Exposing the Lie of Astrology
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they increase and in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and leave the land.”
The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah saying, “When you deliver the Hebrew women, look at the birth stool: if it is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live” (Exod. 1).
Pharaoh felt threatened by Israel’s numbers. However the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh’s decree to kill the newborn males.
And it was, as the midwives feared God, and he made houses for them (Exod. 1:21).
Pharaoh built houses for the midwives to keep a closer eye on their suspicious behavior (Malbim). But Pharaoh did not yet switch his decree from killing the males on the birth stool; this decree continued in place.
Then, Pharaoh suddenly changed his decree:
Then Pharaoh charged all his people, saying, “Every boy that is born you shall throw into the Nile, but let every girl live” (Exod. 1:22).
Why did Pharaoh change his decree from killing the newborns on the birth stool, to drowning them in the Nile River? Rashi answers:
Regarding the Egyptians too, Pharaoh made a decree (Sotah 12a). For on the day when Moses was born his astrologers said to him, “Today their deliverer has been born, but we know not whether he is born of an Egyptian father or of an Israelite; but we see by our astrological art that he will ultimately suffer misfortune through water.” Pharaoh therefore made a decree that day regarding the Egyptians also, as it is said here, “Every son that is born [you shall cast into the river]”, and it is not stated “[every son] who is born to the Hebrews”. The astrologers however, were not aware that Moses was ultimately to suffer misfortune through the waters of Meribeh and not through the waters of the Nile.
Rashi makes it sound as if the astrologers got it partially right: Moses would suffer through some water calamity. But we need not credit the astrologers at all…
Why didn’t the astrologers suggest drowning the males when Pharaoh first expressed his concern about the Jews’ population explosion? If the astrologers truly had objective knowledge of Moses’ fate, they should have shared it with Pharaoh when he first expressed his concern about the growing Jewish population. That they did not, indicates that they were merely reacting to Pharaoh’s growing worries, and they were not in possession of any knowledge. The astrologers reacted because they desperately sought to protect their positions. To do so, they must maintain their value. But without offering new advice regularly, they lose value and risk their posts, or death. This is why they continued to offer changing forecasts of a “savior”, and then later added that this savior was “born today,” and then that “he will die by water.” By providing new predictions, they sustained their value to Pharaoh, thereby protecting their posts. People in political positions don’t get there by accident…they desire power and strive to maintain their positions.
Man cannot know the future, as human knowledge is “observational,” and the future is not yet in existence to observe! The astrologers were liars. Foreknowledge does not exist: not for humans today nor back then.
Some are of the opinion that Torah commentators (Rashi) are always literal. However, this fallacy is put to rest through King Solomon's book Proverbs (Mishlei) which should truly be titled “Metaphors.” Also, Maimonides’ son Abraham (among others) shared that the rabbis spoke in metaphor. Our Rashi too is metaphor or allegory. Others believe there was such a thing as black magic, but this, too is exposed as a lie, as we see that the astrologers and magicians could not reproduce Lice, or remove Boils from their bodies. As Saadia Gaon states, Pharaoh’s magicians and astrologers were merely adept at sleight of hand, like any magician today. Thus, they could not manipulate things small like lice they could not control nature (Boils).
Rashi clearly says that the astrologist did not know that Moses would ultimately suffer through the waters of Meribeh. This means the astrologers were lying. They didn’t get it “partially” right. They knew nothing of the future like all men, and it was mere coincidence that their lie of Moses’ getting punished through water correlated to the waters of Meribeh.
Rashi Knew the Astrologers Lied
“On the day when Moses was born Pharaoh’s astrologers said to him, ‘Today their savior has been born.’”
The astrologers were not prophets, and astrology is false. How then does Rashi imply they knew Moses’ day of birth? The answer is those are not Rashi’s words, but rashi is voicing the claim of the astrologers that, “Today the savior is born.”
Rashi (Exod. 2:3) says that Moses’ mother Yocheved hid Moses from the Egyptians for 3 months after his birth. Now, had the astrologers been correct that they knew which day Moses was born, they would have stopped killing infants after Moses’ birth date; as they had killed all infants born on that day including the savior! However, the fact that Yocheved hid Moses was because the astrologers had not yet told Pharaoh, “Today the saviors is born.” Had they already told this to Pharaoh, the murder of infants would cease, and Yocheved would not need to hide Moses. Thus, the astrologers lied when they told Pharaoh “The savior is born today.” Yocheved hid Moses because the astrologers had not yet suggested the savior’s birth date had arrived. Moses was born before the date the astrologers said that he was born. Even if Rashi is taken literally, this argument exposes the astrologers as liars.
Consider this: God planned Moses’ birth and existence to carry out His will. Therefore, it is nonsensical to suggest that God shared Moses’ birth date (via astrology) with those intent on murdering him. God did not allow the astrologers know when Moses was born. The astrologers were liars.
Rashi Cites Allegory, not Fact
We don’t know of the conversations between Pharaoh and his astrologers. Rashi is citing the rabbis’ scripted allegory depicting the astrologers’ deceitful methods: they created self-fulfilling prophecies that appealed to Pharaoh. They did not know that years later Moses would suffer from the waters of Meribeh. But the rabbis who lived after that event did know. So when they wrote this allegory cited by Rashi, the rabbi’s intent was to unveil the methods the astrologers followed: they lied to Pharaoh saying “Moses’ end will be through water, so let’s make certain he dies, by drowning all new borns.” This Rashi means that the astrologers fabricated an astrological strawman fairytale which they knew Pharaoh would buy into due to his worries offering a 100% solution to placate Pharaoh’s fears, thereby maintaining their positions: “Pharaoh, the savior will suffer through water, so let’s drown the infants to actualize the prediction.”