An Esoteric Understanding of Moses and the Exodus

by Joshua Tilghman on October 19, 2012

Moses and ExodusThe Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is one of the more prominent stories of the Bible. Many of us have heard it a hundred times from parents, Sunday school teachers, and pastoral sermons. For me it is one of the greatest stories ever told, not because it literally happened, but because of the spiritual truth it conveys about being a sojourner on earth.

To teach that this story literally happened has been one of the greatest blunders of religion. The Book of Exodus is replete with so much revelation of the divine, but a literal view detracts from the true spiritual message. Contained in the Exodus is the complete story of redemption for all of humanity. It is the story of how to achieve the resurrected Christ within each of us. Even St. Paul attested to this when he stated that “…all our fathers…drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:1-4). Few literalists have tapped into the wisdom of this narrative because they refuse to realize that redemption happens within each of us, as this narrative teaches. I hope today’s blog post, and the series that will follow, will help wrestle this divine narrative from the grips of religion and sear it into your mind spiritually instead of by the letter of the law (literal interpretation).

I am not sure how long this series will be. I’ll figure that out as I write.

Some important details first:

If you study the life of Moses, you will note that he lived to be 120 years old. The phases of his life can be categorized into three parts: 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian, and 40 years leading the Israelites through the desert to the Promised Land, totaling a 120 years. This is not by coincidence.

As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the number forty represents an entire life cycle since the gestation period of a human is 40 weeks. Moses’ life here is symbolic of the human intellect which also must come under the rule of Spirit instead of the ego (Satan).

And as you’ll soon see, Moses has to return to Egypt (face the ego) before delivering the people to become true Israelites. Even though the Israelites were always seen as God’s people, they were not free to worship in spirit and in truth (experience God) until they left Egypt. We must do the same. We can never truly experience God until we have faced the delusion of our own ego on meditative silence.

The first phase of Moses’ life: 40 years

Moses lived for 40 years in Egypt. In Biblical literature Egypt always represents ego. Just as the Israelites were in bondage to Pharaoh, we remain in bondage to the ego until facing it properly by going “within” ourselves. And even though the ego is the false “I,” it uses and is propped up by your emotions and intellect; this false “I” that we all have identified with is surely not the eternal part of us that survives the experience of death in a physical body. Each ego-identity is a result of the experiences the soul goes through in physical form, which is why Abraham (and Moses indirectly) made the statement that they were sojourners in a strange land. We will come to see how Moses made this statement indirectly shortly.

The Biblical narrative does a wonderful job bringing out our struggle with the ego through Moses. If you remember the story, Moses becomes a murderer! Let’s look at this even in chapter 2 below:

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:11-12).

What are we to deduce from this snippet? The event represents the intellect (Moses) being used by the ego to justify what Moses deemed necessary. A foreigner was afflicting Moses’ brethren, so Moses took matters into his own hands. Isn’t that what the false “I” always wants to do? We think we can solve our problems. We think go blame someone else, and by judging so we have taken matters into our own hands instead of letting God win the battle for us.

But not to worry. This becomes the catalyst for change, and Moses must flee Egypt to work out some of his internal issues in the desert. By the way, the desert and the wilderness are synonymous with the meditative experience!

The second phase of Moses’ life: 40 years

Now Moses flees to the land of Midian where he will reside another 40 years. Representative of another life cycle, Moses herds sheep in the dessert where he has plenty of time to work out his inner conflict. The very name Midian means “brawling” and “contention.” When we begin the meditative process, our focus is to still the mind. But as any person meditating for the first time learns, there is a lot of contention in the mind. Thoughts come and go almost as if they have a mind of their own. We realize the nature of the beast so to speak, as the mind truly is untamed. Isn’t the wilderness where the untamed beasts live anyway?

In Midian Moses marries and has a child. He names his son Gershom. Gershom means “stranger.” This is what I illuded to earlier when I stated the Moses indirectly proclaims he is a sojourner in a strange land.

After about forty years of life in Midian, Moses is finally called by God to the mountain top. Moses is about to be transformed, and his ego is about to take a back seat (after arguing with God some of course)! Consider the scripture that reveals his calling:

“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…” (Exodus 3:1-2).

There is a lot of metaphysical wisdom in the above verse that’s easy to miss when we see this story as literal. For example, Moses travels to the backside of the desert to get to the mountain of God. This is the same path that any mystic must take to have a burning bush experience. The backside is symbolic of the human back. The mountain of God is used to denote traveling upwards. What travels upwards on the backside of a human during the wilderness (or meditative experience)?

