Saturday, October 3, 2009

28: Ransom

Exodus 30-32
There is a section at the beginning of Exodus 30 called Atonement Money. The wording here is priceless (no pun intended, you'll see). Moses is ordered by God, supposedly, to take a census of the Israelites. As they are counted they must each pay a ransom for their lives. Strangely, all of this money goes to Moses' tent of meeting. So maybe Moses just needed a nicer tent?

Again, Aaron is threatened with death, presumably at the hands of God, for a seemingly random reason. Moses is to make a basin of washing, and as Aaron enters the tent of meeting he must wash is hands "so he does not die". It could just be that God is worried about swine flu, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

God gives a recipe to Moses for a sacred perfume. He is pretty much supposed to smear it over everything God has told him to make so far. If anybody tries to reproduce this fragrance they are to be cut off from the people. Along those same lines, God gives Moses a recipe for incense. If anyone reproduces this they are also to be cut off from the people. I've been hoping for a penalty that wasn't death for awhile. However, I was hoping that the crime would be a little more significant than "smelling too good".

The sabbath, we are told again, is to be observed. Anyone who does not observe it is to be put to death. This is said twice so there is no confusion. Can we just cut them off from the people again? Wouldn't that be a sufficient punishment?

While Moses is up on the mountain, the people get bored. They tell Aaron to make them a God. So he tells them to take off all of their gold and he casts it into a golden calf. God tells Moses to go back down the mountain because of the calf. He also mentions that he is going to kill everyone. Moses talks him out of it. Huh? How does an all knowing all powerful God get talked out of something? The way he talks him out of it is even more ridiculous. He basically says "what are the Egyptians going to say if you kill all of your people".

Moses, upon seeing the people having fun dancing around the gold calf, burns it, grinds it into powder, puts it in water, and makes the Israelites drink it. He asks Aaron how he led them into this sin. Aaron responds by first blaming everyone else (the Israelites) by saying how evil they are. Then he, rather comically, claims that he just took their gold, threw it into the fire, and out came a golden calf. He couldn't have, you know, cast it and fashioned it with a tool or anything (see Exodus 32:4).

Moses asks for people that are still with him to gather around. Apparently only the Levites still like him and they rally around him. Then Moses said that God said to go through the camp and kill people. Wait a second, when did he say this? The Levites don't ask. Being loyal servants, they go through the camp and kill their friends, brothers, and neighbors (I'm not saying that for effect, that's the actual wording in the bible). It says that three thousand people died that day. Did they all deserve death? Really? Cruel and unusual punishment anyone? God blesses them, or so Moses says, for their morbid duty.

Moses says that if his people aren't forgiven that he should be blotted out of God's book. What book? I have heard no mention of any book. Is this the naughty and nice list?

Friday, October 2, 2009

27: Slaughter

Exodus 28-29
The story really seems to be slowing down here. All of Exodus 28 is about priestly garments. Which include extravagant robes and a gold breastplate ("for making decisions"). Aaron also becomes head priest. I did find one strange thing. When Aaron enters the "holy place" (which I presume is the tabernacle) he must wear bells as he goes in and as he goes out, so he "will not die". No explanation is given as to what is going to kill him.

Exodus 29 is rather strange (especially if you don't appreciate animals being pointlessly slaughtered). The priests need to be consecrated (Aaron and his sons). Apparently the way you accomplish this is to take a bull and two rams, and find inventive ways to kill them and mutilate their bodies.

First you take a bull, all of the priests put their hands on it's head, and you kill it. You pour it's blood at the base of the altar and then burn random chunks of fat from inside it's body.

Take one of the rams, all of the priests put their hands on it's head. Then you kill it, sprinkle (not pour) it's blood on the altar, dismember it's body and wash all of the parts, then burn it. This is said to produce a "pleasing aroma". Now, I've never smelled a ram burning whole, but I can't imagine the smell is pleasing.

Take the remaining ram, and put the priestly hands on it. Then kill it, smear the blood on their right ears, right thumbs, and right big toes. Why? Then sprinkle the blood on the altar. Take some of it's fat and burn it, again, this aroma (burning flesh) pleases the Lord. God finds the smell of burning flesh pleasing. Need I say more?

Finally, FINALLY, they get to eat some of the meat. A little bit of the last ram is consumed by Aaron and his sons, but what they don't finish that night they have to burn.

Ok, we've pointlessly slaughtered two animals and mostly pointlessly slaughtered a third, so we're done, we're consecrated right? Wrong. For seven days they have to kill a bull and two lambs every day. It doesn't specify whether the 7 bulls are to be eaten or burned, but the lambs are burned, not to be consumed. Again, it reiterates that there is a wonderful aroma coming from the burning flesh of the lambs. Lovely.

