The Bible is described, by strong Christian believers, as the height of moral teaching. The Golden Rule is touted as one of the greatest pieces of bite-sized wisdom put to paper. Jesus spoke exclusively of love and tolerance of all people. The Bible is, at the very least, inspired by the spirit of God; whether you are a literalist or not, it is a general belief that the things that are in the Bible are there because God wanted them to be.
I know I’ve mentioned before the confused nature of the Old Testament, but I think I need some concrete examples to really drive the point home. Honestly, I felt the need to write this post after I was told to go and read Exodus again–my knowledge of the Bible is, generally speaking, deep, but it is certainly rusty in spots and always in need of updating. So I cracked the book open, and began to read… I am going to give you a paraphrased summary of Exodus, trying to include all of the details of… Well, how weird things get. This won’t be like my usual posts, this will be a combined summary and review, in a very sarcastic style. If you are super familiar with Exodus, maybe you will like the way I paraphrase it, and if your knowledge of Exodus comes almost strictly from The Ten Commandments, maybe you will get a chuckle out of learning what is written in that section of the Bible. Or maybe I am wasting your time. Overall, I am just trying something sort of new here–if it works out, I may make an alternate blog where I paraphrase the Bible in my own irreverent style. Let me know in the comments if that’s something that would interest you.
WARNING: The below is like… SUPER irreverent. If picking apart the Bible will offend you, this is probably not the best thing to read.
One doesn’t have to go very far to start to get an odd picture; in Exodus 2:23-25, the Israelites are slaves of Egypt, and they are not happy about it (why would that be? Slaves are totally justified according to the Bible, as long as they are not Israelite slaves). And so it goes that “The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob.”
So… God is basically like “Ugh, what are they complaining about? My chosen people are always on about somethi… Oh crap! They’re slaves now? How long has that been going on? And I promised Abraham stuff like this wouldn’t happen! I’d better do something about it!!”
That being said, instead of using his omnipotence to set his people free, he appears before Moses (who, it should be said, is living in self-imposed exile after having murdered an Egyptian. Lucky for Moses, though, there was literally no law for the Jewish people at this time what with how the ten commandments had not yet been written. At least, with how hard some Christians lean on the ten commandments, one would think they are the only laws that matter). Anyway, at this point Moses is married and has a kid, and lives mostly as a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock of sheep. So, understandably, he’s like “Ummm… Okay… But here’s the thing, I am a shepherd, I am probably not what you are looking for.”
But whatever, this post isn’t just a summary of Exodus, it is only about the weirder parts, and we don’t have long to wait, friends! Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods is another of the commandments that did not exist yet, thankfully, as through the will of the LORD, the Israelites are compelled to take, as they leave Egypt, the clothes and food and silver and gold of their neighbors. Well, isn’t that nice?
Exodus chapter 4 is rife with examples about how the LORD, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, seems to have little idea what He is doing. First, he transforms a staff into a snake, and says “There. That’ll show ’em that I am God!”
Moses is like “That’s cool, bro, but what if it doesn’t?”
God follows: “You know what, maybe you’re right. Hey, put your hand into your cloak. BAM! Leprosy. Then put it back again! HEALED! There you go, miracles. Miracles will teach them that I am God! But if they still don’t believe you for some reason, take some river water and I’ll turn it into blood. Yeah, yeah this time that’ll definitely show them!”
Moses, full of excuses, complains that he doesn’t know how to speak real gud bruh. God tells them that he is the one who makes men speak or makes them mute, deaf or hear, blind or see (in case you needed reminding that God is the source of all good and the source of all suffering), so Moses should get his ass in line and do as he’s told.
This next bit is fairly well known, so I won’t belabor it, but it bears mention. “Perform these miracles in front of Pharaoh, but I will harden his heart so he won’t let your people go.” Wait. What? Why? Why would that, in any case, be a good thing to do? What purpose does it serve? I have my own personal theories; God was feeling a bit restless, and just wanted to smite some people but wanted an excuse. If Pharaoh didn’t let His people go (and God obviously knew he wouldn’t because He made the choice for Pharaoh. I am sure there is something about free will in there…), he would have his excuse to get up with the smiting! In fact, before Moses ever gets to Egypt, God actually confirms that very thing; “You would not let my people go, and Israel is my Son, so I will smite your first-born son!” And that, before Pharaoh even knew Moses was coming, was decided; without even having a reason, the firstborn son of all of Egypt was going to die.
Now things come off the rails a little bit; no one talks about this part, and it is absent from Charlton Heston’s legendary portrayal of Moses.
On the way back to Egypt, God sees Moses on the road. He is still angry at Moses for talking back to Him, so He goes and wants to kill Moses, that little complaining son of a… But while God was getting ready to kill him, Moses’ wife circumcises their son and … Rubs… the foreskin… On Moses’ feet? And for some reason, God is like “Well, can’t kill him now. Damn.” (Seriously, Exodus 4:24-26. Again, WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO LEARN FROM THIS?!)
