Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Bible, Pt. 22: Exodus, Chapter 32 - 40

Continuing my Bible commentary from Part 21. Note that the whole series can be found here, and that all quotes are from the King James Bible.

Chapter 32:
1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.


4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

So, Moses has been on the mountain, getting the many-more-than-ten commandments - and lots of interior decorating tips - from God. But after a few days, the Israelites say, "To hell with waiting around. Let's find us a new god."

Remember that these are supposed to be the best people God could find on the whole planet. Now, they've just witnessed their god bring ten horrendous plagues to the Egyptians, plagues which magically avoided the Hebrew people.

Then they watched their God part the Red Sea, turning the seabed to dry land on which they could walk, then turn it back into ocean behind them to destroy the Pharaoh and all his troops. Not just that, but God is still providing manna from heaven every day - except the sabbath - so they can just pick their food up off the ground each morning. Oh, and he's miraculously provided water in the desert, too - twice.

But now, they get impatient after only a month or so? Even though they're still getting magical food every day? And Aaron - Moses' brother and the guy handpicked by God to serve as Moses' spokesman - goes along with it? Heck, he doesn't just go along with it, he creates their new god himself!

I'm not sure what's more surprising, God's incredibly bad ability to recognize the character of ordinary human beings (remember the 'perfect' Noah, Abraham, and Lot?), or the unbelievably poor short-term memory and/or patience of his 'chosen people.' Either way, it's downright laughable, isn't it?
7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:

8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Remember, the only characteristic God actually values in human beings is obedience, so he's royally pissed now. He's going to spare Moses, but he plans to wipe out the rest of the Israelites. Well, he's done this before - even worse than this - with Noah, and he clearly doesn't mind starting over yet again.
11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.


14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Moses knows just what to say: What will the Egyptians think about this? Remember, God kept hardening the Pharaoh's heart so God could demonstrate to the Egyptians, over and over again, how powerful he was. But now, if he kills all those people he's just rescued, what will the Egyptians say about that?

Well, this argument does the trick. Moses sure knows how to manipulate the Lord, doesn't he? So God "repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people."

Um, say what? God was going to do evil? But then he changed his mind? Hmm,... neither of these things really fits the omniscient, omnipotent, omni-benevolent god Christians imagine, does it?

Admittedly, God repented of creating human beings in the first place in Genesis, Chapter 6, so this isn't the first time his omniscience has let him down (not that there's been any hint of omniscience in this god - not yet, certainly). And by almost any definition imaginable, God has certainly done plenty of evil in the Old Testament, too.
18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

OMG, there's singing and dancing! Well, Moses will certainly put an end to that,... by making them drink water with ground up flecks of gold in it?

But I guess there was more to it than that:
25 And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)

26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.

Whoa! There wasn't just singing and dancing, there was naked singing and dancing! And they didn't invite him? No wonder Moses is so pissed!

But Moses has just the solution for people who worship a different god: Kill the heretics! That probably wasn't too difficult, since his side had swords and their opponents were naked. And his side outnumbered the heretics 200 to 1. (Remember, there were supposed to be more than 600,000 men in total.)

And this is on the direct command of God: "slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor." Well, you certainly can't have freedom of religion, huh? How crazy would that be? Can you imagine just letting each person decide for himself which god to worship (or not)?
35 And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

Hmm,... I wonder what he did to Aaron? Remember, Aaron and his sons were to be God's priests, so what's he doing making a false idol? And really, why didn't God see that coming? God seems to be just a horrible judge of character, doesn't he?

Chapter 33:
1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:

2 And I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite:

3 Unto a land flowing with milk and honey: for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way.

Remember, God is giving the Israelites a land which is already home to many other tribes. They're coming as invaders, but not to worry, they've got God on their side.

Only, God is still pissed at them, so he's going to send an angel along, instead of joining them himself ("lest I consume thee in the way"). Very quickly, though, God is persuaded to change his mind (again).
11 And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. ...

12 And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight.


16 For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.

17 And the LORD said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that thou hast spoken: for thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name.

Remember when Moses tried to get out of all this by assuring God that he wasn't eloquent, claiming that he was "slow of speech, and of slow tongue" (Chapter 4)? Clearly, that wasn't the truth, as he's now talked God into changing his mind twice in the last two chapters.

This time, God agrees to go with them after all, instead of just sending an angel.
20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

21 And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:

22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:

23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.

Wait,... what? God is going to show Moses his "back parts"? That sounds rather kinky, doesn't it? And note that Moses and God were just talking "face to face." I mean, it was just a few verses previously! I know the Bible isn't consistent, but this is ridiculous!

Furthermore, God showed himself to Abraham many times in Genesis. Similarly, in Chapter 32 of Genesis, Jacob says, "for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." But all of a sudden, "shall no man see me, and live"?

Chapter 34:
1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.


5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

And modest, too. Let's not forget modest.
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Hmm,... I don't think I'd brag about that last part. Why should my great-grandchildren be punished for something I did? That's neither justice nor good morals.
11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee:

13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:

14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and one call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice;

16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods.

Again, God promises to drive out of the Promised Land the people who already make their homes there. Nice guy, huh? Furthermore, he insists that the Israelites make no peace treaties with those people - and certainly not that they practice freedom of religion. Just the reverse, in fact.

