Thursday, March 26, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 26, 27, & 28

Chapters 26, 27, & 28
Thoughts:The following three chapters I'm not going to bother commenting on or writing lengthy summaries for as they are simply about the construction details of the tabernacle. I'll tell you what is discussed and provide links to the King James Version chapters if you'd like to read them for yourselves.
Chapter 26
Summary:Details the building of the tabernacle tent and the "Holy Place" in which the ark of the covenant, containing the ten commandments, is to be placed.

King James Version - Exodus Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Summary:Details building the altar for the inside of the tabernacle, the courtyard outside the tabernacle, and the eternal flames to be made of the lamps in the tabernacle.

King James Version - Exodus Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Summary:Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar are all chosen to be consecrated as priests. The chapter describes how their uniforms are to be made. God also adds that these outfits are to be worn by them whenever Aaron or his sons enter the tabernacle, or they will be killed. This is a permanent ordinance for Aaron and his sons.

King James Version - Exodus Chapter 28

EXODUS: Chapters 24 & 25

Chapter 24
Summary:God now tells Moses to ascend the mountain and to bring Aaron, Nadab*, Abihu*, and seventy of the elders of Israel. He furthers that everyone but Moses will worship at a distance, and that only Moses alone shall be allowed to come near God. He reminds Moses that none of the ordinary people are permitted to come up into the mountain at all.

Moses then announced to the people all the laws and regulations God had given him; and the people answered in unison (all 600,000+ of them?) that they would obey them all.

Moses wrote down the laws and early the next morning he built an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve pillars all around it to signify each of the twelve tribes of Israel. He then sent some of the young men to perform animal sacrifices to God. Moses took half of the animal blood and stored it into basins, the rest he splashed against the altar.

He read to the people the book he had written - the Book of the Covenant - containing God's directions and laws. The people once again said that they solemnly promise to obey every one of those rules. Then Moses threw the blood from the basins towards the people telling them that the blood confirms and seals the covenant that God had made with them.

Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders now went up into the mountain. There they all saw God, and under his feet seemed to be a pavement of brilliant sapphire stones. Even though the elders had seen God, he did not destroy them, and they had a meal together before God.

God then tells Moses to ascend the mountain and to remain until God gives him the laws and commandments written on stone tablets. Moses and his assistant Joshua went up into the mountain, while God tells the elders to stay and wait until they return, adding that if there are any problems, to consult with Aaron and Hur.

Moses went up into the mountain and disappeared into the cloud at the top. The glory of God rested upon Mount Sinai and the cloud covered it for six days; the seventh day he called Moses from the cloud. The people at the bottom of the mountain saw that the glory of God looked like a raging fire.

Moses disappeared into the cloud covered mountain top, and was there for forty days and forty nights.
Notes:1.) Nadab and Abihu are Aaron's sons. They are not introduced as such here.
Thoughts:God tells Moses that he's to take his brother Aaron, Aaron's two sons (who for some reason we are not introduced to, but they are simply just inserted into the story without introduction), and 70 (there's that number again) of the elders up the mountain with him.

Before Moses gathers his brother, his nephews, and the 70 elders, he recites God's laws to the people of Israel - which is unclear how he manages to address well over half a million people at once. The people - in unison, no less - tell Moses that they will obey every single law as stated.

Moses builds an altar the next morning and gets some young men to gather a bunch of animals for some animal sacrifices. Moses saves half of the animal blood in basins and splatters the rest over the altar. Moses addresses the people again, reading all the laws he had written down, and when they all agreed he throws the rest of the animal blood at them to seal their covenant and promise to God. Personally, I find this to be pretty appalling, rather disgusting, and probably not very hygienic either.

I also find the parallels to what people's reactions are to their stereotypical thoughts of "Satanic Panic" that were common in the 1980s, when the more conservative Christian people were aghast to the rumored, as well as actual animal sacrifices teenagers were allegedly doing in the name of Satan. It questions as to what it is that they find really ghastly when it mirrors what is described as a regular occurrence in the bible.

Finally, Moses takeshis brother Aaron, his nephews Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders up the mountain where they all come to see God. Once again it is stressed that the elders are somehow lucky to see God and to not be destroyed for gazing upon him. They all have a meal together before God's presence.

Moses then (along with his assistant Joshua) is asked to climb further up the mountain, where he is to stay until God gives him the stone tablets on which all of God's laws and commandments are to be written.

Moses stays up there, past the cloud covering, for the next forty days and forty nights.
Chapter 25
Summary:God gives Moses a "shopping list" of items to gather from the people:
Gold, silver, bronze, blue cloth, purple cloth, scarlet cloth, fine twined linen, goat's hair, red-dyed ram's skins, goat-skins, acacia wood, olive oil, spices, and onyx stones.
God apparently wants these items so that the people of Israel can build him a proper temple, so that God can live amongst them.

God furthers that this home of his - called a tabernacle - will be a tent pavilion. God tells Moses that he will draw him up a construction plan with details of each furnishing.

The following details are as they are listed in the King James Version of the bible:
10: And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
11: And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about.
12: And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in the one side of it, and two rings in the other side of it.
13: And thou shalt make staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold.
14: And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne with them.
15: The staves shall be in the rings of the ark: they shall not be taken from it.
16: And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee.
17: And thou shalt make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof.
18: And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat.
19: And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
20: And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.
21: And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
22: And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
23: Thou shalt also make a table of shittim wood: two cubits shall be the length thereof, and a cubit the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof.
24: And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, and make thereto a crown of gold round about.
25: And thou shalt make unto it a border of an hand breadth round about, and thou shalt make a golden crown to the border thereof round about.
26: And thou shalt make for it four rings of gold, and put the rings in the four corners that are on the four feet thereof.
27: Over against the border shall the rings be for places of the staves to bear the table.
28: And thou shalt make the staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with gold, that the table may be borne with them.
29: And thou shalt make the dishes thereof, and spoons thereof, and covers thereof, and bowls thereof, to cover withal: of pure gold shalt thou make them.
30: And thou shalt set upon the table shewbread before me always.
31: And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
32: And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side:
33: Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick.
34: And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers.
35: And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick.
36: Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold.
37: And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it.
38: And the tongs thereof, and the snuffdishes thereof, shall be of pure gold.
39: Of a talent of pure gold shall he make it, with all these vessels.
40: And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.
Thoughts:A mostly useless chapter, unless that is you'd like to make your own tabernacle and "ark of the covenant". Outside of telling the reader how to build the ark and how it's supposed to look like, nothing of any significance is really revealed here.

EXODUS: Chapter 23

Chapter 23
Summary:Even more of God's rules:
  • Do not pass along untrue reports. Do not cooperate with an evil man by affirming on the witness stand something you know is false.
  • Don't join mobs intent on evil. When on the witness stand, do not be swayed by the majority present, and do not slant your testimony in favor of a man because he is poor.
  • If you happen by an enemy's ox or donkey that has strayed away, you must take it back to its owner. If you see your enemy trying to get his donkey onto its feet beneath a heavy load, you must not go on by, but must help him.
  • A man's poverty is no excuse for twisting judgment against him.
  • Keep far away from falsely charging anyone with evil and never let an innocent person be put to death. I will not acquit the wicked.
  • Don't take bribes, a bribe hurts the cause of the person who is right.
  • Do not oppress foreigners; as you, the people of Israel, were foreigners in the land of Egypt*.
  • Sow and reap your crops for six years, but let the land rest for the seventh year. Let the poor amongst you harvest any volunteer crop that may come up, leave the rest for your animals to enjoy. The same rule applies to vineyards and olive groves.
  • Work six days only and rest on the seventh. This is to give your animals a rest, as well as the people of your household - your slaves and visitors.
  • Obey these instructions and never mention the name of any other god - either in prayer, or in taking an oath.
  • There are three annual pilgrimages you must make:
    • Pilgrimage of Unleavened Bread: for seven days you are not to eat bread made with yeast. This celebration is an annual event in March, the month you left Egypt. Everyone must bring a sacrifice at this time
    • Harvest Pilgrimage: When you must bring me the first of your crops.
    • Pilgrimage of Ingathering: This occurs at the end of the harvest season.
    • At these three times, every man of Israel shall appear before God.
  • No sacrificial blood shall be offered with leavened bread; no sacrificial fat shall be left unoffered until the next morning.
  • As you reap each of your crops, bring me the choicest sample of your first day's harvest; it is to be offered to God.
  • Do not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.
  • I will be sending an angel before you to lead you safely to the land I have promised you. Reverence him and obey him, for he will not pardon your transgression. If you are careful to obey him, then I shall be an enemy to your enemies. My angel will go before you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites. I shall destroy those people before you.
  • You must not worship the gods of these other nations, nor sacrifice to them in any way. You must not follow the example of these heathens; you must utterly conquer them and break down their shameful idols.
  • You shall serve God only, then I shall bless you with food and water, and remove your sicknesses. There will be no miscarriages or barrenness throughout your land, and you will live out the full quota of your life.
  • The terror of God shall fall upon all the people who's land you invade and they will flee before you. I will send hornets to drive out the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites from before you. I will not do it all in one year, for the land would become a wilderness, and the wild animals would become too many to control. I will drive them out a little at a time, until your population has increased enough to fill the land. I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea to the Philistine coast, and from the southern deserts as far as the Euphrates River. I will cause you to defeat the people now living in the land, and you will drive them out ahead of you.

