Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GOD, MOSES & BLAKE

Blake has produced a powerful image of God communicating in the form of the tablets of the law, with man in the form of Moses. Moses is bowed in humility below the feet of God occupying a separate enclosed space where he is protected from the full impact of God's presence. The account of Moses receiving the law is repeated several times in the Bible with details which emphasize various aspects. The accounts may focus on the tablets of the law themselves, but just as important is the experience of Moses in encountering God through the images of fire, cloud, symbolic periods of time, thunderings, lightnings and the noise of the trumpet. Blake incorporates many of these symbols in his picture plus many faces of humans or angels surrounding the events.

Exodus 20
[18] And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
[19] And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.
[20] And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.
[21] And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
[22] And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

Exodus 24
[12] And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.
[13] And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God.
[14] And he said unto the elders, Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with you: if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them.
[15] And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.
[16] And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
[17] And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.
[18] And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.
Exodus 32
[15] And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
[16] And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.




God Writing upon the Tables of the Covenant
National Galleries of Scotland




It is not the person Moses or the written law which Blake held in high regard, it is the fact that God works in and through men. Blake saw that Moses encountered God on the mountaintop and came away with an image of God which would further the psychological and spiritual development of man.




Marriage of Heaven & Hell, Plate 23, (E 43)
"if Jesus Christ is the
greatest man, you ought to love him in the greatest degree; now
hear how he has given his sanction to the law of ten
commandments: did he not mock at the sabbath, and so mock the
sabbaths God? murder those who were murderd because of him? turn
away the law from the woman taken in adultery? steal the labor of
others to support him? bear false witness when he omitted making
a defence before Pilate? covet when he pray'd for his disciples,
and when he bid them shake off the dust of their feet against
such as refused to lodge them? I tell you, no virtue can exist
without breaking these ten commandments: Jesus was all virtue,
and acted from impulse: not from rules."

Vision of the Last Judgment, (E 556)
"beneath the falling figure of Cain is Moses casting his tables of
stone into the Deeps. it ought to be understood that the Persons
Moses & Abraham are not here meant but the States Signified by
those Names the Individuals being representatives or Visions of
those States as they were reveald to Mortal Man in the Series of
Divine Revelations. as they are written in the Bible these
various States I have seen in my Imagination when distant they
appear as One Man but as you approach they appear
Multitudes of Nations."

Jerusalem, Plate 73, (E 228)
"And all the Kings & Nobles of the Earth & all their Glories
These are Created by Rahab & Tirzah in Ulro: but around
These, to preserve them from Eternal Death Los Creates
Adam Noah Abraham Moses Samuel David Ezekiel
Dissipating the rocky forms of Death, by his thunderous Hammer
As the Pilgrim passes while the Country permanent remains
So Men pass on: but States remain permanent for ever"

1 comment:

Larry said...

You wrote:
"Moses is bowed in humility below the feet of God occupying a separate enclosed space where he is protected from the full impact of God's presence."

That passage is particularly interesting because it immediately brings up this scene in Exodus 33:

"18And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.

19And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

20And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

21And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

22And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

23And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.