Now, God’s action have an unintended side effect (unintended…? Isn’t He omniscient?). Pharaoh is bitter that Moses came to make the slaves stop working, so he basically doubles their labor and has them whipped EXTRA HARD if they fail to meet quota. Boy, sure am glad God is looking out for His people at this point, eh? Things are even worse for the Jewish people at the beginning of Exodus 5 than before God set to have them set free! In fact, the Israelites pray to God to judge Moses and Aaron (they blame the two upstarts for their increased burden and suffering, and want God to smite them. Little do they know, this was God’s plan all along! Why? WHO KNOWS!). Moses then shouts at God “Seriously, dude! What is going on here?! Now people hate us! In fact, right now, this is all your fault!” (Exodus 5:22-23)
But the funny thing is, at the beginning of Exodus 6, God says “All is going according to plan. Now I’m gonna really ruin Pharaoh’s day, and then he will let my people go! Just sit back and watch the show; and by sit back, I mean go in front of Pharaoh and say what I tell you to say. And stop being a little bitch about it.” (Exodus 6:1-12)
In Exodus 7, after Moses and Aaron have performed the miracle of changing a staff into a snake, Pharaoh is like “Yeah, that snake is cool and all, but my men can do the same thing. No dice; the Jewish people will stay slaves.”
God says to Moses “See? I told you he’d say that! I told you Pharaoh would say that exact thing, aren’t I AWESOME?!” (Exodus 7:14) Seemingly, Moses and Aaron forgot that God actually forced Pharaoh into that exact reaction, so it’s less awesome and more “I’m pulling the puppet strings, so of course it all goes to plan.”
In any case, God wasn’t ready to stop plagueing and smiting yet, so Pharaoh’s heart was still hardened (By God. I can’t overstate that.), especially since Pharaoh’s own sorcerer’s were also able to turn water into blood… Which actually raised a question to me; if pagans could change water into other liquids, why is it considered such a miracle that Jesus was able to change water into wine? Sounds like that’s the kind of thing that just happened regularly back then. Weird.
And again, in Exodus 8, God sort of acts like a child with a stink bomb. “Tell Pharaoh this… Heheheh… Tell him, if he doesn’t let my people go (and he won’t, I made sure of it!) I will cover everything in Egypt with frogs! EVERYTHING! Aren’t I awesome?” (Exodus 8:1-6) But guess what? Egyptian sorcerers ALSO made frogs come out of nowhere, again kind of making God’s power seem not so great if Egyptian sorcerers can do the exact same thing that God said, previously, “Will make them believe in me!”
Oddly, though, even though Pharaoh’s sorcerers created even more frogs, Pharaoh could not make the frogs go away; in verse 8 he begs Moses and Aaron to click undo! One would think that his level of blackmail would be enough for God; soften Pharaoh’s heart, and let the people go! But no, God wasn’t done having His fun with the people of Egypt yet; He could have freed his people at this point (I mean, the Nile smelled like rot, and there were piles of rotting frog corpses at this point; living in Egypt had to be pretty awful, whether slave or not, and made all the worse for being a slave). NOPE! LOCUSTS! That’s what we need. More locusts! Now, if you are fighting for the historicity of this (even though the evidence that any of this happened is nearly nonexistent), I have a theory. Flies came to eat of the rotting river Nile, the frogs came to kill the flies, the frogs died of various causes, and then the insects came to clean up the frogs (including gnats, flies, and locusts). BAM! Chain of events. Maybe God didn’t let His own people go yet because once this chain of miracles was started, he just shouted “THERE’S NO BRAKES ON THE CRAZY TRAIN!” and sat back to laugh?
Interestingly enough, this is where God starts to do things that Pharaoh’s sorcerers could not; he turns all of the dust in Egypt into gnats. One may recall that Egypt is both very large and very dusty. Pharaoh told his sorcerers to do this, though one wonders, if all of the dust was gone already, what were the sorcerers trying to turn into gnats? Whatever, they fail. BAM! Score one for God! I think it is worth reminding you, now, that these plagues affected everyone in Egypt. Including his own people. God was never big on targeted destruction, He just goes whole hog in everything He does.
So we’ve got snake staves, river of blood, frogs, and gnats so far. But you know what? It is time for God to start targeting people; after all, if His plagues affected the Israelites as well as the Egyptians, how could they prove that the plagues came from God? So after four miracles, and three major plagues, God says “Incoming flies! And this time, I won’t plague my own people! I AM A GOD OF LOVE!” And so flies came. (Exodus 8:22-24)
And at this, Pharaoh said again “Okokokok, you win. You can sacrifice to your God, but do it here. No reason to leave Egypt to worship, right?”
Moses replies with some level of self-awareness; “Look, our sacrifices are actually pretty nasty, not gonna lie. They are gonna gross you out so badly that Egyptians will probably stone us. Let us head out to the wilderness to make our sacrifices so we don’t gross you out. We won’t run away from your horribly oppressive slavery. We promise.”
“Ugh, fiiiiiine,” replies Pharaoh with all of the honesty of a teenaged girl. “You can. Just don’t go far.”
“Oh, cool beans! But this time, Pharaoh, no funny stuff! If you say we can go, let us go. For realsies!”
“You can trust me, Moses!”
SURPRISE! Pharaoh goes back on his word as soon as the flies left. One thinks an omniscient God would train Moses as a negotiator at least well enough to only pay out on their blackmail price after the Israelites have left Egypt? “The flies stay until my people have left?” No? alright, fine. Take the flies away such that Pharaoh can say “GOTCHA AGAIN!”
This is getting pretty long, and we are only just entering into Chapter 9. I am going to post this as part 1 and continue on with the weirdness and the plot twists of the book of Exodus in part 2!
Thanks for reading, and let me know in the comments if this is entertainment or just unfunny, offensive drivel.