Again at the Inn

Moses_Godby Fr. John A. Peck

Exodus 4:24-26

There is a powerful allegory happening here. So, let’s look at the scene.

The Angel of the Lord appears at an Inn, specifically bringing death to his servant Moses (whom, by the way, He has just sent to proclaim His Word to Pharaoh). The implication here is that unless something changes/happens to change Moses, he will die before he can complete his mission.

Sephora, Moses’ wife, takes a sharp stone, circumcises her first born son, and throws the remains of the foreskin onto Moses, proclaiming

“The blood of the circumcision of my son is staunched (ceased/stopped)”

This evidently satisfies the Lord. The Angel of the Lord departs the inn, and the Lord tells Aaron to meet Moses, after which they go on their mission and fulfill the will of the Lord.

First, it takes place at an Inn. Other allegories in Scripture take place at an Inn (the Good Samaritan, for example). The Inn (or lodging place, in some translations), represents the Church.

Second, we have Moses. The fathers tell us that because Moses name means ‘drawn from the water‘ he, Moses himself, represents the life of every Christian, as every Christian is born again through the waters of baptism. This is the chosen soul.

Third, we have Sephora. While her name is rendered Zipporah in Masoretic translated Bibles, but the Septuagint calls her Sephora, and therefore so shall we.

The name Sephora appears elsewhere in Exodus, at the very beginning. She is one of the two midwives who fear God and refuse Pharaoh’s command to slay newborn male Hebrew children. The fathers say that Sephora and Phua represent the Old and New Testaments. Phua, whose name means ‘blushing‘ represents the new, as red is the color of Christ’s blood, and humility is the virtue of the Christian. Sephora, whose name means ‘bird‘ from the word for chirping, represents the Old Testament, who sings the praises of the God of heaven.

Fourth, circumcision is a ritual act on inclusion into the Covenant. This is the first, and only, time in Scripture in which a woman performs a ritual act. That alone should tell us to pay attention as something significant, and symbolic, is happening here.

Some say the reason God came to kill Moses was because of the covenant He made with Abraham.

“‘He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.'” (Genesis 17:10-14)

So, we have an Inn (the Church), and a woman (representing the Old Testament) who performs a Covenantal act (circumcision), on her first born son (indicative of another first born son?).

The blood of the son (who is part of the Covenant) is applied to the chosen soul (who is not part of the Covenant, as he has still not be circumcised – representing the Christian soul), and is now included in the Covenant, and is not cut off from the people of God. They are one. 

Why “the blood… is staunched”? Because there is one shedding of blood for the forgiveness of sins.

It is the blood of Christ (who was circumsised, and part of the Covenant) which is represented by the blood of the Old Testament circumcision, and its application to Moses (the Christian Soul, not circumcised, but to which the Blood of Christ has been ‘applied’ and is sufficient!) pleases God, Who then sends Aaron, his brother, to him so that they may journey to Egypt (a land of Gentiles) and proclaim the Word of the Most High God, to set the souls of the people free.

And where does an uncircumsized Gentile go for inclusion into the Covenant with Christ’s blood? The Church! We, the uncircumcized Gentiles are ushered into the new and everlasting Covenant because the blood of Christ has been ‘applied’ to us. And God is satisfied.

This is a powerful allegory, and especially so for Christians.

In fact, this passage from the Bible only makes sense from a Christian perspective.


Adam, Ralph, Moses and Man

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

adam man or mythEssential to the idea of the Incarnation is what Anscar Vonier called

“the assumption that to God mankind is a unity far beyond anything we can conceive.”

I will argue, in these reflections, that this unity is biological, psychological, and historical.

With respect to biology, perhaps some attention should be given to a recent theory that interprets the biblical Adam as a literary metaphor for the human race or for some early portion thereof.

Aside from the shock and dismay it would animate in the minds of St. Irenaeus and others, is it not obvious that such an interpretation reflects a failure to understand Genesis through a Christological lens? In the New Testament Christ’s solidarity with the humanity is inseparable from his descent from the common father of us all.

I hope it is clear that I have more in mind than simply Adam’s name. The ubiquitous appearance of ’adam in the Hebrew Bible—562 times and in every major source and era—is convincing evidence of the Old Testament’s abiding interest in the entire human race, and not simply the Jews.