    You shall make no covenant with them, nor have anything to do with their gods. Don't let them live among you, for I know they will infect you with their sin of worshiping false gods - and that would be an utter disaster for you.
Notes:1.) Essentially God is repeating himself from Chapter 22. Exodus 22:21 says virtually the same thing as Exodus 23:9, substituting "stranger" with "foreigner".
Thoughts:Essentially, this chapter is mostly God's rules for dealing with other people, foreigners, and those deemed "evil".

Interesting to me, is verse 7, which God tells the people to stay away from "falsely charging others with evil" and to "never put an innocent person to death", which runs contrary to "presuming" that a man defending his home from a daytime burglar is automatically guilty of murder (see Chapter 22).

The biggest problem here is that human judgment is not perfect and can be flawed. We know that even today with some of the best criminal forensic sciences that occasionally we have imprisoned innocent people. Modern DNA testing has exonerated several incarcerated people for crimes that they had been jailed for, and sometimes even been sentenced to die for. Occasionally, we've even found out too late that we've killed an innocent person. The problem here is that God is demanding a lot of deaths here for a lot of "sins" and/or "crimes", that are supposed to be judged and executed by human beings. According to earlier chapters, we're told that God does indeed have the power to execute individuals - he killed both of Judah's sons Er and Onan in Genesis: Chapter 38 deeming Er to be "wicked" and killing Onan for not having proper sex with Er's wife. So why is God leaving executions in the hands of people, whom even with the best intentions, may make mistakes and kill the innocent, instead of being the executioner himself? On top of that, he threatens the people not to execute the innocent when presumably he should know better that we are imperfect, and are capable of wrongful convictions - just as our justice system sometimes does today.

God continues on with his rules, oddly repeating his rules on strangers/foreigners that he made the previous chapter, and his rules about observing the sabbath.

God makes it clear that these rules are to be obeyed, and for good measure he repeats that the people are not to recognize, or even mention the names of, other gods. He repeats his instructions about how to celebrate the annual holidays and how to conduct the animal sacrifices God demands - including such tips such as not to boil a baby goat in its mother's milk.

He then tells the people than an angel will be leading their way into the promised land, and that if the people obey the angel that it will help destroy the current inhabitants of the lands. I find this hard to reconcile with the modern description many Christians give of their religion as being a "peaceful" one. If God promises you a piece of land, then it is okay to destroy the people who are living there right now(?) - which I suppose, we shouldn't be having sympathy for, as God further describes them as "heathens", and that the people are to destroy all their religious idols when they arrive to destroy them.

God tells the people that if they obey, then they'll be blessed with food and water, God will take care of their illnesses, and their pregnancies will be free of complications and miscarriages, and no woman shall be barren.

He continues to tell the people of how he will drive the current inhabitants out little by little, until the Israelis are a great enough number to come in and invade. God sees no chance of any of these people being "saved" or "redeemed" and tells the Israelis not to let any of these people live amongst them, as apparently they're hopelessly "wicked" and cannot be converted. He tells the Israelis that these people will "infect" them with their "false gods" and that would spell the Israelis doom - presumably at God's hand.

Honestly, to me this sounds like God is doing a lot of profiling and stereotyping without concern for people as individuals. Much like he's done with the Egyptians in previous chapters, he's villainized the Hivites, Canaanites, and the Hittites and implied that not a single one of them are redeemable. God is not here to spread his message of love and joy for all to follow, he is here to let one chosen group of people dominate and destroy whoever gets in their way. As God's laws are written out, it wouldn't matter if a Canaanite saw God's glory and wanted to worship him and live amongst the Israelis, he's doomed to be destroyed by virtue of his location and his lack of luck for not being a descendant of Jacob/Israel.

Personally, I find this a very elitist way of approaching supposedly God's own people - as he has allegedly created us all - and only furthers the notion that either God is not an all loving creator, or that we're dealing with a man made entity that a tribe of people created to elevate themselves to a higher status among other people of the time.

EXODUS: Chapter 22

Chapter 22
Summary:Some more of God's rules:
  • If a man steals an ox or sheep and then kills or sells it, he shall pay a fine of five to one for the oxen, and four to one for the sheep. He must return five oxen for every one stolen/killed, or four sheep for every one stolen/killed.
  • If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house at night and is killed, then the person who killed him is not guilty. However if this happens in the daytime then it must be presumed(!) to be murder and the man who kills him is guilty.
  • If a thief is captured, he must make full restitution. If he can't, then he shall be sold as a slave for his debt.
  • If a thief is caught in the act of stealing an ox, a sheep, or a donkey, he shall pay double the value as his fine.
  • If someone lets their animals loose and they eat another man's crops, he must pay for all damages by giving the owner an equal amount of the best of his own crop.
  • If a field is being cleared by a fire that gets out of control and destroys another's crops, then the one who started the fire shall make full restitution.
  • If someone gives money or property to someone to keep for him, and it is later stolen, the thief shall pay double when he is found. If no thief is found, then the man to whom the property was entrusted to shall be brought before God to determine whether he himself has stolen his neighbor's property,
  • In every case in which an ox, donkey, sheep, clothing, or anything else is lost, and the owner believes he has found it in the possession of someone else who denies it, both parties shall come before God for a decision. The one whom God declares guilty shall pay double to the other.
  • If a man entrusts his neighbor to keep an animal for him and it dies, is hurt, or it runs away, and if there is no eye witness to report what had happened, the the neighbor must make an oath that he has not stolen it, and te owner must accept his word, and no restitution shall be made. If the animal was stolen however, the neighbor caring for it must repay the owner. If the animal was attacked by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring the torn carcass to confirm the fact, and shall not be required to pay restitution.
  • If a man borrows an animal from a neighbor, and it is injured or killed while the owner is away, then the man who borrowed it must pay for it. If the owner is present, he need not pay. If the animal was rented, he need not pay because this possibility was included in the original rental fee.
  • If a man seduces a girl who is not engaged to anyone, and sleeps with her, he must pay the usual dowry and accept her has his wife. If the girls father refuses to let him marry her, then he must still pay the dowry anyway.
  • Witches and sorceresses must be put to death.
  • Anyone having sexual relations with an animal is to be executed.
  • Anyone sacrificing to any other gods shall be executed.
  • You must not oppress a stranger in any way; as you, the people of Israel, were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
  • You must not exploit widows or orphans; if you do, they will cry to me for help and I will surely give it. My anger shall flame out against you, and I will kill you with enemy armies, so that your wives will be widows and your children fatherless.
  • If you lend money to a fellow Hebrew, you shall handle it in the usual way, with interest. If you take his clothing as collateral for repayment, you must let him have it back at night. If you don't return it and he cries out to me for help, I will hear it and be very gracious to him, for I am compassionate.
  • You shall not blaspheme God, nor curse your government officials - your judges and your rulers.
  • You must be prompt in giving me the tithe of your crops and your wine, and the redemption payment for your firstborn son.
  • As to the firstborn of the oxen and sheep, sacrifice it on the eighth day, after leaving it with its mother for seven days.
  • Do not eat any animal that has been attacked and killed by a wild animal. Leave its carcass for the dogs to eat.
Thoughts:This chapter mostly deals with God's laws about property with some troubling ways to judge them. The first rule requires either a four to one (for sheep) or a five to one (for oxen) repayment for stolen and/or killed animals. Although excessive, it seems to serve reasonably more as a deterrent.

However our next rule is where we start running into trouble. If a man defending his home from burglary kills the thief at night, then all is okay, no punishment needed; however, if the burglary occurs in the daytime then the homeowner must be presumed to be a murderer. I find this extremely hard to accept that when dealing with a man's life - as the punishment for murder is execution - that we should "presume" someone's guilt. God however, sees it cut and dry and seems to think that there is no justifiable reason to kill a thief in the daylight, even if the thief may be possibly threatening the homeowner's life.

Now if we catch the thief alive, he's either got to pay restitution, or he will be sold into slavery.

The next few rules concern animal and property damage, which seem reasonable enough.

Next up however, if we have a dispute over two neighbors possibly stealing property with the neighbor professing innocence, now God himself has to judge them. Here, it comes down to your belief system on how you view this, if you believe in God, and that he has the ability and that he actually will judge earthly matters, then I can understand you seeing this is as "fair". However, when we look back at history to the atrocities of witch burnings, which were also supposedly judged by God, but that we now realize were more about paranoid people putting many innocent people to death without justification, then I think we can perceive the problem here. How do we know how God judges these things, and how can we be sure that these are judgments from God and not just the paranoid will of man? Unless God makes himself known, such as in his guise of a talking burning bush, I think we have the right to be skeptical of following anyone's inner-voice communication in prayer to God.

