Eating the Apple

Eve did it. Adam did it. Now it's my turn to take a bite. Why not? Hey! It's delicious.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Children's Song

This old man, he played one.
Cuttin' the poor is so much fun
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played two,
If you're not rich he won't help you
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played three,
We have lost our li-ber-ty
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played four,
Iran has nukes, let's start a war.
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played five,
New Orleans has lost it's jive.
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played six,
Iraq is in an awful fix.
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played seven,
He thinks he's goin' up to heaven.
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played eight,
Impeachment comes much too late
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played nine,
He says Iraq is doin' just fine
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home

This old man, he played ten,
Two terms won't do, make it ten!
With a knick-knack paddy-wack give your dog a bone
This bad man should go back home.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Our Country Needs Better Patriotism

This is a reply to the letter titled 'This Nation Needs More Patriotism,' that appeared in the April 17, 2006 edition of the Standard-Times of New Bedford.

I agree with Henry J. Nichols that our country needs patriotism -- love of one's country. But we need a better kind of patriotism. How can one who loves his country fail to criticize a president who has failed to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed'? How can one who loves his country support a president who has usurped the powers of Congress and the people? How can one sit by while the president dismantles our great gift to the world -- the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

The president has usupred to power of Congress 'to declare War ... and make Rules concerning
Captures on Land and Water.' He has also usurped the power of Congress 'to make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces.'

Our forefathers fought for and demanded the Bill of Rights. But no longer do we have these rights: the right to a jury trial, the right to 'Habeus Corpus'. No longer are we free from 'unreasonable searches and seizures. No longer doe we have the right to 'due process of law.' The president claims the power designate anyone to be a 'illegal enemy combatant' and have him incarcerated indefinitely. This means that our rights have become mere priviledges that can be erased by presidential fiat.

George W. Bush did not storm the bastions of power like Caesar crossing the Rubicon. But Little King George is undermining our Constitution just as surely as Caesar overthrew the Roman Republic. If we truly loves our country, we should all strive to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution against the dictatorship predicted by Sandra Day O'Connor. We should hold George W. Bush accountable for his 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors.'

Friday, April 07, 2006

Abraham and His Gods

It is an article of faith among many Jews, Christians, and Muslims that Father Abraham (also named Abram) initiated the Hebrew/Jewish tradition of monotheism. And some, especially Muslims, believe that he was the world's first monotheist. The Koran insists that Abraham was never a polytheist.

A rabbinical tale from the second temple period that says that little Abram became the world's first iconoclast by smashing his father's idols. According to this story, his father, Terah, was an idol merchant in the Chaldean city of Ur. Little Abram came to believe that there was only one god, namely El. After Abram smashed his father's idols, Terah took him to King Nimrod (the mighty hunter) for judgement. Abram was thrown into a fiery furnace, but survived. His brother Haran, whose faith was not as strong, perished in that furnace.

Yet after reading the story of Abraham many times, nothing in the Scriptures tells me that Abraham was a monotheist. On the contrary, I find several reasons for believing that Abraham worshipped many gods.

This charming tale seems to be simply a piece of historical fiction that was composed almost two thousand years after the time of Abraham. The author of this piece was undoubtably trying to project onto a hero of the past his own theological ideology.

I shall rely primarily on the Book of Genesis and assume that the Abraham story is somewhat similar to epic poems of Homer. By this I mean that both stories were based on actual events, but dressed up with the appearances of gods.

Abram and his family lived in a time of polytheism. He was exposed to at least three different religious systems. Either in the southern city of Ur or in the northern city of Haran, Abram learned of the great Sumerian gods. He could have attended a public reading of the Enuma Elish, the seven tablets of creation. We know of the the Enuma Elish from a Babylonian copy. It tells of the coming of the Sumerian gods from the planet Nibiru and how they created from the primates that they found on earth.