“Adam” is the noun normally used in the Hebrew Bible to mean “mankind” or “the human race.” In the instances where ‘adam refers to individuals, those individuals tend to be representative of humanity as such. Thus, we are told,

“Blessed is the ‘adam to whom the Lord imputes no guilt” (Psalms 32 [31]:2).

Because it has this generic nuance, ‘adam is never pluralized in Hebrew. For the same reason it is never used in what grammarians call “construct”; this means that the noun is never modified by a genitive. For example, if the Bible wants to describe someone as a “man of mercy,” some other noun for “man” must be employed. ’Adam has too general a sense to be used in such a case.

In no way, however, does this general sense of “Adam” warrant the notion that there was no uniquely original person who goes by that name in the opening chapters of Genesis. If humanity had no initial father, then there is no common human history and, thus, no structural nucleus for the salvific event known as Jesus Christ. The Fall declared in Genesis was a single, factual, incident. In some way, then, hamartiology is inseparable from biological history.

With respect to this point, we observe an obvious and important distinction Genesis makes: Whereas all other creatures on the earth are created in the plural, the origin of the human race is located in a single couple (Genesis 1), even a single individual (Genesis 2). God did not create men; He created a Man.

If the Christian faith, the deposit once transmitted to the saints, is to remain intact, the historicity of the first parent—call him “Ralph” for all I care—is as essential as the historicity of Jesus. If the whole human race—indeed, the entire universe, of which man is the head—did not fall in the one man, Adam, then it could not possibly have been redeemed in the one man, Jesus Christ.

Among those who imagine the biblical Adam to be metaphorical, the early chapters of Genesis are commonly treated as a form of mythos. Indeed, this may be the source of the problem, because the category of mythos provides a seriously inadequate format for understanding this part of Genesis.

The author of Genesis—for the heck of it, let’s call him “Moses”—in constructing the story of Creation, is not looking at it from outside. He is not taking the “matter” around him and subjecting it to an arbitrary narrative, an account alien to its essence. Rather, Moses is actively striving to examine what the Greeks would later call a mneme, a memory. What he endeavors to accomplish, as he crafts the story, is not mythos but anamenesis.

It would be impossible for Moses to do this without the priority of an icon. (The “what” of memory is always an icon.) Here is what we have in Genesis: Moses, his mind elevated by the prophetic Spirit, reverts to that inner native image derived from our first parent, the primeval tselem ’Elohim by virtue of which man is the “head” (the thinking part) of Creation.

Moses gazes at the world (and history) through the mediating light of this icon, indistinguishable from his own being. He regards Creation from within its intelligible structure, inasmuch as he is the sole locus of the world’s understanding and self-reflection.

What he writes he writes in rei memoriam.

This is remembered history, not myth.

 See also:  Was Adam an Actual or Symbolic Figure, According to the Fathers of the Church?

The Best Intercessor in the Bible

Moses cruciform]

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Arguably the most notable intercessor in the Hebrew Bible is Moses. Gregory the Dialoguist, in a letter to Augustine of Canterbury (shortly after the arrival of the Roman missionaries to England), wrote at length of this ministry of Moses. The text must be abbreviated to its most salient points:

“Further, there occurs to my mind, while I think on these things, what took place with one servant of God, even one eminently chosen. . . . Fasting forty days and nights in Mount Sinai, he received the tables of the law; among lightning and thunder, while all the people trembled, he was attached to the service of Almighty God, being alone with Him even in familiar converse; he opened a way through the Red Sea; he had a pillar of a cloud to lead him on his journey; to hungry people he gave manna from heaven . . Whenever a doubtful matter had troubled his mind, he resorted to the tabernacle, and enquired of the Lord in secret, and was forthwith taught concerning it, God speaking to him. When the Lord was angry with the people, he appeased Him by the intervention of his prayer.”

First among the passages showing Moses as an intercessor is the second half of Exodus 17. This text describes Moses’ prayer for the army of Israel as it did battle with the Amalekites. Moses, having commanded Joshua to lead his force, ascended a hill, taking with him Aaron and Hur. Lifting his hands, Moses prayed for Israel’s victory over its enemy in the field below. His prayer was prolonged. It happened, says Exodus, that

“when Moses held up his hands, Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hands, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”

Although the text does not explicitly say that Moses was praying, virtually all Jewish and Christian readers through the centuries have understood the scene this way; the elevation of his hands symbolized the elevation of the mind toward heaven. Josephus, for example, indicates this with the comment,

“Moses stretched out his hand towards heaven.”