A few rules later, we have another questionable line referring to what to do if a man seduces an unmarried and unengaged girl. If he has sex with her, then he has just "married" her, and has to pay the family a dowry. The girl's father can forbid and effectively cancel the marriage, but the father still gets to keep the dowry. Being that rape is a very hard thing to prove, even in our modern day, a rapist very well could easily snag himself a wife in this fashion - leaving a rape victim bound to her attacker via marriage.

God now shows us his intolerance for "witches" and "sorceresses", as well as to people performing animal sacrifices for any other God besides Yahweh - they're all to be put to death. This also goes for those who practice bestiality, that's a stoning too.

God now warns people not to take advantage of widows or orphans, or he will personally see to it that enemy armies will come and destroy you, leaving your wife and kids without a husband and father.

If you take collateral of someone's clothing on a loan, then you'd better let them have it back at night or else God will show favor on the indebted party.

Not only is blaspheming God a problem, but this also applies to judges and rulers. God apparently frowns on the Rush Limbaughs and Michael Moores of the time. Although not specifically stated, I'm sure the punishment is most likely a stoning for criticizing your leaders.

Next, God reminds the people to be prompt in their crop and animal sacrifices, and that firstborn animals get to stay and live with their mothers for a week before being violently slaughtered for God.

Lastly, God tells the Hebrew people that they are not to eat any animal that has been killed by wild animals, that's apparently dog food.

Monday, March 23, 2009

EXODUS: Chapter 21

Chapter 21
Summary:The chapter basically outlines more of God's rules:
  • If you buy* a Hebrew slave, he shall serve only six years and be freed in the seventh, and need pay nothing to regain his freedom.
  • If a Hebrew slave sells himself into slavery and marries during his term as a slave, then only he himself will be freed; but if was married before slavery then both himself and his wife will be freed at the same time together. If a master gives a slave a wife, then only the slave will go free, the wife and any children will remain property of the master.
  • If a Hebrew slave wishes to remain with his wife and children that will belong to his master after his freedom, his master is to bring him before the judges, who will publicly bore his ear with an awl - branding him as a slave forever.
  • If a man sells his daughter into slavery:
    • She will not be freed after six years as the men are.
    • If she does not please the man who bought her, then he shall let her be bought back again. However, he has no power to sell her to foreigners since he has wronged her by no longer wanting her after having "married" her.
    • If he arranges an engagement between a Hebrew slave-girl and his son, then he must no longer treat her as a slave, but as a daughter instead.
    • If he himself marries a Hebrew slave-girl and then takes on another wife, he is not allowed to reduce her clothing or food, or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails at any of those three things, she may leave freely without any payment
  • Anyone who hits a man so hard that he dies will be put to death. If the act is accidental, then God will appoint a place where he can run and get protection. However, if a man deliberately attacks another man with the intention of killing him, he is to be dragged - even from a holy altar - to be killed.
  • Anyone who strikes his mother or father will be put to death.
  • Kidnappers must be killed, whether he is caught in possession of his victim or has already sold them into slavery.
  • Anyone who reviles or curses his mother or father shall be put to death.
  • If two men are fighting and one hits the other injuring him enough to confine him to bed - but not killing him - who is able to walk again, the man who hit him will be innocent, except that he must pay for the lost wages and expenses of the man he hit.
  • If a man beats his slave to death, then he will be punished. However if the slave lives for a day or two after the beating, the master will not be punished, as the slave is his property.
  • If men hurt a pregnant woman causing her to miscarriage* (or "give birth prematurely", see footnote) but she lives, then the man who injured her shall be fined whatever amount the woman's husband will demand, as approved by a judge. However, if any harm comes to the woman and she dies, he shall be executed.
  • If one knocks out or injures the eye of another, his eye shall be inured or knocked out as well. Eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth; hand for a hand; foot for a foot; burn for burn; wound for wound; lash for lash.
  • If a man hits his slave in the eye and thereby blinds him, the slave shall go free. If a man knocks out his slave's tooth, he shall let him go free to pay for the tooth.
  • If an ox gores a person to death, then the ox shall be stoned, but not eaten. The owner will not be held responsible unless the ox has been known to gore people in the past and was not kept under control. In that case both the ox and the owner shall be killed. However, the dead man's relatives may accept a fine instead, if they wish, determined by a judge.
  • If an ox gores a slave however, the slave's master will be given thirty pieces of silver and the ox shall be stoned.
  • If a man digs a well and doesn't cover it, and another's ox or donkey falls into it, the owner of the well shall pay full damages to the animal's owner, and the dead animal shall belong to him.
  • If a man's ox mortally injures another man's ox, then the two owners shall sell the live ox and divide the price between them, and each will own half of the dead ox. But if the ox was known to gore others, and its owner had failed to keep it under control, then the owner of the live ox shall pay in full for the dead ox, and the dead ox shall belong to him.
Notes:1.) "Buying" in this sense means that if someone owes you money and defaults on the payment, they will become your slave.
2.) There is obviously strong debate over the translation of this specific word for miscarriage. The Hebrew word used in this verse literally means "comes forth" which some take to mean a premature birth rather than a miscarriage or an abortion, noting that there are other Hebrew words that are used in other verses that describe still-birth miscarriages.
Thoughts:This chapter contains a lot of interesting little gems into the insights of justice and God's view points on the matters of human civilization. God obviously condones slavery, but wants to limit the term that a Hebrew will serve in slavery to six years - foreign slaves probably don't have to be released after the six years of service. If the slave marries either by his own volition or if his slave master gives him a wife, then he can kiss his wife and kids goodbye at the end of his six year term - his family now belongs to his slave master. If he truly wants to keep his family, then he'll have to resign to becoming branded as a slave forever.

However, dads, if you'd like to sell your daughters into slavery, there's no need to worry about them coming back in six years - freedom doesn't apply to women in this case. Strangely here, is the blurred line between slavery and marriage, as we can probably assume that both women and slaves are to be considered property - despite both having slightly different statuses. Furthering this point, it is mentioned is that if a slave master "marries" his slave-girl and then takes on a second wife, then the husband is obliged to treat her as a "full wife" - meaning that he's not to reduce her food and clothing provisions, and that he still has to sleep with her, otherwise she regains her freedom.

Next up we deal with how to deal with a man hitting another, and if he intentionally causes his death, he shall be put to death; however, if it's "an accident" then he's got to hope God comes through on his promise to "hide him", otherwise he'll probably be stoned to death anyways.

Striking, cursing, or reviling your either of your parents is an instant death sentence.

Kidnappers are also on the top of God's list of people who must be executed, regardless of whether their victim has been recovered or not.

Back to slavery, if a man kills his slave outright - that's a stoning. However, if the slave manages to survive the beating for a couple of days and then drop dead, then God sees it as no harm done, as the slave was just "property" anyways. I have a hard time finding any justification for this stance at all. Not only do we realize here that God condones slavery, but that beating a slave is also okay, as long as the slave survives the initial day of the beating. We've seen already that God had no issues with Hagar, our pregnant concubine of Abraham, getting a "well deserved" beating herself in Genesis: Chapter 16.

Pregnancy leads into our next rule which may be one of the most controversial lines in the book of Exodus. The King James Version of the bible translates verse 22 as follows:
22: If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
Many feel that this verse implies that the life of a fetus is not as valuable as the life of the mother, and to this I agree.

However, I also do agree partially with this argument that I found on the website "Stand to Reason" at The argument this site makes starts out very solid explaining that the Hebrew word for "miscarriage" being translated here in Exodus 21:22 literally means "coming forth" or "to come forth", and the same word is used in various chapters (one specifically that relates here and that we have covered already is Genesis Chapter 25 which describes the births of Esau and Jacob) that describe "living" births, as opposed to different Hebrew words being used to describe "stillborn" or "miscarried" births (such as used in verse coming up in Exodus: 23:26, that we'll be covering shortly).

To this end, I can agree with the point being made, however, if we still consider the nature of a premature birth induced by "men fighting", along with the conditions of the bronze age, we can't conclude that we're simply having the men responsible paying for "medical care" or for compensation for "complications" from premature birth. Premature living birth induced by "men fighting" doesn't seem to be the natural or most likely outcome of what is being described here. Chances are greater that the expelling of a child from the womb will be a miscarriage, rather than a premature birth. Even a living premature birth from these conditions would most likely result in a slim survival due to the circumstances and the lack of medical knowledge back in these days. In this regard "miscarriage" probably is the more apt term, and causing a woman to expel her child from her womb by the force of men fighting is far more likely to result in the child's death than survival.

It is certainly debatable the perceptions we can have with the bible not being very specific, and loosely translated, but I find even the notion of a live premature birth probably not having a high rate of survival implies that God tends not to place as high of a value - as with this not being worthy of a stoning - even in the case of a living premature birth. Obviously women, concubines, male slaves, and female slaves all seem to have different worth and values to God's punishments.

Almost immediately we verify that, by stating that knocking out the eyes and teeth of normal free Hebrew men and women carries a different price than if administered to a slave. Knocking out a free man or woman's eye means that you'll lose your own eye, knocking a slave's eye out means only that the slave regains his or her freedom.

