Monday, April 6, 2009


While the book of Genesis may be the most hotly debated book of the bible for fundamentalist believers, creationists, and proponents of "Intelligent Design", the book of Exodus tends to be one of the more favored biblical books for the skeptics and atheists - mostly due to the absurdity, cruelty, intolerance, sexist and bizarre nature of God's laws.

This book is mainly the beginning and introduction to the legendary biblical character of Moses, whose significance lies in the common assertion that the first five books of the bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are thought to have been written by Moses himself. Most archaeologists tend to view the book of Exodus as non-historical, and at best an exaggerated account containing a sliver of truth, as there are many events that just don't hold up to our known archaeological evidence. For example, with over 600,000 Hebrew men leaving Egypt, it is likely that when counting wives, children, and the elderly amongst them that a number of two million or more would be accurate - a sizable chunk of the entire Egyptian population of around 3 to 6 million. Such a sizable population drop (not to mention the hoards Egyptian people that God kills with plagues and the entire Egyptian army that he drowns in the Red Sea) would have had a severe chaotic impact on the economy of Egypt to which no known evidence supports. Also implausible is that the 70 descendants of Israel described in Genesis: Chapter 46 managed to increase their population to over two million in a matter of 400 to 430 years.

The story of Moses' birth and subsequent escape from infanticide suspiciously mirrors the story of King Sargon that is thought to possibly predate the earliest writings of the Torah - the Jewish books of the Old Testament. His adoption by Egyptian royalty also seems suspect and similar to other mythologies including that of King Sargon.

Moses goes into exile from Egypt after he witnesses an Egyptian strike a Hebrew slave, knocking him to the ground, and retaliates with murdering the Egyptian. He travels to the land of Midian where he marries and settles down as a shepherd for about forty years. Also suspect is that Moses' father-in-law is inexplicably referred to by two completely different names, suggesting multiple authorship.

God appears to Moses in the form of a burning bush and sends him on a mission to liberate the people of Israel from their slavery and teaches Moses a variety of magic tricks, or "miracles", that somehow aren't so "miraculous" as a bunch of Egyptian sorcerers are able to duplicate many of them.

However, before Moses can get on with his mission (and meet up with his brother Aaron) God almost kills Moses in the desert in a bizarre scene more at home in a David Lynch film. Apparently God wants to kill Moses as he hasn't yet had his son circumcised (which is not readily explained) and upon hearing this, Moses' wife Zillah lops off their son's foreskin with a sharp knife and throws the bloody foreskin at Moses. God flees the scene after this, rightfully so.

While Moses and his brother Aaron impress the leaders of the Israeli tribes with their magical staffs that turns into snakes, the trick doesn't go over quite as well with the Pharaoh of Egypt who somehow finds a bunch of sorcerers who are able to turn magic staffs into snakes too. Unimpressed with the magic tricks God taught Moses and Aaron (and despite the "coup de grĂ¢ce" Aaron's snake delivers by eating the sorcerer's snakes) the Pharaoh refuses Moses' request that the Israeli people be allowed to go out on a three day picnic to sacrifice animals out in the wilderness.

Moses and Aaron continue battle it out with the Egyptian sorcerers with both sides being able to turn the Nile River into blood and conjure frogs, but Aaron and Moses somehow stump the sorcerers when they create lice out of the dust on the ground. Defeated, the sorcerers insist to the Pharaoh that this must be "the finger of God" that created the lice, instead of perhaps maybe coming the conclusion that perhaps Moses and Aaron might simply just be better magicians than themselves. Despite the defeat of the sorcerers, as well as their conclusion that because they can't conjure lice that God must be involved, the Pharaoh still isn't letting his Hebrew slaves go on their little picnic in the desert.

All the time while God dishes out magic plague after plague (including destroying all the Egyptian livestock, while sparing the Israeli animals; causing boils to appear on both people and animals; deadly hailstorms; and swarms of locusts) God also manipulates the Pharaoh into either outright saying "no" to Moses' demands, or allowing the people to go (usually under restrictive conditions) and then later changing his mind, disallowing them to go. God makes the Pharaoh keep saying "no" to Moses so that God can flex his might miracle muscles in an attempt to wow both the Egyptians and Israelis alike.

