Monday, October 25, 2010

Exodus 21-23: Some more commandments

So, God just said the 10 commandments to the Israelites, and now he's still talking to Moses by himself. Looks like God has a lot more law to lay down. Check this out, anybody who thinks that the 10 commandments were so brilliantly simple that the Israelites just didn't need any other laws, and neither do we!

About servants: you buy a servant, they serve you 6 years, then they go free. But only if it's a man, if it's a woman you keep her forever (cause that's fair). If he already had a wife, the wife goes free too. If they marry during those 6 years, you get to keep the wife, and any kids, apparently forever. Seriously. If, after 6 years, a servant decides he doesn't want to abandon his wife and kids, he can stay on as a servant too, forever, but only after you pierce his ear with an awl. WTF. If your son marries a female servant, that servant attains the status of daughter. Friendly.

Punishment for personal injuries:
  • murder = death
  • manslaughter (accidental killing) = "flee to a place I [God] will designate." WTF.
  • kidnapping = death
  • cursing your father or mother = death (woah, seriously?)
  • injury = "he must pay the injured man for the loss of his time"
  • beating a slave to death = "punishment" (that is so specific)
  • accidentally hitting a pregnant woman so that she gives birth too early, but there is no serious injury = "the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows."
  • accidentally hitting a pregnant woman so that she gives birth too early, and there is a serious injury = "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
  • hitting a servant and knocking out an eye or tooth = the servant goes free
  • a bull goring someone to death = death for the bull, but nothing for the owner
  • a bull goring someone to death, and the bull had a habit of goring = death for the bull and the owner
  • a bull gores a slave = death for the bull, and the owner must pay 30 shekels of silver
  • digging a pit and not covering it properly, so an ox or donkey falls in = pay the owner of the animal, but you get to keep the dead animal!
  • a bull gores another bull = the 2 owners sell the remaining bull and split the money and the dead bull
  • a bull gores another bull and he already had a habit of goring things = the owner must pay the other guy for his loss
Holy crap that was tedious. What's with all the "if a bull gores this, do this" rules? Did that really come up that much?

OK, rules regarding theft:
  • stealing an ox = pay back 5 ox
  • stealing a sheep = pay back 4 sheep
  • killing an intruder at night = no punishment
  • killing an intruder during the day = death (Why does it matter what time it is??)
  • grazing your livestock in someone else's field = make restitution with stuff from your own field
  • starting a fire that burns down someone else's crops = make restitution
  • keeping something for someone else, and it gets stolen = if the thief is found, he must pay back double! If he is not found, you have to go before the judges, and you may be responsible.
  • keeping an animal for someone, and it is injured or died = take an oath before God that you didn't do it. If the other person accepts this, nothing happens. If not, you must make restitution.
  • keeping an animal for someone and it is ripped apart by wild animals = save the pieces as evidence, and there will be no punishment
"Social Responsibility"
  • seducing a virgin = pay the father and take her as your wife. If the father refuses to give her to you as a wife, you must pay him anyway.
  • "Do not allow a sorceress to live." Nice, simple, to the point.
  • bestiality = death
  • making sacrifices to anything other than God = death
  • "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him." Hey, that actually is friendly. Hmm, unless he is a sorcerer, or sacrificing something to his foreign God, or any number of other things. Then kill the bastard!!
  • taking advantage of a widow or orphan = God will kill you himself. Maybe God is so touchy because he was once an orphan. That's how it would be if this were a cheesy movie, anyway.
  • If you lend a fellow Israelite money, do not charge interest.
  • "Do not blaspheme God." Shockingly, there is no punishment given for this one.
  • "Do not curse the ruler of your people." Lay off Moses already!
  • "Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats." OK then.
  • Give God your firstborn son. He's been going on about this for a while now, and I still don't know what he's on about. Does he want them all to become priests? Does he want them all as burnt offerings? No idea.
  • "Do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts."
"Justice and Mercy"
  • Don't spread rumors.
  • "Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong."
  • If you see your enemy's ox wandering off, bring it back to him. Friendly.
  • Do not deny justice to the poor.
  • Do not put an innocent or honest person to death. Hmm, that's interesting, given how many offenses are punishable by death. This is the whole problem with the death penalty. Thanks for pointing it out, Bible. Guess this invalidates all that other stuff punishable by death? Guess not.
  • No bribes.
The Sabbath
  • Plant your crops for 6 years, but leave the fields unplowed the 7th year, so poor people and wild animals can forage in them. Weird.
  • Work 6 days, rest on the 7th. You know, I've heard this a bunch of times already, and they still haven't actually said "Sunday". Just "the 7th day." Well, I declare that the sabbath is Thursday. Why the hell not?
  • Do not invoke the names of other Gods.
3 times a year celebrate a festival to God: Passover, the first harvest, and the last harvest. Also, do not offer a sacrifice with anything involving yeast. No fucking yeast! - this is clearly one of the central tenets of the Christian religion. Also, do not cook a baby goat in it's mother's milk.