So if you have a farm, like to kill and dismember animals, and enjoy the smell of burning flesh, congratulations! You can be consecrated!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

26: The Tabernacle

Exodus 25-27
I'm going to tell you right now, I don't have much to say today. The entire section today is God telling the Israelis the random stuff he wants them to build. God tells Moses to go ask all of the Israelis for gold. They must have had a lot of it to give (stolen from the Egyptians) because they're lining pretty much everything they are going to make with gold.

The Ark (of the covenant, I suppose): gold molded and gold covered inside and out.

The table: gold molded and gold covered.

The lampstand: made of pure gold.

The tabernacle: gold covered frames, among other extravagances.

This begs the question, why does God care about gold? I think the general consensus is that humans like it because 1. It's pretty AND 2. its rare (which would explain why we don't assign much of a value to "fools gold"). But to God, rare has no meaning, because he created gold to start with so he could presumably make all the gold he wanted (and the structures he's telling the Israelis to make for that matter).

Maybe you could say that the Israelis are sacrificing their things to God as a sign of the covenant. But that still doesn't explain why they had to line everything with gold, considering gold has no intrinsic value especially to God.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

25: The Rules

Exodus 22-24
Most of this section is a list of laws. I will list some of the more ridiculous ones and make comments.

If a man kills a thief he is not guilty of murder. Ok, that sounds good *turns the page*. But if it happens after sunrise, the person defending his house is a murderer. Why? What does during the day have to do with anything?

If a man seduces a virgin, then all he has to do is pay her father and she must be his wife.

Do not allow a sorceress to live. I'm not making this up, I don't even know what to say.

If you have sex with an animal you must be killed. I didn't know that was a big problem.

Don't take advantage of a widow or orphan (I'm not sure what "take advantage" means in this situation) or God will kill you with his sword.

Don't blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. I don't think Christians have read this one, yes, you can't curse Obama. What if it's International Blasphemy Day?

Don't say the name of other gods. Who cares?

God says that he is going to send hornets to clear the way for the Israelis to take over "their" land. He tells the Israelis not to let anyone that isn't an Israeli live with them because they will make them turn to other gods.

God again confirms his covenant with the Israelis. God then tells Moses to come to the mountain again and Moses stays at the top of the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

24: Ten Commandments

Exodus 19-21
A few months after the Israelis leave Egypt, Moses talks to God and God says he is going to come down from mount Sinai in a dense cloud to talk to the people. This is going to happen in three days so all of the people wash their clothes and stop having sex for three days. I'm not sure what not having sex has to do with preparing for a visit from God. God says that anyone who touches the mountain or goes up the mountain for any reason will be stoned to death and shot with arrows.

On the morning of the third day there was a storm on the mountain and a trumpet blast. Oh no, God plays the trumpet. Apparently he plays it badly because everyone in the camp trembles. Moses goes up the mountain and God tells him to get Aaron and not let anyone else up the mountain.

The ten commandments. A first preliminary question, I've had a lot of people tell me that old testament laws, namely the ones given to the Israelis, were just given to the Israelis and were only for them. So does this apply to the ten commandments? If so, why do we follow them and say we must have them in our courthouses? I'm not going to type them all out but if you want to read along go here.

1. No other Gods, ok fine.

2. Don't make idols. I'm glad people don't worship sculptures of Jesus, oh wait... It says if you make idols that God will punish your children to the third and fourth generation, that seems more than mildly ridiculous. I'm so glad my great great grandfather didn't worship any idols.

3. You shouldn't misuse God's name. Which one? Yahweh? Lord? God? Jesus (oh wait, I haven't read that yet, never mind)? Oops, I think I just broke this one.

4. Don't work on the sabbath, not even a visitor in your home is supposed to work on the sabbath. Not even your servants or your animals can work. Don't work on Sunday, I like it, if only my professors knew not to give me homework on the weekend.

5. Honor your father and mother. Is this really on the list? Oh well, it's the first one I follow to any reasonable degree.

6. Don't murder. Did God read this before he wrote it down? I guess it's do as I say not as I do. Oh, and I do this one too :D.

7. Don't cheat on your wife. Again, is this really one of the base necessities of life?

8. Don't steal stuff. I like it. Too bad the Israelis stole from the Egyptians a couple of months before these were written.

9. Don't lie. Fair enough. Top 10 on the morality chart? I think not.

10. Don't be covetous. That one's definitely not top 10.

I think I'm going to make up 10 commandments off the top of my head and see if I can't come up with something better than be nice to your parents. Bare with me here.

