Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
For 40 days and nights Moses rewrites the Ten Commandments. 40 days! It was ten freaking commandments. What the hell was he doing? Inventing the script? Hasn’t he already done this once before? And of course, to add to the myth he did it all without eating or drinking. The chapter says nothing about pissing, or jacking off but I’ll just assume he also felt little need for these mere human requirements. Myself… I would last more than a few days in any of these categories without a help of a deep coma, but then again I’ll never be the legend our friend Moses is.
It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.
Um… yeah. Moses of the shiny face. That’s… cool. I guess.
I could go into the whole shiny face phenomena speaking endlessly (You know me) on the absurdities of that particular manifestation of God, but… no. There is something else that has been pecking at the back of my skull for months now. The shiny face is just a symptom of the underlying problem. You see I’ve become fascinated with how Moses continually has to portray himself as the biggest badass on the planet. The wonders he relates are seldom the miracles of God alone, but rather they are always presented as God’s power shining through Moses making it implicit that Moses is a necessary part of this formula. He is constantly finding it necessary to claim he is more important than anyone at anytime. I know this is hard to understand but in these times, when he’s never satisfied, when he’s constantly looking inflate his own image, is when he seems the most real, the most human. Not that I believe a thing written about his deeds. No. No. Decidedly, no. He remains as full of shit as always, but rather his expression of humanity lay in his need to write such tripe, the need to be superior, the absolute need to somehow matter.
I am not unfamiliar with this idea. Through high school I had a friend who was what I can only classify as a pathological liar. I’ll call him Mike. Any story I heard someone tell in his presence, no matter how embellished, was always topped by one even more outlandish. Nothing was too much for credulity. He told every lie like it happened to him yesterday, every story like his life depended on it. Forced by previous lies and a need to top them, the stories became more and more absurd until nothing of what he said could be believed. There was simply no end. Stories of beating up would be muggers in the neighboring town would be followed up with one of him jumping off the back of a snowmobile and killing a coyote with his bare hands. These are actual examples, but there are hundreds of others equally ridiculous. The odd thing was that no matter how tall the tale, Mike always seemed to believe his own lies. Toward the end of our friendship he was the only one who did. Most friends fell away tired of the lies. My own feelings for him ranged from genuine affection to a churning contempt, but all of mixed with pity. Pity for he felt compelled to present himself as better than everyone at everything. The feelings of inferiority that must lie at the root of such a terrible need must be immense.
All through Exodus, Moses has reminded me strongly of Mike. The difference being one of success. Mike faded as he grew older. Never able to stop lying, the best he could manage was an improved ability to hide it from those he’d just met… For a while, at least. Fired from several jobs, divorced from more than one wife, he has, sadly, dropped off my radar completely. I do not know what he is doing now, but I still feel a great deal of empathy for his plight.
Moses, on the other hand, seems to have done quite well for himself. In a more credulous age with a better ability to lie, he succeeded where Mike failed. He crawled to the top of his people and somehow, through a vast series of improbable historical accidents, managed to survive history’s rampant amnesia.
He’s a bastard. No argument. He’s a liar, conniver and murderer beyond a doubt. He has done terrible things to maintain his eminent position and my feelings toward him range widely throughout the disgust, contempt and hatred category.
But through it all, from time to time, I catch just a glimpse of Mike in Moses, a being wracked by such feelings of inferiority that he’s felt compelled to make up a countering mythology, a legend where he’s God’s right hand man. Feeling worthless in his own eyes, he’s compensated by making himself a virtual god in other’s.
And then I feel pity, a terrible empathy for someone who can never be what he has convinced everyone else he is.