The last few verses deal with deaths caused by (and to) animals and the "appropriate" punishments to dole out. An ox who is known to gore, and and gores a human calls for a stoning to both the ox and his owner, however, if the goring was not predictable, only the ox will be stoned. However, if an ox gores a slave, the owner can simply pay a fine of thirty pieces of silver along with the life of his ox - by stoning.

Clearly the bible shows that not all human life is to be considered equal.

EXODUS: Chapters 19 & 20

Chapter 19
Summary:The Israelis arrived in the Sinai peninsula three months after the night of their departure from Egypt. Moses climbed the rugged mountain* to meet with God. God tells Moses to give the people of Israel a message, stating that if the people will obey him (God) that they will have the honor of being God's chosen flock amongst all the nations on the earth.

When Moses returned from the mountain, he called together the leaders of the people of Israel and told them what God had said. The leaders responded in unison that they would certainly do everything God asks of them. Moses in turn reported the words of the people to God*.

God then tells Moses that he will appear to him in the form of a dark cloud so that the people of Israel can hear him when he talks to Moses, so that the people will believe. He then tells Moses to go down from the mountain and see that the people are ready for God's visit. He further instructs Moses to "sanctify" the people by having them wash their clothes. God tells Moses that he will come down upon Mount Sinai for all the people to watch.

God instructs Moses to create boundary lines at the foot of the mountain that the people will not be allowed to cross. If any person or animal attempts to go up the mountain - or even if they touch the boundaries - they shall die, by means of either stoning, or shot to death with arrows, as God adds that no hands shall touch them. God adds that they are all to stay away from the mountain entirely until they hear a ram's horn sounding a single long blast, and then they are to all gather at the base of the mountain.

Moses climbs down from the mountain and sanctified the people, having them wash their clothing. Moses tells them to prepare for God's appearance in two days, and oddly tacks on that they are not to have sexual intercourse with their wives.

On the morning of the third day there was a tremendous thunderstorm and a huge cloud descended upon the mountain. When they heard the loud blast of the ram's horn, the people of Israel trembled, and Moses then led them to the foot of the mountain. All of Mount Sinai was covered with smoke as God had descended upon the mountain in the form of fire. The smoke billowed into the sky while the whole mountain shook with a violent earthquake. As the trumpet blast grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God thundered his reply and calling Moses to the top of the mountain.

God tells Moses to go back down and again warn the people not to cross the boundaries, stating that they must not come up to try and see God, or they will die. He furthers that even the priests amongst them must sanctify themselves, or they will be killed also. Moses protested that he'd already told the people not to come up the mountain as it was a command from God. God tells Moses to go back down from the mountain and bring Aaron up with him, but to not let the priests and the people down below break the boundaries, or God will kill them.

Moses descended the mountain to tell the people what God had said.
Notes:1.) Keeping in mind that Moses was 80 years old at the time, this appears to be quite an impressive feat.
2.) This seems contrary to God's typically described attributes of omnipresence and omniscience.
Thoughts:The first thing that strikes me as an oddity in this chapter is God making an 80 year old man continually climb and descend a rugged mountain just to speak to him and have him deliver messages to the people. Granted there are a few 80 year old people who are in fantastic shape and might possibly be capable of continually scaling mountains, it does seem a bit worrisome nonetheless. Some may also point out that this is a book in which people incredibly live to well over 800 and 900 years of age, but at this point in the bible's time line people's ages have returned to more normal figures, where even Moses only makes it to 120 years old himself.

God first commands Moses to go down the mountain and get a confirmation from the leaders of Israel that they promise to follow and obey God's every command. When Moses gets their solemn oaths to obey, he returns up the mountain again to tell God their responses. Here again, this strikes me as odd and unnecessary if God's alleged attributes include omniscience and omnipresence - couldn't he have just watched and heard the whole ordeal himself instead of having to wait for Moses to tell him what they said?

God now tells Moses that he's ready to appear to the people in the form of a thunder cloud, so that the people of Israel don't doubt that Moses is indeed speaking with God. He has Moses tell the people to prepare for God's visit by washing their clothes over the next two days and to not have sex with their wives. Once again, the bible hints at making sexual relations something "dirty" or "unclean", and an activity that God appears to imply makes people too unclean to appear in front of him after.

He tells Moses to make some boundary lines at the foot of the mountain that the people - or even wandering animals - are not to cross. If they do, God tells Moses that the people will have to kill that person or animals by means of either a stoning, or to shoot them to death with arrows - as they are not to touch the offender with their bare hands. Why God can't simply kill them himself is puzzling, as we can surmise that God has the power to do so, or at least spot somebody scaling a mountain and offing them as they climb.

He tells Moses to relay to the people that the sound of a ram's horn blaring will be the sign to gather everyone at the base of the mountain. At this point the normal suspicion we apply to mythology and legend should kick in. Tales within mythology and legend often begin with actual people, events, and things that in the process of retelling become grander, or are restructured to fit within certain cultural and/or political social structures.

An example of the first point is the childhood game of "Telephone" where one child will whisper a short statement into the ear of another child in a sequential order of children. One by one as the story gets told each child will tend to either hear or tell the statement with slight differences, where the final child to be told the statement can, and will often, hear something remarkably different from the original statement of the first child. There are a lot of stories that we continue to pass around in this day and age - in the form of "urban legends" - that while often not factual stories, are rooted in a kernel of truth or persistent rumor.

An example of the latter point is the legend of Santa Claus. Virtually every culture in the western world has their own region specific version of the same mythological character. Here in North America, we describe Santa as an old, jolly, fat man wearing a red suit, who delivers presents to every child in the world on Christmas Eve via the means of entering houses through chimneys. In the Netherlands however, Sinterklaas, carries a spear and captures naughty children in a cloth sack (as opposed to giving naughty children coal in North America) and is helped by an Ethiopian slave boy that he liberated (instead of elves) named "Black Peter".

With these two points in mind it raises suspicion towards the secrecy of crossing the boundaries to see God on top of the mountain. It seems reasonable to assume that perhaps the leader of our nomadic Hebrews, Moses, may have been hoaxing the people with the "man behind the curtain" approach and that his accurate predictions (three days later there being a big storm announcing God's presence, and the earthquake) may have been tacked on afterward, or simply embellished.

The problem is that we can't verify any evidence of this story either way with any means outside of biblical references and therefore we have to concede that the more probable non-supernatural hypothesis I have outlined above has to be a serious consideration. Belief that the bible is somehow an accurate account of human history must be looked at with skepticism when the stories are littered with supernatural events that science can find no evidence to support.
Chapter 20
Summary:The edicts that God sent with Moses were:
  • I am the God, your God, who liberated you from Egypt
  • You may worship no other God but me.
  • You shall not make any idols: images of anything in heaven, earth, or sea. You must never bow to such an image or worship in any way, for I am a jealous and possessive God and will not share your affection with any other god.
  • When I punish people for their sins, the punishment continues upon the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. However, I lavish love upon thousands of those who love and obey me.
  • You shall not use the name of Yahweh, your god, irreverently, or use it to swear falsehood. You will not escape punishment if you do.
  • You must observe the sabbath as a holy day; no work is to be done of any kind. This applies to your sons, daughters, and slaves as well as your cattle or your house guests.
  • Honor your mother and father.
  • You shall not murder.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not lie, or give false testimony.
  • You must not covet your neighbor's belongings, or want to sleep with his wife. This includes coveting his slaves, oxen, donkeys, or anything else he might own.
All of the people saw the lightning and smoke billowing from the mountain, while hearing the thunder and the trumpet blast. They stood at a distance trembling with fear.

The people said to Moses to tell them what God says, but to not let God speak directly to them, feeling that it would kill them(?). Moses told them not be afraid, but that God showed his awesome power so that they would be afraid to sin against him.

As the people stood in the distance, Moses entered into the deep darkness where God was. God tells Moses to be his spokesmen to the people of Israel and gives him instruction as to how he likes his sacrificial altars to be.

He tells Moses that the altars he builds should be simple and made out of earth, and to offer sacrifices of sheep and oxen upon them. He tells Moses further, to only build the altars where he tells him to. God tells Moses that making altars out of stone is permissible, but that he is only to use uncut stones and boulders, furthering that carved stones are unfit for his altar. God then adds that steps are also not to be made, because someone behind might look up the skirts of people in front and see their nakedness.
Thoughts:This chapter basically outlines and gives us a preview of the well-known "Ten Commandments" that Moses will eventually receive in Chapter 31. While I don't want to dwell on every edict listed here (as I plan to go into further detail when we reach the "Ten Commandments") I do think a few should be addressed that bring up some questions.

"When I punish people for their sins, the punishment continues upon the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. However, I lavish love upon thousands of those who love and obey me."
Here I find God's logic baffling, making children and grandchildren responsible for their parents' mistakes. Should a murder who's been sentenced to 400 years in prison have his children and grandchildren finish out his sentence after his own death? It's ridiculous logic.
"You shall not murder."
Although I agree that murder is never a permissible act, I find this one fascinating in the context of our story. Beside the fact that God has outright killed a lot of people so far (Thousands (if not millions) in the Noah's Ark flood story Genesis: Chapter 7; the entire city of Sodom and Lot's wife who was turned into a pillar of salt in Genesis: Chpater 19; and Judah's sons Er and Onan in Genesis: Chapter 38) Moses also murdered an Egyptian in Exodus: Chapter 2.

