The Book: The Unwashed Philosophers' Guide To Perfecting An Imperfect Union

The Book, Part 1-Chapter II: The Mosaic Decalogue

In the first part of the second promise in their Eternal Covenant, God told Abraham that his descendants would “inherit the land”. The problem with this, throughout all the centuries that have passed since Abraham’s death, is getting to the correct answer as to which branch of Abraham’s family tree was the intended recipient of God’s endowment.

A decent case could be made, we think, that it was God’s plan all along that every branch would figure out, between and amongst each other, how they might share it equally, without animus toward, or envy of, any of the other branches. It is quite clear, however, with well over four Millennia already in the history books, that humanity is still ironing out the kinks of this peaceful coexistence with coequality conundrum.

The biblical narrative is quite specific and detailed about how Abraham, and his nephew Lot. had worked out an agreement to divide the promised land between them and separate from each other, going in different directions, to maximize the benefits for both of them. The idea was that, by taking up separate areas, each could be in control of their own efforts and share between them whatever fruits of their labor the other might be in short supply of if such an occasion ever arose.

Each of these men would have surely passed along to their descendants whatever wisdom might have been acquired from such a fair and honorable agreement. It should have served their children well but, as subsequent generations all too often do, as parents age and die, the descendants of Abraham would eventually presume to know better than their patriarch until they ultimately, although not for many years, squandered and lost perhaps the most important element of God’s covenant with Abraham-the Promised Land itself.

As the Genesis narrative tells us, Abraham fathered 8 sons. It was only the first two, however, Ishmael and Isaac, that would go on to be prominent figures in the subsequent religious and genealogical narratives. As such, and for our purposes in this treatise, and notwithstanding firstborn son Ishmael’s equally dramatic and significant role in human history, we focus here, primarily, on the second-born son Isaac because it is his story that ultimately leads us to the story of the American Nation.

[Note: Unsurprisingly, there are competing stories about Abraham’s 2nd son Isaac’s progeny. Depending on which direction your research takes you, he fathered as few as two sons or as many as 12. We can’t lay claim to possessing the irrefutably correct answer, but it makes the most sense to us to work from the notion that Isaac had 2 sons, the youngest of which would go on to Father 12 sons who would eventually come to be known as the 12 tribes of Israel. We accept in advance that we might have this wrong but it sustains our continuing narrative so we are going with it. ~ Authors]

Isaac’s two sons, twins, were named Esau and Jacob and, according to multiple religious texts, Esau was delivered first. It is further suggested that “A]fterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel” as if he was trying to hold Esau back in order to be the firstborn son. Notwithstanding the veracity of this account, it is nonetheless the story of their lives, in particular, that exemplifies the underlying capacity, inherent in the human animal, for betrayal, treachery, and deceit.

It is said that the brothers were very close, early in life, although they were very different in many ways. Esau would spend much of his life as a nomadic hunter while Jacob, who would later in life be called Israel, spent his life much more like a Shepherd, preacher, and philosopher.

One particular biblical narrative tells us that, as Isaac approached the end of his days, 2nd-born son Jacob – in collusion with his mother Rebecca – tricked Isaac, frail and mostly blind by then, into granting him the family birthright rather than to Esau, who was entitled to it due to his standing as the eldest son. The result of this betrayal would lead to years of conflict between the brothers.

Although there would eventually be forgiveness in Esau’s heart, and contrition in Jacobs, their story exemplifies, throughout the history of humankind, how faith and trust can be easily enough established – early in relationships between people, and Nations, very much like it was between Jacob and Esau, yet it is our failure to hold each other accountable for our words and our deeds that is always at the root of how deceit gains its insidious purchase on its eventual power over the deceived.

For those readers that may not embrace this whole “God” idea, consider the monotheistic family tree story, thus far, as an allegorical narrative put together by ancient historians. In this context, it is said that Jacob traveled widely across the region, between his grandfather’s birthplace in Mesopotamia, his own home in Canaan, throughout Egypt, and to many places in between. Eventually, Jacob would develop strong ties of friendship with the Pharaoh, who considered him a confidant. His progeny would establish ties in Egypt and likewise profit from these relationships as well as those they would establish with other nations. In this way, the story of Jacob is not unlike that of many who would come after him; reaching out beyond borders and conducting commerce is a natural next step once a nation is established.

