Moses Among The Idols

Moses Among the Idols

Mediators of the Divine in the Ancient Near East
Amy Balogh
This is an ancillary book to the Great Book Enuma Elish
Reading Year: 2023
Book # 17
Pages: 195
Suggested By: Dr. Jason Staples
Version: Lexington Books / Fortress Academic
Date Started: May 15, 2023
Date Finished: May 23, 2023
7h 32m 46s
I heard about this book on a podcast and I thought it sounded interesting.

My Thoughts

This is an incredible book and was a perfect connection to what I’ve been reading so far for The Great Books project. Dr. Balogh suggests a different reading of the role of Moses based upon the ancient Mesopotamian concept of idols. Instead of the burning bush encounter, Dr. Balogh points to the transition of Moses becoming “as god to Pharaoh” and compares that to the purification and opening of the mouth ceremonies in both the ancient Near East and in Egypt. In essence, Moses becomes YHWH’s idol on earth.

I love digging into the cultural context of the time and how the biblical authors were responding to stories and ideas in a unique way. This became apparent when reading the flood/deluge story in Gilgamesh. The flood story shows up in Gilgamesh roughly 1,000 years before showing up in the Hebrew Bible. But the reasons for and ramifications of the flood are much different in those two places. Here, Dr. Balogh looks and the purpose and understanding of idols and uses a third term – status change – to argue that Moses is better viewed as an idol of YHWH than in other commonly viewed manners.

This book also answered a few questions I had about the life of Moses. First, why does it say no one can see God face to face and yet say that Moses spoke to God face to face? This argument makes sense of that seeming paradox.

Second, why did Michelangelo sculpt Moses with horns? I had always thought it was from an improper translation of a word, but this book describes what horns would have meant and how the ambiguous horns/emanating light term could have been purposefully employed by the Biblical authors.

Fascinating book that led to a number of “wow” moments. It connected a number of recent books I’ve read – the Enuma Elish, Writings from Ancient Egypt, Enheduana, and the Bible. It also presented a new way of looking at Moses that offered clarity to a number of questions I’ve had for quite some time. I highly recommend this book.

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Enuma Elish