by D.M. Murdock
Excerpted and adapted from
The story of Moses, the Exodus, desert sojourn and entry into the Promised Land is shown to be myth, not history. What does it mean? How does this myth tie into the festival of Easter?
“No archaeological traces can be attributed to the early Israelites in Canaan before the early Iron Age (after 1200 B.C.E.), and there is no evidence of a distinct population of early Israelites in Egypt. The area west of the Jordan River reveals an archaeological picture quite at odds with the biblical accounts of the Israelite journey to the Promised Land, and there is little to no evidence of the Conquest, as it is described in the book of Joshua, in the archaeological record of the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 B.C.E.) Canaan.”
Dr. Barbara J. Sivertsen, The Parting of the Sea (xiv)
“…The basic Moses mytheme is that of the sun (god) which emerges from the tent of concealment, the night, and bestows commandments upon a king. The sun is also the source of both death (by sunstroke) and healing. Psalm 19…speaks of the sun’s glorious emergence from his tent, then extols the glory of the commandments, as…the sun was the origin of the law. We also see this atop the famous stone table of Hammurabi’s Code which shows the emperor receiving the law from the hand of Shamash the sun god. Moses was originally the law-giving sun, as we can still glimpse in Exodus 34:29-35, where Moses emerges from the tent of a meeting with new commandments, and with his face shining, not coincidentally, like the sun! And like Apollo, he can inflict flaming doom or heal it (Numbers 21:4-9) and even bears the caduceus like Apollo…”
Dr. Robert M. Price “Of Myth and Men”
In my book Did Moses Exist? I provide substantial evidence that the biblical story of Moses and the Exodus reside in the realm of myth, not history. Firstly, I disassemble the purported historicity of the Mosaic tale, and secondly I demonstrate the previous myths and legends from which the story evidently came in significant part. In this effort, I include numerous primary sources in multiple languages from antiquity, eventually showing that, as my friend Bob Price states in the quote above, Moses is a solar hero, a fictional compilation of several sun, storm, wine and serpent deities of the eastern Mediterranean and beyond. In this analysis, the Exodus symbolizes the seasonal movement away from the desolation (Egypt) and desert (Sinai) of winter, into the fertile Promised Land (Israel) of spring.
Passover, Vernal Equinox and Wilderness
This contention of the Exodus-Promised Land tale signifying the transition between winter and spring is demonstrated by several factors, including the biblical establishment of the celebration of Passover and New Year at the vernal or spring equinox:
You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. (Exod 23:15)
This month shall be for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. (Exod 12:2)
1) fresh, young barley ears, barley
2) month of ear-forming, of greening of crop, of growing green Abib, month of exodus and passover (March or April)
As we can see, the month of Abib or Aviv is named for its vernal fertility, the reawakening of life after the death of winter.
Concerning this Exodus scripture, English bible scholar and minister Rev. Dr. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) comments:
They had hitherto begun their year from the middle of September, but henceforward they were to begin it from the middle of March, at least in all their ecclesiastical computations…. This new calculation began the year with the spring, which reneweth the face of the earth, and was used as a figure of the coming of Christ…
The Babylonian-named Nisan or Nissan is the month in which the “Passover lamb” Christ—here equated with the spring—was said to be “crucified” and “resurrected,” essentially also at the vernal equinox, representing the old myth of dying and rising spring deities. Thus, rather than commemorating the death and revivification of a historical Jewish savior, Easter in fact is the “resurrection of spring,” signifying a very ancient vernal-equinox celebration.
In this astrotheological analysis, the “cross” of the equinox represents the time of the year when the day and night are equal. There are thus two crosses, spring and fall or autumnal, explaining the different crucifixion scenes in the biblical myth. The autumnal equinox also clarifies why the Israelites were said to start their year previously in the middle of September, the time of the fall harvest and new wine.
As concerns the mythical nature of the Passover, we read:
Despite the Exodus story, scholars believe that the passover festival originated not in the biblical story but as a magic ritual to turn away demons from the household by painting the doorframe with the blood of a slaughtered sheep. (“The Exodus,” Wikipedia, summarizing Levinson, 58.)
This bloody magic ritual was part of the Babylonian priesthood, discussed further in Did Moses Exist? (“DME“).