God also tells Moses about how he is going to have his angel lead them to the promised land, and guard them on the way. Obey him and me, and all will go well for you (but if not...oh boy). The Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites (lol, Jebus) are already living in the promised land, but God is going to "wipe them out," so it's no problem. But you people be damned sure not to start worshiping their gods. Knock down their temples. Worship me, and you'll get food and water, no sickness, no miscarriages, no infertility, and a full life span.

Jolly good then, let's go wipe out thousands of people in the name of God, just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then in a few thousand years, let's yell incessantly at people who dare to say our God and religion is not one of love. Hmm.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exodus 17-20: The 10 commandments

So, once again, the Israelites have no water. But rather than asking God for water, they complain about Moses. So God tells Moses to hit a rock with his magical staff, and water comes out. Fantastic.

You know, I have to wonder... since God can apparently make it rain quail and bread every day, can't he also make it rain rain every day?? Then they would always have something to drink. How is making water come out of a rock one time any solution, since they're traveling, and thus not going to be there the next day? Oh well.

Then they are attacked by the Amalekites. Moses sends Joshua out to fight them. While the fighting is going on, Moses stands well back, but he "helps" by holding up his hands. Apparently whenever Moses's hands were up, the battle was going well, and whenever Moses's hands were down, the battle went badly. Really? So they win, and it's clearly all because Moses managed to hold his hands up the whole time. And then when it's all over, God decides that he really hates the Amalekites, so he will "be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation." Well that's friendly.

Apparently Moses didn't bother to bring his wife and kids with him when he left Egypt. So they came and found him in the desert, and the father-in-law, Jethro, came too. Jethro noticed that Moses was acting as the only judge for everyone's disputes. It said earlier that there were 600,000 men, not to mention the women and children of course, who left Egypt with Moses, so it was all more than Moses alone could handle. So Jethro suggests that he pick out some other judges to handle the simple cases. So that's what he did, yay.

Then, even though he was apparently a total convert (he went on about how great it was, what God did it Egypt, and he gave God burnt offerings!), Jethro goes back to Egypt (or wherever he came from).

This next story is a bit weird. They are near Mount Sinai, and Moses is having a friendly chat with God. God tells Moses to go tell everyone that so long as they "obey me fully," then "out of all nations you will be my treasured possession." Err, I thought this was already thoroughly established in Genesis. So Moses does that, and everyone is like, "yeah, sure."

Then God tells Moses that he is going to appear to everybody as a "dense cloud," so that they will stop giving Moses shit, basically. And they should prepare for this by being "consecrated" by Moses, washing their clothes, and abstaining from sex, for 2 days, until God appears on the 3rd day. That is so random. I mean, I already knew God is totally obsessed with the sex that his followers are having (what a perv), but why does he care if their clothes are clean? Is this like people dressing up to go to church? Cause I never understood that either.

God also tells Moses that he is going to be appearing on the mountain, and that Moses should tell all the people that they are not allowed to so much as touch the mountain, or they will die (apparently by a hail of stones or arrows). Well, that's convenient.

