This week I am going to post some things that relate in one way or another to Moses and the Exodus. It is Passover week, after all.
I am a sucker for stories from the Daily Mail, even though I know its stories are often sensational. But it usually has great pictures and illustrations. Sometimes it covers important stories that don’t get much press elsewhere.
So here is a link to a story from about a year ago that tells about some finds in Egypt that were actually made way back in 1897. Last year someone got around to translating some of the texts. The Daily Mail was probably interested because one of them was about a hangover cure!
However, it correctly says that the most important text is from a play about Moses by Ezekiel the Tragedian, a second-century B.C.E. Jewish playwright from Alexandria, Egypt. Eusebius, the early church historian had quoted portions of the play, but this was apparently the original document.
Dr Dirk Oddbink, of Oxford University, co-ordinating the project, said: ‘We didn’t know for certain that a text existed: Eusebius might have made it up or misremembered it,’ reports The Independent.
‘Now we have a real copy, a long speech by Moses, in iambic trimeters, telling the history of his life and how he was discovered as a baby in the bulrushes.’
For me an interesting thing about Ezekiel the Tragedian is his take on Moses’ marriage or marriages. Moses, according to the Bible, married Zipporah of Midian. However, in the passage in Numbers 12 about Aaron and Miriam objecting to Moses’ marriage, it says he married a woman who was a Cushite; which usually means an Ethiopian.
One explanation is that the Cushite woman was a different wife either along with Zipporah or after her death.
Another explanation points to a very ancient poem in Habakkuk 3 where “Cushan” and “Midian” are parallel:
I see the tents of Cushan overwhelmed by trouble; the tent curtains of the land of Midian are shaking (v. 7 NET Bible).
So Zipporah was, perhaps, from Cushan, a place in Midian.
However, the idea that Moses married a black woman has captured the imaginations of many.
Ezekiel the Tragedian has a description of Zipporah’s family as strangers in Midian, who have migrated from Africa.
This was probably just him using poetic license and filling in imaginary details. But he was in Egypt and conceivably had access to some old tradition.