Indeed, the Mishna sees in Moses here a model of spiritual elevation:

“Could the hands of Moses help or hinder the battle? This teaches you, rather, that the Israelites prevailed when they directed their thoughts on high and preserved their hearts subject to their Father in heaven; otherwise they suffered defeat.”

Judaism’s great medieval commentator Rashi follows the same interpretive line:

“Moses was such that his hands expressed faith (veyihi yadaiv ‘amunah), spread forth to heaven in a steadfast and firm prayer.”

Christian readers followed suit. Thus, Theodoret of Cyr wrote,

“Great Moses, even as an old man, as he spread his hand in prayer, vanquished Amalek”.

And Jerome:

“When Moses fought against Amalek, it was with prayer, not the sword, that he prevailed.”

The posture of Aaron and Hur to Moses’ sides suggests that his arms were raised in cruciform. This detail was sufficient for Christians to perceive in Moses an image of Christ praying on the Cross. Thus, Tertullian wrote,

“we not only raise our hands, we spread them out and, taking our model from the Lord’s Passion, we confess Christ in prayer.”

This imagery prompted Epiphanius to declare,

“Amalek has been destroyed, root and branch, and the trophy of the Cross was erected on the hill of Rephidim.”

Moses conquered the Devil, wrote Gregory the Theologian,

“by stretching out his hands upon the hill, in order that the Cross, thus symbolized and prefigured, might prevail.”

St. Gregory elsewhere speaks of Aaron and Hur

“supporting the hands of Moses on the hill where Amalek was defeated by the Cross.”

By the Mysteries of the Church, he commented,

“Amalek will be destroyed, not with weapons, but with the opposing hands of the righteous man, expressing both prayer and the unconquerable trophy of the Cross.”

Saint Ambrose observed how effortless Moses’ prayer appeared, while his two companions supported his arms. He was so leisured, wrote Ambrose,

“that others held up his hands. Still, he was no less active than the others, for even with his hands at rest he was overcoming the enemy, whom those on the battlefield were unable to defeat.”

The Root Of The Word “Hebrew”

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

The Book of Joshua is introduced in a decisive—not to say, abrupt—-fashion:

“It came to pass, after the death of Moses, the Lord’s servant, that the Lord spoke to Joshua ben-Nun, Moses’ deputy, saying, ‘Moses My servant is dead. Now, then, rise up, cross over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them-the sons of Israel. As I declared to Moses, I have given you every place that the sole of your foot may tread. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun, shall be your territory.'”

Since the conquest and settling of the Holy Land is the entire story in the Book of Joshua, it is important to understand these opening lines. We may begin by observing that—in several senses—boundaries are being crossed.

First, with respect to time: The death of Moses is a distinct dividing line in biblical history. The death of Moses marks the end of a specific era. All Israel was waiting for him to die; at last they were able to enter the Promised Land.

Second, this division pertains to space, as well as to time; the Jordan River is a geographical boundary; its crossing meant the end of wandering and the commencement of geographical stability. Thus, the text presents a crossover (‘abar, the root word of “Hebrew”) in both time and space.

The details of the Lord’s command to Joshua convey the impression of “here and now”: Moses is dead. Now then—we’ttah-–rise up, cross over. Although everyone is to go over the river, the Lord’s command is laid on Joshua specifically; this is conveyed by the singular imperative form of the verbs: ‘rise up, cross over” (qum ‘abor).

In the repetition of the adjective “this” (hazzeh) the reader senses a physical immediacy, as though the Lord, in the act of commanding Joshua, is actually pointing to “this Jordan,” “this people,” “this Lebanon.”

Within the Lord’s command, the reader feels a tension, as it were, between the established past and the still indefinite future. This is conveyed in the tenses of the two verbs:

“I have given you every place that the sole of your foot may tread.”

The “I have given” (netattiv) is a “perfect of certitude”; the gift of the Land has already been made. The “may tread” (tidrok) is an “imperfect of possibility.” An established past and a somewhat indistinct future are combined.

With respect to the past, this command to Joshua is based on the Lord’s promise to Abraham:

“To your seed I will give this land” (Genesis 12:7; cf. 15:7; 17:8).

Two qualifications attended that gift. First, it was not an untrammeled real estate endowment; it was a clause in a covenant. To understand the gift, it is essential to understand the covenant. Second, the sons of Israel could never possess the land except as tenants:

“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me. (Leviticus 25:23).