On the third day there is a cloud, and thunder and lightning, over the mountain. Then there's a trumpet, then a whole lot of smoke, apparently because God descended on the mountain "in fire." Then God is on top of the mountain and says "Moses, get up here!" Moses is allowed to go up the mountain, but no one else is? Again, that is very convenient.

God tells Moses to go tell everyone (again) to not come up the mountain. Apparently God is very concerned that they will charge up there to try to see him, and then die. Because God himself would kill them. He could just... not kill them. But what fun would that be.

So, again, Moses is acting as messenger. How is this "appearing to everybody" thing any different than usual?

Ah, here we go. God does address everybody, with the 10 commandments, which everyone knows about.

There was this funny tidbit in the "no idols" one:
I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Got that right.

Then God is talking to just Moses again. God says, tell them "no idols!" again. Apparently that is the most important one. God also says to tell them to be sure to build alters to me, and to sacrifice burnt offerings on it. But, random alter rules: "you will defile it if you use a tool on it" and "do not go up to my altar on steps, lest your nakedness be exposed on it." WTF? I don't even know what that second one means. I imagine someone going up on an alter by a set of stairs, and then suddenly their clothes vanish. I guess God is a fan of sight gags? And really hates stairs?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Exodus 13-16: God drowns some Egyptians

I didn't mention last time, in chapter 12 the Pharaoh basically told all the Israelites to get the fuck out of Egypt. And really, who can blame him. And so they went, and it goes on and on about how their bread had no yeast in it. Yeah, yeah, I get it, no fucking yeast.

So they're leaving, and God randomly says to Moses, "Consecrate to me every firstborn male." OK, whatever that means.

Then Moses goes on about celebrating Passover some more. No fucking yeast! I get it already.

Also, "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath." Sweet, they actually did dig up Joseph's corpse and take it with them. That's hilarious.

It also says that God didn't let them take the easy road, but led them through the desert toward the Red Sea, because "If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt." Yeah, right. Also, if God could control the mind of the Pharaoh, can't he just control the Israelites' minds and make them keep going?

So God led them on as a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night. Fantastic.

Then, in chapter 14, God is telling Moses where they should go. I have to wonder why that is necessary, since all they have to do is follow the cloud/fire. Oh well.

Well, shit, God hasn't had enough of controlling the Pharaoh like a puppet. Exodus 14:4: "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." But I will gain glory for myself????? Fuck that. This is ridiculous.

So of course, Pharaoh chases them, along with 600 of his finest chariots. And he gets another dose of "hardened heart" in verse 8.

The Israelites see the Egyptians coming, and they get pissed at Moses. We told you we didn't want your stupid help back in chapter 6!!

So, God parts the sea so the Israelites can flee across it, and "I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen." Seriously??? This is all just so fucking stupid. God is continually making this whole thing so much more difficult than it has to be, just so he can "gain glory" for himself. Well God, I guess if the pointless murder of children wasn't enough "glory" for you, maybe the pointless murder of 600 chariot's worth of adults will be.

So of course, that's what happens... the Israelites get across the sea safely, while the Egyptians are forced in by God and drown. "Not one of them survived." Fucking great. Are you happy now, God? Do you feel sufficiently glorified now???

We also learn about now that the pillar of cloud/fire is an angel of God, even though it said previously that it was actually God. I am so confused.

Then Moses and the Israelites sing a song to God. It's a pretty dumb song about how fantastic it is that God killed all the Egyptians.

Then they walk through the desert for 3 days without water. They finally find some water, but it is "bitter." So Moses "cried out" to God, and God pointed out a piece of wood, and Moses threw it in the water and it became "sweet." Well, that's just grand. Then God says, (paraphrasing) "Just do whatever I want, and you won't have to suffer like the Egyptians." Hmm, God is issuing thinly veiled threats to his chosen people...

Then they go on to a place with 12 springs and 70 palm trees. That is so specific.

