Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 14 & 15

The parting of the Red Sea, which is both a miracle and a mass killing.

Chapter 14

God comes to Moses and tells him to go along the red sea, so that Pharaoh will think they have no escape route. Then he's going to harden Pharaoh's heart again, so that Pharaoh and the other Egyptians will know that he is god. Does anyone think god might be trying just a little too hard, here?

So Pharaoh gathers up all his chariots and chases after them, and catches up to them on the shores of the sea. The Israelites see them and are afraid, and ask Moses why he's taken them out to die in the wilderness, and whine that they'd rather be Egyptian slaves. Moses promises that god is going to help them see the last of the Egyptians.

God tells Moses to stretch his rod out over the sea and divide it, then cross over. He'll send the Egyptians after them, and he will kill them all to increase his honor (v.17) and convince them he is god. He then moves the pilar of clouds from the last chapter so it's behind them. Now the Egyptians can't see in front of them, but the Israelites can.

Moses does as he's told and a wind comes up and parts the sea. The Israelites cross over. The Egyptians pursue them. God confuses their general, then causes the wheels to fall off. The Egyptians realise this is the hand of god and try to flee. God tells Moses to stretch his hand out over the sea and close it over the Egyptians. Moses does so and they all drown. The Israelites walk through the sea and see the Egyptians washed up on the shore, and they become believers in god and Moses.

Jerry is too busy giving a lecture on chariot construction to give us any indication of why this story is somehow a moral lesson. He only acknowledges that the parting of the sea is 'supernatural', his word for 'magic when the good guys do it.'

So here are my thoughts: this is a god who turns his people into believers through controlling others and causing fear in the hearts of his followers by killing non-believers in mass numbers. It's certainly a twist. Most leaders who rule by fear do so by killing from within. I'm also troubled by Moses. Sure, he isn't the actual murderer, but his actions lead directly to suffering and death over and over again, and he has no qualms about any of it.

Chapter 15

The Israelites, in an early display of mass games (yes, I am feeling extremely caustic today), sing the praises of god for freeing them from the Egyptians and drowning them all. We get a promise of more fear and dread (v. 16) when they finally get to Canaan.

Miriam, Moses and Aaron's sister, leads the women in an answering dance.

After the party, the Israelites go into the wilderness until they come to Marah, where they can't find anything to drink. They immediately start to grumble about Moses. Moses takes it up with god, who plants a tree in the waters that turns them sweet. God promises that if they listen to him and do what he says and follow all his commandments and laws, he won't do to them what he did to the Egyptians. Oh, man, if I had a nickel for every person who's fallen for that ruse!

Finally, they arrive at the oasis of Elim.

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