Friday, December 13, 2013

The Bible, Pt. 16: Exodus, Chapter 3 - 6

Continuing my commentary on the Bible from Part 15 (all quotes from the King James Bible). Or you can find the entire series here.

Chapter 3:
1 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.

2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.

Heh, heh. I don't know why I think that third line is funny, but I do. Gee, there's a bush on fire, but it's not being burned up. I will now turn aside to look at it.

OK, I guess I'm easily amused. But seriously, his father-in law Jethro? In Chapter 2, his father-in-law was named Reuel. How can people read this stuff and still think that the Bible is the infallible word of God?
7 And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;

8 And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

God's plan is still to give the Jews a land which is already settled by Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. That's his divine plan, to give them someone else's land? I have to think that he didn't spend a lot of time on this particular plan, don't you?

And "a land flowing with milk and honey"? That's not exactly how I'd describe Israel. Sure, Israelis have made the desert bloom, but much of it is a desert. And it's just about the only place in the Middle East without oil, which seems like a big oversight for an omniscient deity.

Finally, as I noted in Part 15, God doesn't even notice the plight of his people until the Pharaoh who'd been oppressing the Jews (and the one who'd planned to charge Moses with murder) had already died. Why did he wait so long? Indeed, why hadn't he told them to return home after the famine ended, way back when Joseph was still a high Egyptian official? That would have been the smart plan.
10 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.

11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?

For whatever reason, God has decided that now is the time for the Jews to return to the Promised Land, and that Moses should be his tool. But Moses resists. Seriously, it takes quite a long time for God to talk him into it. God even gets pissed about it. It's really pretty funny.
13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Huh? Is this God or Popeye? In the next verse, he confirms that "this is my name for ever" (only it only lasts for another couple of chapters before God gets a new name).
18 And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.

19 And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.

20 And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.

God instructs Moses to lie to the Pharaoh. They should tell the him that they're only going a little ways away, into the wilderness, in order to sacrifice to their god. (In reality, of course, they want to escape Egypt entirely. They're not coming back.)

Given that the Pharaoh is killing off the Jews - killing their newborn boys at least - because he worries about how numerous they've become, why wouldn't he want to get rid of them, anyway?

Note that they weren't ever actually enslaved, as far as I can tell from the Bible. And they were originally invited to settle the best land in Egypt. So if they actually want to leave, why wouldn't that be welcome? Is no one else greedy for that good land?

At any rate, God knows that the Pharaoh won't let them go - even for their pretend religious observance - but no problem. God will just smite the Egyptians until he does.
21 And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty:

22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.

God just told them to lie. Now, he's also telling them to steal. Way back in Genesis, God promised Abraham that his people would come out of bondage "with great substance." Now, God promises that they won't go empty.

But this doesn't mean that they've got a lot of wealth to take with them, since they've done so well in Egypt. No, instead, their women are supposed to borrow jewels and fine clothing - just before they leave forever - and "ye shall spoil the Egyptians" (as in the spoils of war).

If you're wondering, note that Chapter 12 makes it very clear that these "neighbours" they're to borrow from are the Egyptians,... and that they're not going to return the items, either. It's theft, directed and commanded by God.

Chapter 4:
1 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee.

2 And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.

3 And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it.

Moses is still arguing. Why should anyone believe Moses, when he tells them that his instructions come from God? So God demonstrates a few magic tricks to help convince them. (Don't worry, we'll see them all later. So I won't bother to go into the details now.)
10 And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

11 And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?

12 Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say.

13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.

14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well...

Moses continues to argue. (He really doesn't want to do this.) He's not the man for this. He's not eloquent. He's slow of speech, slow of tongue.

God starts to get pissed. OK, he'll send Aaron, Moses' brother, to do the speaking. Moses will tell him what to say ("thou shalt be to him instead of God"), and Aaron will say it ("he shall be to thee instead of a mouth").

(As an aside, note that God admits to have made the deaf, the dumb, and the blind. So if you're deaf, dumb, or blind, it's because God wanted you that way. It's not an accident.)
18 And Moses went and returned to Jethro his father in law, and said unto him, Let me go, I pray thee, and return unto my brethren which are in Egypt, and see whether they be yet alive. And Jethro said to Moses, Go in peace.

19 And the LORD said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return into Egypt: for all the men are dead which sought thy life.

20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

OK, Moses is finally convinced (or just gives up). And the previous Pharaoh has died, so Moses can return without being charged with murder. Everything must be all set, then,... right?
24 And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.

25 Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me.

26 So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision.

After all this, after finally convincing Moses to take the job, and after Moses has returned to Egypt to carry out God's commands,... God tries to kill Moses! Why? Well, apparently, Moses hasn't circumcised his son.