Ancient Christian mystics like the Gnostics probably understood this story perfectly. The bush is the tree of life (spinal column) and the fire represents the metaphysical fire traveling up the spine to be ignited in the pineal gland where kundalini (serpent fire) energy has risen.

So what’s so special about this mountain of God called Horeb? Horeb means desolate and barren. I’ll give you an example in the natural world of why this is called Horeb. Think of a forest fire. After consuming the forest, everything looks barren, like a desolate land. And indeed it is! But after the fire has purged the forest, you get abundant, healthy growth. In fact, a natural forest fire is one of natures’ ways of cleansing. Also think of the phoenix rising from the ashes. The concept is the same.

When you sit in meditation, in no thought, it seems like a void, desolate land. But in this stillness and silence is great potential and spiritual energy. It is the potential of the divine, and God dwells in this secret, dark, desolate state of being.

God also tells Moses to remove his sandals because he is standing on Holy ground. Meditation is a very holy act. To have the burning bush experience where kundalini fire rises all the way to the 7th chakra doesn’t just happen with a few meditation sessions. It is a deeply intimate process that only few are worthy of. Personally, I believe it can take many lifetimes of meditating to achieve such a state of consciousness. I recently had an e-mail conversation with someone who so aptly said, it’s definitely not something you can just learn how to do from some book! However, I do believe there is literature out there that can get help get you started on the path. The fact that you are reading this blog or looking for information shows that you are ready for a spiritual change.


During the burning bush experience, God tells Moses to return to Egypt to give Pharaoh the message of letting his people go. This is one of my favorite portions of the Bible because the revelation of God given to Moses is so simple a child could understand, and yet, at the same time it’s too complex for the average religiously-minded individual. As the story goes, Moses is reluctant to go to the Israelites because he thinks they won’t believe him. He even asks God for the name he is to present to the Israelites. God responds as such:

“…I AM THAT I AM…(3:14).

I read an interesting article by Rory Sullivan who left a link in an e-mail message after reading my article, Why the Bible Should Not be Taken Literally: It’s All About the Ego. I enjoyed it. You can read it here. Basically he states that God is in the act of becoming. God is BEING, beyond our thoughts, imaginations, and illusions. And although his tone is harsh in some places, I ultimately agree.

God manifests himself through the exploits of his people. In other words, God is in the act of becoming. Why? Because God is a state of BEING. God expresses being through creation in a myriad of forms. God is ultimately not the form, but he is in the form. In fact, he is both the form and that which is beyond the form. As I have stated before, he is both no-thing and everything at once! We can’t understand this concept with thought. Again, this is the gist of Rory’s article. What we think of as God will never do! But we can leave that up to the religiously-minded Pharisees.

How can this knowledge help us?

I am on a spiritual journey just like you probably are. I haven’t experienced the “bright white light” awakening of the pineal gland yet. Some might ask why I believe in it if I haven’t experienced it yet. The answer is simple. I have had some significant experiences with meditation where I understood that the way we interpret our world through the senses is not the entire package. Not even close! After a few of these experiences, I quickly came to understand how holy of the act meditation truly is. I also quickly came to understand that we get intimate with God when we get ourselves out of the way! The reason why many Christians can’t accept an eastern style of meditation is because they haven’t yet realized that God cannot be found in their thoughts. The Bible states that God’s ways are higher than our ways. What this means is that God is experienced as BEING beyond what we interpret as reality. So beliefs and doctrines are ultimately out the window, folks. You certainly can’t weave any white robes with them!

Another reason I believe so deeply in the metaphysical processes above is because the Bible truly becomes an intelligible roadmap for the soul as our spirit sojourns on this earth. Many Christians are not willing to admit how many mistakes, contradictions, and silliness is in the Bible when it is interpreted literally. But when you view it from the standpoint of spiritual wisdom, the contradictions, mistakes, and silliness clears up and the Bible truly begins to make sense. Not only does it make sense, it illuminates!

In my next post I will continue this series with Moses. We’ll learn more about Moses, the Israelites, and meditation. But since the Bible isn’t literal, we’ll really be learning more about ourselves!

If you enjoyed this post, please don’t forget to share it with the social buttons below. Blessings!

