Tuesday, March 17, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3
Summary:As Moses was tending the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro*(Reuel), the priest of Midian, suddenly the angel of God appeared to him as a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw that the bush was on fire and wasn't burning up, he drew closer to investigate it.

God then called out his name, and Moses asked who it was calling him. God tells him not to come any closer and to remove his shoes, for he is standing on holy ground. He tells Moses that he is the God of his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as Moses covered his face with his hands, fearful to look at God.

He continues on telling Moses that he has the seen the hardship of his people in Egypt, and has heard their pleas for freedom. He tells Moses that he has come to deliver them from Egypt into a land "flowing with milk and honey" - where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live. He then tells Moses that he has chosen him lead the people out of Egypt.

Moses tells God that he is not the right man for the job, to which God ignores and tells Moses that he will be with him along the way, and that he is to lead the people to worship on this mountain. Moses then asks what he should tell the people if they ask which god has sent him.

God tells Moses, "I am that I am" and that was what was to be told - furthering that Moses is to tell them that the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has sent him - and that is his eternal name to be used throughout generations.

God instructs Moses to call together the elders of Israel and to tell them of God's appearance to him and that he has visited the people of Israel and seen their plight. He again promises to take them away from their slavery and into the "land of milk and honey" occupied by the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. He tells Moses that the elders will accept his message, and will accompany him to appear before the Pharaoh, in order to request permission for the Hebrew people to journey into the desert for three days, to offer a sacrifice to God.

God adds that he knows the Pharaoh will not allow them to go except under heavy pressure, but that God will give the Pharaoh the pressure he needs. He continues to add that he will destroy Egypt with his miracles until the Pharaoh allows the people to go. Continuing further, God tells him that the Egyptian people will bestow them with gifts as they depart - instructing that the women demand jewels, silver, gold, and the finest clothes from their Egyptian masters - telling Moses that he will clothe the people with the best of Egypt.
Notes:1.) Reuel inexplicably is also called Jethro starting from this chapter.
Thoughts:The first thing we learn in this chapter is that apparently Moses' father-in-law Reuel also goes by the name Jethro. It's not explained how or why, and for someone to pick up the bible and read it without clarification, this is confusing as to who is being referred to. What my best guess is, as to why we have this dual naming, that we probably have multiple authors who may have had different translations for the name of Reuel/Jethro.

Moses, out tending to his father-in-law's flock sees a burning bush, that God has curiously chosen to take the form of. God calls out Moses' name, tells him not to get any closer, and instructs him to kick off his shoes as he's stepping on holy ground. Moses decides to also cover his face as he for some reason is afraid to look at God's manifestation as a burning bush.

God now tells Moses that he's got a mission for him, but Moses doesn't think he's right for the job. He tells Moses that it's going to be his job to lead the Israelis out of Egypt, and plead for their release (under the guise of a three day pilgrimage to the desert) from the Pharaoh of Egypt. He tells Moses to approach the Israeli elders to accompany him to the Pharaoh.

Moses asks the burning bush what should he tell the Israeli elders if they ask him which god has sent him on this mission, to which God gives him an enigmatic answer of "I am that I am".

He tells Moses that the Pharaoh isn't going to let them go without a lot of heavy persuasion, but that God is more than willing to help twist his arm with his mighty miracles, and even goes on further stating that he's going to destroy Egypt with his power and magic miracles.

He caps it off saying that once the Israelis do finally get to go, that as an extra kick to the groin, the Israeli women will take the jewelry, gold, silver, and fancy clothing from the Egyptians as they leave.
Chapter 4
Summary:Moses tells God that no-one's going to believe his story, do anything that he tells them to do, or believe that God even appeared to him.

God then tells Moses to throw his shepherd's rod down onto the ground. When Moses did this, it turned into a snake, which God told him to grab by the tail. When he grabbed the snake by the tail, it became a rod again.

God then tells Moses to reach his hand into his robe and pull it out again, when he does so, his hand appeared ravaged with leprosy. God tells him to do the same again and Moses' hand returned to normal.

God tells Moses that if they don't believe the first miracle, then they will surely believe the second, but if that too fails, he tells Moses to take some water from the Nile River and pour it upon dry land, and it will turn to blood.

Moses then protests to God saying that he isn't a very good speaker, and that he should pick someone else to deliver his message. After arguing back and forth, God angrily concedes that Moses' brother is a good speaker and that he is currently on his way to look for Moses. He tells Moses that his brother can be his spokesman to the people.

Moses returns home and told his father-in-law Jethro that he was to return to Egypt to visit his relatives. Before he leaves Midian, God speaks to Moses again, telling him not to fear returning to Egypt, for those who had wanted to execute him are now all dead.

So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey, and returned to Egypt, holding tightly the "Rod of God".

