Saturday, September 26, 2009

21: Exodus

Exodus 10-12
This is getting a little ridiculous. Again, in the first paragraph of Exodus 10, God reiterates that he is hardening Pharaohs heart. This time he actually explains though. He says that he is doing this so that Moses can tell his children and grandchildren how he dealt harshly with the Egyptians. So that "you may know that I am the Lord". There has to be a better way to prove that you are God, other than torturing people. Why does an all loving God torture one group of his people to prove to another group that he is God? God doesn't even meet the bare minimum of requirements for human decency. I believe we can all agree that needless torture is bad, no matter where we get our morals from.

So Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh (I'm not even sure why they're trying any more) and tell him that they are going to send locusts if he doesn't let the people go. Of course he says no because God isn't letting him say yes. So the locusts are sent and God's curse is momentarily broken when Pharaoh sees the plight of his people. Again, Pharaoh says that he will let the people go, and again God re-hardens Pharaohs heart so he wont allow them to leave.

Next is the plague of darkness. Moses makes everything dark. Again, Pharaoh tries with all of his heart to let Moses go, to stop God's torture. Again, God prevents him. I don't even know what to say any more that I haven't already said.

Finally, Moses goes to Pharaoh and tells him that God is going to kill every first born of Egypt. Again, what was their crime? These people have done nothing. Not even the "evil" Pharaoh has done anything, he has repeatedly expressed his urge to let Moses' people go, and he has repeatedly been prevented. If this isn't innocence I don't know what is.

The first part of Exodus 12 is a bunch of rules about passover time. Apparently God is not a huge fan of yeast. God then goes around at midnight (God is referred to as "the destroyer", cute) and kills every firstborn. Some of them were Egyptian slaves, there is no possible way that these people deserved death. Even if we agree that all Egyptians are bad, how can their slaves be guilty too? God predisposes the Egyptians to give up their money (free will out the window again) and the Israelites plunder them, presumably by asking nicely for money.

Exodus 12 ends with six hundred thousand Israelites leaving Egypt. Finally the needless torture can stop.

Friday, September 25, 2009

20: Matters of the Heart

Exodus 7-9
Ok, I thought the first time God said that he was going to harden Pharaohs heart so he wouldn't listen to God might have been a typo, but no. At the beginning of Exodus 7 God reiterates that he is going to make it so that Pharaoh will not listen to Moses or God. Then he says something vague about how he is going to lay his judgment on Egypt. Why? Is he laying judgment for what he, himself, has done to Pharaoh?

So Aaron and Moses go to Pharaoh (rather uselessly at this point) and perform the staff turning into a snake trick. What I find interesting is that Pharaoh gets his magicians to do the exact same thing. That makes it seem wholly unmiraculous. The only indication that Aaron and Moses' trick is better is that their snake swallows the Pharaohs magicians' snakes. So what? Pharaoh is unconvinced (as am I).

God tells them to go back the next day and try to convince Pharaoh again. Why? If God has hardened Pharaohs heart what is the point of any of this? Anyway, they take Pharaoh down to the Nile and turn the water into blood. All the fish die and the river stinks and such. Surely the Pharaohs magicians can't pull of a trick like that, it must be God. Wrong, Pharaohs magicians do the exact same thing. Are Pharaohs magicians being blessed with miraculous powers by some competing God, or is it just a trick?

God is getting more and more mad (at himself apparently, considering he's the one preventing Pharaoh from listening) so he sends Egypt a plague of frogs. Oh no! Not frogs! Of course, as soon as Aaron and Moses make frogs Pharaohs magicians are able to do the same thing. Pharaoh apparently hates frogs so he says that if they can make the frogs leave he will let the people go. So God makes all the frogs die (they couldn't have just died naturally) and as soon as the Pharaoh has relief his heart hardens again. God, damnit, stop hardening his heart. The Bible says his heart hardens "just as the Lord had said", right, because he's the one doing it.

Next is the dreaded plague of gnats. Oh no! Lafayette is having a plague of gnats. I will interpret this as God wanting to let us out of class. We can start calling president Cordova Pharaoh. Strangely enough, this is where Pharaohs magicians draw the line, they can't produce gnats. Frogs are ok but not gnats?

