Friday, September 5, 2014

Exodus 5 v.1-23

Aaron and Moses went to the Pharaoh and told him, "Hey, god wants you to let all the Israelites go have a festival in the wilderness. So they'll need some time off, I guess."

And the Pharaoh said, "Um, who wants?"

And Moses said, "You know. God."

"Nah, I don't know that guy. I don't think so."

Aaron and Moses persisted, "Come on, we need a three day weekend or god's gonna be mad at us and uh, strike us down! With plagues perhaps!" (I don't remember god saying this, but it probably seemed a plausible thing to our protagonists.)

The Pharaoh was having none of it. "Look, I can't spare anyone. Shit must needs be done."

So Moses and Aaron went away. The Pharaoh, meanwhile, in a dick move worthy of a living god, decided to tell the slaves they now had to gather their own straw for the bricks they had to make. He made certain to tell the slave drivers that they still had to meet their quotas. Or, you know, whipping.

This didn't turn out so well. The bricks didn't get made and the Israelites were roundly flogged, and to boot, called lazy. Which could be the definition of insult to injury.

They were pissed at Moses and Aaron. Understandably.

Understandably, Moses was confused and asked god, "Um, is this going the way you intended? Cause it seems like things are worse than they were. Thought you were gonna help with all this?"

Actually this part of the story is understandable from this far ahead in history: any time political or social change must be effected, things always get worse before they get better, and you have to sort of bear with the process, having faith that the end result will be a better, freer society, even though getting pelted with tear gas and shot with rubber bullets and pummeled with fire hoses fucking sucks. So I can see that this story rang true to the Israelites who made it out of slavery--it got worse when they tried to change things, but they had faith that trying to change things was better than letting them stay the same.

Any time I read a story about humans doing this sort of thing I'm proud to be a human.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I'm back!

Whew! Been a while!

While I was gone I started to get really into my fiction, and to lose interest in writing a paraphrased version of the NIV. One of my friends told me the other day that I should get back into it, and I need a sort of mental writing break from my incredibly slowly progressing novel so I've decided to continue Exodus.

I reread some of my posts and remembered how much fun it was to treat this book like any other book, with characters and plot holes and the rest. There are good things in this book, I contend, but I want to find them without someone else telling me about them--the book needs to speak for itself.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Exodus 4 v.1-31 A jumbled mess of Moses

This chapter is hard to read. For my purposes, it doesn't matter why. Is Moses on the road to Egypt or not? Did he leave already? His wife just cuts off their son's foreskin? I dunno. Here's how it sounds:

Moses asked god what proof he could show people that this all happened. The bush and the instruction to go to Egypt. God told him to throw his goose-herding staff on the ground--let me back up here. God asked Moses what it was first. What's that? What's what? That long stick thing in your hand. Oh this? This is a staff. Oh, okay, throw it on the ground. It turns into a snake. Ah! A snake! Don't be a pussy, just grab it by the tail. Oh, it's a staff again.

So that's a good . . . trick. Also, does god not know what a staff is?

Then god told Moses to put his hand inside his cloak. To bring out a bunch of FLOWERS! No, just take your hand out again, oh okay. Ah! Leprosy! God must've giggled at that. Yeah, you're a leper now. No, just kidding, put your hand back in your coat and. . .voila! Flowers! No, you just don't have leprosy anymore. Oh, sweet. You know, thousands of years from now human beings will be able to do this. With antibiotics.

If they don't believe that, god told him, just take some water from that river they have, the Nile. Pour it on the ground and it will turn into blood. Trust me.

Moses was dubious he would be able to carry this message. He wasn't a great speaker, apparently. God became angry at this and told him to just use his 'brother' Aaron as a mouthpiece. So that was settled, I guess. Don't forget your long stick thing! Staff? Your staff!

This is where the linear part of the story almost completely breaks down.

Moses asked his father-in-law if he could go to Egypt to free his people. His father-in-law replied, okay, good luck with that.

Then in Midian, god told Moses to go to Egypt. Again. Don't worry, god assured Moses, no one wants to kill you anymore. So Moses packed up his wife and his sons on his donkey.

God had more instructions for Moses. Incredibly confusing instructions.

I am sending you to Egypt to perform the three magic tricks before the Pharaoh there. But also, I am going to harden his heart. So when you ask him to let the Israelites go and he tells you no, you will know that I meant for that to happen.


Also, when he refuses, like I know he will, you should tell him that Israel is my first-born son, and that because he won't let Israel go, I will kill his first-born son.

So you're hardening his heart so that you can kill his first-born son?

Yes. This is what they get for worshipping cats.

So on the way to Egypt, at a lodging place, god tried to kill Moses. No idea why.

Okay. Here's the exact next sentence:

25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.[c] 

See the little footnote? That links to 'the meaning of the Hebrew clause here is uncertain.' No shit.

God didn't kill Moses after all. Possibly even god was shocked and distracted by a mother mutilating the genitals of her son, and just got the hell out of there before anything else happened. 

Which isn't to say that society really sees circumcision as mutilation. But it sort of is. Let's take a little aside here:

I happen to have pierced my body in various places over the years, for various reasons. Each time this happened, I was mutilating my body. The act of puncturing or cutting the body to draw blood and change the physical appearance of the body is mutilation. What makes what I did different from circumcision is that a) when I took many of my piercings out, the holes closed up--they grew back together and b) I was an adult when I made the decision. One of my problems with many major religions--which is more of a cultural thing than a religion thing-- is the idea that you do not own your body. I believe in some ways this point of view makes it okay to pierce babies' ears and cut off skin from the penis. The fact that one of those actions is irreversible seems to me a little unfair. But, admittedly, I'm not as worried about getting into heaven as I am about violating the basic human right of having your body as unmanipulated as possible during childhood. But, again, if I were worried about keeping a rather dangerously capricious god happy, I would see it as a small sacrifice.

The fact that the appearance of circumcision in this story is so confusing the translators have to footnote it with 'no idea what's going on here' gives me pause. I am missing something that may have been well-known to people alive at the time of writing, or it's just one of those crazy twists of telephone when a message gets garbled through over-telling. But it shows up again later in Leviticus, I think. So we'll examine it more closely then. Back to the story. 

Then god told Aaron to go into the wilderness to meet Moses, and the two met at the mountain of god. Which is on the way to Egypt? After the lodging place? 

Aaron believed the tricks Moses performed must come from god or at least a decent slight-of-hand book, and they both convinced the elders and all of their people that god had heard their suffering, and they all bowed down and worshipped Moses. Or god. It's not clear in the text.    

The last bit clearly happened before Moses left. So it should have been inserted sooner in the text. The fact that it's out of order doesn't really argue for much except bad copying practices or bad translations of texts.