Continuing with the allegory, think of this in the evolution of the Abrahamic nation as the first serious attempt at what we would call, in the modern era, globalization. To be sure, there were already well-established kings and dynasties in other regions, busying themselves with gaining strength and power, but these Worthy early beginnings of the fledgling line of Abraham. Friendships were made, deals for trade and commerce were struck, and the pursuit of mutual interests began to be shared. Unfortunately, as history has taught us repeatedly since the dawn of humankind, it would come to pass that blind faith and trust are, oftentimes, but fickle byproducts of naivety and wishful thinking.

Jacob ultimately fathered 13 children, 12 of whom, according to some, would come to be known as the founders of the Tribes of Israel. The stories of these children and their lives are covered extensively in religious texts, but between the Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, and the Koran, it is widely accepted that by the time Jacob died the bulk of his family lived, in and served, the Pharaoh of Egypt. While maintaining their birthrights in Canaan, and simultaneously extending their family tree branches beyond the borders of the Promised Land, Jacob’s progeny and the subsequent generations were not unlike the modern-day family that decides to leave the suburbs for the bright lights of the big city.

For two and a half centuries Jacob’s descendants thrived and they flourished and they grew comfortable and complacent in their successes and they got fat and lazy. As subsequent Pharaohs came and went, and their rights and their privileges incrementally eroded, melding with Egyptian Society, they eventually slipped gently into that warm bath of submission and subjugation that has befallen nearly every culture and society that has ever existed, until they, effectively, became no longer recognizable as the children of Abraham.

Two and a half centuries after Isaac died, Pharaoh Thutmose III attacked and defeated a coalition of Canaanite chiefdoms, in what is now northern Israel, and the land of Canaan that God promised to Abraham and his descendants was lost.

Not long after the fall of Canaan, the Israelites became, effectively, nothing more than royal subjects and forced-labor slaves of the Pharaoh. According to historical texts, the Israelites would suffer unimaginable torture, violence, and severe oppression, under the rule of several Pharaohs, for nearly a century, before they would be confronted again with an opportunity for redemption and salvation.

Then came Moses.

Despite the fact that the name “Moses” is incredibly pervasive, across nearly every social and cultural demographic, his story remains extensively debated by historians, archaeologists, and even religious experts. Some say he never existed. Others suggest that whatever might have really happened with regard to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the individual named Moses may not have actually had anything to do with the event. And, of course, there are the garden-variety deniers out there who insist none of it ever happened in the first place.

We will leave the readers to decide for themselves what to believe and what to ignore, but the story of Moses – verified and independently confirmed by the experts or not – serves as the inspiration behind why the second cornerstone of what would eventually become the American Nation was ever laid. As such, we take on faith that enough of the story out there is true, at least true enough in the hearts and minds of the Abrahamic Nation faithful – fact or fable – that the Israelites left Egypt in order to find their way back to the promised land God had endowed in perpetuity to Abraham and his descendants 500 years earlier. Moses is credited with being the person that led the way.

The biblical narrative, as it relates to Moses, tells us, in the second book of Exodus, that Moses was born to a Hebrew woman. This occurred during a period in Egyptian history when the Pharoah feared and distrusted the Hebrew people. He had ordered all Egyptian midwives to kill any son born to a Hebrew woman immediately after birth. He had decreed that the girls could be saved but that the boys must be destroyed.

Once again, as it had been with Abraham 500 years earlier, an innocent child would be born into the Hebrew Nation that would instill fear in the heart and mind of a most powerful King. 1500 years later, serving not only the purposes of a parable but as both allegory and a metaphor as well, it would happen once more, in the Hebrew Nation, as news of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth would spread throughout the land.

We suggest here, as an edifying corollary, that perhaps this notion of dark-hearted people, with great power and malicious souls, fear the innocents like they fear no other for a very specific reason. It is said, in the seventh beatitude according to Matthew in the New Testament, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” According to John Wesley, the context of “Peacemaker” in this instance likely meant to “[E]ndeavour to calm the stormy spirits of men, to quiet their turbulent passions, to soften the minds of contending parties, and, if possible, reconcile them to each other. They use all innocent arts, and employ all their strength, all the talents which God has given them, as well to preserve peace where it is, as to restore it where it is not.”

It seems, to us at least, that lasting peace can only be established between people when each of them embraces, and fights to the death to defend, the freedom, liberty, and independence of the other parties. Such peace is anathema to every Pharoah, King, Tyrant, or Dictator that has now, or ever will, walk the face of this Earth.

Continuing with the Moses narrative, it is said that, the Egyptian midwives feared the Hebrew God more than they feared the Pharaoh so they disobeyed his command and allowed Hebrew male infants to live. When Moses was born, his mother is said to have hidden him as long as possible so that Pharaoh would not have him killed “[b]ut when she could no longer hide him, she took a papyrus basket, daubed it with bitumen and pitch, and putting the child in it, placed it among the reeds on the bank of the Nile.”