So they're in the desert for like 2 months, and they are all grumbling about how at least as Egyptian slaves they had enough to eat, and Moses just brought them all out here to starve to death, and so on. God hears this and says "At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread."

Then "That evening quail came and covered the camp." I can't help but imagine dead quail just raining out of the sky. The following morning "thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor."

Yep, this is manna. The bible has a lot to say about manna. Each person is to gather as much as they need for a day. (except for saturday! gather twice as much on saturday because there won't be any on sunday.) Don't save any til morning! (except saturday) When they did keep some til morning, it got all maggoty and gross - except for sunday, it was alright on sunday. Well I guess that just proves it's bread flakes from God. They also apparently saved a jar of manna; "keep it for the generations to come" God said. I wonder where this jar of God-bread is now, and why no one has tried to make a fake one.

Apparently, "The Israelites ate manna forty years ... until they reached the border of Canaan."

It took them 40 years to get there??? I'm remembering Genesis, when Jacob's 11 sons apparently had no trouble getting from Canaan to Egypt in a reasonable time to buy food. 40 years, huh. I do hope there's some good reason for that.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Exodus 7-12: 10 plagues of Egypt

I've heard this story before, and I imagine most everyone else has too. Here's Penn & Teller covering the basics of this story, in their amazing way.

That clip also contains one of my all-time favorite quotes: "God works in mysterious, inefficient, and breathtakingly cruel ways." From what I've seen so far... so true.

There is one pretty major detail in this story, though, that Penn & Teller do not touch on, and for all the many, many times I've heard this story in church and sunday school, I've never heard of this either. God says repeatedly that he is "hardening the Pharaoh's heart" so that he won't let the Israelites go. Yeah, seriously.
Exodus 7: 3-4 "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you."

Exodus 9:12 "But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron"

Exodus 10:1 "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials"

Exodus 10:20 "But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go."

Exodus 11:9-10 "The LORD had said to Moses, "Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt." Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."
If this is true, then I want to know... what the goddamn hell is the point of all of this??? I mean, seriously. The Pharaoh might have let the people go of his own free will at any point (probably long before God ruthlessly slaughters all the Egyptian firstborns). But no, God "hardens his heart." WHY??? Is this all a game?? Is God some kid playing with dolls? Is this all just a roleplaying game, with God as the sadistic DM? I don't get it!!

I haven't ruled out the possibility that this is all just the usual arbitrary cruelty, but the story does give a couple of hints...
Exodus 7: 3-5 "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."

Exodus 10:1-2 "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD."

Exodus 11:9-10 "The LORD had said to Moses, "Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt." Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country."
So... God is just looking for an excuse to show off? Or actually no, even worse: God is manufacturing an excuse to show off. What the effing crap is that all about? Gah!

This is possibly the worst thing I have ever heard of. God slaughtered Egyptian children, which is horrible no matter what. But he himself created the circumstances that led to it, which is even worse. But, even worse than that, God apparently slaughtered these children just to show off, which is what makes this officially the worst thing I have ever heard of.

Let me just say right here, I am glad that God does not exist. This is complete bullshit.

So anyway, let me see if I can calm down enough to finish.

While God is giving the Israelites instructions for painting their doors with lamb's blood on the night of this reprehensible slaughter of innocents (apparently God can't tell who is Israelite and who isn't), he also gives some instructions about celebrating Passover. Yeah, apparently we're supposed to celebrate that God killed everyone else's kids but not our own.

First and foremost, NO YEAST! God goes on and on about this. "Whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel." Harsh. Also, if any foreigners want to celebrate, they have to be circumcised. All right then.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Exodus 3-6: Back to work you lazy slaves!

Well, now that God has been alerted to the situation (because apparently that has to happen), he starts bothering Moses. Moses is out tending the flock when he sees a bush that is somehow on fire but not burning. He goes over to check it out, when suddenly the bush demands that he remove his sandals. After that, the bush announces that it is God, and it is very concerned about the suffering of the Hebrews in Egypt. The bush has big plans to take the Hebrews to "a land flowing with milk and honey." Also the bush would really like it if Moses would do all of this so it doesn't have to.