God's next devious plan is to go around killing all of the firstborn male animals and Egyptian people, while sparing the Israelis. In order to ensure that he knows which houses to skip - the ones housing the Israelis - he has them slaughter a whole bunch of lambs and splatter the blood over their door frames of their houses. He makes up a bunch of elaborate conditions on how he wants the people to do this, and how to eat the lamb meat afterwards, and tells Moses that this whole event is going to be a mandatory annual holiday for the people of Israel, introducing us to the Jewish holiday of Passover - as God "passes over" the houses of the Israeli people.

As God is now sure that the Pharaoh will wind up kicking out the Israeli people after this horrible slaughter, he tells Moses to have the women folk go out and ask the Egyptian citizens to give them all of their valuable jewelry and clothing. God forces the Egyptian people to hand over their possessions gleefully to the Israelis, which basically strips them of all their wealth and possessions.

Sure enough, God's mass slaughter of the firstborn Egyptians makes the Egyptian Pharaoh want to be rid of the Israelis and he finally allows them to leave Egypt, with their families, livestock, and all the Egyptian wealth with them.

After the millions of people all managed to leave Egypt on the same night(!), word gets back to the Pharaoh that the Israelis have no intentions of ever returning back to Egypt after their three day picnic. Enraged that he has just lost a good two million or so Hebrew slaves, he sets off after them with his entire army of chariots in tow. While God has Moses seemingly trap the Israelis against the Red Sea, God instead has another trick up his sleeve.

As the Egyptian army gets closer, God has Moses part the Red Sea with his magic staff and after drying the bottom of the sea bed with an eastern wind, has the Israelis cross to safety. When the Egyptians go in after them, he has Moses and his magic staff close the Red Sea back up again, killing the entire Egyptian army by drowning.

After some rousing songs and dances, the people of Israel start having problems acquiring food and water out in the desert and start angrily complaining to Moses, blaming him for dragging them out in the desert to die. Every time Moses pleads with God on their behalf, God somehow solves their problems by leading them to an oasis, making magical food formed on the evaporated morning dew, or having Moses bang his magic staff against a rock causing a stream of water to come forth.

God decides to test the people's obedience by instructing them not to store the magical food overnight (which its magical properties cause it to become maggot-ridden), nor go out gathering food on Saturday (on which day the magic food doesn't appear). Of course, when people go storing food and trying to gather food on Saturdays, God gets angry and frustrated.

Later on the Israelis get attacked by an Amalek army to which Moses is able to manipulate the battle with his magic staff. When he raises the staff above his head, the Israeli army gains the upper hand in the battle; and when Moses' arms get tired and he lowers the staff, the Israelis begin losing. So, Aaron and his pal Hur stand on either side of Moses helping him lift his arms in the air until the Israelis defeat the Amalek army.

Soon after Moses' father-in-law with two names arrives to drop off Moses' wife and kids to him and is baffled by all the time Moses is wasting solving problems for the Israelis. He helps Moses set up a judicial system to disperse the workload before riding off into the sunset.

The people now arrive at Mount Sinai and God begins to meet with Moses on a semi-regular basis on the top of the mountain. God wants the people to be aware of his presence and has Moses tell them all that he will appear in the form of a dark thunder cloud within a couple of days. However, he tells Moses to rope off a boundary at the foot of the mountain and instructs the people to kill anybody - including any stray animals - that tries to climb up the mountain, or even come anywhere near the boundary line. Much like the Wizard of Oz, God doesn't want anybody peeking behind the curtain. God's theatrics of thunder, lightning, and blowing a ram's horn(?) frighten the people into submission and obedience.