The second great religious system was the polytheistic forerunner of the Israelite/Jewish monotheistic faith. The biblical Elohim is derived from the Canaanite god El. Worship of the god El probably originated near the sources of the Tigris and the Euphrates, but spread widely through the mideast. We know much about the god El from excavations of the city of Ugarit which was located on the Mediterrean of present day Syria. The people of Ugarit spoke a language closely related to ancient Hebrew. The god El was their supreme god. He and his consort Asherah were the parents of gods such as Ba'al, Dagon, and Anat. 'Bull El', as he was called, was worshipped as the father of mankind. The biblical priests and prophets worshipped El/Yahweh, but despised his wife and children.

When Abraham entered Canaan, he was only a short distance from Ugarit. It would have been very appropriate for him to visit this major cult center of his god. Yet there is no hint of such a visit in the Scriptures. Imagine a devout Catholic going to Italy, but not visiting Rome. If Abraham did visit Ugarit, he would have likely worshipped in many of the temples of the city. That would have been too embarassing for the biblical writers to mention.

The third great system was the Egyptian system. In the time of Abraham, Egypt was the superpower of the neart east. Even if the people of Mesopotamia did not worship the gods of Egypt, they must have been known about the major gods, such as Ra, Osiris, Isis, and Horus. In any case, when Abraham went to Egypt, he would have learned about these gods.

Genesis tells of three covenants between Abram and the god El/Yahweh. (A covenant is a sacred promise or contact) In Genesis 12, El instructs Abram to leave his father's house and go to Canaan. In return, Abram will become a great nation.

In Genesis 15 El promises that the childless Abram will have many descendents and they will have possession of the land of Canaan.

In Genesis 17 were that El (here called Yahweh) makes similar promises but requires Abram (now renamed Abraham) to circumcise himself and every male in his household as a sign of fidelity to the covenant.

These covenants signify a very special relationship between Abraham and El. But nothing in these covenants explicitly requires exclusive worship of El. The covenants simply establish El as Abraham's patron god. The idea of a patron god was common throughout the ancient world. Athena became the patron goddess of Athens when she gave the gift of the olive tree. Many cities had patron god. In the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, the patron god was the sun god Ra. Ra was also the patron god of the royal family. Osiris was the patron god of farmers, Ptah of craftsmen, and Bast of the home. A patron god offered special benefits, but required special devotion and worship. But exclusive worship was not required.

For example, Ra or Amun-Ra was the patron god of many Egyptian pharaohs. But pharaoh could not afford to worship one god exclusively. As high priest of the nation, his duty was to appease all of the gods. If any calamity or disaster happened, blame could be attached to Pharaoh for offending the gods in some way. Akenaten, the one pharaoh who worshipped one god exclusively, became so hated that his successors tried to blot out the memory of Akenaten from under heaven.

When Abram returns from defeating the kings of the east in Genesis 14, he is greeted by the king of Sodom and by Melchizedek, the priest/king of Salem. Melchizedek blesses Abram, saying:

Blessed be Abram of El Elyon,
creator of heaven and earth:
And blessed be El Elyon,
who has delivered your enemies into your hand.

The Hebrew phrase 'El Elyon' is usually translated as 'God Most High'. Grammatically speaking, this phrase acknowledges the existence of other gods. One god can't be the highest god unless there are lesser gods. According to the Jewish Study Bible, "The term God Most High is known from Ugaritic texts of the Late Bronze Age (Ugarit was a Canaanite city along the coast of what is now Syria.) There it is equated with the God El, with whom the LORD is often equated with in the Tanakh." (Tanakh = Old Testament)

The city of Ugarit fourished for about 3000 years before it was destroyed by the Philistines about the time of Moses. Excavations carried out in the late 1920's showed that the people of Ugarit spoke a language closely related to ancient Hebrew. Ugarit was a major cult center for the god El. He was worshipped as the creator of heaven and earth, the father of the gods and the father of mankind. He headed a pantheon that included his consort Asherah and sons and daughters including Ba'al, Anat, and Dagon. The Old Testament prophets and priests worshipped El but despised ther rest of his family. Some family values!

