Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Bible, Pt. 19: Exodus, Chapter 14 - 17

This continues my reading of the Christian Bible, King James version, directly from Part 18. The whole series can be found here.

Chapter 14:
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.

3 For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.

4 And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD...

Nope, God's bloodlust hasn't been sated. Even after killing every firstborn son in Egypt, he's determined to do more, in order to demonstrate his power and be "honoured upon Pharaoh."

So he sets a trap, first by making sure the Jews camp alongside the sea, where they appear to be trapped themselves, and then by again hardening the Pharaoh's heart, so he'll attack them.
8 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.

10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD.

11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?

12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.

OK, God has just performed miracle after miracle for these people, thoroughly trashing Egypt in the process. He's forced the Pharaoh to let them leave the country, not just with all of their flocks and herds, but with the jewelry and fine raiment they've stolen from the Egyptians, too.

But they're barely out of Egypt before they're complaining. It's almost as if they didn't witness all of those miracles after all, isn't it? Why didn't you leave us alone? We were perfectly happy serving the Egyptians!

But, you know, there's even more to it than that. The Pharaoh is bringing 600 chariots with him, and I'm sure that's a potent military force. But the Jews have a thousand times that many men on their side. OK, maybe they're not trained soldiers, but those are still pretty good odds, don't you think?

Of course, they've also got a very bloodthirsty god on their side:
15 And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:

16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.

17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.

This was why God killed all those Egyptian children, too. He's just showing off. He's demonstrating his power. He's killing people just to show that no one can stop him.

He doesn't have to do this. Remember, God was appearing as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night.
19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:

20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.

He's a god. He has no problem that night keeping the Pharaoh's men from attacking the Israelis. Indeed, they're only attacking in the first place because he keeps hardening the Pharaoh's heart. God wants to kill them. God insists on killing them - not for any good reason, but just to show that he can.

And he does:
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,

25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians.

...

28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.

Read that again: "Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians." The Egyptian soldiers tried to run away. And they wouldn't have been able to follow, not with the entire Red Sea between them.

But God didn't let them run away. Heck, they probably wouldn't have been there in the first place if God hadn't kept hardening the Pharaoh's heart. Right from the beginning, through plague after plague, it was God who kept the Pharaoh from releasing the Jews. And at the end, it was God who goaded the Pharaoh into following, just so he could kill again - not the Pharaoh alone, but all of his men, too.
31 And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.

Hmm,... you have to wonder if this wasn't the point, don't you? It's not just to the Egyptians that God demonstrated his power and his bloodlust, but to the Jews, too. "And the people feared the LORD."

Chapter 15:
1 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

2 The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.

...

14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.

15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.

16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.

...

20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

This is another short chapter, and almost all of it is just a song of celebration. Ding-dong, the Pharaoh is dead! After this, everyone else will fear them.

Chapter 16:
1 And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

2 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:

3 And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

OK, they've just seen another miracle! They've seen the sea itself part for them, and the ocean bottom become dry land. They've seen the Pharaoh and his whole army being swallowed up behind them, and witnessed the dead Egyptians littering the sea shore.

But in less than two months, they're already wishing they'd stayed in Egypt! Well, this isn't the first time, and it won't be the last. But it's really pretty funny, don't you think? I mean, back then, religious believers didn't need faith, because God was always there doing miracles for them. But a few weeks later, they've apparently forgotten all about it.

So God comes through for them again:
10 And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

...

13 And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host.

14 And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.

15 And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.

...

31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

...

35 And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.

This was manna - very tiny white stuff which they gathered up from the ground every morning, before the sun melted it, which they ate for forty years. And there was always twice as much available on the day before the sabbath, so they could save some of it, and they wouldn't have to work on the sabbath.

On the other hand, if they tried saving it overnight any other day, "it grew worms, and stank." (There's a lot of speculation at Wikipedia on what manna really was, but that misses the point. The point is that this is just a story, and that manna was simply supposed to be magic. You don't need a natural explanation for magic. Indeed, if there were a natural explanation, it wouldn't be magic.)

Chapter 17:
1 And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

...

3 And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?

4 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.

Heh, heh. Here we go again! But you've got to feel for Moses, don't you? God has just given them magic food, which they simply pick up off the ground every morning, yet now they're back to bitching again. "Wherefore is this that thou has brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?"

Of course, God finds water for them (which he did at the end of Chapter 15, too, though I didn't bother to mention it then).
8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim.

9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.

10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.

11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

12 But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

Hmm,... they have a surprisingly hard time with this Amalek tribe, don't they? (Amalek was the grandson of Esau, Jacob's twin, and the Amalekites were supposedly his descendants.)

I mean, they've just pretty much destroyed Egypt, the most powerful nation in the Middle East. Besides, they've got 600,000 men! But a bunch of desert nomads give them problems?

Now me, I have to look at it from the Amalekite point of view. Here are at least three million people, with all of their flocks and herds, moving into a desert - the Amalek's home - which probably couldn't fully support the people who already lived there.

But, of course, God can fix them up with food and water, so there's enough for everyone, right?
14 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.

...

16 For he said, Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.

Oh, yeah, I forgot. God doesn't give a crap about anyone else, huh?

OK, that's enough for now. Next time, we'll take a look at God's laws.

___
Note: This entire series can be found here.

3 comments:

Chimeradave said...

One has to wonder why these are God's choosen people. They dont even seem to like him and certainly dont trust him.

WCG said...

Would you? :)

Chimeradave said...

too true, too true.