Um,... God is supposed to be omniscient, isn't he? So he didn't know this when he was persuading Moses to take the job?

Luckily, Zipporah, Moses' Midian wife, is both smart and quick. She grabs a sharp stone, cuts the foreskin off her son (verse 20 indicates that they've got more than one son, but apparently one will do), and throws it at God's feet (or Moses' feet? - it's hard to tell). "Surely a bloody husband are thou to me."

I've no idea what that means, but it worked. God let Moses live.

Anyway, Aaron and Moses meet and then talk to the elders of Israel. Moses shows off his magic tricks and convinces them all. But the Pharaoh will be a much tougher audience.

Chapter 5:
1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.

2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

As God commanded, Moses lies to the Pharaoh, telling him that the Jews just want to go hold a feast in the wilderness. But the Pharaoh refuses to allow it. Indeed, he gets mad and heaps even more labor on their people:
6 And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying,

7 Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves.


9 Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

Now they won't even get straw to make bricks. They're still required to make the bricks. They just have to gather the necessary straw themselves. When they fail to make their quota, they're beaten. So they're not very happy about what's resulted from listening to Moses!
21 And they said unto them [Moses and Aaron], The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.

22 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me?

23 For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.

They complain to Moses, and Moses complains to God.

Chapter 6:
1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.

God replies: Just wait till you see what I'm going to do to the guy. I'm going to mortify him! (I'm paraphrasing a bit.)
2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD:

3 And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

God has a new name. Earlier, he told Moses that his name was "I am that I am," and that this was going to be his name forever. Now, he says that his name is Jehovah. Funny, huh?

God was referred to several different ways in Genesis, but he claims here that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob didn't know this particular name. (Here's an interesting discussion of that.)
6 Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:

7 And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

"And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God." A God. Doesn't that sound like there's more than one god? This one - Jehovah - agrees to rescue the Jews, and he will take them for "a people." In exchange, they take him for "a God."

This is a quid pro quo. This is that "covenant" they keep talking about. They will take Jehovah for their god, in exchange for his efforts on their behalf, but there's no implication here that this is the only god. And there's certainly no implication that Jehovah cares a crap about anyone else. Hey, let all those other people get their own gods, right?

This is monotheistic only in the sense that Jehovah is a jealous god who doesn't want his chosen people cheating on him. It seems to be understood that other gods exist. It's like having your own husband or your own wife. It's not that others don't exist. It's just that you expect your own to be faithful to you - and vice versa.
9 And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.

10 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

11 Go in, speak unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land.

12 And Moses spake before the LORD, saying, Behold, the children of Israel have not hearkened unto me; how then shall Pharaoh hear me, who am of uncircumcised lips?

Heh, heh. "Uncircumcised lips." I like that phrase. I don't have the slightest clue what it means, but I like it. (I mean, yes, it means that Moses isn't a good speaker, as he's said before. But I don't understand the phrase.)

Anyway, since Moses' first attempt at persuading the Pharaoh has made things worse for his people, they aren't listening to him anymore, magic tricks or not. (As we see later, those magic tricks can't be too convincing, since all the other magicians can do them, too.) And Moses still isn't very confident, himself.

The rest of the chapter is just another genealogy of the Jews. Frankly, they don't seem to be all that numerous, considering that the Pharaoh (the previous Pharaoh, at least) complained about them being "more and mightier" than the Egyptians themselves. I think he was exaggerating a bit (or a whole lot).

At any rate, this part is nothing if not boring, so I'll skip it here. In my next post, I'll get to Moses' actual attempts at persuading the Pharaoh to let his people go.

Note: This whole series can be found here.


Chimeradave said...

Jethro huh?

Is it this Jethro?

Or this Jethro?,_Jr._1962.JPG


WCG said...

Oh, it's got to be Jethro Bodine, John. (And here I thought you were too young to remember that!)

But no comment about that 'bloody husband' stuff? I figured you'd have an explanation for me.

Coincidentally, I just listened to this podcast of The Human Bible - the first I'd ever heard - and Robert Price mentions it there.

Apparently, he thinks it had something to do with a change in Jewish custom from adult circumcision to infant circumcision, that it was added to the story of Moses by proponents of infant circumcision in order to help justify their belief.

Oh, and "feet" is apparently used in the Bible as a euphemism for "penis," so Zipporah is throwing the bloody foreskin of her son onto Moses' penis, thus convincing God that Moses himself has been circumcised.

Yeah, I know. It doesn't sound any less weird this way, does it? LOL

Chimeradave said...

Yeah, I watched a lot of Nick at Night when I was growing up.

And about the circumcision stuff. I didn't want to touch it with a ten foot pole. :)