The Burning Bush

It is told in the Book of Exodus that, in advance of the great catastrophes that preceded and accompanied the flight of the Israelites from Egypt, the first sign of the things to come was the experience of Moses in the wasteland of Midian? Sinai? when he saw a burning bush. The bush, to his amazement, was burning, yet the flame did not consume it (Exodus 3:2-4). Should we assume that it was some natural phenomenon, interpreted by Moses as a miracle, we would be put before the choice: either it was a phenomenon of phosphorescence, or some similar radiation, or it was a phenomenon of an electrical nature, such as that known to us as St. Elmo fire. In the first instance a desert bush could glow in the dusk of the day if covered by phosphorus dust; and the desert of Sinai, like southern Israel, abounds in deposits of phosphorus. Irradiated by light during the day, phosphorus continues to glow in the dusk. St. Elmo fire is the visible electrical glow on the tops and extremities of masts of ships, or at the summits and ends of branches of trees; this electrical phenomenon is especially apparent when the atmosphere is charged more than usual by electricity. Neither phosphorescence nor St. Elmo fire are consuming flames; and the miracle of the revelation was the miracle of one of these phenomena,because they are revelations of nature which human genius tries to understand and has succeeded in this until now only very incompletely.

The “miracle” with the bush was followed, according to the story, by more phenomena of a related nature. Moses observed that his hand temporarily turned white, as if afflicted by leprosy, upon keeping it in the dark recess of his clothing. This, too, sounds like luminosity of phosphorescent or radioactive nature.

Assuming that what is described in Exodus 3:2-4 and 4: were phenomena that really did occur, we would think that in these unusual signs the cosmic events that were soon to take place had already their first foreboding. Moses felt an inner call to return to Egypt to announce great happenings and to demand the right of worship for his people there, not yet the permit for them to emigrate. He himself was not yet aware of the great disturbances to come. In Worlds in Collision and Ages in Chaos I offered evidence that the Earth entered the fabric of a great comet at the time that these events took place. Most probably the celestial prodigy made itself known by irradiating the Earth with the electrical glow of its dispersed trail of thin dust or gases. A great train of meteorites was to follow; but already the precursor of the great and swiftly-moving masses, the thin dust of charged particles, could make the phenomena of phosphorescence and St. Elmo fire rather pronounced. And the future leader of the bondsmen escaping from Egypt, impressed by the glow that does not consume, felt an inner call to return to the land of his birth and to bring there the message of upheavals approaching in swift succession.

It is known that comets glow chiefly by their own light, rather than by the reflected light of the Sun: the spectral analysis of the glow coming from the tails of the comets shows that the light originates there; it shows the so-called lines of emission, whereas reflected glow would produce lines of absorption. Electrical light shining in vacuum, upon meeting some obstacles, may also produce X-rays.

The great discharges exchanged between the head and tail of the comet, retarded in its motion; the terrifying “crashes” (kolot) of the bolides (barad) on entering the Earth’s atmosphere; the magnetic disturbances; and the electrical phenomena caused by the irregularities of the terrestrial motions—all must have contributed to the increased tensions between the ground and the upper atmosphere, and the radiations, some of them of harmful nature, that filled the air of the entire world. Thus a passage of the Earth through the tail of a comet would result in phenomena the intensity of which would clearly depend on the size and mass of the comet and of its trailing tail, and the closeness of the approach.

It is narrated that when Moses came from hiding in the cloud on Mount Sinai, his face shone (Exodus 34:30,35). This was regarded as a sign of holiness, and actually in Christian times the saints are represented with a halo around their heads. Of Zarathustra it is also said that he was burned by fire, but not consumed by it, during his stay on a mountain.(1) Mountains themselves often possess a “halo” ; and actually, Charles Beke went to Arabia in 1874 in search of Mount Sinai, and believed to have discovered it in Mount Seir, a mountain with an electrical halo. Michelangelo portrayed Moses on his famous statue, presently in Rome, with horns over his forehead. As many artists, he was misled by the translation of the word keren (plural karnaim), which in Hebrew can mean both “horn” and “ray.” What the scriptural writer had in mind when he described Moses descending from Mount Sinai was most certainly a halo of rays of light. In the aggadic or legendary material not included in the Scriptures, Moses and Aaron, appearing before the Pharaoh, had already faces that were illuminated, or glowed in the dark. The Biblical narrative renders the story of Moses’ descent from the mountain after the lawgiving as the time when he impressed the people in the plain by his head shining in the dark: it was surrounded by rays of light, understood by Michelangelo, and by many others, as “horns” protruding from his head.

As we can gather from the material collected in Worlds in Collision, the comet that shone at the end of the Middle Kingdom in Egypt—and caused its downfall—appeared to the peoples of the world at one time as a dragon with a flaming body, at another moment as the head of a bull with horns stretched out towards the earth; these were horns of light. This explains why the Hebrew word “horns” and the word “rays” is the same (keren, plural karnaim) can be understood in terms of the phenomena attending the Exodus.

It is also very probable that the great discharges that accompanied the terrestrial catastrophes caused radiation diseases. The great role that leprosy (zaarath) took in the medical concern of the priests during the wandering in the desert, and the very description of this so-called “leprosy” that was cured by time and no other medicine, lets surmise that this disease was of radioactive nature. I will discuss the subject of radiation disease separately.


  1. Dio Chrysostom, The Thirty-Sixth Discourse, 40f.