Well, I do hope someone remembers to dig up Joseph's corpse and take it with them...those were his final wishes ya know.

Anyway, Moses is like, "Why me?"

And God says, "I will be with you." (Way to dodge the question, God.)

Moses asks God what his name is (ballsy).

God says, "I am who I am." (again, nice dodge)

God tells Moses to go tell the elders of the Israelites about all of this. Then Moses and the elders are to go tell the Pharaoh that they would like to take a 3-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to God. Apparently God knows that the Pharaoh will not let them go unless "a mighty hand compels him." Therefore, God will "strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them." Hmm, I think I know where this is going...I don't think 'wonders' is the word I'd have chosen.

God also encourages the Hebrews to "plunder the Egyptians" by asking their neighbors (their Egyptian neighbors?) for gold or silver, or clothing, which they should dress their children in. OK, whatever.

Moses asks God what he should do if no one believes him. So God imbues him with the power of 3 cheesy magic tricks: he can throw his staff on the ground, where it becomes a snake; he can put his hand in his cloak, and it comes out leprous, then put it back in the cloak and it comes out fine; and he can make water turn to blood when he pours it on the ground.

Then Moses says, "I am slow of speech and tongue."

God says, "Go; I will help you speak and teach you what to say."

Moses says, "please send someone else."

God gets pissed and says fine! I'll get your brother Aaron to help you.

God apparently also told Moses that it was safe to go back to Egypt because everyone who was trying to kill him had died. Bwah ha ha! So Moses packs up his wife and son and goes back to Egypt.

Prepare yourself for Exodus 4:21-26 - the most confusing reading known to mankind (or maybe just to me).

God is apparently coaching Moses for his confrontation with the Pharaoh. God says to be sure to do all 3 of your cheesy magic tricks. But it won't work anyway, because "I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go." Then what the goddamn hell is the point, I would like to know.

So after the magic tricks fail, Moses is supposed to say "This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, 'Let my son go, so he may worship me.' But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son."

Huh... Israel. Is that Jacob? Is that all of the Israelites?

So Israel (whoever that is) is... God's firstborn son? Moses's firstborn son? WTF? Neither one makes any sense at all.

All I can figure is this must be about how they were planning to ask for a 3-day journey to make a sacrifice to God. But Pharaoh will refuse (because his heart had been hardened by God), therefore, God is going to kill the Pharaoh's son. That makes no fucking sense. You refuse what I ask, because I made you refuse, therefore I will punish you. Gah, I think my head just exploded. Seriously, I would expect this scenario to come up when some sadistic 5 year old is playing with his dolls (or action figures!), not when the Creator of the universe is trying to free his chosen people.

Then, Moses and his family are lodging somewhere on the way to Egypt, when suddenly God shows up and tries to kill Moses. Yeah, seriously. WTF. Why, your bloodlust so insatiable that you apparently have to kill your own people??? So obviously his wife cuts off their son's foreskin and touches it to Moses's feet. God is apparently satisfied that Moses has foreskin on his feet, and leaves him alone. For fuck's sake.

OK, that was Exodus 4:21-26. Moving on...

Then God goes and tells Aaron to meet Moses in the desert. They find each other, and Moses tells Aaron about what God told him to say, and his fancy new magic tricks. They go to the elders of the Israelites, and they believed them.

Then Moses and Aaron go see the Pharaoh, and ask him to let the Hebrews go worship God in the desert for a while. The Pharaoh says, (paraphrase) "I don't know God! So why should I obey him!" They say, (paraphrase) "But God told us to take a 3 day journey into the desert! He might punish us if we don't go!" The Pharaoh says, (paraphrase) "Get back to work!" Hmm, they forgot to say the bit about how God would kill the Pharaoh's son. That surely would have closed the deal for them.

