Exodus

Whence Joshua?

(Transfiguration Sunday A    Exodus 24:12-18)


So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.

To the elders he had said, "Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them." (Exodus 24:13-14)

You know the story. Moses goes up the mountain to receive the tablets of the law. (Twice, actually.) But had I ever noticed this part before? He set out with his assistant Joshua? He leaves the elders behind with Aaron and Hur to handle disputes, but he sets out with Joshua. I wonder how far Joshua goes with him?

I have a strange image in my mind of Charlton Heston, as Moses, leaving the elders behind with Charlton Heston, as Hur, to take care of any disputes. Moses knows his merry band of travelers well, and he knows there will be disputes, rather as a mother who leaves three children in the car to wait suspects that there may be pinching before she retrieves the prescription from the pharmacy. This is why God made drive-through windows at drug stores.

But Moses, Moses, as we may remember Anne Baxter purring over and over in "The Ten Commandments," he leaves them all behind. Strange, isn't it? Even Jesus takes companions up the mountain. Even Jesus gets a witness or three. Moses and Joshua, how far do they go together?

I'm reminded that for a long time people thought, and some people do, that Moses authored the first five books of the Bible, the parts that concern him, and the parts that do not. That is not the way I was taught. I understand these stories to have been passed down, but at some point they got into the hands of scribes, and there it is:

John_derek_joshuaSo Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God.

I'm guessing Joshua was a better guy to have along than Peter. I wish we had his point-of-view. Did he wait at a certain point on the mountainside, making part of the journey with Moses? Did he have a sense of the holy, and was it terrifying? Did he have especially good nerves, or was he tuned to receive these powerful vibrations without flipping?

After all, there's a whole book named after him, too.

Someone took the trouble to be sure we knew he went further along the way with Moses than anyone else did. But not all the way.

No conclusions, here, just ramblings and an attempt to picture a Joshua who is not John Derek, nor a cartoon figure as in "The 300." I almost want Joshua to be an unlikely hero, the sort of man no one would ever expect to blow a horn and cause walls to tumble, not a person who was the obvious and golden choice to be the right hand man but a person whose package did not reflect the spiritual strength within, the sort of strength that Moses could draw from to make that walk up the mountain, to meet his God.

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