So how often was this cited when Christians burned heretics alive, I wonder? How often during the Inquisition? How often during the centuries of European war, when Catholics and Protestants both tried to force their own particular religious beliefs on everyone?

Just consider how anti-Bible the United States Constitution really was - and is. Can you imagine getting the concepts of freedom of speech and religion from this book?
19 All that openeth the matrix is mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, whether ox or sheep, that is male.

20 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

Here, again, God insists on the blood sacrifice of every first born male animal and person. The firstborn of an ass you can redeem with a lamb, if you don't want to sacrifice the ass. However, if you can't afford a lamb, you must break its neck. The same also appears to be the case for "the firstborn of thy sons."
28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

This is the first we hear of "ten" commandments. The first time Moses was on the mountain - also for forty days and forty nights - there were a lot more than just ten commandments listed (and that's not even counting the interior decorating arrangements). But Moses broke those tablets, so he's back on the mountain again now, so God can write on the blank stone tablets Moses has made as replacements.

Again, it takes forty days and forty nights. Is God just a slow writer or something? After all, he's already told Moses exactly what he wants (in excruciating detail). But this time, it's just ten commandments. Unfortunately, we're not told what those ten commandments are. Not here, at least.

But we do get a repeat of all that interior decorating stuff. (For my sins, I suppose.)

Chapter 35:
1 And Moses gathered all the congregation of the children of Israel together, and said unto them, These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them.

2 Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.

3 Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.

OK, here's one commandment, I guess. Put to death anyone who works - or even heats his home - on the sabbath. You know, I'll bet there'd be a lot fewer Christians here in Nebraska if this one was still observed!
4 And Moses spake unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD commanded, saying,

5 Take ye from among you an offering unto the LORD: whosoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it, an offering of the LORD; gold, and silver, and brass,

6 And blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair,

7 And rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins, and shittim wood,

8 And oil for the light, and spices for anointing oil, and for the sweet incense,

The rest of this, though - and the rest of the chapters of Exodus - is just Moses telling the Israelites about the interior decorating ideas of their God. And then all of them work to build to God's precise specifications.

Chapter 36:
8 And every wise hearted man among them that wrought the work of the tabernacle made ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work made he them.

9 The length of one curtain was twenty and eight cubits, and the breadth of one curtain four cubits: the curtains were all of one size.

10 And he coupled the five curtains one unto another: and the other five curtains he coupled one unto another.

And on and on. Are there any discrepancies between the two accounts? Beats me. If you want to compare the two, be my guest. I could barely stay awake reading this stuff the first time.

Chapter 37:
1 And Bezaleel made the ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half was the length of it, and a cubit and a half the breadth of it, and a cubit and a half the height of it:

2 And he overlaid it with pure gold within and without, and made a crown of gold to it round about.

3 And he cast for it four rings of gold, to be set by the four corners of it; even two rings upon the one side of it, and two rings upon the other side of it.

Again, my apologies, but I'm skipping most of this stuff. Trust me, you wouldn't want to read it, anyway. 38 verses in the previous chapter, 28 in this one, 31 in the next,... and we've read it all before, just a little bit earlier in Exodus.

It was excessive the first time. To repeat it all really goes beyond the bounds of reason and polite society!

Chapter 38:
1 And he made the altar of burnt offering of shittim wood: five cubits was the length thereof, and five cubits the breadth thereof; it was foursquare; and three cubits the height thereof.

2 And he made the horns thereof on the four corners of it; the horns thereof were of the same: and he overlaid it with brass.

3 And he made all the vessels of the altar, the pots, and the shovels, and the basons, and the fleshhooks, and the firepans: all the vessels thereof made he of brass.

Well, of course! What good is an altar without fleshhooks, firepans, and shovels?

Yeah, I said that before, didn't I? My apologies for repeating myself. :)

Chapter 39:
1 And of the blue, and purple, and scarlet, they made cloths of service, to do service in the holy place, and made the holy garments for Aaron; as the LORD commanded Moses.

2 And he made the ephod of gold, blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen.


27 And they made coats of fine linen of woven work for Aaron, and for his sons,

Note that Aaron doesn't seem to have lost his position as head priest for the minor peccadillo of creating a new god - that golden calf - for the Israelites to worship when they got tired of waiting for Moses. No big deal, then?
42 According to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel made all the work.

43 And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.

Only five chapters this time and they're done. God's new house is ready for him.

Chapter 40:
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

2 On the first day of the first month shalt thou set up the tabernacle of the tent of the congregation.

3 And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with the vail.

4 And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.


16 Thus did Moses: according to all that the LORD commanded him, so did he.

Well, OK, it's not quite ready. There are 15 more verses of God's instructions, and then another 16 verses or so of Moses carrying out those instructions. But now we're done.
33 ... So Moses finished the work.

34 Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

35 And Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

36 And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward in all their journeys:

37 But if the cloud were not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.

38 For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

And God moves in. This is now God's home on Earth, apparently. It's a temporary home - a mobile home - until they get to Jerusalem and build a more permanent temple, but remember that it's going to take them another 40 years of wandering the desert just to get there.

I really hope when they do get there that we don't get yet another repeat of all this interior decorating stuff! But I'll worry about that when, and if, the time comes. For now, we're done with Exodus.

Next time, we'll start Leviticus, and I must admit that I haven't read one word of that chapter, not yet. So I have no idea what to expect. Maybe we'll find out together? See you then!

Note: This entire series can be found here.

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