Then the Pharaoh decides that the slave's problem is they are lazy, so he tells the foremen to stop providing them with straw to make bricks with, so the slaves will have to go gather it themselves. Then they beat the slaves when they can't make as many bricks as usual. Hmm.

The Isrealites complain to the Pharaoh...yeah we can't make as many bricks, but it's your own fault for not giving us straw. The Pharaoh says, (paraphrase) "Back to work you lazy slaves!!"

So now all the Israelites hate Moses and Aaron. Awesome.

Moses asks God, "why have you brought trouble upon this people?" I did what you said and things are worse than ever! Waah!

Then God told Moses, "Because of my mighty hand he will let them go." Well that's just fucking great, God, why didn't you do that before?

God also told Moses about the covenant that he established with Abraham, and apparently now that he's strung those guys along for 3 generations, and then vanished entirely for who knows how long, now he is ready to make good on his promise!!! Oh joy.

Moses told this to the Israelites, but somehow they fail to be excited by it. Perhaps they're too busy being beaten for not making enough bricks.

Then God tells Moses to go ask the Pharaoh to let them go again. Moses says, seriously old man? he won't listen to me.

Then there's a random segue into the genealogy of Jacob and his sons.

Then God tells Moses, just say what I tell you to say, for fuck's sake. But Moses is still like, "I speak with faltering lips!" Holy shit, that Moses complains.

So, Genesis gave me the impression that God is sort of a bumbling, inept idiot who would much rather kill people than make them better.

After reading this last bit I am reforming that impression.... God is a temperamental 5 year old and we are all his dolls.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Exodus 1-2: Hebrew enslavement, enter Moses

Exodus seems to be pretty much a direct continuation of Genesis. At this point in the story Jacob and his 12 sons are dead, but their descendants (the 'Israelites') are "exceedingly numerous."

Egypt gets a new Pharaoh, and apparently someone forgot to tell him how awesome Joseph was, because he really hates the Israelites. He is concerned about how numerous they are, so he makes them all into slaves. Yep, that'll shut them up. But somehow, "more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread." That seems unlikely, but whatever. So the Egyptians hate them more than ever, and make them work even harder.

Then the Pharaoh decides to tell the midwives to kill Hebrew babies (if they're boys). The midwives "feared God" and don't kill any babies. The Pharaoh is like, "What the hell? Why aren't you killing babies like I asked?" The midwives lie; they tell him that the Hebrew women are so "vigorous" that they give birth before they get there. This is a lame-ass lie if I ever heard one.

So the Pharaoh tells the midwives to throw the Hebrew baby boys into the river. How exactly is that different than "kill them?"

Some Hebrew chick gave birth to a boy, and she "saw that he was a fine child" so she hides him for 3 months. So what, if he wasn't a "fine" child, she would let him be thrown in the river?

Anyway, 3 months later she couldn't hide him anymore for some reason, so she put him in a basket and put him in the Nile. He is found by the Pharaoh's daughter, and she feels sorry for him and keeps him for her own son...she names him Moses. (Hey, I've heard this story before!)

Suddenly, Moses is all grown up. Apparently, even though he's been raised by Egyptians, he knows he's really Hebrew. He's hanging out one day watching the Hebrew slaves. He sees an Egyptian beating a slave, and it pisses him off. So, obviously, rather than using his influence as the Pharaoh's adoptive grandson to put a stop to this, he stupidly murders the Egyptian.

News of this gets out, and the Pharaoh tries to kill Moses. But Moses runs away to Midian. He's moping near a well when he "came to the rescue" of some girls who get chased off by some shepherds.

The girls leave him there and go home, and their father is like, "What'd you leave that nice boy there for? Bring him here."

Moses apparently stays there for quite some time. He marries one of the girls, Zipporah, and they have a son named Gershom.

During all this time, the Pharaoh dies.

Also, the Israelites "groaned in their slavery and cried out ... God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them."