What makes this more disturbing is that this seems to contradict the theistic explanation from that tries to explain what the bizarre moment in Exodus: Chapter 4 is all about. theorizes that God threatening to kill Moses because he has not circumcised his son, that this is sin, and that God doesn't feel that Moses can represent the people Israel being guilty of this sin. However, wouldn't Moses' murder of the Egyptian man be a bit more severe of a sin than simply not having his son circumcised, and made worse by the fact that it was known in the land of Egypt?

Back to our story, the people of Israel are now afraid due to God's theatrics on Mount Sinai to which Moses gives this bothersome reply. Moses tells the people not to be afraid, but just that God wants them to be afraid to sin against him. Don't you think that's exactly what the people are afraid of? Being human, people are prone to making mistakes and doing things that while not necessarily honorable - like lying - are still commonplace. The tactic of telling people to not be afraid of an angry, vengeful, powerful being, as long as they just do exactly as they were told probably didn't relieve their fears too much.

We finally finish off with God explaining how he wants his animal sacrifice altars to be built. The slightly humorous addendum is that he disallows building stair to the altars as he doesn't want people coming up behind to look up the skirts of the person in front of them. Once again, this also seems to reinforce the bible's stance that nudity is something to be shameful of.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17
Summary:At God's command, the people of Israel left the Sihn desert, going by easy stages to Rephidim. When they got there, however, there was no water. Once more the people complained to Moses, begging him to give them water. Moses told them to be quiet and warned them not to test God's patience, but the people continued to complain until Moses once again pleaded to God on their behalf.

Moses appears before God to plead with him on the people's behalf, noting that they're almost ready to take him out and stone him due to the lack of water. God tells Moses to take the elders of Israel with him and to lead the people to Mount Horeb, where God will meet him there at the rock. He tells Moses to strike the rock with his magic rod and water will come forth from it - enough for all 600,000+ Israelis.

Moses does he was told and water came gushing out of the rock. He names this place Massah (meaning "tempting God to kill us all"), although the place was also referred to as Meribah (meaning "argument" and "strife").

Suddenly, warriors from Amalek came to battle the Israelis at Rephidim. Moses instructed Joshua to issue a call to arms to fight the Amalek army. Moses tells Joshua that tomorrow he will stand upon the hill with the "Rod of God" in his hands.

As Joshua and his men went out to battle the army of Amalek, Moses along with Aaron and Hur (a man of the tribe of Judah, family of Hezron, house of Caleb) ascended the top of the hill. As long as Moses held the rod high above his head, the Israelis were winning the battle. However, as Moses' arms grew tired and he lowered the staff, the Amalek soldiers gained the upper hand. When Moses could no longer hold the rod up any longer, Aaron and Hur rolled up a stone for him to sit on while they stood on either side of Moses helping him hold up his hands until sunset. As a result, Joshua's men crushed the army of Amalek, putting them to the sword.

God then instructed Moses to write this into permanent record to be remembered forever. He further tells Moses to tell Joshua that he will utterly blot out every trace of the Amalek. Moses built an altar there and called it "Yahweh-nissi" (meaning "Yahweh is my flag"). For Moses had said that God will be at war with the Amalek generation after generation.
Thoughts:Moses finds himself once again facing mutiny as the Israelis can't find any water. Moses tries to hush them up thinking that God probably is getting tired of their whining and might just kill them all out of sheer annoyance, but is pressured to go speak to the Big Man when the people start murmuring about having him stoned.

God tells Moses to go out to Mount Horeb and smack his magic wand against the rock he'd find out there. Sure enough the rock starts producing water - enough for all of the 600,000+ Israelis - and Moses names the place "thanks a lot for not killing us all God!"

Before anybody can thank Moses and his pal in the sky however, some Amalek warriors arrive ready for battle. Moses tells Joshua to get his armies ready for battle, and that he'll be watching everything from the top of the hill.

Moses brings along his magic staff and raises it in the air, which somehow gives the Israelis the upper hand in battle. However, when Moses tries to take a break and rest his arms, thereby lowering his magic staff, the Israelis start losing the fight. Moses' brother Aaron, along with their pal Hur, get on either side of Moses and hold his arms up until the sun sets and the battle is won.

The silliness of this story is trying to state that the outcome of a military battle is dependent upon Moses' ability to keep his arms, and thereby his magic wand, in the air for several hours. If we are to consider that it is God's will to make the Israelis prevail in battle, and that God has the power to ensure this on his own, what purpose does having Moses stand around with his arms in the air serve other than to possibly imply that Moses really doesn't need much of God's help as long as he's got his magic staff handy? This whole story seems to be more inspired by other mythological lore than to coincide with God's typical attributes, and furthermore places a separation of God's intervention by means of simply using the independent magic contained in the magic staff.
Chapter 18
Summary:Word soon reached Jethro, Moses' father-in-law and the priest of Midian, about all the things God had done for his people, and about God bringing them all out of Egypt.

He brings Moses' wife Zipporah to him* along with Moses' two sons Gershom and Eliezer (meaning "God is my help"). Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and greeted him warmly and went into Moses' tent to talk further. Moses told Jethro about all of the adventures him and God had been through, which Jethro was happy to hear about.

Jethro offered an animal sacrifice to God and afterward was met by Aaron and the leaders of Israel, who all shared in the sacrificial meal.

The next day Moses sat as usual hearing the people's complaints against each other, from morning to evening. When Jethro saw how long this was taking he asked Moses why he was doing this all alone by himself. Moses explains to Jethro that the people come to him to ask for God's decisions and that he applies the laws of God to their disputes.

Jethro tells Moses that he's going to wear himself out doing this all by himself and suggests to Moses some advice. He tells Moses to find some capable, godly, honest men and to appoint them as judges for each 1,000 people; and he in turn will have ten judges under him, each in charge of a hundred people; and under them will be two judges each responsible for fifty people; each of them having five judges beneath them to counsel ten people. He tells Moses that anything of dire importance can be brought to him, but that the smaller matters they can take care of themselves.

Moses took his father-in-law's advice and chose able men from all over Israel, making them judges over the people - thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They were constantly available to administer justice, and brought the more complex cases to Moses while solving the simplest themselves.

Soon after, Moses let his father-in-law return to his own land.
Notes:1.) It's not stated or clear as to when, how, or why Zipphorah and her sons ended up back at her father's home in Midian, as she had traveled along with Moses to Egypt in Chapter 4, and hasn't been mentioned since.
Thoughts:The first thing of note in this chapter is how and why Zipporah - Moses' wife - wound back at her father's household back in Midian, along with Moses' children. It seems to serve as a convenient reasoning to bring Jethro (or Reuel as he was referred to in Chapter 2) back in to the midst of the story.

After Jethro greets Moses and partakes in a bit of animal sacrifice, he sees that Moses spends the greater amount of his days simply listening to the people of Israel's problems. He basically tells Moses to get some helping hands and divides the division of responsibility amongst many people to be appointed judges to take care of the minor squabbles, while leaving Moses to tackle the bigger matter at hand.

After putting this to practice, Jethro's job is done and he returns to his homeland of Midian.

EXODUS: Chapters 15 & 16

Chapter 15
Summary:Moses and the people of Israel were ready for song and dance and apparently sang this "song" to God:
15:2 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.
15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name.
15:4 Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
15:5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.
15:6 Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
15:7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.
15:8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
15:9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
15:10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
15:11 Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? 15:12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
15:13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
15:14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
15:15 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.
15:16 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.
15:17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O LORD, which thy hands have established.
15:18 The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
15:19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
Then Miriam the prophetess, sister of Aaron, took a timbrel and led the women in dances.

Miriam sang this (thankfully) much shorter "song":
Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
Moses then led the people of Israel from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the wilderness of Shur. They were there for three days, without water. Arriving at Marah, the water was too bitter to drink (the name "Marah" meaning bitter).

The people then turned against Moses demanding that him and God do something before they all died of thirst. Moses pleaded with God, and God in turn shows Moses a tree, explaining that if Moses throws this tree into the water, it will sweeten it and make the water drinkable.

It was there at Marah that God laid down a threat stating, that if they will obey and listen to God, then he won't make them suffer the diseases he's sent on the Egyptians.

They finally came to Elim where they camped. There were twelve springs and seventy palm trees there that they camped next to.
Thoughts:After a rousing rendition of "Ding! Dong! The Pharaoh's Dead!", and Aaron's sister Miriam leading the gals in a chorus line, the folks find themselves in the land of Marah, where the water is too bitter to drink.

After three days without water the people start revolting again, and Moses begs for God's help. God shows Moses a tree and tells him to throw that into the water. When Moses does this, somehow the tree sweetens the water enough to make it drinkable. God then threatens the Israelis with suffering the same diseases he had inflicted on the Egyptian people if they don't do what they're told and obey him.

When they arrive at Elim to camp for the night, we're treated to another example of numerology in the bible - where there are twelve springs, and seventy (7 again, and also 70 being the same number of Jacob's/Israel's descendants who arrived in Egypt 430 years ago) palm trees.

