Moses And The King Of Siam -- By: Ronald Youngblood
JETS 16:4 (Fall 1973) p. 215
Moses And The King Of Siam
“Mem, your Moses shall have been a fool!”
“But, Your Majesty—”
“I say,” interrupted the King with asperity, “your Moses shall have been a fool.” Tapping the Bible, he continued: “Here it stands written that God created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh. You know and I know and all scientists know it took many ages to create the world. Your Moses shall have been a fool to have written so!”1
The King of Siam was so intent on being considered a western-oriented scientist that he forgot for a moment that as an easterner he occupied a favored position with respect to the Scriptures. He forgot that we must avoid the imposition of western concepts and western ideas on the Old Testament. He forgot that the Old Testament is an oriental book, a book that differs from occidental ways of thinking by thousands of years and thousands of miles. He forgot that it was to the ancient oriental, primarily, that the Old Testament was originally written. He forgot that only as we see the Old Testament through ancient oriental eyes will we be able to comprehend it in all of its fulness. He forgot that whatever else the Bible may be it is certainly a great masterpiece of literature, and that just because we believe the Bible to be far more than a mere literary masterpiece, our confidence in its revelatory value should not blind us to the fact that it is literature and as such operates within the framework of literary categories that have been developed by mankind in general and by ancient oriental mankind in particular.
Ancient people had a limited fund of abstractions in their vocabularies, and so they frequently resorted to figures of speech in order to express themselves, especially when discussing religion, cosmology, and the like. They were thus much less prosaic than we tend to be, and figures of speech abound in their writings. In fact, they made use of a veritable cornucopia of such figurative devices as simile, metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, personification, euphemism, hyperbole, litotes/meirosis, epizeuxis, and so forth?2 One such figure of speech that is related primarily
*Professor of Old Testament, Bethel Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.
JETS 16:4 (Fall 1973) p. 216
to religious matters is known as anthropomorphism, which is simply an attribution of manlike characteristics and activities to God. We read, for example, in the early chapters of Genesis that God “formed” Man of dust/clay from the ground (2:7),
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