Well that's sweet. Wait, I think I mean 'bullshit'. Why, oh why, did God apparently "forget" about his covenant with Abraham et al? The covenant that was oh-so important that God literally didn't have anything else to say for 3 whole generations? For fuck's sake.

Of course, God did tell Abraham in a dream that it was part of his mighty plan that the Israelites be enslaved until the people already living in the promised land were evil enough to destroy (Genesis 15). So, if that's the case, why is he so surprised that they are slaves now? And why does he care that the Israelites are "groaning?" If this is all part of his plan, either it's time for them to be liberated or not. Who cares whether they are suffering.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Genesis 46-50: Joseph - SUPER cut throat businessman

So, Jacob et al head to Egypt. On the way God appears to Jacob in a dream, saying basically, "I know I said to stay in Canaan, but don't worry about going to Egypt, because I will be with you." Well that's just grand, God. God also says, "I will make you into a great nation there." Yeah, we'll see how that works out.

Then it lists out all of Jacob's descendants who are going with him to Egypt. Snore.

So they get to Goshen, which is the area of Egypt that Joseph told them to go to. Apparently Goshen is some of the best land in Egypt. Though I'm not sure why it matters, nothing is supposed to be growing anywhere because of this famine.

Joseph meets them there, and says he's going to go tell the Pharaoh that they arrived. He says they should all tell the Pharaoh that they are shepherds, so they will be allowed to settle in Goshen. Aside from being some of the best land, Goshen is apparently also where the Egyptians dump all the shepherds that they don't like. Hmm, great plan Joseph.

So Joseph and 5 of his brothers go see the Pharaoh, and he lets them live in Goshen. He also says that if any of them are super awesome shepherds, that they should watch the Pharaoh's animals. Fantastic. We never learn whether any of them become the royal shepherd though.

Then Joseph brings in Jacob. Jacob blesses the Pharaoh, then the Pharaoh asks Jacob how old he is (130), then Jacob blesses him again (I guess being 130, maybe he forgot that he did that already).

So the famine goes on, and eventually people run out of money to buy their own food back from Joseph. They say, "Oh, come on, just give us some food! Or would you rather we died, you prick?" Joseph, being a total prick, tells them that he will accept their livestock in exchange for food.

Then everyone runs out of livestock, and Joseph gives them food in exchange for their land and "bodies" (so they're all slaves now?). Apparently every single person in Egypt had to give up all their land to Joseph, except for the priests, who somehow had their own supply of food.

So, Joseph and the Pharaoh now owns all the money, all the food, all the livestock, all the land, and all the people in Egypt. Seriously, WTF? Also, does this mean that Hebrew slavery in Egypt is Joseph's fault? That would be freaking hilarious.

So now that he owns everything, Joseph gives people seeds to plant. But because it's the Pharaoh's land, 1/5 of anything grown belongs to the Pharaoh. But, Joseph was already taking 1/5 of everything even back when the Pharaoh didn't own everything, so I'm not sure what difference this is supposed to make.

Suddenly it's 17 years later, and Jacob is on the verge of death. He makes Joseph swear to bury him in that cave where Abraham and Isaac are buried. It's another appearance of "put your hand under my thigh!" Genesis 47:29.

So I guess at some point in this chapter the famine was over.

Chapter 48, Jacob is still dying. Joseph brings his 2 sons to see Jacob. Jacob claims the 2 kids as his own (WTF???) and says any more kids Joseph has can be Joseph's. He also rambles on for a while about how God appeared to him, and how Rachel died in Canaan.

Then Jacob seems to suddenly notice Joseph's (now Jacob's?) 2 kids (I'm my own uncle! I'm learning all about "traditional families," as defined by the bible). He put his right hand on the younger kid's head, and his left hand on the older kid's head, and blessed them. Apparently this was backward and Joseph was upset about it. But Jacob says, "Yeah, yeah, I know. The younger one will be greater, that's why I'm doing it this way."

Then Jacob promised Joseph "the ridge of land I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow." Fantastic.