God speaks to Moses again, telling him that when he appears to the Pharaoh to plead for the release of his people, he is to tell the Pharaoh that when he refuses, God will slay his oldest son.

As Moses and his family were traveling along, they stopped for the night, and God appeared to Moses threatening to kill him. Inexplicably, his wife Zipporah takes a flint knife, cuts off the foreskin of her sons penis and throws it against Moses' feet remarking, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me." God left him alone.

God then appears to Aaron, Moses' brother, and tells him to go into the wilderness to meet Moses. Aaron travels to Mount Horeb and met Moses there and they greeted each other warmly. Moses explained God's plan to Aaron, what they were to do and say, and about the miracles they had to do before the Pharaoh.

Moses and Aaron returned to Egypt and summoned the elders of Israel to a meeting. Aaron told them what God had said and Moses performed the miracles for them. The elders then believed that God had sent them and they bowed their heads and worshiped.
Thoughts:Moses tells God that nobody's going to believe all this talking to a burning bush malarkey, so God teaches Moses a couple of magic tricks including: turning a staff into a snake, the magic hand of leprosy, and if all else fails, take some water out of the Nile, pour it on dry land, and watch it turn to blood. Not quite as impressive as a Chris Angel or David Copperfield show, but apparently it'll do to convince both the ancient Egyptians and the bronze age Israelis.

Moses then tries to get out of this gig by telling God that he's not even a good speaker, and that he should just find somebody else for the job. God, now getting pretty angry, decides to let Moses' brother Aaron do all the talking, so that Moses can just concentrate on his magic show.

He goes home and tells "Jethro" that he's leaving town and taking his wife and kids and packs them all onto a donkey. God then reassures him that things are a-okay in Egypt as he took care of all those pesky soldiers that wanted to execute him. He also adds in a new little proviso to tell the Pharaoh, that if the Israelis aren't let free, then God will kill the Pharaoh's oldest son.

Moses gets going along his trip back to Egypt and later stops to rest for the night. Here things get weird, really weird. For no discernible reason, God threatens to kill Moses dead on the spot. Now Moses' wife grabs a knife and circumcises her son with it and throws the foreskin at Moses and tells him what a bloody mess he is. Apparently this must have freaked God out or something, as he decides it's just best to leave the situation alone. Seriously, this does not make any sense whatsoever. This whole scene seems more at place in a David Lynch movie than what is purportedly to be "the word of God".

I honestly had no clue as to what this passage means and had to look up an explanation on a theistic website. According to www.gotquestions.org:
" God was going to kill Moses because of sin. The sin of Moses in Exodus 4:24-26 is not stated explicitly, but the surrounding events give substantial clues as to the nature of Moses’ transgression. God had instructed his messenger to warn Pharaoh to free Israel, or risk losing his firstborn son. Moses had been specially groomed by God for eighty years for this mission, and now the time for action had come.

Moses was to lead his people out of Egypt and to be an example to Pharaoh’s house, to the nation of Egypt, and to all the nations that heard of those happenings. Accordingly, Moses’ personal life had to be in order before he could direct the spiritual lives of the Hebrew people. It seems that Moses had neglected to administer the sacred rite of circumcision, the act that symbolized the Almighty’s covenant with His chosen people.

Perhaps this was the result of pressure from his surrogate Midianite tribe. It is also possible that he was persuaded by Zipporah not to circumcise his son, since she apparently found the practice revolting. This would explain her violent outburst; she felt that she had saved her husband from death by shedding the blood of her son. Whatever the cause, Moses’ outstanding sin made him unfit to serve as a spiritual leader, and the situation had to be rectified before he could carry out his mission effectively. Indeed, as soon as Zipporah performed the act, the Lord “let him go.” In summary, God was going to kill Moses because Moses was supposed to teach the Israelites God's Law, yet Moses was not obeying God's Law himself."
Okay, now here's my problem with this answer: a lot of it is being inferred and implied. While this website's answer seems to fit neatly, the bible tells us none of this, this is all just guesswork and taking a stab at what's going on. Why doesn't God just ask Moses to get his son circumcised if that's where the whole problem lays? Now God being omniscient - as purported - wouldn't he have known that Moses had not had his son circumcised, and if this was such a big deal, couldn't he have either asked/told/commanded him to do so, or just picked somebody else? Also, why is outright killing Moses justifiable? If this book is allegedly written by an all perfect deity, wouldn't you think his message would be clear and concise and not require human intervention to "fill in the gaps" and guess that circumcision almost made Moses a ghost here?

Anyways, Moses and Aaron eventually meet up at Mount Horeb, and he fills Aaron in on God's plan, the magic tricks, and the whole nine yards. They travel on back to Egypt and make a convincing show to the Israeli elders, who drop to the ground in worship.

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