Next is the plague of flies. Pharaoh also hates flies so he tells Moses that he can take the people out in the desert to worship. Moses says ok, but make sure not to harden your heart again. So of course, as soon as the flies are gone Pharaoh hardens his heart and wont let the people go. God is just being deceitful now.

Next is the plague on the livestock. All of the Egyptian livestock dies, but all of the Israeli livestock is fine. This doesn't even make Pharaoh consider freeing them, for some reason. Apparently he's more afraid of pests than he is of his livestock dying.

Plague of boils. This one sounds nasty. It says everyone in Egypt broke out in boils (I have to assume that the Israelites did to0 because it says everyone). Pharaohs magicians couldn't even stand to try to reproduce the boils. At the end of the paragraph it makes sure to reiterate that God hardens Pharaohs heart. Lets just get this straight, God is punishing everyone in Egypt for what he is doing. What kind of justice is this?

The plague of hail is next. God warns everyone to bring their animals and slaves inside. The slave masters who don't listen are punished by having their slaves killed. Yes, that's right, the slave masters who ordered their slaves to stay outside are fine, but the slaves die. And this is all because of Pharaoh who is only being a jerk because of God. So God kills innocent slaves, just thought I'd mention that.

Pharaoh again summons Moses and pleads for him to stop. And again says that he will let the people go where ever they please. But the moment the hail stops he hardens his heart again and wont let them go. Why is a perfectly just God going around simultaneously preventing Pharaoh from letting the people go and punishing him for not letting the people go?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

19: Bush

Exodus 4-6
Moses asks God what to do if the people don't believe he actually talked to God. He talked to a bush that was on fire but wasn't burning, what's unbelievable about that? Anyway, God tells him to throw his staff on the ground and turns it into a snake. Then Moses puts his hand in his cloak and it turns leprous and he puts his hand back in his cloak and he is healed. Finally God says he can throw water on the ground and it will turn into blood. These seem like pretty standard magic tricks to me.

Ok, this next section blows my mind. If you read nothing else in the Bible please read Exodus 4:21-26. I will try to figure out what this is trying to say to the best of my ability. I'm going to go verse by verse here.

(All in Exodus 4)

Verse 21: God tells Moses to go back and perform his miracles for Pharaoh. That is fine, however, he (God) says that he is going to "harden his [Pharaoh's] heart so that he will not let the people go". What? If God wants to free these people why is he going to harden Pharaoh's heart so he wont let the people go? I'm more and more dumbfounded on the free will concept. Is God going to punish Pharaoh for not letting the people go when it was God that prevented it? I think I'll be bringing up this passage a lot in my next posts.

Verse 22: God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh that "Israel is my first born son". I am majorly confused. If God is telling Moses what to say, then it should be from Moses' perspective, but Moses (as far as I know) doesn't have a first born son named Israel. And we know God doesn't have any sons yet, so it must mean Pharaoh has a son named Israel?

Verse 23: God is still telling Moses what to say to Pharaoh. The only thing I can decipher here is that God told Pharaoh to let his son worship him, and Pharaoh said no, which doesn't make any sense at all. So Pharaoh refused, and now God is going to kill his son. Excuse me? Why is Pharaoh's not releasing his son to worship his son's fault? It's very important in verse 22 and 23 to understand what perspective the speaking voice is coming from. But if I replace the speaker with God, Moses, or Pharaoh it still doesn't make sense.

Verse 24: Ok, I've read this about 12 times, so I don't think I'm reading it wrong. It says that at a lodging place on the way to Egypt, God meets Moses, and is about to kill him. Yes, that's what it says, I just read it another 12 times. So God is going to kill Moses, the person he just told to go save people.

Verse 25: This is where it starts going down hill, I thought we'd already hit rock bottom. Zipporah (Moses' wife) sees that God is about to kill Moses, so she grabs a knife, cuts off her son's foreskin, and touches Moses' feet with it. Say what now? Then she, apparently as an explanation, says "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me". Ok, whatever you say crazy lady, just don't cut my penis.

Verse 26: God, apparently satisfied that Moses has foreskin all over his feet, leaves him alone.

My mind is officially blown and I still have two chapters to get through. Exodus 4 ends with Moses performing his magic tricks to all of the Israelite elders.