The infant Moses was ultimately found by Pharaoh’s daughter, while she was bathing in the Nile, and was collected by her attendants. Taken into the family and raised and educated in the ways of Egyptian life, Moses would eventually come to reject the dogma of polytheism and embrace the God of Abraham. Further, he would stand up against the treatment of Hebrews by the Pharaoh and would eventually learn that he was, himself, a Hebrew by birth.

The biblical narrative goes on to tell us that Moses, in defense of a Hebrew slave, killed an Egyptian slave master and, not long after, he fled Egypt and went into Midian where he would eventually meet, and marry, a shepherd’s daughter named Zipporah. After a time, Zipporah would give birth to a son they would name Gershom, and Moses set about building his new life as a shepherd. It was during this time, according to the biblical narrative, that the Israelites were meanwhile continuing to suffer greatly under the harsh rule of the Pharaoh. It is written that once the Pharaoh had died, God “appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed.” And it was at this point that God told Moses he had heard the moans of his people in Egypt and that Moses was to go there and deliver them from that place.

This narrative, in great detail, starting late in Genesis and continuing through the book of Exodus and, we believe, are worth the reader’s time to explore further, in the name of edification. For our purposes here, in the interest of time, we will pick up the story at the points Moses begins to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Multiple religious texts suggest that, once the Israelites were out of Egypt, Moses led them into the desert. While unsubstantiated by historians and archaeologists, the Biblical narrative tells us that, after a time, they would end up at the base of Mount Sinai. As the Israelites set up camp, Moses is said to have ascended the mountain at which point he was met by God- part of the well-known story regarding the burning bush- and was subsequently given the Ten Commandments.

Some accounts indicate that Moses was up there for an extended period of time, communicating with God. There is obviously no way to independently verify this, of course, but as the story goes, Moses was gone from them long enough that the dynamic among the Israelites began to change.

Where the Israelites had initially shared a common goal and sense of purpose, as they passed through the gates on their way out of Egypt, by the time they arrived at what they thought was their destination, awaiting further instruction, their shared purpose and identity began to fall into tatters and disarray and they began to doubt themselves and each other, and even God himself as they started to wonder whether they might have been better off having stayed under the tyrannical rule of the Pharaoh.

The devil you know, or something like that.

Allegorically speaking, this makes perfect sense and symbolizes one of the greatest frailties in the human psyche: An almost unquenchable thirst for kings, even if it means enduring untold suffering and abuse. For their part, America’s Founding Fathers understood this about their ancestors and affirmed humankind’s vulnerability to the strong hand of tyranny when they said, in the Declaration of Independence, that “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed”.

Continuing the biblical Mosaic narrative, it is said that when Moses finally descended the mountain he came upon the Israelites committing every manner of sin, engaging in lewd and lascivious behavior, and more or less acting no differently than the Egyptians from whom they had finally made their escape. Picture if you will a scene right out of any number of National Lampoon movies where there is a drunken nude frat party or a spring break on steroids somewhere on an island in the South Pacific.

As the story goes, Moses was furious and destroyed the stone tablets containing the list of the Ten Commandments, said to have been made by God himself, telling them they were not worthy of receiving God’s law. This narrative goes on to say that Moses would not lead them to the promised land until the last of that generation of Israelites had died off, expecting the subsequent generation to learn the lessons of the mistakes made by their parents and grandparents and make things right with God.

As we have said, you don’t have to embrace or espouse any particular religious dogma to appreciate the historical context of the Mosaic Decalogue, or what was intended when it was bestowed upon the Israelites. No one argues that the idea was to ‘civilize’ and organize and coalesce the people around a common goal with a shared set of rules, responsibilities, and expectations for the good of the entire community. Keep in mind, as well, that the entire underpinning of this system was a shared belief in, service to, and obedience of the one true God.

Although there were only three basic elements in Abraham’s Covenant with God, it is collectively understood, among biblical Scholars, that the Ten Commandments, were sort of a New Covenant, and were intended to be broken down into two sections; the first four laid out the Rules of Engagement with the Creator. The other six Commandments were meant to lay out the Rules of Engagement and peaceful co-existence amongst and between each other and the rest of God’s creations.
In the matter of God’s expectations regarding his personal relationship with man, the first four Commandments go like this:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
2. You shall make no idols.
3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4. Keep the Sabbath day holy.

