Book of Exodus
Book of Exodus The Rise of Civilization Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter:Verse)
There was hail with fire flashing continually in the midst of it, such heavy hail as had never fallen in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. (NRSV 9:24)
So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. (KJV 9:24)
Ancient Israel was always caught between two big powers: Mesopotamia and Egypt. It got a lot of culture from each place, but both regions had national identities long before Israel did. The passage here implies a kind of pre-civilization barbaric past, where nature ran wild. What gives?
The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?" Moses said to his father-in-law, "Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God." (NRSV 18:13-16)
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people: and the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the evening. And when Moses' father in law saw all that he did to the people, he said, What is this thing that thou doest to the people? Why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people stand by thee from morning unto even? And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to enquire of God: When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws. (KJV 18:13-16)
Moses is at it again, taking on too much responsibility. When tons of people congregate in one place—i.e., civilization—they're going to need an efficient way to resolve disputes. Think about waiting in line for a Moses verdict. In the desert. Just saying. Jethro's solution solves a major problem for the young Israelite civilization.
"You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald shall be the first row; and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a moonstone; and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree. There shall be twelve stones with names corresponding to the names of the sons of Israel; they shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. You shall make for the breastpiece chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece." (NRSV 28:17-23)
And thou shalt set in it settings of stones, even four rows of stones: the first row shall be a sardius, a topaz, and a carbuncle: this shall be the first row. And the second row shall be an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond. And the third row a ligure, an agate, and an amethyst.
And the fourth row a beryl, and an onyx, and a jasper: they shall be set in gold in their inclosings. And the stones shall be with the names of the children of Israel, twelve, according to their names, like the engravings of a signet; every one with his name shall they be according to the twelve tribes. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate chains at the ends of wreathen work of pure gold. And thou shalt make upon the breastplate two rings of gold, and shalt put the two rings on the two ends of the breastplate. (KJV 28:17-23)
Call this passage the "Golden Shopping List." Where is your average Israelite going to get all of this stuff? Truth is, he can't. This passage was written by people who had access to all of these materials; and it was written for men who knew how to mold the gold. We're talking a definite urban setting.
Pairing monetary goods like these with religious power is the ultimate endorsement. This mix of religious and economic power is crucial in understanding where these texts come from in the early-civ web.