Was Moses Disabled?

November 24, 2016 22:56

The bible is clear about the ministering of food or prayer at the altar in God’s sanctuary by the disabled:-

In Leviticus 21:16-23 it is written, “The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron: ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; no man with a crippled foot or hand, or who is hunchbacked or dwarfed, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the offerings made to the Lord by fire. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the Lord, who makes them holy.”

The bible is not clear, however, when it comes to the reasons behind the forbidding of the disabled to attend at God‘s altar.

It is therefore possible to set out various explanations for the exclusion of the disabled.

The first is that God was somehow “ashamed” of the less-than-perfect human beings that had been created, although these humans had been created by him.

The second is that God did create perfect human beings, but that imperfection was somehow a display of God’s displeasure with them - his retribution for men’s sins, on the men themselves, their sons and their sons’ sons and that having disabled men minister at the altar of God would militate against the reason for making such men disabled.

The third is that God had nothing to do with the instructions accorded to him in Leviticus 21 and that it was Moses who had fashioned these rules; that it was Moses who was ashamed of those who were imperfect and did not want to “sully” God’s sanctuary by admitting them to minister offerings at the altar.

It is possible that in the 14th century BCE, disability was frowned down upon and that perfection was a target to aim for and that the law, handed down by Moses, in Leviticus 21, was but a reflection of the existing state of affairs.

Moses himself, of course, is recognised by many to have had a speech impediment:-

In Exodus 4:10 - 'Moses said to the Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.'

And it was God who said to Moses (Exodus 4:16) that his brother, Aaron, would be his mouthpiece.

It is, however, not clear from Exodus 4:10 that Moses had a speech impediment. It is written there that Moses was “slow of speech and tongue” but not that he slurred his speech, had a stammer or was disabled in any other way.

A speech imperfection, in the modern era, is considered a disability, according to its severity.

Was it then considered as a disability in the days of Moses?

Could something that originates, in such a direct sense, from the brain (although it could be considered as both a mental and a physical defect), be considered as a disability in those days?

Nothing in Leviticus 21: 16-23 is said about mental incapacity or imperfection, although in Deuteronomy: 28-28, madness is recognised as an affliction.

It therefore has to be assumed that mentally-incapable men would not minister at the altar of God, as they would not have the discernment/abilities required.

And yet a speech imperfection is not a mental or physical incapability strong enough to warrant attention, except of course that Moses himself drew attention to it, as he presented himself as incapable of being God’s intermediary for this very reason.

Therefore - for the reason that Moses himself highlighted his problems with speech - it can be concluded that in 14th century BCE, the inability to speak fluently was considered an “imperfection”. This is why Moses so feared having to speak to the nation - and yet Moses was the foremost intermediary between Israel and God.

If Moses, who was “imperfect” in the eyes of Israel, could mediate, why could Aaron’s sons not minister God’s will, if they, too, happened to be imperfect?

It almost seems as though there was a “spectrum” of disability which was applicable to human beings. Was there a “measurement” of disability “on a scale of one to ten“?

Could someone who stuttered be considered as “passable” and nearer the lower point of the scale, but someone who was a hunchback could not, because he was at the farthest point on the same?

Here, we must present the argument that perfection is just that - perfection. A “perfect” man has no blemish whatsoever, and a speech defect must be considered as a blemish. Leviticus 21: 16-23 implies that those of Aaron’s sons and grandsons chosen to minister to God should be perfect.

And so, it cannot be otherwise concluded and must be said that, although it may have been God who chose Moses to lead Israel and to act as their intermediary with Him, it was Moses who probably laid down the law in Leviticus 21: 16-23 regarding disability.

November 24, 2016 22:56

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