Since Melchizedek uses the epithat El Elyon, it seems obvious that he was aligned, culturally and theologically, with the polytheistic cult center of Ugarit. But was he a monotheist or was he a polytheist? There is very little information about Melchizedek in the Old Testament. Psalm 110, attributed to King David, is the only other place in the OT that mentions this enigmatic priest:

1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (KJV)

I don't think that this psalm was written by King David. Who could be David's Lord who sat at the right hand of God? Rather this seems to a psalm about King David, written to illustrate some aspect of King David's great stature. The psalmist would not have put King David in Melchizedek's priesthood unless he believed that Melchizedek was a very important religious figure -- and a monotheist. One curious thing about this psalm is that it says that the priesthood of Melchizedek was a legitimate and more ancient priesthood than the official priesthood based upon Aaron. This would seem to denigrate the Aaronite priesthood.

The early Christians picked up on this psalm. The New Testament book of Hebrews claims that Jesus Christ was (and is forever) a priest in the order of Melchizedek. The Christians could have hardly connected Jesus and Melchizedek in this was unless they believed that Melchizedek was a monotheist.

Now I shall go against this convential wisdom. I accept the conclusion that Melchizedek's primary god was the Ugaritic El. But I do not conclude that Melchizedek was a monotheist. In addition to being a priest, Melchizedek was the king of a city called Salem. (Nobody knows where that city was located. But it is commonly thought to be Jerusalem.) As king he had a duty to appease all of the gods of Salem. Suppose Melchizedek were to say that he would no longer worship any god but El. Then the followers of all of the other gods would feel insulted. They would say that Melchizedek was inviting retribution in the form of droughts, epidemics, bad storms, or invasions. One thing you sure of, in the ancient world, droughts, epidemics, bad storms, or invasions were regular occurances. The next time one of these disasters happened, Melchizedek would be blamed. The likely result would be that Melchizedek would be assassinated or overthrown. There was fierce opposition to the imposition of monotheism in the ancient world.

Genesis 12 tells of Abram's trip to Egypt at a time of famine:

10 And there was a famine in the land (of Canaan): and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.
11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:
12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.
13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.
17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.
18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.
20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had. (KJV)

It is not clear whether the pharaoh was an Egyptian pharaoh or a Hyksos pharaoh from Canaan. I favor the latter since Abram and Pharaoh remain on speaking terms even after this deception. An Egyptian pharaoh might have executed Abram. Before this blow-up occurred, it is likely that Pharaoh or some of his courtiers would have invited Abram to worship with them. A Canaanite Pharaoh would have worshipped Ba'al, Asherah, and Dagon in addition to El. An Egyptian would have invited Abram to worship such gods as Ra, Osiris, Horus, and Isis. How could have Abram refused? Suppose Abram said "I will not worship your, I shall worship only the 'one true god'." Had Abram said that, his gracious hosts would have felt insulted and scandalized. They would have felt that Abram was blaspheming their gods. They would have thought that Abram was endangering the kingdom by inviting retribution from the gods. This would turn into an ugly incident with Abram in danger of losing his life. Had such an incident occurred in Egypt, had such an incident occurred with the other kings that Abram dealt with, the priests and prophets of ancient Israel would have seized upon this incident. The idea of Father Abraham risking his life for the 'one true god' would have given powerful support to their ideology of monotheism. Since there is no such incident reported in the Old Testament, one concludes that such an incident never occurred. Either Abraham was a polytheist, or he carefully concealed his true religious beliefs.

But how could have Abraham concealed a monotheistic belief? He was the head of a travelling household that numbered in the thousands. If Abraham was a monotheist, everyone in his household would have known. Some of Abraham's servants would have resented their master's devotion to only one god. When they went to visit a city, someone in Abrham's household would have spilled the beans. That would be a sensational story that would travel around like wildfire.

Genesis 20 tells a similar story with King Abimelech of Gerar. The result is similar. Abraham had cordial relations with the king of Sodom. That relationship

The Old Testament authors had many opportunities to tell a story that would prove that Abraham was a monotheist. But they never did. Such a story would have appealed to their obsessive hatred of the pagan gods. I can only conclude that no such scandalous story existed at the time that the biblical books were written. In all likelihood, Abraham was a man of his time. It would have been extraordinary for anyone in that time to become a monotheist. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. No such evidence can be found in the pages of Genesis. The most reasonable conclusion is that Abraham worshipped the Canaanite gods, Asherah, Ba'al, Dagon, etc., and worshipped El as his patron god.

