Colleen: In regards to the last question and answer, I am still unconvinced. I agree with your statement, “in all cases where we can explain away a phenomenon as naturally caused or coincidence, in any way, then the performer lacks any claim to prophecy...to working on behalf of God.”
However, what I do not agree with is the authority of masses of people, particularly ages ago, when scientific knowledge was in its incipient stages, claiming to know the differences among legerdemains (sleight of hand), awesome natural phenomena, and authentic divine intercession. For example, the “plague” of the Nile turning to blood...even though “masses” witnessed this event, it can easily be explained as being “naturally caused” by the stirring of crimson sediment from the bottom of the river.
A second issue that has still not been resolved for me is the following: the Israelites witnessed Moses go up the mountain to speak with God, they witnessed him come down the mountain with the tablets. It seems to me there is a key element missing in order for one to say that millions had witnessed a divine event: they do not witness “God giving the tablets to Moses” directly. So where is the authority of the masses here?
This is the problem with questions - they only lead to more questions!!!!
Moshe Ben-Chaim: Colleen, sometimes – hopefully most of the time – questions also lead to answers! Additionally, we all have no choice but to seek answers. Refraining from a question is no option. Let’s see if I can answer you.
You suggest that the Plague of Blood may be caused by sediment. One problem is that you assume people cannot tell the difference between sediment-colored Nile water…and blood. Be careful not to omit any of your reference material. For it sounds as though you accept what the Bible writes about the Jews in Egypt, the existence of Egyptians, and a body of water called the Nile River. I wonder why you do not accept their recognition of what blood is. Had the Nile simply been stained by red sediment, why is the Nile viewed by both cultures at that moment, as real blood? Why is there no one back then disagreeing about the true nature of the liquid in the Nile, after Moses and Aaron smote that river? I think you must agree; they all knew how to distinguish blood from other liquids. This takes no great genius, or advanced scientific knowledge as you suggest. Authority of masses is only in question in connection with phenomena not readily understood, or outside the range of a typical human mind. But what human is unfamiliar with blood, or a mountain on fire? Both are easily apprehended, by anyone. The same applies to all the other plagues of lice, locusts, hail mixed with fire, frogs, wild beasts, darkness, etc.
Furthermore, Moses and Aaron did in fact distinguish between Pharaoh’s magicians’ sleight of hand, and God’s true miracles. Otherwise, why would Moses and Aaron remain loyal to their God, if Egypt’s sorcerers duplicated the miracles beyond Moses’ detection of any inferiority from HIS miracles? The answer is that Moses and Aaron must have seen a difference between Egypt’s hand tricks and God’s real suspension of the very laws He controls. It must not be surprising to you that He who created natural law, may also suspend their function.
Add to this my argument that no one said, “it was not blood”. This plague – as well as others – occurred and ceased at appointed times: something impossibly produced by man who knows not when sediment will act up and dilute.
The clincher is that Moses did not predict only one plague, but Ten Plagues. The argument that nature caused all these plagues, precisely when Moses predicted, and they all abated when he prayed to his God, is untenable. The verses are too many to quote, but if you will study the Bible sections in Exodus, you will read that Moses asks Pharaoh when to end the plague, and based on Pharaoh’s arbitrarily selected time, Moses concedes, prays, and the plague ceases precisely then. Nature cannot explain away how Moses’ actions are precisely timed with arbitrarily selected hours, with Moses’ acts of prayer, or that Moses should know when ten succeeding natural events should occur. Colleen, I put it to you: How do you explain a plague where only firstborn people and animals die? This cannot be explained by nature.
Your second question too seems to be based on only a partial read of that amazing event at Sinai. There are many verses recalling how the Jews heard a voice from the flaming Mount Sinai, “but saw no form, only a voice”. (Deut. 4:12) It is impossible that a voice emanating from fire is biological in nature. For fire is the single element in which no living organism may exist, let alone speaks, in a way that terrified these Jews as they said, “Let God not speak with us, lest we die.” (Exod. 20:16) God orchestrated Sinai with fire precisely to act as a proof of His existence and His will that His one law be received by, and publicized through Abraham’s descendants.
In addition to the Written Law (the Bible or Torah scroll) we also received the Oral Law. This remains in the possession of the Jews, in the form of the Talmud, and many sayings and records of the Rabbis. One such record transmits that the Ten Commandments were written in a miraculous manner. All who saw these Tables of Stone realized no human could make them. This is the meaning of the Written Laws’ words, “written with the finger of God.” Now, as God has no “finger”, this is understood to refer to a “miraculous writing”. (Exod. 31:18) As a Rabbi once taught, Moses broke these first Ten Commandments, lest the people sin with them as they did with the Golden Calf. Moses feared this, as he assessed based on the Jews current Calf worship, that the Jews would see the miraculous nature of these tablets, and possibly worship them too.
Finally, I do not know how God “gave” the tablets to Moses. God takes up no space, He is not physical, and has no hands. His act of “giving” the Tablets to Moses might simply refer to the fact that He told Moses to descend with these prepared, miraculous stones, which God set up on the Sinai. But no act of “giving” needs to transpire, and therefore, there would not be anything for the Jews to ‘see’.
The Jews had no doubt: the Torah Moses received, and what the Jews heard, was entirely God’s doing. Our modern technologies and scientific studies give us no upper hand over those Jews 3317 years ago, in determining what is in fact God’s revelation.