Captain’s log, star date* 051020.13: I have survived the first book of the Bible unscathed; I have not been struck by lightening, nor been bored to tears yet. I am still an atheist, as God’s divine truth has yet to reveal itself in an attractive way through this bronze age book of myths. Perhaps Exodus will reveal to me the promised “Just read the bible, then you’ll understand.”
Chapter 1- Joseph’s entire family has passed away, but the Israelites are still prospering in Egypt. A new king who did not know Joesph has come to power, and he fears how strong the Israelites have become. He forces them into bondage to build cities for him, and instructs the midwives to kill any male Hebrews babies, and only let the females live. The midwives don’t follow orders, so the new Pharaoh gives the command directly to the people to kill their sons.
The other day, Wednesday I think**, Bible related conversation came up over lunch with my boyfriend and his mom. I had just read about how everyone except Joseph’s family had to sell themselves into slavery to survive the famine, so I was wondering how the Hebrews ended up as slaves by the time of Moses. I’m always happy when the Bible actually contains the answers to my questions!
I think it’s a bit of a silly answer, but an answer none-the-less. The ancient Egyptians are kinda sorta famous these days for their written hieroglyphics, so one would think that a story as big as Joseph saving EVERYONE from dying in a famine would be something the next king would know about. If the Egyptians couldn’t keep their recent history straight, why should I trust that the Bible gets its ancient history right?
Verse 10, “come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” Look, if your goal is to prevent people from becoming your enemies, the proper course of action isn’t to force them into slavery and try to kill their children! Talk about giving them a justified reason to hate you…
Then there’s this bit about the midwives. Apparently this huuuuge group of Hebrews only had 2 midwives (yeah, right), and Pharaoh tells them to kill all the baby boys. Did he really think that would work? After the first or second murdered son, one would think that the Hebrews would stop hiring them as midwives.
But, the ladies do the right thing and refuse to kill any babies. When Pharaoh asks them why baby Hebrew boys are still happening, they lie and tell Pharaoh that Hebrew women “are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.” Then God rewards them for protecting the babies.
I think we can all agree that lying to Pharaoh was the proper, moral course of action for these women to take. So, let’s stop pretending that the 10 commandments, which includes “thou shalt not lie,” are an all encompassing, end-all-be-all of moral rules, okay?
Chapter 2- A male and female Levite get together and make a baby boy. The mother hides him for a few months, then sends him afloat in a basket on the river. Pharaoh’s daughter finds the baby, and hires the Hebrew mother (not knowing she’s the mother) to nurse the baby. When he is older, Pharaoh’s daughter adopts him and names him Moses. After he is grown, Moses murders an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew. Pharaoh wants to kill Moses because of this, so Moses flees to Midian, where he meets a nice family who takes him in. He marries Zipporah and has a son named Gershom. This Pharaoh dies, and the people of Israel are completely miserable in their slavery.
I remember from my upbringing in Christianity that Moses’s sister, who watches over him while he’s floating in the basket, was named Miriam, but the bible doesn’t actually give her name in this story. I Google’d it, and Miriam is named as a sister of Moses and his brother Aaron in a later chapter, so people pretty universally assume that she’s the sister mentioned here. That bothers me. Maybe it was a different sister…
Also, are we really supposed to believe that the Pharaoh who wants all Hebrew boys dead is going to be okay with having a Hebrew as an adopted grandson? I doubt that.
Verses 23-24, “Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Issac and with Jacob.”
I’m seeing a trend here with God forgetting about his people. It happened to Noah in Genesis 8, and it’s happening again with the Hebrews in Egypt. The story of Joseph was supposedly a lesson that sometimes bad things happen as part of God’s grander plan, but it think it’s pretty clear that sometimes bad things happen because God has forgotten to care for awhile.
Also, I think this is a good argument for complaining. People will say you shouldn’t complain about bad things in your life because it’s all part of God’s plan, but here the Bible makes it pretty clear that the Israelites’s complaining is what jostled God’s memory.
Chapter 3- Moses is tending the flocks when he sees a bush on fire. God speaks to him through the bush, and says that Moses will lead the Hebrews out of Egypt to a promised land of milk and honey.
So, chapter 2 named Moses’s father in law as “Reuel” but here in chapter 3 he is named “Jethro.” Which is it?
When God reveals Himself to Moses, he says “I am the the God of your father- the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob.” Which leads to me wonder just how much Moses would have known about the god of the Hebrews. The Bible doesn’t say how long he stayed with his mother before going to live with Pharaoh’s daughter. She was hired to nurse him, so I would hazard a guess that he stayed with her only until weaned. So, how much would someone raised as an Egyptian really know about or identify with the god of the Hebrew slaves? Somehow, I doubt that the religion of the slaves was taught widely in the palace.
About this business with the burning bush…if I may borrow an analogy from the fantastic Greta Christina:
Let’s say Person 1 thinks their hair dryer is talking to them, and is telling them to shoot every redhead who gets on the 9:04 train.
And let’s say that Person 2 thinks their hair dryer is talking to them, and is telling them to volunteer twice a week at a homeless shelter.
Is it better to volunteer at a homeless shelter than it is to shoot every redhead who gets on the 9:04 train? Of course it is.
But you still have a basic problem — which is that you think your hair dryer is talking to you.
Even if the burning bush is telling you to go do something good, you’re still the crazy man who thinks a flaming plant is speaking to you.
Then in verses 19-20, God says “But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.”
And verse 22, “But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
If God were truly all powerful, couldn’t he have saved the Hebrews without resorting to striking down the Egyptians and stealing from them? Couldn’t he have prevented the Egyptians from enslaving the Hebrews in the first place? Is this all just a big show of how powerful he can be when he so chooses to be?
So, you guys ever play the Sims? If you did, you probably at some point built a swimming pool, put a Sim in the water, and removed the ladder to watch the Sim freak out and flail around. I would pluck them from the water at the last moment (but I know some of you out there totally let your Sims drown, you assholes). That’s how I image this God of the Old Testament. He’s making a big show of letting his people suffer so he can swoop in and demonstrate his power and life saving generosity. He’s saving them from a problem he created!
*Every single online star date calculator gave me a different number, so I just made one up. My technique makes way more sense.
**It’s only been three days since finals ended, but I have already thoroughly lost track of time. Without having to get up and go to class, I have a hard time remembering what day it is