With regard to the expectations of how men should treat their fellow man, we have these six:

5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.

Experts suggest these Commandments were handed down by Moses to the Israelites well over 3,500 years ago and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that not only has the contract between God and the people been destroyed but so, too has the contract for peaceful coexistence amongst and between God’s people been pulverized into a fine powder and blown into the winds of History.

As he had promised, Moses did not allow the Israelites to pass into the Promised Land for a generation or more. As well, he would not pass into it either, assigning that task to another well-known historical biblical figure named Joshua.

After Moses died, Joshua entered the promised land of Canaan once more, with the new generations of Israelites, and conquered the inhabitants there, re-claiming what God had promised to Abraham all those centuries before. The land was distributed amongst the tribes of Israel and, in accordance with the laws of God in the Ten Commandments as well as those laid out by Moses and through the Judges, they lived and thrived and their numbers grew large and prosperous for nearly three centuries.

Eventually, they would once more start losing their shared sense of purpose and identity, as their social order began to fall into tatters and disarray, and they began to doubt themselves and each other and even God himself.

Joshua’s story is contained in the sixth book of the Old Testament, in great detail, and worthy of perusal, even if only in the name of personal education. Perhaps more importantly, it is in the Joshua story where the allegorical narrative shows, again, just how much effort and sacrifice it takes to gain Freedom, Liberty, and Independence, and just how relatively quickly, within a handful of generations, it can be taken for granted and fall into utter chaos and collapse. It was only, after all, several hundred years after Moses had delivered God’s Decalogue to the Israelites, that the people had once more lost much of their faith, much of their social order, and pretty much all of their interest in serving their one true God.

Back where they started in the early days of Moses, and Abraham before him, and with God in large part pushed aside in their daily lives, they decided they needed a King to rule over them. They told their spiritual leader at the time, Samuel, that they longed for someone to guide and protect them and take care of them. Worse, they sincerely believe that they needed someone to give them direction.

In the Biblical timeline, this occurred, give or take, around 1,000 years before Christ. This event in the genealogical timeline of Isaac, and his branch of the monotheistic family tree, marked the turning point of our ancestors when they chose to give up their independence and free will in exchange for submission to the will and whims of another human being or group of human beings that, three thousand years hence, we have never been able to fully reclaim.

The biblical narrative, as it relates to Abraham, Moses, and the 12 tribes of Israel, is said to have been written, for the most part, by Moses himself and spans the first five books of the Old Testament. Referred to as the Torah by the Hebrews, or the Pentateuch in Greek, several key assertions can be made about monotheistic humankind and their relationship with their God.
First, it is a fundamental imperative for monotheists to embrace the notion that there is something greater than the human Collective “out there”, beyond our understanding or comprehension, and only a deep-seated humility in the face of it will allow us to, productively, coexist with both each other and this unseen and unheard influence in our daily lives. It is our contention, unfortunately, that humankind is not very well equipped, as advancements in Culture and Society progressed, to deepen, strengthen, and adequately sustain the core elements of the belief systems that lead them to happiness and prosperity. To coin a phrase, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, but it is all but impossible for us, as a species, to leave well enough alone.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, the inherent need for socialization within our species necessitates that we expose ourselves to the risk of personal injury and physical or financial harm from others because, ultimately, it’s the only way we can conduct trade and commerce and sustain the species.

Finally, it is our contention, for the purposes of this treatise, that “trust” is the most important trait at the disposal of the human race while routinely being the most malleable and most prone to self-destruction and usurpation by others.

We will go to great lengths to make our case on this point when we get to Part II, and deep dive down into modern-day American politics and those aspects of early Abrahamic monotheistic life that have been displaced by the polytheistic gods of Individualism, Collectivism, and Nihilism.

About David M. Poff

There's not much to say... I come from a long line of Appalachian folk that landed in America long before flipping off the King was even a twinkle in the eyes of our founding fathers. We have been Carpenters and coal miners... Soldiers & Sailors and pig farmers and Sunday morning circuit-riding preachers. Hell, I'm told we have even been fairly decent bootleggers too. The oldest of my family elders I met as a child were the sons and daughters of farmers across whose red rocky fields the North and South marched and died at Antietam. I am quite sure that my ancestors had more wisdom in the palms of their crooked calloused hands than the whole lot of high-minded and over-educated White Collar class will ever acquire across the entirety of their collective lifetimes. It is my hope that, in the midst of so many lost and self-unaware souls, I might pay forward - even a little bit - of what was handed down to me before it is my turn to swan-dive off this mortal coil.
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