The number twelve has mystical connotations similar to that of the number 7, the most common theory being that it is derived from the method in which people counted on their fingers - they counted all ten fingers, and then once for each foot, thus the number 13 became unlucky. The number twelve appears many times throughout the bible, most notably as the number of Apostles of Jesus, and is clearly a significant number tied in with superstition of the day.

It is highly unlikely that these numbers are here by coincidence, but more likely were purposely chosen for their superstitious numerological significance.
Chapter 16
Summary:The people left Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sihn, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month after leaving Egypt, and there too the people began to speak harshly against Moses and Aaron.

They began wondering if they'd have been better off if God had killed them in Egypt, where they at least had food to eat, complaining that now they were starving in the wilderness.

God then tells Moses that he's going to rain down food from heaven, but as a test towards the people sets a bunch of restrictions upon how they are to gather and eat the food. He instructs Moses to tell the people to gather as much food as they want, but that on the sixth day of the week, they are gather twice as much food.

Moses and Aaron called a meeting of all the people of Israel (all 600,000+ of them?) and told them that this evening they will realize that it was God who had brought them out of Egypt. Moses and Aaron continue to tell them that in the morning, they will see his glory, and that God will provide them with meat in the evening and bread in the morning. As Aaron gathered them together, out from the wilderness within the guiding cloud, there appeared the awesome glory of God.

In the evening vast numbers of quail arrived and covered the camp, while in the morning the desert around the camp became covered with dew. When the dew disappeared (evaporated) later in the morning, it left tiny flakes of a peculiar substance behind.

Moses explained to the puzzled people that this was the "bread" that God had given them to eat. He tells the people to gather an omer (a container used as a unit of measurement, believed to be approximately 3 quarts) of the food for each person. As the people gathered the strange food and measured their take, they found that everyone had an exact omer of food - no more, no less - regardless of how much they had gathered.

Moses told them not to leave any of this food overnight, and whatever they didn't finish they were to dispose of. However, when some of them tried to store the food overnight they found it sour and full of maggots in the morning, and this greatly angered Moses.

So they gathered the food each morning before the sun became hot upon the ground and melted the food away. On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much - two omers - to which the leaders of the people questioned Moses as to why they had to do as such. Moses explained that the following day was to be a holy sabbath - explaining that no work from their daily tasks was to be done on this day. He told them to store the remaining food this night as God would not leave any food on the ground on the day of the sabbath.

The following day, the sabbath, the people found that the food was fresh and wholesome and not spoiled and filled with maggots as it was when stored during the week. When some of the people went out to gather food - against Moses' instructions to refrain from doing so - they couldn't find any. God questioned Moses rhetorically about how long it would take the people to obey his word when this happened.

The food became known as "manna" (meaning "What is it?"), and was white, like coriander seed, flat, and tasted like honey bread. Moses, on instruction from God, had Aaron gather an extra omer of the food to be kept as a museum piece, so that later generations could see the food that God had provided them with in the wilderness. Aaron did as he was instructed, putting the food in a container that he kept in a sacred place - which would eventually be kept in the Ark of the Covenant.

The people of Israel ate this food for forty years until they arrived in the land of Canaan.
Thoughts:The grumpy and hungry Israelis complain about their food situation and God decides to both present them with a magical food source while testing their obedience.

He creates a magical bit of food that is left behind from when the morning dew evaporates. It has the magical properties of spoiling and becoming infested with maggots if it is kept overnight - except on the sabbath day, when it remains fresh overnight for one night each week. Of course, not all the people obey the instructions of not storing the food, and hence they found it rotten the next day; as well as some of the people trying to go out and gather food on the sabbath - when they were commanded not to - and of course, they found no food. Apparently the specimen of magic food that they keep for a museum piece is also apparently not affected by spoilage and maggots for some reason.

The point of this chapter obviously, is more about testing the people of Israel's obedience, but its just very difficult to take seriously when we have a magical food source that doesn't grow or spoil on a specific day of the week only.

Friday, March 20, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 13 & 14

Chapter 13
Summary:God instructs Moses to dedicate to him all of the first born sons of Israel, as well as every first born male animal claiming to him that "they are mine".

Moses then addresses the people of Israel (all 600,000+ of them?) telling them that this is a day for them to remember forever. He then reminds them, by recounting, the rules laid down for the annual celebration of the holiday. He tells them that during the celebration days each year that they must explain to their children why they celebrate. He tells them that this memorial week brands them as unique people, as if God had branded his ownership upon them like cattle.

He explains to the people that all the first born sons and first born male animals now belong to God, and that when they reach the "promised land" that they must be given (meaning by ritual sacrifice) to God. He further explains that they can "buy back" (or substitute), for example, a donkey with a lamb, but that something has to be killed. Moses adds that for human sons, they must "buy back" (or exchange them) with another animal to be sacrificed.

God did not lead the people of Israel through the land of the Philistines, although that was the most direct route from Egypt to the "promised land". God's reasoning being that he felt the people could become discouraged if they had to fight their way through, and perhaps some might return to Egypt out of frustration. Instead God leads them along a route through the Red Sea wilderness.

Moses had taken the bones of Joseph with him, as Joseph had made the sons of Israel promise that they would take his bones with them as they were led by God out of Egypt.

Leaving Succoth, they camped at Etham at the edge of the wilderness. God guided them by a pillar of cloud during the daytime, and by a pillar of fire at night. Neither pillar was ever out of sight from them.
Thoughts:Perhaps it's just me, but I've never been able to understand animal (or human) sacrifices, especially in the name of all-powerful "gods". God has the power to kill, and to kill the first born as he had apparently done in Egypt - yet now, he wants the people of Israel to gruesomely slaughter a bunch of animals for him - once every year.

I fail to see how the ghastly and gruesome slaughtering of animals is supposed to please God, and how or why he enjoys the suffering and terror that human beings are putting upon innocent living beings.

While a controversial subject to some, like myself, who have adopted a life of vegetarianism (I'm a pescitarian, more precisely - meaning I still consume fish and seafood) we can at least justify the needs for killing animals for food, pelts, skins, or for other uses when we show respect and compassion for the life we have to take. Modern hunters are (usually) a fine example of how mankind strives to minimize the amount of pain and suffering involved towards their prey. They attempt to make death as quick and painless as possible, and with a wounded animal they finish the job off as quickly as possible.

In ritualistic sacrifice, minimizing pain and suffering is not a concern, and it seems bizarre and contradictory to me that a God who is described as "merciful", "loving", and "compassionate" not only condones, allows, commands, and encourages this kind of suffering and trauma - he likes it as well, the bible describes it "pleasing" to him.

Anyways, God allows the people to make substitutions - so if you really don't want to kill your first born male donkey, you might be able to slip God a lamb in its place. Human first born males however, require a substitute proxy animal, establishing that God doesn't care for human sacrifices unless he himself is doing the killing. However, whatever the case may be, God wants you to kill something for him.

I'm also having trouble imagining Moses without the aid of a public address system being able to address over half a million people with his decrees unless he's either got some sort of newsletter to pass around, or if he's just holding a bunch of seminars for a couple hundred people at a time. Perhaps he's given these messages to some of the elders and had them address groups of people, but the way in which the bible is written makes it appear that Moses somehow manages to make himself heard to all 600,000+ people at once - which would be a pretty amazing feat, even with a modern public address system.

Meanwhile, we are told that God had decided to lead his people to their "promised land" by taking the long route, as he didn't want to discourage the Israelis by making them fight their way through a more direct route through Philistine country. He notes that possibly some of the Israelis might have given up and simply headed back to Egypt, so he opts for the longer journey for them.

Moses upholds the Israeli promise to Joseph - of not being left behind or buried in Egypt - and carries along Joseph's bones on the journey to the promised land, 400 years or so after his death.

God now leads the people by taking the forms of giant clouds during the day, and blazing fireballs at night, allowing the people to travel both night and day.
Chapter 14
Summary:God now instructs Moses to tell the people to turn towards Piha-hiroth and to camp there along the shore, explaining that the Pharaoh (who is apparently about to pursue them) will think that he has trapped the Israelis between the desert and the sea. He tells Moses that he will harden the Pharaoh again, and in turn that he will chase after the people of Israel.

When word reached the Pharaoh that the Israelis were not planning on returning to Egypt after their supposed three day excursion, the Pharaoh became angered at the fact that he was losing his slaves. The Pharaoh led a chase in his chariot, along with his army totaling 600 chariots in all. The Pharaoh's entire cavalry of horses, chariots, and charioteers overtook the people of Israel at the shore of Piha-hiroth.

As the Egyptian army approached the people of Israel became frightened and begged for God's help. They complained to Moses for getting them into this whole mess, feeling that they would have been better off not having listened to him in the first place. They told him that they wished that they had remained slaves in Egypt as opposed to dying out here in the desert.

Moses, however, tells the people to not be afraid, and to prepare to marvel in the miraculous way that God will rescue them.

