Moses is an interesting character is in the pantheon of religious leaders. He is such a major personage, considered the founder of Judaism and yet there are no extra-biblical accounts of his life and his deeds. He only exists in the bible. You’d have thought that such a major event as leading a whole class of people away from Egyptian slavers, would have shown up on the radar of other written or mythical accounts from the time. Nothing!
Even his name is interesting. When the Egyptian princess gathered Moses out of the waters she said:
She named him Moses, explaining,
“I drew him out of the water.”
This is one meaning of his name. But there are others. In Egypt, the land where he was born and raised, the M-SH (variations: m-s or m-ss) root simply means “son.” Or it can mean “child” in a non-patriarchal sense. We see this in other Egyptian names Ramses is the child of the sun god Ra. Tutmose is the child of Tut.
There is a great deal to unpack about Moses’ life as it is described in the bible. Today I am going to focus on his parting of the Red Sea. The Red Sea is one of the iconic images of our day that has penetrated into our consciousness and underlies our culture. Who doesn’t remember the movie version where a fierce Charlton Heston as Moses raises his staff and shouts, “let my people go?” It’s very cinematic. And I would argue, a foundational example of toxic masculinity. Moses is depicted as an angry white man working in tandem with an angry male god, who, while creating something miraculous that allows the Hebrews to escape, also drowns all the Egyptians.
I see this vision of Moses as more of a precursor to the modern-day Rambo. And it is not a good role model for a peaceful world. There are many examples in today’s world where angry people feel they are working with “god’s will” to destroy those they see as enemies.
What if the story is different than we popularly understand? What the origins of this story are about a child of divinity (read: any human being) who guided people on a mystical journey of transformation, and self-discovery?
The first problem we have when examining this story (besides trying to understand Moses) is that the name of the Sea is wrong. In Hebrew, it is Yam Suph. Yam means “sea.” Suph means “reeds.” Together they translate to Sea of Reeds. I’ve never read a description that makes sense as to why it is even called the Red Sea.
Suph is a fascinating word. It is translated 12 times in the King James Bible as “threshold.” Perhaps the more correct name was the “Sea of Thresholds.”
And this was not Moses’ first time crossing a watery threshold. When he was a baby and his mother put him in the ark to float him down the Nile, she . . .
laid it in the reeds (suph) by the river’s bank.
Rushing rivers, such as the Ganges in Asia, the Tigris and Euphrates in the Middle East, the Amazon in South America, as well as the Nile have been considered the “cradles of civilization.” They are also important thresholds of spiritual transformation and centers of spiritual trainings.
Suph as threshold gives new meaning to the journey that Moses and his people took. Thresholds are places of magic and transformation and clearly something magical occurred at Yam Suph. Moses, having already crossed his own watery threshold as a baby, is the perfect guide to such a journey.
I like to think that the Hebrew people entered a mystical realm akin to Oz or Asgard [the “god-garden” at the top of the Norse world tree] to cross beyond their own Sea of Thresholds. The Egyptians could not have followed, because even though such passages did exist in their spiritual traditions, the people of the time had lost their connection to such teachings.
We know the Hebrew people were on a spiritual quest, as evidenced by the fact that their journey resulted in the founding (and/or codifying) of a new religion. This was a quest that no one else could have followed because it didn’t take place on the earthly realm. They may not have travelled through Oz or Asgard, but they did find the Biblical equivalent — Mt. Sinai, literally the Mountain of the Moon. They passed through the spirit realm via the Sea of Thresholds to discover a mysterious lunar landscape before emerging into their new lives with their new religion.
Another meaning of the word suph in Hebrew is “whirlwind.” It is a whirlwind in the form of a tornado which took Dorothy from her ordinary life in Kansas to begin her extra-ordinary quest in the realm of Oz. The suph as tornado physically carried her across the boundaries between the worlds of Kansas and Oz. Yam Suph was also a transit method to pass through thresholds.
The image of Moses as Rambo, is a dysfunctional foundational underpinning of our culture. Rambo is a man armed with every inch of his body, ready to wreak destruction. And even though Heston didn’t carry anything but his staff, god-directed destruction was clearly on the menu.
What if instead of Charlton Heston channeling anger and drawing down god’s wrath, our foundational image was of Elizabeth Taylor as Moses’ sister Miriam, dancing and singing people on their way through the threshold veils of spiritual dimension? What if the cinematic climatic moment of such a movie was of a community coming together to drum, chant and channel the beauty of divinity to open the doorways of their spiritual journey?
WE NEED NEW PARADIGMS!
 The name “Sinai” is derived from the Babylonian moon-god Sin.
 Strong’s #5492, Benner’s #1339N.