With respect to the future, as well, Israel’s possession of the land is still a covenantal clause, not a real estate bequest separable from that covenant. When Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, took possession of the land, it was to prepare for the covenant’s fulfillment, in which—as God told Abraham—all the nations of the world would be blessed.

We Christians have a specific understanding of that fulfillment; it was declared by a rabbi who bore witness to it:

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).

The covenant with Abraham, of which the possession of the land was a clause, was fulfilled in Christ; Paul identifies Christ as the “seed” to whom the original promise was made.

The Israelites, then, conquered the land in order to prepare a place for God’s Messiah, Abraham’s seed, to be born and to live and to effect the work of salvation. Their territorial possession prepared for the rooting of the Cross in the promised soil. The ultimate consecration of the Promised Land came when the Messiah—who, like its original conqueror, was named Yeshuah—rose from a grave in the middle of it.

Christian theology declines to separate God’s gift of the land to Israel from the larger context that defines it. God makes no promises—God gives no gifts—apart from the Messiah. He is the divine affirmation, God’s yes, to mankind:

“For all the promises of God in him are yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

This consideration is essential to the proper theological understanding of the Promised Land: It pertains to that greater contract which is the salvific blessing of the human race.

Christian theology refuses to isolate God’s gift of the Promised Land from the canonical fullness introduced into history by the arrival of the Messiah.

The Sin Of Murmuring

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Among the evils associated with the sin of murmuring (arguably the vice most often condemned in Holy Scripture), first place probably goes to the disposition of murmurers to feed the grievances of one another.

Fred and Ralph, for example, may entertain very different grievances against George. Perhaps Fred thinks George too flamboyant, whereas Ralph considers him overbearing. As long as Fred and Ralph don’t meet and talk about George-as long as the two of them just murmur individually-George can probably handle the problem. Kept separate, these two sources of complaint have only an accumulative force-let’s say, seven plus seven. It may be the case that George can handle an accumulated complaint calibration of fourteen.

Suppose, however, Fred and Ralph get together, and the discussion somehow turns to the subject of George. We may construct their conversation as follows:

“Say, Fred, what do you think of George?”

“Oh, George is a very fine gentleman, Ralph, and a real prince of a guy, even if he strikes some folks as a tad flamboyant.”

“Yes, George is a sterling character, an ace of a fellow, which is why people overlook it when he gets a bit overbearing on occasion.”

“Well, that’s how it is with flamboyant people, isn’t it? They don’t know when to stop. Flamboyance leads to an inflated self-image. Before long it can really get on your nerves.”

“That is the truth of the thing. I don’t know many people as nerve-wracking as George. I can hardly stand him.”

“Yep, let’s face it: That George is a real creep. Especially with his bad breath, it’s a wonder he has any friends.”

“Name one. I can’t think of anybody who likes George, or admits it. The jerk has absolutely no redeeming qualities.”

Yep, that pretty much sums up George.

Now this is how it goes when murmurers congregate. The trick of virtue here is to keep Fred and Ralph apart, because the inference of their conjunction is not accumulative, but squared. Their combined number is not fourteen, but forty-nine.

There is a clear example of such a conjunction in Holy Scripture. I am thinking of the marching and camping arrangement of the Chosen People in the desert. According to the Book of Numbers, the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Simeon marched and camped on the south side of the Tabernacle (2:10-16). The tribe of Reuben, which occupied the middle position, was thus placed adjacent to the Levitical family of the Kohathites, which marched and camped between the Reubenites and the Tabernacle (3:29). As it turned out, this physical proximity proved to be dangerous for some of the Reubenites and Kohathites.

For starts, each group had its own complaints. The children of Reuben, Israel’s first-born son, felt unjustly demoted when Moses gave the position of leadership—on the east side of the camp—to the tribe of Judah (2:3). Two Reubenites, named Dathan and Abiram, especially murmured about this.

Their physical position in camp, moreover, put them right beside the Kohathites, who were nusing a grievance of their own. These murmured that another Levitical family, the family Aaron, was accorded the dignity of the priesthood and were placed to the east of the Tabernacle. One of the Kohathites, a certain Korah, was especially incensed about this.

Unfortunately for all these murmuring individuals, they talked with one another—and compared notes—about Moses and Aaron.

Perhaps neither group, by itself, would have become openly rebellious to the Lord’s appointment, nor did they rebel for a long time.

In due course, however—perhaps when they realized none of them would reach the Promised Land alive (14:28-29)—they began to feed one another’s sense of frustration, finally undertaking a desperate and disastrous rebellion. They all came to a very bad end (16:1-35).