God then tells Moses to cut out the chit-chat and to get the people moving. He tells Moses to hold his rod out over the water and that the sea will open up a path for the people of Israel to cross on dry land. God then moved a cloud around behind them to stand between the Israelis and the Egyptians, and at night became a pillar of fire, giving darkness to the Egyptians but light to the Israelis. The Egyptians were now having a tough time finding the Israelis.

Meanwhile Moses stretched his rod over the sea, and God opened up a path with walls of water on each side. He caused a strong east wind to blow that night, drying the bottom of the sea. The people of Israel then crossed the sea on dry ground.

As the Egyptians went in after them, God started making their chariot wheels come off. The soldiers then shouted to each other to retreat, as God was clearly fighting for the Israelis and against themselves.

When all the people of Israel made it across the sea, God tells Moses to again stretch his hand across the sea to close the waters. Moses did as he was commanded, and the sea returned to normal under the morning light. The Egyptians tried to flee, but it was too late and God drowned them all at sea. Not a single member of the Egyptian army that had pursued them across the sea survived.

The people of Israel saw the dead Egyptians washed up on the shore, and realized that had witnessed a mighty miracle. They became afraid of God, yet now believed in him and his servant Moses.
Thoughts:The Pharaoh somehow gets wind that the people of Israel have no intentions of returning back to Egypt after the "three day pilgrimage" they'd been requesting for all along. Incensed by the thought of losing all those Hebrew slaves for good, he decides to gather his army of 600 chariots in hot pursuit.

Meanwhile, God has his own plan to once again strike another blow to the Egyptians. He has Moses lead the people towards the Red Sea, explaining to him that the Egyptians will think they have cornered them. However, God tells Moses that when he lifts his magic staff over the water, that will cause the Red Sea to part, granting them a pathway to cross the river on dry land.

When the Egyptians approach, the people of Israel start getting all huffy with Moses again angry that he had seemed to have led them into another bad situation - this time being a death trap. Moses however, tells them not to fear, but stand back and watch as God rescues them with his spectacular magical powers.

God first creates a cloud cover over the Egyptians, leaving them in darkness, while he lights the way for the Israelis with his magical fireball. As Moses waves his magic staff over the water, the Red Sea parts just as God said it would, and God gets to work blowing an eastern wind across the pathway to dry up the floor of the sea.

The Israelis manage to cross over the sea, but when the Egyptians finally make it in after them in the morning, God tells Moses to once again raise his hands over the sea to close it back up.

The Egyptians trying to flee for their lives all die by drowning in the sea without a single survivor. When dead bodies of the Egyptian soldiers wash up on the shores, the people begin to fear God and profess their belief in him as well as his messenger Moses.

Of particular note is the explicit mention of "fear" and how it relates to theistic belief. This has always bothered me that belief is coerced by the notion of fear, and that intimidation lies at the core of belief. Again, another contradiction of God's "love" and "compassion" is when he is a force to be feared - by his followers!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 11 & 12

Chapter 11
Summary:God now tells Moses that he has one final disaster in store for the land of Egypt, stating that the Pharaoh will not only let the people go after this was done, but will practically throw them out of Egypt. He continues, telling Moses to have the women of Israel prepare to ask their Egyptian neighbors for costly gold and silver jewelry. (God had apparently made the Egyptian people become favorable towards the people of Israel. Moses was revered by the Pharaoh's officials and Egyptian people alike.)

Moses now announced to the Pharaoh* that God will pass through the land at midnight, killing the first born sons of everyone - from the oldest child of the Pharaoh, to the oldest child of the lowliest of slaves; even including the first born animals. He adds that God will not kill any of the Israelis nor their animals, adding that God is again making a distinction between the Egyptians and Israelis. Moses, red-faced with anger, stomps out of the palace upon finishing his proclamation.
Notes:1.) Despite Moses' assertion that the Pharaoh would "never see him again" at the end of Chapter 10, he apparently breaks his promise. The Pharaoh also fails to execute him as he had sworn to do also.
Thoughts:God has apparently saved his best "miracle" for last. He has Moses explain to the Pharaoh - despite the fact that Moses and the Pharaoh both said they were done talking with each other in the last chapter - that God will pass through the land at midnight killing off every first born male, from royalty to the lowliest of slaves, to even the first born male animals. Moses delivers his angry speech and storms off.

Despite all this massive death and destruction to the Egyptian people, God has forced and coerced the Egyptian people to favor the Israelis and prepares the Israeli women to demand all sorts of wealth, in the form of gold and silver jewelry, from the Egyptian people. To me this seems almost is if God is condoning and conspiring theft against the citizens of Egypt.

God once again wants to show distinction of his superior race of people over the "evil" Egyptians by sparing the Israelis from his "miracle" first born death curse.
Chapter 12
Summary:God tells Moses and Aaron that from here on out, this month will be the first and most important month to the people of Israel. God tells them that annually on the tenth day of this month that each family will get a lamb (and that if a family is too small, to share a lamb with their neighbors) - which has to be one year old, male, and free of defects. On the fifteenth day of the month, God explains to them that the lambs shall be slaughtered and that their blood shall be splattered on the door frames of each and every home. Each family shall then eat roast lamb that night, along with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. God continues to command that the meat must be roasted, and not eaten raw or boiled, adding also that they may only eat it this night, and that anything left over shall be burned the next day.

God further instructs that this meal is to be eaten while wearing traveling clothes, walking shoes, with walking sticks in hand, and that the meal should be eaten hurriedly. This observance, he explains will be called the Lord's Passover, symbolizing that God will "pass over" the houses of the Israelis as he slaughters the first born in Egypt. God explains that the blood smeared on the doorways will be proof to God that his people obey him, and that when he sees the blood, he will "pass over" that house and not kill their first born.

God commands that this event shall be celebrated annually and is a permanent law to remind the people of Israel of this fatal night. He further explains that the celebration will last seven days, and for that period the people are to only eat bread made without yeast; and that anyone who disobeys this rule will be excommunicated from Israel. God further explains that there will be no work to be done on either the first or last day of the celebration, with the exception of food preparation. God also points out that no trace of yeast should be found in any homes during that time, and that these rules also apply to any foreigners who are living amongst them.

Moses then gathers the elders and instructs them to fetch lambs for this gruesome task, and commands that no-one shall be allowed outside this night for any reason.

That night at midnight, God killed all the first born sons in the land of Egypt. There was bitter crying throughout the land as there was not a house where there was not one dead. The Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron during the night and begged them to leave the land, and to take their flocks and herds with them. He then asked them for a blessing, as he states that the people of Egypt are as good as dead now.

The Israelis took their belongings, and the women as instructed, asked the Egyptian people for their gold, silver, jewelry and clothing. The Egyptian people, of whom God made favor the Israelis, were virtually stripped of everything they had owned.

That night the people of Israel left Ramses and started for Succoth; they numbered six hundred thousand men, not including their wives and children. People of all sorts went with them along with vast herds of cattle and enormous flocks. When they had stopped to eat, they baked bread from a yeastless dough.

The sons of Jacob and their descendants had lived in Egypt for 430 years, and it was on the last day of that 430th year that the people had left the land. This night was selected by God to lead his people out of the land of Egypt, so the people celebrated this date annually as the day of God's deliverance.

God then explained to Moses and Aaron more rules concerning the observance of Passover:
  • No foreigners may eat the lamb but if they are living with them and want to observe the ritual, the men must be circumcised.
  • Any slave that has been purchased may eat the lamb if they have been circumcised.
  • A hired servant, or foreigner, may not eat the lamb.
  • Everyone who eats the lamb, must eat it together in their respective homes, and must not carry it outside, nor shall they break any of the lamb's bones.
  • The entire congregation of Israel shall observe this celebration at the same time.
On that day, God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt, wave after wave of them crossing the Egyptian border.
Thoughts:God spends this chapter explaining to Moses, Aaron, and the people of Israel about their first mandatory annual holiday, Passover.

God - who was able to discern the Israelis from Egyptians before in his previous plagues in which he spared the people of Israel - now requires a sign from the people so that he knows which houses to skip as he travels around at night murdering the first born of each household. He tells the people that they're all to find a bunch of lambs to slaughter and to smear the blood of them all over their doors so that God knows which people to skip on his killing spree across Egypt.

He establishes a bunch of customs and traditions for what the people are to do with the lambs afterward: how to cook them, not to eat any bread made with yeast, and to wear their traveling clothes while eating. Anyone who doesn't follow these bizarre customs will be excommunicated from God's chosen people, even going so far as to specify that yeast should not even be present in their homes during this now annual holiday.

God then comes during the night slaying all the first born people and animals of Egypt, and spares those houses with bloody door frames. The Egyptians wake up in the night and cries of despair are heard throughout the land, as apparently not one single home in Egypt was spared of death.

The Pharaoh now basically insists to Moses and Aaron to get his people out of Egypt, but asks for a blessing as they leave considering that Egypt was now pretty much as good as dead.

God, who pulls his voodoo doll magic upon the Egyptian people, makes them receptive to giving the Israeli women all the gold, silver, jewelry, and clothes that they ask for which basically strips them of all of their belongings.