God starts giving a whole bunch of rules to Moses for the people of Israel to follow, most that if broken result in death by stoning. The rules are diverse in nature and deal with how to care for and beat your slaves; how to sell your daughters into slavery; what to do when your oxen go kill crazy and whether or not you should be killed for it too; how if you defend your home from a thief and mortally wound him, you'd better hope it occurs at night, otherwise you're automatically condemned as a murderer; learn to understand things that constitute a stoning like cursing your parents, worshiping other gods, working on Saturdays, and practicing witchcraft; and the charming rule of never boiling a baby goat in its mother's milk.

God invites Moses to bring his brother Aaron and about seventy of the elders of the people up to hang out on top of the mountain. They all have a big feast in the presence of God, and afterwards God has Moses climb higher up the mountain to have some private chit-chat. God tells Moses that he's got these ten extra-important rules that he's going to carve on some stone tablets, and that he wants Moses to stick around until he's done writing them. After six days, he lets Moses head back down again, but when Moses returns to the top of the mountain he stays up there for forty days and forty nights straight.

God tells Moses that he wants the people to build him a tabernacle, so that he can live amongst his chosen people and gives Moses a large shopping list of items that will be needed to build his home along with precise building plans. God then fills Moses in on how he wants all of his ritualistic animal sacrifices performed, and all the specifics he expects to be performed in his tabernacle.

God gives Moses the two tablets containing his "Ten Commandments", and stresses repeatedly that anybody caught working on Saturdays must be killed.

Meanwhile, the Israelis start thinking that after forty days of not hearing from Moses that he must have disappeared or ran off and begin panicking that they might also no longer have a god around to lead them. Moses' brother Aaron comes up with a plan to make the people a new god out of the molten gold from everyone's earrings. He melts the gold in a fire and shapes into the image of a golden calf, and the people start a drunken party in honor of their golden calf god. Our God Yahweh, however, is not amused and decides that he's going to kill the whole lot of these people until Moses chastises him for reacting in such an evil way. He talks God out of his kill frenzy by reminding him that he did kind of promise Abraham, Isaac, and Israel that he'd give them a whole ton of descendants and that they'd become a great nation.

Instead Moses comes down from the mountain, melts the golden calf in the fire, grinds up the molten gold into fine powder and force feeds it to these heathen calf worshipers. He then demands that whomever is going to start taking God seriously is going to have to kill a bunch of the people who don't, regardless of family ties or friendship. In the end about 3,000 Israeli people are slaughtered at the hand of the sword.

Moses pats them all on the back for obeying God and slaughtering their sons, brothers, and neighbors for being a bunch of heathens and promises them that God will bestow great blessings upon them for doing so. God instead sends them a plague.

God now tells Moses that he doesn't want to travel with the people of Israel now because he's just going to be too tempted to just murder the whole lot of them, but Moses manages to coax him back along. God in turn pulls a guilt trip upon the people and tells them that they're too shameful of a people to wear jewelry anymore and commands that they strip themselves of their jewels. Moses asks God if he can be allowed to see his face, but while God refuses as he tells Moses that no one is allowed to see his face and live, he settles for letting Moses see his backside as he walks ahead of him.

Moses heads up to the mountain with two new tablets for God to write another copy of the "Ten Commandments" on, and stays up there for another forty days and forty nights. While he's waiting, God tells Moses that when the Israelis reach the "promised land" that they're not to have any tolerance towards the people living there. They're not to sign any peace treaties with them, they are to smash and break all of their religious altars and idols, and they're not to marry any of those "whoring" daughters as they'll corrupt the minds of God's chosen people.

When Moses finally comes down from the mountain with the new copies of the "Ten Commandments", he freaks the people out unknowingly as his face has somehow acquired a strange glow from having spent all that time hanging around with God. He later puts a veil over his face, but continues to take it off in God's presence in order to soak up more of the godly glow.

Moses finally gets two fellows named Bezalel and Oholiab (along with a bunch of people working under them) to start building the tabernacle, its furnishings, and a bunch of priest costumes. The people keep donating supplies until Moses has to force them to stop donating.

Moses anoints his brother Aaron, along with Aaron's sons, as the priests of the tabernacle, while God begins leading the people of Israel towards the "promised land" by using the form of a cloud in the daylight, and a cloud on fire at night.

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