When earth and fire devoured those confederate murmurers, the event simply revealed, for all to see, their actual spiritual state. As each disgruntled element fed on the other, they were both finally consumed. This is what murmurers do.

Homily On The Meekness Of Moses

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

“Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

A chosen man, a great wonderworker, a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in his miracles, a victor in Egypt, a victor in the wilderness, the leader of a people – how could he not be proud? But if he had become proud, Moses would not have been all that he was.

They become proud who think that they do their own works and not God’s in this world, and who think that they work by their own power and not by God’s power. But the great Moses knew that he was the doer of God’s works, and that the power with which He did them was God’s power and not his. That is why he did not become proud because of the awesome miracles he performed, or the great victories he obtained, or the wise laws that he gave to the people.

“The Lord is my strength and my song” (Exodus 15:2),

said Moses. Of the entire assembly of the Israelites in the wilderness, no one felt his own particular weakness as much as he, the greatest one of that assembly. In every task, in every place and in every moment, he expected help only from God. “What shall I do?” he cried to God, and he ceaselessly listened for God’s reply and sought God’s power.

“Meek above all men on earth.”

For all the others considered themselves as being something, trusted themselves as being something, but he – nothing. He was completely absorbed in God, completely humbled before God. If the people needed to be fed and given drink, he turned to God; if it was necessary to do battle with his enemies, he raised his hands to heaven; if it was necessary to calm an uprising among the people, he cried to God. The meek, the all-meek Moses! And God rewarded his faithful servant with great glory and made him worthy to appear on Mount Tabor with Elias alongside the Lord Savior.

O Lord, the God of the meek, the Good Shepherd, make us also meek like Moses and the apostles. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

Transfiguration, Law and Grace

by St. Leo the Great

The Lord reveals his glory in the presence of chosen witnesses. His body is like that of the rest of mankind, but he makes it shine with such splendor that his face becomes like the sun in glory, and his garments as white as snow.

The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary suffering from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.

With no less forethought he was also providing a firm foundation for the hope of holy Church. The whole body of Christ was to understand the kind of transformation that it would receive as his gift. the members of that body were to look forward to a share in that glory which first blazed out in Christ their head.

The Lord had himself spoken of this when he foretold the splendor of his coming: Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Saint Paul the apostle bore witness to this same truth when he said:

I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not to be compared to the future glory that is to be revealed in us.

In another place he says:

You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

This marvel of the transfiguration contains another lesson for the apostles, to strengthen them and lead them into the fullness of knowledge. Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, appeared with the Lord in conversation with him. This was in order to fulfil exactly, through the presence of these five men, the text which says: Before two or three witnesses every word is ratified. What word could be more firmly established, more securely based, than the word which is proclaimed by the trumpets of both old and new testaments, sounding in harmony, and by the utterances of ancient prophecy and the teaching of the Gospel, in full agreement with each other?

The writings of the two testaments support each other. The radiance of the transfiguration reveals clearly and unmistakably the one who had been promised by signs foretelling him under the veils of mystery. As Saint John says:

The law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

In him the promise made through the shadows of prophecy stands revealed, along with the full meaning of the precepts of the law. He is the one who teaches the truth of the prophecy through his presence, and makes obedience to the commandments possible through grace.

In the preaching of the holy Gospel all should receive a strengthening of their faith. No one should be ashamed of the cross of Christ, through which the world has been redeemed.

No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised.

When it comes to obeying the commandments or enduring adversity, the words uttered by the Father should always echo in our ears:

This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.


Contrasting Aaron To Moses

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Senior Editor of Touchstone Magazine, and archpriest of All Saints Orthodox Church in Chicago, IL, Fr. Patrick is, perhaps, the most erudite writer in the Orthodox Church in North America today. This article, one of his Pastoral Ponderings, was published by

Two parallel scenes in the Pentateuch indicate the spiritual growth of Aaron over the years of Israel’s desert wandering. Standing in opposition to one another in the general structure of the Torah, each scene also contains further elements of internal contrast.

The earlier story is preserved in Exodus 32, which describes the incident of the golden calf. Aaron, in that episode, appears as a craven and double-minded hireling, and no shepherd. At the people’s first idolatrous impulse, in fact, he accedes to their wishes, telling them to hand over their jewelry, which he then uses to construct a molded calf. Continue reading Contrasting Aaron To Moses