wickedness cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. " " Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? " " Can you by searching find out God? Can you find out the Almighty to perfection? Behold, God is great and we know him not. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out. "