I conclude that the tradition about Abraham being a monotheist was a historical fiction invented almost two thousand years after he lived and died.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Death of the Constitution

The Death of the Constitution

I mourn the death of the United States Constitution. On September 11, it was only superficially wounded. It coud have recovered. But it was poisoned by Vulcan Cabal and condemned to die. The Supreme Court has just administered last rights to our beloved Constitution.

Our forefathers who fought for freedom and democracy would never have imagined how democracy and freedom would die in only two hundred and thirty years.

We no longer have a constitution. G.W. Bush has turned it into a scrap of paper. The Bill of Rights died in Guantanamo. Americans no longer have the right to a fair trial. Americans no longer have the right of Habeus Corpus. Americans are no longer protected from unreasonable search and seizure. Americans no longer have the right to due process. No! All of those constitutional rights are gone, perhaps forever. The rights that our ancestors fought and died for are now mere priviledges that can be erased any time by presidential fiat.

Does Lady Justice hide her eyes out of shame? Or does she wear that handkerchief to mop up her tears?

The constitution was designed the powers of those who govern the people. God's Anointed has transcended these limited powers and turned them into an unlimited grant of absolute and arbitrary authority. 'Commander in Chief' means that no official - no Congressman or Senator, no governor, no member of the cabinet -- can take command of a military unit away from the president. 'Commander in Chief' also means that no person can countermand a lawful military order of the president. But the president is still responsible to Congress for the raising of the army, for the maintainance of the navy and for the discipline that governs the armed forces. If that discipline does not apply to the president, then the Constitution is not worth the paper it was written on. G.W. Bush has turned 'Commander in Chief' into the engine of his dictatorship.

No longer does God's Anointed "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." He makes up his own laws as he goes along. No longer does the president "preserve, protect, and defend the constitution." He has abrogated the Geneva Conventions that are part "the supreme law of the land." He has committed the crime of starting an agressive war -- the same crime for which we hanged Nazi's at Nuremberg.

Congress has been turned into a feckless rubber stamp, corrupted by K Street money and earmarks. He who has the gold rules! Now we are ruled by the rich and greedy. Not even the Supreme Court is willing to uphold the law. With the Padilla decision, the Supreme Court has nailed the coffin shut. The legislative and judicial branches are empty facades -- Potemkin villages -- fig leaves over the erection of dictatorship.

George W. Bush did not storm the bastions of power at the head of legions like Caesar crossing the Rubicon. G.W. Bush and his cohorts subverted the constitution, like a nest of termites burrowing from within and weakening the timbers of the house of freedom. G.W. Bush works in secret, like the old Soviet Union, with a gulag spread out far beyond from our borders. After Caesar, Rome could never return to the republic, And now there is now no going back to the republic of Washington and Jefferson and Madison. After British royal rule and after the Constitution, we are now rushing headlong into America's Third Reich. Bush has paved the way for future Caligulas and future Neros.

And the worst part of this business is that we the people put this blithering idiot, this cockiminy cockup, this utter nincompoop into power. And we the people have let him get away with mendacity after mendacity and prevarication upon prevarication, He has dissembled so often that no longer knows how to tell the truth. He cannot level with the people. And his dissembling has cost the lives of many tens of thousands or more in Iraq. Every uncomfortable truth is deprecated and those who report the truth are demonized. Every agreeable falsity is extolled in the media. He dribbles out out secret information, Goebbels-like, to attack his critics and to justify his high crimes.

I call upon you, the people of America, those who love truth, those who love justice, those who love freedom, and those who love democracy to get rid of this beast in our midst. We need a revolution -- not of guns -- but of the spirit. It must be a revolution of truth! For when mendacity retigns, justice dies. When spin reigns, democracy dies. Let us renounce all allegiance to the lies of this administration!