Moses and Aaron (his brother) go to Pharaoh and tell them to "let my people go" so they can have a festival in the desert. Pharaoh says no and they say that God might strike him with plagues or "with the sword". Pharaoh gets pissed and makes the Israelites make bricks with no straw (I didn't know straw was an integral ingredient in bricks, but whatever). Keep in mind that Pharaoh is only being a jerk because God has "hardened his heart".

God says that he is going to force Pharaoh to do what he says with his "mighty hand". Why don't you just unharden Pharaoh's heart and he will let them go on his own free will. God rambles for awhile about how he made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and he's going to fulfill them, ok whatever. Moses reports God's ramblings and the Israelites don't believe him. God also tells Moses to tell Pharaoh what he says but he doesn't do it (not yet anyway).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

18: Moses

Exodus 1-3
Ah, a new book. Turns out this is really Genesis the sequel. It is a direct continuation of the end of Genesis. A new Pharaoh comes to power that doesn't know how wonderful Jacob is (Jacob and all of his brothers died before Exodus), so he decides to enslave the Hebrews. Somehow, the more they were oppressed the more they multiplied, I'm not quite sure how that works out. And because the Egyptians were afraid of them, they (the Egyptians) worked them harder. I'm not sure why, if you are afraid of someone, that you would work them harder and make them hate you. Pharaoh tells the Hebrew's midwives to start killing the Hebrew babies. However, the midwives are "afraid of God", so they refuse to kill the babies. Why would an Egyptian be afraid of a Hebrew God? Then Pharaoh gives the order to throw all of the Hebrew boys in the river, I'm not sure how that's a different order than just "kill them".

Moses is born during this time and his mother hides him for three months. When, for some unknown reason, she can't hide him anymore she puts him in a basket and floats him down the Nile. Pharaoh's daughter finds the basket and gives him to a Hebrew woman to nurse. Why didn't they kill him right there? It says Pharaoh's daughter "feels sorry" for Moses, but so what? Why doesn't she feel bad for the rest of the babies floating in the river?

When Moses gets older he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. It seems like we have some reasonable options here. Being the Pharaoh's grandson, Moses could tell him to stop and he would presumably have to. Maybe he could even have the man punished. However, he decides to go with a decision that is seeming more and more common in the Bible: kill him. Well that was stupid. Now Moses has to leave Egypt and hide in Midian. He gets a wife there and has babies and such.

Some time later the Pharaoh dies, but the Hebrews are still oppressed. They cry out for help and God hears them and remembers his covenant with Abraham. Had he forgotten? Why does it take them crying out for help for God to stay true to his word. I thought this land was supposed to be theirs anyway.

Moses was tending his flock one day and comes across a bush that is on fire and it starts talking to him. Why not... I'll go with it, this is the least of my worries at this point. So this talking bush tells him to take off his sandals because he is standing on holy ground. The bush tells him that it is God and Moses hides his eyes because he doesn't want to look at God. God tells him to go save the Hebrews and calls himself Yahweh for the first time.

God says that he will make the Egyptians "favorably disposed toward this people [Hebrews]", so that they will be able to steal the Egyptians silver. What just happened to free will? Why doesn't he just make Pharaoh disposed toward not enslaving people? Anyway, we obviously can't take the easy, reasonable route, that wouldn't make for a very exciting story.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

17: Tribes & Genesis: In Review

Genesis 48-50
Jacob is about to die so he blesses Joseph's children. Jacob places his right hand on Joseph's youngest son as he blesses him. Joseph tries to move his father's right hand to his older son but he refuses because he says that the youngest son will be greater.

Jacob then blesses all of his children and defines the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob dies and they travel to the burial grounds of Abraham and Isaac to bury him.

Joseph's brothers are afraid that Joseph will hurt them now that their father is dead, but he reassures them that he wont. Joseph lives to the ridiculous age of one hundred and ten (when are these people going to start living to a reasonable age?) and dies. He is embalmed and buried in Egypt.

The end of Genesis!

**********

Genesis: In Review
For a book that is supposed to change my life and is supposed to be written by an all knowing creator, I am rather unimpressed (so far).

Why does every single prophet of God sin so much? You would think an all powerful God could pick a more perfect person to deliver his message.

Why does an all knowing being need to hit the reset button on his own creations? Was it really necessary to flood the earth and kill everyone? If God was really that serious about making us better he could have come down and spoken with every person on the earth simultaneously and asked us to be better people. Why doesn't God even meet our human standards of decency?