Dionysian Spring Festival
Also examined in detail in DME is the profound connection between Moses and the Greek solar and wine god Dionysus/Bacchus. As is to be expected, emphasis on the vernal equinox occurs in the Dionysian religion as well, during which time the god and his ark were carried in procession. Regarding Bacchus’s association with the vernal equinox, Greek historian Pausanias (c. 110-180 AD/CE) states:
Above Migonium is a mountain called Larysiumi sacred to Dionysus, and at the beginning of spring they hold a festival in honor of Dionysus, and among the things they say about the ritual is that they find here a ripe bunch of grapes. (Description of Greece 3.22.2)
This story is reminiscent of the biblical tale of the twelve spies entering the Promised Land and discovering enormous grapes at Numbers 13:23, said to have occurred at the new year or spring equinox:
And they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and cut down from there a branch with a single cluster of grapes, and they carried it on a pole between two of them; they brought also some pomegranates and figs.
The Hebrew word אשכל ‘Eshkol means “cluster” (H812), and it appears that the valley was named for a Semitic grape god by that name. The numbering of these 12 spies as representing the heads of each tribe of Israelites is significant because in antiquity it was understood that the tribes symbolized the 12 signs of the zodiac, as explicated by Jewish writers Philo (Moses 1.34.188-189; De Fuga 33:184-186) and Josephus (Ant. 3.7) during the first century AD/CE.
Beautiful Meadows and Rams
The Bacchic spring theme also involves the wilderness sojourn, along with the emphasis on the Ram or Lamb:
The Legislator of the Jews fixed the commencement of their year in the month Nisan, at the Vernal Equinox, at which season the Israelites marched out of Egypt and were relieved of their long bondage; in commemoration of which Exodus, they ate the Paschal Lamb at the Equinox. And when Bacchus and his army had long marched in burning deserts, they were led by a Lamb or Ram into beautiful meadows, and to the Springs that watered the Temple of Jupiter Ammon.
In the Dionysian myth the “burning meadows” and “desolated wilderness” are metaphors for the winter months, traditionally dry in the relevant regions during that time. The entry into the “promised land” and “beautiful meadows” is the renewal of spring, with the watery temple of the father god’s ram aspect symbolizing the new year rains.
During the first millennium BCE, emphasis was made on the ram as denoting the vernal equinox in the constellation of Aries. In this regard, Orthodox Jewish rabbi Avraham Greenbaum recounts the tradition of the Exodus in the spring as occurring in Aries:
The Exodus from Egypt took place under the spring-time astrological sign of Aries, the Ram. In flagrant defiance of Egyptian worship of the Ram, the Children of Israel took their paschal lambs and slaughtered them as a sacrifice to HaVaYaH, showing that God alone rules in heaven and on earth.
Thus, the story of escaping bondage commemorated at the vernal equinox, when a new year begins, represents a solar myth based on winter’s transition to spring. This transition is viewed as the passing of the torch from the fall/winter sun (Moses) to the spring/summer sun (Joshua). This mythical motif would explain why Moses takes his people only up to the edge of the Promised Land, after spending so much time with them, while Joshua actually leads them into the lush paradise.
40 Days and Years
As part of this nature-worshipping or astrotheological theme, the number 40 as the period of years in the desert before entering the fertile region also appears to represent a nature myth. There is likewise the 40-day period of “Lent” and fasting celebrated each year by Christians as a time of the spring blooming. This 40-day period in ancient myth apparently represents the time it takes for certain seeds to germinate completely after they have been sown, depending on the temperature and other conditions. The 40 years of the Exodus seems to be a reiteration of this mythical and sacred number. In this scenario, we have a period of 40 from the barren soil of the desert germinating into the “land of milk and honey.”
In summary, it appears that the themes of the Exodus, Wilderness Sojourn and Promised Land represent mythical motifs recording very ancient observations of natural cycles. In this regard, as did their divine counterparts in other religions such as the Egyptian and Indian, Moses and Joshua symbolize two halves of the sun’s annual movement, conceived as the deities of these different periods, in this case Moses constituting the solar hero from the autumnal to vernal equinoxes, while Joshua is the sun from the spring to the fall. The transition between them is the end of winter and the beginning of spring, celebrated modernly as “Easter.”