Chapter 19- The Hebrews come to the land of Sinai. God reveals himself to them as clouds/lightening storm/trumpet sounds/voice from Mount Sinai, but warns the people not to touch the mountain or they will be killed. God asks Moses and Aaron to join him on the mountain.
You know, it’s good that God gave these people proof after proof of his existence. Plagues, manna, pillars of fire, a voice from the mountain…if I witnessed all of those things, I would believe in God. I don’t know that I’d necessarily want to worship this God, seeing as he’s done some pretty awful things along the way as well, but I’d at least know that he really existed. If only we had such unequivocal proof for a deity today.
The way he reveals himself to them in this mountain scene is a bit strange though. From verses 12&13, “Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live.” It’s as though God wants to kinda give proof of his existence, but still doesn’t want to give everything away. He has some big secret hidden on that mountain, and if he tells you, he’ll have to kill you.
I’m reminded of the Wizard of Oz, especially given the scene in verses 16-18: “Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thundering and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly.”
Also, it just struck me…volcano? Perhaps like I suspect with the plagues, this is just a mystified retelling of a natural disaster. Are there volcanoes in Egypt?
The other thing that I find interesting in this passage is that as God is commanding the people to consecrate themselves before coming to see the mountain, he advises the men, “be ready for the third day; do not come near your wives.” (vs 15) Sex is dirty! Women are dirty! Dirty things displease the Lord! Oh what a world we might live in if religion hadn’t instilled in society such a fear of sex and loathing of women.
Chapter 20- God gives commandments to the people, including the famous 10 commandments. There is a lot of emphasis on not building idols/how to properly build an altar to God.
You know, these 10 commandments get touted as the pinnacle of morality. People fight to have them displayed in court houses, city halls, schools, etc as reminders of how to be moral. But, really? What’s inherently moral or immoral about working on the Sabbath? Or taking God’s name in vain? When I think of immorality, I think of things that cause harm to others.
The commandments that do deal with murder/adultery/stealing/covetousness/lying are all well and good, but do you really think humans couldn’t figure that out without a voice from the mountain telling them? It’s kinda common sense that if you want your society to prosper, you shouldn’t kill each other or steal things. The Code of Hammurabi is written law that predates Judaism/Christianity, but they seem to have figured things out alright.
And these 10 commandments leave out a lot of important moral teachings. Things like “don’t rape” or “don’t abuse children” or “owning another human being is wrong” are moral rules we’ve figured out for ourselves without the bible’s help. God is clearly more concerned with being worshiped properly than with instilling valuable morals.
Within the 10 commandments, God proudly announces that “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” (vs 5) Jealousy, grudge-holding, punishing innocent children for the ‘sins’ of their parents… that’s some moral stuff right there.
Chapter 21- More rules on how to run society. Most concern how to treat slaves, how to punish those who commit assult/murder, and what to do when an animal kills someone.
There is some truly egregious shit here.
Male Hebrew slaves go free after 7 years. If he had a wife before becoming a slave, she goes free with him. If his master gave him the wife during slavery, she doesn’t go free (thus encouraging the male slave to voluntarily remain a slave after his 7 years are up).
Verse 7 “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do.” Women are to remain slaves forever, and it’s cool for dads to sell their daughters.
If you kill someone, you will be killed in return. If he lives after you assult him, you only pay for his recovery time. If you kill a slave, you’ll be punished, but “if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.” (vs 21) So, be sure to beat your slave just to the edge of death so they linger few days.
If you poke out your slave’s eye or knock out his tooth, you have to let him free. So be sure to hit gently.
If a man hurts a woman who is with child, there are penalties, but mostly only if the child gets hurt. No mention of what to do if you hurt a non-pregnant woman, so I guess just be careful which woman you chose to hit.
Seriously people, these aren’t good morals! I’m extremely thankful that our society mostly ignores the rules set forth by the bible!