The Burning Bush

For some time, Moses was content to tend the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro.  One day, while doing so on “the mountain of God,” he saw a bush that was engulfed in fire but was not consumed.  Exodus 3.

Moses before the Burning Bush FETI (ca. 1613-14)

 See for the source of theabove photograph of the painting.

Moses at the Burning Bush REMBRANDT (1606 – 1669)

See for the source of the above photograph of the painting and a brief description.

Moses at the Burning Bush BLAKE (1757-1827)

See for the source of the above photograph of the painting; see for an excellent and in-depth analysis of it.

Exodus: Moses and the burning bush CHAGALL (1966)

See for the source of the above photograph of the painting.

The Burning Bush DALI (1904- 1989)

See for the source of the above photograph of the painting.  See for an entertaining biography.

One of the reasons I like so much the story of Moses and the burning bush is the depth of meaning that I have gained, beyond the identity of the Divine, as the message of God from the bush to Moses is represented by the King James Version: “I Am.”  That has led to a Christian notion that God is, was and will remain the same.   I am afraid that we have killed God so we can KNOW the God that we worship, “as revealed in the Bible.”

In his book, Ye Shall Be as Gods,  Eric Fromm introduced me in the late 60’s to the dynamic meaning and experience of the Hebrew word, Yahweh: rather than present, I Am, it is the imperfect form of the Hebrew verb “to be.”  More accurately it means that God lives: “I am becoming.”  From that notion came the Jews’ various descriptions of God, including the “Living God” and the “Nameless God.”  The story of the bush on that sacred mountain is inextricably bound with the Ten Commandments that, not much later, issued from “the hand of God” on that same “Mountain of God,” which, consistent with the notion of the Living God, unmistakably rejects idolatry.  God is neither a manmade object, as an idol of bronze, nor even a Golden Calf.  That is easy enough to understand insofar as material objects are made by human hands, yet worshipped as having trans-human powers.   Even more pernicious is the God of anthropomorphic proportions, as divined by the mind, yet the products of human minds and handwriting, resulting in the Bible, which has come to us after much collecting, editing, revising, rejecting, canonizing, un-canonizing and re-canonizing; and through that process, continuing to this very day, it continues to be translated, transliterated and interpreted.  But, Eric Fromm, and, indeed, the Bible, itself, makes it clear that God is not to be objectified.

God is not to be defined, nor, by necessary implication, to be contained in a book bounded, with two covers, one emblazoned with the title, Holy Bible.   Although one of its two creation stories tells us that mankind was created in the image of “us gods,” God is much more than our anthropomorphized Man-Writ-Large.  This revelation of Fromm has opened to me the wonder in this world of the sacred, of its becoming.  It is not static; it is evolving.  “When I consider the work of thy hand,” I am awe-struck that all of the world, all life with it, is infused with the sacred.”

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