Saturday, August 18, 2007

9. The Bible: Exodus

[Editor's Note: It's been several months since the last time I posted and while I haven't quit buying books during that time, nor have I read them any less fervently, I did struggle with whether I wanted to continue to post about them. Things like the job and school (Yes! I started school!) and the book club and, you know, my love of TV were getting in the way and the blog got pushed to the side. I even contemplated quitting it. But, like all good things that require some amount of effort, a nice break seems to have helped. As I awoke this Saturday morning, I knew I was ready to come back. So here I am. The next couple of posts are the last ones I wrote, but never posted, before I went on hiatus. And I'll do my best to put down my thoughts on all the books I've consumed in the intervening time, provided I remember all of them (I swear...these days I forget almost as fast as I read). So let me just say: Hello, again. It's nice to see you. Won't you stay a while?]

When I first started thinking about reading the Bible, I checked out a thread on the Chicklit forums where people posted their experiences trying to get through the Great Book. Several people were bogged down in the sheer boredom of the thing and it was suggested that they A) not read it in the presented order and B) pick some of the more interesting, adventure type books to read to get their interest going. I remember one entry in particular that described the person hitting a wall because they could only read about the steps being such and such measure, and the curtains being such and such measure, and the windows being such and such measure so many times. After reading this I dreaded coming upon this section, but little did I know that it would be coming so soon. It’s in Exodus. And it’s as boring as she describes it.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that everyone knows the general Exodus story, mostly because there was a huge movie about it, but if you don’t, here’s the two minute version. When we last left the twelve tribes of Israel, Joseph was right-hand man to the Pharaoh. Being the fruitful man that he is, Joseph thoroughly propagates his seed and, along with his brothers’ children, the “children of Israel” become greater than those of Egypt and the Pharaoh rules that all sons of Israel will be killed and all daughters of Israel will be spared. Levi’s wife bares a son and leaves him by the riverbank where he’s found by the Pharaoh’s daughter. This, of course, is Moses. In time, Moses pleads with the Pharaoh to release his people from enslavement, but the Pharaoh refuses and yada, yada, yada, Moses parts the Red Sea, they make it to the “land of milk and honey” and they build the ark of the covenant, which is only the most ridiculously meticulous recording there is in all of architectural history.

First, I have to take a moment to talk about what happens when the Pharaoh refuses Moses’s request. I yada, yada’d because it wouldn’t fit in the two minute version. I know the Bible’s not supposed to be funny, but it was kind of hilarious how God kept smiting the Egyptians when His request was not met. He’s like, “Not let the people go? How’d you like a river of blood? Bam! Will you let them go now? No? How about some locusts? Bam! Take a rain of frogs, an infestation of lice, a swarm of flies, and fire and hail while you’re at it!” It was a little over the top, but the Pharaoh did keep saying no after all. Me, personally, I’d have run the other way after my first refusal caused all the water in the land to turn to blood. I’m just sayin’.

And now it’s time for Things That Are Actually in the Bible:

- The burning bush. This is how God first appears to Moses to tell him that he must lead the people of Israel out of Egypt.

- Passover. That’s another one of God’s smitings upon the Eygptians, to send a plague to kill all their first-born sons. Moses’s people were “passed over” because they smeared lamb’s blood over their doors as God had instructed them to do.

- The eye for an eye thing. “And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (21:23-25)

- The Ten Commandments. Okay, I know they came from the Bible, but the commandments as we know them are pretty much the same as they’re described here. I scared myself a while back because, upon hearing Jon Stewart chide some evangelical type person for knowing only four commandments, I realized I could only remember nine of them myself (although, come on…nine out of ten ain’t bad and it turns out I was combining two of them).

- Old school God’s kind of intense. He suggests that if the people come across inhabitants of a land who observe another god, “ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Now, if I were into taking the Bible literally, I’d be out smiting all my heathen friends.

If I were into taking the Bible literally, I’d also be concerned with my master’s servants and the correct amount of time they are to serve, depending on whether or not they’re Hebrew. And I’d be measuring the pillars for my tabernacle in cubits, seven times over, but I’m not doing that either. And that is why you can’t take the Bible literally. More on that to come in Leviticus.

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