By: Ranilo Abando (Manila, November 8, 2020) ***
In an article written on March 26, 2012, entitled “Were Jews ever really Slaves in Egypt, or is Passover a Myth?” author Josh Mintz decried the common negative Jewish depiction of their neighboring Egyptians as their former cruel slave-masters. The following is an extract from that article:
Here’s a question for you: what do actor Charlton Heston, DreamWorks animation studios and Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin all have in common? Well, they’ve all, at one time or another, perpetuated the myth that the Jews built the pyramids. And it is a myth, make no mistake. Even if we take the earliest possible date for Jewish slavery that the Bible suggests, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt a good three hundred years after the 1750 B.C. completion date of the pyramids. That is, of course, if they were ever slaves in Egypt at all.
The reality is that there is no evidence whatsoever that the Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt. Yes, there’s the story contained within the bible itself, but that’s not a remotely historically admissible source. I’m talking about real proof; archeological evidence, state records and primary sources. Of these, nothing exists.
It is hard to believe that 600,000 families (which would mean about two million people) crossed the entire Sinai without leaving one shard of pottery (the archeologist’s best friend) with Hebrew writing on it. It is remarkable that Egyptian records make no mention of the sudden migration of what would have been nearly a quarter of their population, nor has any evidence been found for any of the expected effects of such an exodus; such as economic downturn or labor shortages. Furthermore, there is no evidence in Israel that shows a sudden influx of people from another culture at that time. No rapid departure from traditional pottery has been seen, no record or story of a surge in population.
So, as we come to Passover 2012 when, thanks to the “Arab Spring,” our relations with Egypt are at a nearly 40 year low, let us enjoy our Seder and read the story by all means, but also remind those at the table who may forget that it is just a metaphor, and that there is no ancient animosity between Israelites and Egyptians. Because, if we want to re-establish that elusive peace with Egypt that so many worked so hard to build, we’re all going to have to let go of our prejudices.
Aside from articles such as the one above, Israeli and Egyptian archaeologists generally agree about the lack of records or evidence to back up a historical Exodus. Egyptian archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass, former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs of Egypt, expressed this consensus view when he stated the following regarding the biblical account of the Exodus story detailing the flight of Israelites from bondage and slavery in Egypt and the subsequent 40 years of travelling in the desert in search of the Promised Land: “Really, it’s a myth… Sometimes as archaeologists we have to say, that never happened because there is no historical evidence.”
Photo by Valensia Sumardi on unsplash.com
The Book of Exodus was obviously not written as a historical account. No, the authors of the book had a much more magnificent purpose than that. Using metaphors, they had meticulously woven the story of Exodus in order to relay to humanity a very important knowledge — the story of the long and difficult journey of the human spirit from bondage in the virtual physical world to spiritual liberation in progressively better worlds high up the mind column.
1. Bondage of the Israelites as slaves in Egypt. — This is a metaphor for the bondage and suffering of the human spirit in the worlds built by the lower mind, especially this virtual physical world.
2. The baby Moses was sent by his true mother down the river water in a basket and then found and adopted by the daughter of the Pharaoh. — This is a common metaphor of the human spirit being sent down the “chaos waters” of the lower mind and then “adopted” by this virtual physical world which is not his true home. This metaphor was also used in the Greek story of Perseus.
3. The Ten Plagues of Egypt. — These are metaphors for the tribulations or sources of suffering that a human spirit has to endure in this physical world before its liberation. For example: the plague of water being turned into blood represents fear, the plague of frogs represents the pain of childbirth (in Egypt, the frog-headed Heket is the goddess of childbirth), the plague of lice represents parasites and irritants that bug human existence, the plague of wild animals or flies represents pain and injuries that we suffer, the plague of diseased livestock represents poverty and feeling of helplessness, the plague of boils represents diseases, the plague of storms of fire represents dark human passions, the plague of locusts represents hunger and starvation, the plague of darkness represents ignorance, and the plague of death of firstborn sons represents inevitable death of the physical body.
4. Rod-snake of Aaron swallowing the snakes of the Egyptian magicians. — This is a metaphor which means that true spiritual knowledge will “devour” or prevail over any earthly knowledge.
5. Parting of the waters of the Red Sea. — This is a metaphor which means that the path toward spiritual liberation requires the human spirit to separate an orderly environment conducive to living from the disorder caused by the “waters of chaos” that constitute part of the lower mind that builds this physical reality.
6. Egyptian army pursues again the leaving Israelites. — This is a metaphor for the dark human passions that often come back to subjugate us just when we believe we have already suppressed them. Passions are like the Hydra with many heads — when you cut one head, two heads reappear.
7. Manna from the sky. — This is a metaphor for the spiritual knowledge that the human spirit receives from high up his mind column. Like the “nectar of immortality” that I have discussed in a previous post, it is sweet-tasting for the spirit. But we have to sustain and grow this knowledge, or else it will ”breed worms and stink” like the manna in the Exodus, if you allow the concerns of daily life to suffocate it. The latter simply means that if you let knowledge to stagnate, then your memory of it will deteriorate and you will find later that you are back to square one. In the Exodus story, the stored manna bred worms and stank overnight, except the day before Sabbath, which is a metaphor for the period of spiritual rest. Spiritual rest is not considered as stagnation.
8. Mount Sinai and the Ten Commandments, bull worship. — Moses receiving tablets of the Ten Commandments up in Mount Sinai is a metaphor for the spiritual guidance and knowledge that we receive from high up the mind column. The bull made of molten golden earrings and ornaments that was worshipped by the Israelites when Moses was away represents the excessive pursuit of material wealth, worldly pleasures, and mundane powers.
9. Arrival in the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey. — This Promised Land is a metaphor for spiritual liberation. In the realities high up in the mind column, the spirit will no longer experience the pain and suffering endured in multiple cycles of physical life.
(Thanks to pixabay.com for the photos above, except the unsplash.com photo by Sumardi)