And to the rest of you, who prize security more than liberty, I say that you should give this dictator a crown and sceptre. Then bow down and cry out:

Ecce Neo-Caesar! Ecce Imperator!
Long Live Little King George!

And government of the people, by the people, and for the people has just perished from the earth.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Moses: The Failed Prophet

To many people, Moses was the first and the greatest of the biblical prophets. According to Deuteronomy 34:10, "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses." (KJV)

Skeptics have argued that Moses could not have written about his own death and burial (Deut 34:5-8). The traditional response is that Moses could write about future events because he was a prophet. Let us now consider Moses' record as a prophet.

There are two stories about quail, the first in the Book of Exodus, the second in Numbers. The first story couples the quail to the story of manna:

Exodus 16:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
13 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.
14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.
15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

Later on in the Book of Numbers a very different story is told:

Numbers 11:31 And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day's journey on this side, and as it were a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
32 And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
33 And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague.
34 And he called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah: because there they buried the people that lusted.

This passage portrays God as a mean-spirited tyrant. He sends food to a hungry people, then punishes them for eating it. The traditional explanation is that the people were to eat only manna while they were in the wilderness. They were punished because they didn't trust that God would provide them with enough manna.

Why are there two conflicting stories about quail? In the first the quail can be eaten, but in the second it is forbidden.

Now let us ask this question: What prophetic act did Moses perform in this crisis? The answer: He did nothing! An important function of the biblical prophets is to warn the people of impending danger. What warning did Moses give? No warning at all! The prophet Moses let his people down.

How could the people know that the quail were bad? They needed to be told. Otherwise they would easily conclude that the quail were a gift from a benevolent god to save them from starvation. But instead God entices the people with food, then punishes them. (In law enforcement that is called entrapment. The case is thrown out of court.) Then God kills the people before they even knew that they had offended this god. No wonder the people were terrified of God.

In this modern age we have a different explanation for this incident. The quail were sick and dying. Healthy quail would not let themselves be caught so easily. There are several bird diseases that can infect humans. In this year, 2006, the world is concerned with bird flu. This disease infects people who handle and eat diseased birds. Bird flu has killed over half of the people diagnosed with the disease. An ancient strain of bird flu could have been responsible for the plague described in Numbers 11. In that case, Moses was probably surprised by the tragic outcome. He had to concoct an explanation, for he could not afford to be seen as a false prophet.

Another prophetic failure of Moses comes in the story of the battle with the Amalekites:

Exodus 17:8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.
9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.
10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

The attack of the Amalekites seems to have been a surprise attack. Why didn't the prophet Moses forsee the attack? Deuteronomy offers some details of the attack:

Deuteronomy 25:17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt;
18 How he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God.
19 Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.

Verse 19 comes out differently in Exodus.17:14;

And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

These two passages indicate that the Amalekites made a surprise attack on the stragglers. But the Israelites did not respond until the following day. Clearly, Moses did not forsee this attack. There is a clear failure to take precautions to protect the Israelites from attack. Thus Moses failed as a prophet and as a military leader.

The unique feature of these two passages is that a genocidal curse is pronounced only against the Amalekites. This may be the first historical record of an intent to commit genocide. The Israelites would go on to commit many acts of genocide against the people of Canaan. But the battle against the Amalekites seems to be the only situation where a curse is involved.

There are many ancient treaties that involved genocidal curses. One example is the treaty that King Esarhaddon of Assyria imposed upon nine of his vassals in 672 BC. The treaty required that after the king died the vassals would help put the king's son Ashurbanipal on his father's throne. The treaty is loaded with curses to be applied on any vassal who violated the treaty. The curses called upon the gods to inflict diseases on the people and their livestock, to withhold the rains and dry up springs and rivers, to make the women barren, to make water taste like sheep's urine, to make food taste like hot dry dust, and so forth. The curses culminate with the provision that one thousand tents be reduced to one tent and one thousand men be reduced to one man. In other words the curses provide that the vassal and his people be completely destroyed.

