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Moses’ needs further analysis

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Most students, faculty, and visitors to campus shuffle by the large statue of Moses near the library without giving much thought to Moses, his story, or what the statue means for Notre Dame and the broader community. Thus, I commend Xavier Lebec for reflecting upon this and sharing his conclusions with us (“‘First Down Moses’ underlies negative attitudes toward other religions,” March 27). Yet, I am not as quick to agree him, because I feel he unfairly analyzes the story of Moses, unduly attacking Judaism and Christianity.

One must read the book of Exodus as a whole to gain a good understanding of the events contained within its chapters. To the modern ear, God’s actions may seem rather cruel and unmerciful. Chapters 7-12 recall the ten plagues God sends upon the Egyptians, the last being the death of the first born son of every household. It seems unjust that innocent Egyptian citizens were subjected to these horrendous afflictions simply because Pharaoh would not free the Israelites. Again, in Chapter 14, we read of how God drowns the pursuing Egyptian army in the Red Sea, so that the Israelites may escape. Do not these actions seem incongruous with the later commandment God gives in Chapter 20, “Thou shall not kill?”

However, closer inspection reveals that these accounts cannot, in fact, be equated with acts of modern day terrorist groups. The Israelites were a people unjustly enslaved by the Egyptians, and God, through Moses, commanded them to be freed. After increasingly severe plagues did not persuade the Pharaoh, God urged Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom and aided in their escape. The violence brought upon the Egyptians is rooted in the stubborn tyrannicism of their leader, just as the violence brought upon the Israelites is rooted in their idolatry of a man-made golden calf.

Likewise, Moses was not squelching another religion when he destroyed the golden calf: he could served that end more effectively by destroying the religious artifacts of the Egyptians. Rather, he was calling his people back to their God, from whom they had strayed. Moses was not a terrorist, nor a wager of jihad, nor a religious bigot who sought to violently destroy other religions. He was a simple man, with a speech impediment, whom God called to do great things for the Israelites. And, at the very least, he did a good job of signaling a first down.

Chris Spellman


off campus

March 27