God loves, and has empathy, for everyone, but he picks his favorite tribe to bless and give land to for all of time. How does this make any sense? They certainly aren't a perfect tribe, they lie cheat, steal, and kill with the worst of them.

If anything, Genesis has given me a horrible vision of God. God lies, God kills people because they are "wicked", God picks violently imperfect favorites, God orders sin, God doesn't condemn incest, God doesn't condemn lying, God doesn't condemn killing for the most part. God wants us to have free will but brutally kills us when we decide not to do what he likes, is that free will at all?

I remain unconvinced of this inconstant, and generally awful God.

Beginning Tomorrow..... Exodus

Monday, September 21, 2009

16: Reunion

Genesis 46-47
Jacob, on his way to Egypt, talks to God. God tells him not to be afraid to settle in Egypt because he will set them up with a great nation there. We'll see if that turns out that way.

Jacob gets to Egypt and is reunited with Joseph. Joseph tells his brothers that they should tell Pharaoh they are shepherds (I'm not sure what else they would say), even though Egyptians hate shepherds (why?). They go to the Pharaoh and tell him they are shepherds and they settle in Goshen. Pharaoh says that if any of them are really good shepherds they should tend his animals.

The Egyptian people spend all their money buying grain from Joseph so they begin selling him livestock. Once Joseph has all of their livestock they start giving him their land. By the time the famine is over, all of Egypt is owned by Joseph and Pharaoh. Joseph promises not to bury Jacob in Egypt when he dies.

Nothing too exciting today.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

15: Oh Brother

Genesis 43-45
Jacob changes his mind about sending his youngest son back to Egypt once the food runs out. Judah promises that he will bring his youngest son (Benjamin) back or he will take the blame for the rest of his life. Jacob tells them to bring double the silver (because they need to bring back the silver that Joseph gave back to them), and a bunch of other things from their land.

The brothers go back to Egypt and tell Joseph that they found silver in their bags on their way home (Joseph didn't tell them that it was him that gave their silver back). Joseph says "Don't be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver." I find it fascinating that when he doesn't want to tell them it was him that gave him the silver he says it was God. It's also interesting that these people are freely sinning (lying in this case) without condemnation.

This is just the beginning of Joseph's deception. He tells one of their servants to fill his brother's bags with all the silver they tried to pay him and put Joseph's silver cup in Benjamin's bag. The next day the brothers go on their way and Joseph sends a servant after them to accuse them of stealing Joseph's silver and silver cup. The brothers say that if the servant finds the cup in anyone's bag that that person will be killed and the rest of them will be Joseph's slaves. They all open their bags and of course the cup is in Benjamin's bag, so they all return to Egypt.

When they return to Joseph he says "Don't you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?". What a scam artist. He obviously didn't have to divine where to find the silver, he's the jerk that put it there. One has to wonder if Joseph "speaks to God" at all.

Joseph, being a "nice guy", says that only Benjamin has to be his slave and the rest of them can go home. Judah pleads to be his slave because he doesn't want to return home without Benjamin. Judah explains to Joseph how it would kill his (their) father if he didn't return with Benjamin. Now, I'm not even sure why Joseph wants one of his brothers as a slave, but Judah saying his father would die seems to make him not want Benjamin any more. Joseph is so upset that he reveals himself as their brother.

The brothers are scared shitless because they were the ones that sold him to Egypt. To comfort them Joseph says that he was sent to Egypt by God to help with the famine. No, he wasn't, his brothers did it because they were jerks. This seems like an argument I hear very often. Everything is "God's plan", but in the same breath I hear "we have free will". Sorry, you can't have this both ways. When Joseph's brothers sold him, they were either doing it under their own free will, or God was revoking their free will to serve his greater plan. So, today, when someone does something evil, I'm told it's because we have free will, but when someone does something awesome they always attribute it to God. So God revokes our free will to do nice things, but freely allows us to kill, rape, and destroy? This God doesn't seem very all powerful, or all wonderful.

The brothers are happy that Joseph is not going to kill and/or enslave them. Joseph tells them to bring their father down to Egypt and they can settle in the "fat of the land". Jews living in Egypt, what could go wrong?
 

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