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine Hoeflich October 24, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Love this post Josh! I also really like the interpretation you have about what God is: “God is a state of BEING. God expresses being through creation in a myriad of forms. God is ultimately not the form, but he is in the form. In fact, he is both the form and that which is beyond the form. As I have stated before, he is both no-thing and everything at once!” Thanks for this! Christine


Joshua Tilghman November 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Thanks for your comments, Christine. Glad I could state it in a way that resonates with you. I hope your recent move is treating you well!


anny May 1, 2013 at 2:38 am

Rabbi David Cooper called God a verb. He wrote a book with this title. It might have been he (I am not sure) who said God is Creator, the process of creation, and creation itself, a trinity.
The actual verb in the Bible that is translated as I am is the Hebrew Ehejeh, which in today’s Hebrew means I shall be. Modern Hebrew is based on ancient Hebrew and not much older than a century, so I think there must have been sort of a future sense about the biblical Ehejeh as well for them to use it in this way nowadays. And I kind of like it when it implies: I shall be what I shall be.


Joshua Tilghman May 1, 2013 at 9:26 pm


And doesn’t this continue to prove that God is consciousness in an ever unfolding and changing experience through us, his manifestations. Understanding God as a verb which is “I shall be what I shall be” shows us that God is that primordial, intelligent, organizing energy that creates and becomes a myriad of things. The ONE becomes the many, and the many are truly ONE.

Thanks for the comment.


anny May 2, 2013 at 3:02 am

Yes, wonderful isn’t it? I just know it has to be true when everything keeps coming together so wonderfully.


anny April 29, 2013 at 6:05 am

Egypt is Mitsrajim in Hebrew. It is written 40-90-200-70-10-40. It has the grammatical form of a dualis and as such signifies duality. It begins and ends with 40, ego/emotions. Because written Hebrew knows no vowels 90-200 can be read as tsurah, form, but also as tsara, misery, worry. 200-70 is ra, bad, evil. All of that together makes it clear what Mitsrajim stands for in the Bible.

As written Hebrew knows no vowels Horeb can also be read als chereb or cherev, which means sword. It is the same word as used in Genesis 3:24 when man was driven out of paradise and the Cherubim (also including cherev) were placed there with the flaming sword(cherev) to guard the way to the tree of life. Within the symbolic image of the war on the forces of ego I interpret this sword as discernment.


Christine Hoeflich April 29, 2013 at 9:16 am

Brilliant interpretation Anny! Totally agree. Discernment is the sword that cuts through the false doctrine and ignorance. I love what you have been contributing to the conversation lately.


Joshua Tilghman May 1, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Interesting! Anny you really make me want to delve more into numerology. I need to brush up more. One cannot truly grasp the Bible without a thorough knowledge of it. Thanks for this.


anny May 2, 2013 at 3:15 am

Joshua, I must confess that though often based on numerology my comments are mostly intuitive and coming up in a more or less meditative state when strongly focussed on a subject. I did not make an extensive study of the subject, contrary to the rabbi’s, but focus on the very few tools I use and try to get the most out of them. Sometimes, when I more or less have to construct something, you might say it is just an opinion, but when everything falls into place and everything starts flowing I just know it has to be true (for me anyway), which of course takes nothing away from interpretations coming from another angle. In fact, when I am confronted with those then also something new comes into being which adds even more to it.
Studying subjects is good but do not forget your intuition. Deep down (or high up?) we know everything already and we really only have to remember.


Nadiyah S. March 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I was lead hear because of the synchronicity that had just took place in my life, I was thumbing through a plant catalog and came across a shrub for sale that was stunningly beautiful, it was called burning bush, a few hours later I’m in my home office and someone has placed a hand drawn picture in a frame and hung it on the wall, it too is called burning bush. I agree with your interpretation 100% and I have always known since I was a child that the stories in the bible are based on metaphors, and not to be taken literally. I enjoyed this post and will share it with like minded ones as well.


Joshua Tilghman May 19, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Thank you, Nadiyah. Blessings.


Jay Jonah October 3, 2014 at 9:23 am

great post! Came here after my devotion thinking there has to be more to this story in exodus.


Nu June 11, 2015 at 12:07 am

Great post! Are you saying the Israelite were never in egyp(the country) as slaves and all that is a made up story to explain an idea about meditation?


Joshua Tilghman July 23, 2015 at 7:52 pm


I believe that is correct, about it is not just about meditation as we formally know it. It’s about finding the Christ within.


Daybra December 11, 2016 at 1:54 am

This was another footstep in the sand. Right on time for me. ❤️&💡


Joshua Tilghman March 1, 2017 at 9:43 pm

Thanks, Daybra.


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