1. Don't kill (not don't murder, don't kill... period).

2. Don't steal.

3. Don't discriminate, this includes gender, orientation, fat, skinny, light, dark, religion etc...

4. Don't rape. (did God forget about this one?)

5. Don't hurt people. (unless they're into it)

6. Do love your enemy.

7. Don't hate.

8. Don't needlessly destroy.

9. Do seek knowledge.

10. Don't lie (ok, I guess it made top 10)

Hmm, that took me 10 minutes and not one of them are "Worship me now!!!".

The Israelites hear another trumpet call and they tell Moses not to let God talk to them or they will die. Moses replies that God has come to test them and that the fear of God will keep them from doing bad things. Unless God is the one telling them to do bad things, then it's totally cool.

God then tells them to make an alter, but they can't go up on it unless they're naked. What?

Now God starts laying out laws, which are different from the ten commandments? Somehow? Are we supposed to follow these or are these rules just for the Israelis? He lays out a bunch of random rules for Hebrew servants.

Oh, I thought these rules we're going to be reasonable, not in the Bible.

Anyone who curses their father or mother will be killed. Excuse you? If a man beats his slave and the slave doesn't die directly, but dies a few days after, the master will not be punished. Because the slave is the man's property. Really? There are a bunch of rules about bulls goring people. If two men are fighting and a woman gives birth prematurely as a result, they will be punished if there is serious injury to her.

Monday, September 28, 2009

23: Manna

Exodus 16-18
The Israelites are in the desert, and they aren't happy. They succeed in escaping with the Egyptians' silver; unfortunately silver isn't edible and they are starving. So God (for 40 years) rains down bread, apparently in the form of frosted flakes, onto the Israelis. They are allowed to collect frosted flakes on every day but the seventh. On the sixth they get twice as much so they have enough for the seventh. Because God forbid (literally in this case) they would walk around and pick up bread on Sunday (or whatever day we're talking about).

Apparently some time after they realize they're starving, they realize they're thirsty. That doesn't really make any sense considering they're in the desert, but whatever. So Moses begs God for some water and God tells Moses to go ahead of the rest of them and hit a rock and water will come out of it. And he does, and it is good, or something like that.

Here's an interesting story. The Amalekites, for no apparent reason, attack the Israelis. Moses tells Joshua to fight them and he'll provide moral support from a safe distance. I see how it works Moses. The Bible says that as long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites were winning. So he held up his hands all day, and when he got tired he sat down and his brothers propped up his hands so they would stay in the air. I'm not sure what Moses' hands have to do with the course of the battle. Of course the Amalekites are defeated. For their defeat they get God hating them forever because they attacked his chosen people. Isn't God supposed to love everyone not just a select group of people?

Exodus 18 is all about Moses' father in law coming to talk to Moses. He pretty much tells him that he shouldn't be doing the judging for all of the Israelis. He should appoint some people as judges and have them only send Moses the hard to decide cases. Bravo common sense, maybe it wasn't at the time though, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

22: Sea of Reeds

Exodus 13-15
God says he is going to take the people to the land that he promised to Abraham, it's about time. He also says about 10 times that you aren't allowed to have yeast during passover. You can't even have yeast in your house or you will be ejected from Israel. I'm not sure what the deal is, but I wouldn't give God a reason to not like you (see Exodus 8-11 for what happens to people on God's bad side).

They then have to cross the Sea of Reeds (it says Red Sea in the text, but my annotation says that it translates to Sea of Reeds). This is far less impressive then the standard translation. The text mentions that Moses is carrying around Joseph's bones, because Joseph said that God would come to their aid. But in Joseph's time the Israelites didn't need aid, so why would he say that?

So, I thought God was done with Pharaoh, but apparently not. God again messes with Pharaohs heart so that he pursues the Israelis. God then says that he is going to use Pharaoh and his army to gain glory. So, on a whim, he is going to use innocent peoples lives to give himself glory.

Pharaoh, under God's influence, takes 600 of his best chariots and pursues the Israelites. Moses then parts the Sea of Reeds, whatever that means. The Israelites start going through and God makes the Egyptians follow. As the Egyptians go after them God makes the wheels fall off their chariots.

The Egyptians somehow realize that the wheels falling off their chariots means God is smiting them and they say that they are going to leave. So at this point, they are turning around in defeat, they are not going to kill the Israelis anymore. God will not be robbed of his glory, though, and commands Moses so close the waters and kill all of the Egyptians. So get rid of this idea that God was killing the Egyptians to save the Israelis. God was killing for God's glory.

Moses then sings a song about how God kills all of Israel's enemies. And they basically lay out how they are going to plunder the promise land.

Exodus 15 ends with a small anecdote about God making dirty water good for the Israelites to drink.

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