We now have two examples of genocidal curses. The difference between the two is that treaty curses are conditional. They are only applied if the treaty is violated. In the other case, when God says "I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven," it seems that God is enforcing a treaty curse.

The idea of a treaty between Moses and the Amalekites may sound cockeyed to most people, but it is entirely within the realm of possibility. The Israelites and the Amalekites were both descended from Abraham and Isaac. The Amalekites may have believed that they were heirs to promise of land given to Abraham. Then Moses spent many years tending sheep for his father-in-law, Jethro. He would have become acquainted with many of the tribes of the wilderness. Moses could have had close and friendly relations with the Amalekites. All of this, so far, seems very reasonable.

Now I shall go way out on a limb with pure speculation. Moses might have made an agreement with the king of the Amalekites before he went back to Egypt. At the very least, the king would agree to sell food and water to the Israelites after they left Egypt. He would allow free passage through his land into Canaan. Similar demands were made by Moses on other kings. Another possibility would be that Israelites and the Amalekites would join forces and jointly conquer Canaan.

Then perhaps some of the Canaanite kings got wind of the this plot and tried to put a stop to it. The easy way to stop it would be to assassinate Moses. That could account for the bizarre passage where God suppossedly tries to kill Moses. But when that fails, the kings of Canaan lean on the Amalekite king to break the treaty with Moses.

Noiw I note that there is no hint of any such agreement in the Scriptures. But that is not conclusive. Many things are not explained in the Scriptures. And future generations would have good reason for deleting any reference to a treaty between Moses and the Amalekites. It would prove that Moses was not just a lousy prophet, but a fool as well. But a treaty would explain a lot of things in the Scriptures that seem pouzzling. It would explain the angry curse leveled against the Amalekites -- Moses was betrayed. It would explain why the people complained about the lack of food and water -- they expected the Amalekites to provide that. It would explain why people complained about being brought into the wilderness to die -- they were promised quick passage through the land of the Amalekites into Canaan. It would explain why they had to go to the very barren and desolate region around Mount Sinai. It could explain the anger that many people had against Moses -- he had led them into a trap. It could explain why Moses had to resort to mass murder in order to maintain control of the people. (Ex.32:26-28, Nu. 16, Nu.25) It would explain the viscereal hatred that the Israelites had for the Amalekites -- they had been betrayed.

I believe that the battle with the Amalekites had a profound effect on the Exodus that is not described in the Scriptures. With the cooperation of the Amalekites, they could have been in Canaan in less than forty days. But after the battle with the Amalekites, it took them forty years.

Let's listen what Moses himself says about prophets. Actually, it is the deuteronomist who puts these words into Moses' mouth:

Deut. 18:17 And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?
22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

The acid test of a prophet is whether he can fortell the future accurately. He has to be correct every single time or he is a false prophets. And false prophets should be put to death. Now let us ask: How does Moses himself measure up to this standard? In Exodus 3 god commands Moses with these words:

Exodus 3:16 Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
17 And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.

This command was carried out when Moses returned to Egypt.

Exodus 4:29 And Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the children of Israel:
30 And Aaron spake all the words which the LORD had spoken unto Moses, and did the signs in the sight of the people.
31 And the people believed: and when they heard that the LORD had visited the children of Israel, and that he had looked upon their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshipped.

Thus the elders were told they were going to go to Canaan. But that is not what happened. Not one of the elders got to the promised land. They all died in the wilderness. Of all of the adults only two, Joshua and Caleb, made it to the promised land. And they were probably to young to be elders. Thus the last two passages quoted above make it clear that the Israelites were victims of false prophecy. Thus Moses was a false prophet and according to Deuteronomy 18:20 he should have been put to death.

Now the reader might think that my thesis here ia absurd. Wouldn't the plagues in Egypt prove that Moses was a true prophet. Not at all say I. Deuteronomy 8:20-22 tells us that a prophet is to be judged not by a hundred successes, but by a single failure. In two cases above, Moses failed to make a prophecy -- and these failures cost many lives. And in the third case, not only was Moses shown to be a false prophet -- but so was God!