God somehow managed to time this whole excursion to fall on exactly the last day of the 430th year since Jacob's descendants moved to Egypt 430 years prior. This establishes another holiday as the date of God's deliverance. Remarkably, God manages to get all 600,000(!) men plus their wives and children out of the land of Egypt in one night, on foot. Over a half a million people, and probably closer to over a million once we add in the wives and children, out of Egypt on foot in one night. The possibility of 600,000+ people marching out of Egypt in an orderly fashion, on foot, with flocks and herds of animals, carrying all of their possessions (along with the gold and silver they "liberated" from the Egyptians), is ludicrous to consider, much less imagine.

The chapter jumps back to God further explaining the rules of how he wants his new holiday of Passover to be celebrated. Basically stating that anybody who isn't circumcised, doesn't get to eat any lamb, that the people of Israel have to celebrate and eat at the same time, and that nobody's allowed to bring any lamb chops outside. Whatever doesn't get finished that night goes uneaten and is burned the following day.

It's hard to see any significance in any of these strange and bizarre customs, and to me makes about as little sense as requiring that people have to wear silly hats and stand on one foot for an hour on their birthdays.

EXODUS: Chapters 9 & 10

Chapter 9
Summary:God commands Moses to once again demand to the Pharaoh to release the Israelis, this time under the threat of a plague that will destroy the cattle, horses, donkeys, camels, flocks, and herds of Egypt - while sparing the Israeli herds and flocks.

The next day God sends the plague and the Egyptian cattle began to die, while none of the Israeli cattle became even sick. The Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelis go.

God then commands Moses and Aaron to take ashes and throw them up in the sky, which in turn caused boils and sores to break out on man and animal alike. God hardens the Pharaoh in his stubbornness so that he still refused to listen to Moses and Aaron.

God now has Moses and Aaron tell the Pharaoh that if the people will not be allowed to go, God will send another plague - and that this will certainly prove that there is no other God in all the earth. They relay God's message explaining that he could have easily killed the Pharaoh and his people by now, but has spared them so that he could demonstrate his power for the whole word to see. God now threatens Egypt with a severe hailstorm if the Pharaoh doesn't let the Israelis go.

Some of the Egyptian people took the threat seriously and brought their cattle and slaves indoors. God tells Moses to point his hand to the sky, and the hailstorm began, killing all forms of life that was left in the fields - crops were ruined, men and animal alike were killed, and the trees were shattered. The only spot without hail that day was the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.

The Pharaoh then sent for Moses and Aaron and tells them God was right. He admits that he's sinned against God and that his people are wicked, so if Moses can get God to stop the hailstorm, that he will let the people go at once.

Moses tells the Pharaoh that as soon as he leaves the city, he'll have God stop the storm and that this will prove that the earth is controlled by God. He adds however, that he doesn't believe that the Pharaoh's going to keep his word, due to the fact that although some of the crops that were in bloom were killed by the storm that there were still crops growing that hadn't yet emerged from the ground and were untouched by the storm.

Sure enough, after Moses leaves the city and raises his hands to heaven, stopping the storm, the Pharaoh once again refuses to let the people of Israel go.
Thoughts:The interesting thing I find with this chapter is God's blatant admission that he needs to flex his muscles and show off his bravado, as often this is clear contrast to what a lot of the faithful use to explain away horrific catastrophes of the modern world. When tragedies such as the Holocaust; the massacres of the Stalin regime; to more modern horrors of the tragedies in Jonestown, Waco, and even Colombine, people often question to why God chooses not to intervene, and quite often the response goes along that God has nothing to prove by averting these tragedies.

Yet here, he not only feels the need to flex his Godly muscles, he eggs the situation on by ensuring that the Pharaoh will make things worse for the people of Egypt by constantly allowing, and then later denying, the people of Israel to make their pilgrimage. It's hard to believe that after the frogs, lice, flies, cattle plague, and the devastating hailstorm that the Pharaoh would be that stupid to tempt fate - regardless of his belief in Yahweh, unless God is simply using him like some sort of divine voodoo doll to keep reneging on his promises to let the Israelis go.

Even that aside, it's downright deplorable the way God is manipulating the situation and is not an example of the "merciful" and "loving" God that believers tend to describe today.

For extra emphasis at the end of the chapter, not only does the author(s) have the Pharaoh admit to being wrong, but to explicitly admit to "sinning" against God and to implicate the entire nation of Egypt to be wicked people, perhaps in hopes that the reader will not afford the Egyptians any sympathy and to imply that the entire nation Egypt is at fault for their destruction. It's always easier to justify the deaths of innocent civilians when you dehumanize your enemies as an entire nation of evil.
Chapter 10
Summary:God tells Moses to yet again makes his demands to the Pharaoh, stating that he has yet again hardened the Pharaoh, so that God has an excuse to do more miracles to demonstrate his power. He continues on suggesting to Moses that this will be a great story to tell the children and grandchildren.

Moses and Aaron now tell the Pharaoh that the next trick up God's sleeve will be sending a swarm of locusts to finish destroying whatever survived the hailstorm. The court officials now plead with the Pharaoh to not risk destroying the land of Egypt completely and to let the men of Israel go. The Pharaoh now asks Moses and Aaron who exactly is it that they want to go on this pilgrimage, to which Moses tells him that the pilgrimage will include the sons and daughters of Israel. The Pharaoh tells Moses that the men of Israel may go, but that he will not allow them to take the children with them.

God tells Moses to hold out his hand over the land of Egypt to bring forth the locusts. God causes an eastern wind to blow across the land, and by morning the wind had brought the locusts, covering the land of Egypt. The locusts covered the face of the earth(!) blotting out the sun and darkening the land, devouring all the crops and trees that the hailstorm had left behind.

The Pharaoh then urgently sent for Moses and Aaron, confessing to them his sins against God and against the people of Israel. He begs to them to make God take away the locusts, promising them the he will let the people of Israel go, and further promises that he will not change his mind again.

God sends a strong westward wind to clear out the locusts, blowing them into the Red Sea. However, God also hardens the Pharaoh's heart again, so that the Pharaoh would again not allow the people of Israel to go.

God now tells Moses to lift his hands toward heaven, and upon doing so, darkness engulfed the land of Egypt for three full days - except for the land of Goshen, which had light as per usual.

The Pharaoh once again calls for Moses and tells him that the people of Israel may go - including the children - but that they have to leave their flocks and herds behind. Moses tells him that they cannot leave the animals behind, as they need them to perform animal sacrifices and burnt offerings to God. He furthers that they will have to take the entire collection of animals, as they cannot be sure as to which animals God wants slaughtered until they get to their destination.

God again hardens the Pharaoh's heart so that he wouldn't allow them to go. The Pharaoh shouts at Moses to leave his presence and to never return, or he shall be executed.

Moses replies to him, "Very well. I will never see you again."
Thoughts:We begin this chapter to find God once again commanding Moses to ask the Pharaoh of Egypt to let the people of Israel go on their pilgrimage to the wilderness. God tells Moses however, that he's going to make the Pharaoh say no again, as an excuse for God to perform some more dazzling miracles. God then begins to boast and brag that all of his mighty miracles - consisting of death and destruction - will make great stories for the grandchildren.

I find this pretty disturbing in contrasting this to more contemporary events. Let's compare the destructive miracles from God that devastate and destroy the land of "badguys" in Egypt to protect the "goodguys" of Israel to World War II, when the "goodguys" in the U.S.A. dropped an atomic bomb onto the "badguys" in Japan. The atomic bomb caused massive amounts of death and destruction on a scale that we could compare to God's locusts and hailstorms, yet nobody proudly tells this story to their grandchildren, as we realize the seriousness of the situation.

We didn't just take out the "badguys" in either scenario, we also took out scores of families, women, children, and devastated entire cities, cultures, and communities. We don't celebrate the dropping of the atomic bomb, as we realize that although we may have felt it necessary to end World War II, we - and more over the citizens and civilians of Japan - paid a heavy burden by our actions. Even in times where we may feel our only choice is mass destruction, we as compassionate people don't look back fondly by what we have done. Here however, we have a God, who at his disposal and his many alleged powers has the ability to take his people out of Egypt without causing senseless death and destruction. We can't even look back and say that the Egyptians had it coming because of the Pharaoh's constant reneging of his word to allow the people of Israel to go on their pilgrimage because God manipulated the Pharaoh into refusing, time and time again.

Here we simply have God controlling the Pharaoh like a voodoo doll, while he destroys the land of Egypt, and the lives of the ordinary people living there, with magic show after magic show and having the arrogance to say that people should be impressed and wowed by his destruction so much so, that they'll gleefully tell these stories to their grandchildren.

Anyways, after the locusts destroy the remaining crops in Egypt, he enshrouds the land in darkness for three straight days, while sparing the land of Goshen from the dark. In my mind, I find it humorous to imagine the C-shaped cloud cover that would have to have hovered over Egypt for three whole days.

The Pharaoh tries bargaining with Moses, by trying to get him to leave the children behind, and then later trying to get him to leave the flocks and herds of livestock behind, but Moses insists that no bargaining can be done. The children have to go with them, and the animals - well, what else are they going to slaughter in animal sacrifice rituals?

The Pharaoh throws Moses out of his court threatening that if he ever sees him again, he will have Moses executed.