Then Jacob got all of his 12 sons together and defined them as the 12 tribes of Israel, and "gave each the blessing appropriate to him." Yeah, yeah. "Joseph is a fruitful vine...prince among his brothers." The rest of them get blessings like: "Simeon and Levi...cursed be their anger...I will scatter them in Jacob." or "Issachar is a rawboned donkey...he will bend his shoulder...and submit to forced labor." Yeah, Jacob fucking hates all of his children, except for Joseph, so he blessed them "appropriately."

Then, finally, Jacob dies. He gets embalmed and mourned for 70 days by the Egyptians. Then Joseph gets permission from the Pharaoh to go bury Jacob. So he goes, with his brothers and a bunch of the Pharaoh's officials. They get to the cave, they mourn for 7 more days, then the bury him.

Joseph's brothers are scared Joseph will try to exact his revenge, now that Jacob is dead. But Joseph is like, "No way. God made it happen so I could save people from the famine. Also, you should fear God instead of me." Hmm.

Joseph stayed in Egypt. In his old age, he told his brothers that surely God would take them back to the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And when that time comes, they are to dig up his (Joseph's) corpse and take it with them. WTF??? Yeah crazy man, I'm sure your decaying remains will have a jolly old time in the promised land.

Then he died at 110 and was buried in Egypt.

And that's how Genesis ends...charming.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Genesis 42 - 45: Joseph - the awkard reunion

Flash over to Jacob and his remaining 11 sons. (And his one daughter! Just kidding, she isn't mentioned. After serving her one purpose, getting raped and triggering the slaughter of a whole city, I suspect we will never hear of her again.) They begin to feel the effects of the famine over in Canaan, so Jacob tells his sons, (paraphrasing) "Word on the street is they have food in Egypt, why don't you go buy some?" He doesn't let the youngest, Benjamin, go because he doesn't want him to get hurt. Joseph and Benjamin are the only 2 to have Rachel as a mother; I guess in Joseph's absence Benjamin is now the favorite.

So, the 10 of them go to Egypt, and are shown to Joseph who is in charge of all the food. Joseph knows who they are, but for some reason they don't recognize him. Joseph is pissed at his brothers, and starts yelling about how they are spies. They explain who they are, and let it slip that they have one more brother (idiots). So Joseph says that to prove their honesty, they must wait in jail while one goes and gets the other brother and brings him here. (Why? Does he want all his brothers there at once so he can exact his revenge? Does he just really miss Benjamin? Is he just being a dick? I have no idea.) Then he throws them all in jail for 3 days.

3 days later, I guess Joseph has had a chance to cool off. He tells them that only one of them must wait here in jail, while all the others go back with food for their starving families. But they must bring the youngest back, "so that your words may be verified and that you may not die." Die? Huh?

Then the 10 brothers have a little conversation among themselves about how they are being punished for what they did to Joseph. It seems odd to me that they should happen to think of that at that moment, since they couldn't recognize Joseph. Are they really that guilty about it still, after all these years?

So Joseph has Simeon taken away, then he gives orders for their bags to be filled with grain, and for their money to be put back in their bags. Err, why? Joseph is willing to take money for food from starving Egyptians, but not his no-good double-crossing family?

Maybe he gave them their money back to freak them out, because that's just what happens. They find their money later, and "Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, "What is this that God has done to us?" "

So they get home and relate this story to Jacob (in typical biblical fashion: excruciating detail). Jacob refuses to let them take Benjamin to Egypt, saying: "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!" and "My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left."

Wow, Jacob is dramatic. Also, have 11 sons. Unless for some retarded reason you are only counting the children you had with Rachel. I know Rachel was your favorite wife and all, but to pretend like your other 10 sons don't exist seems just a little bit unfair.

So, they leave Simeon in jail, and life goes on I guess. Eventually they eat all the food they got, so Jacob tells his sons to go get some more. They're like, "uh, we can't go back there without Benjamin." Jacob moans and groans for a while, then he's like, "fine, but I don't like it." He tells them to take Benjamin, and also gifts...honey, almonds, etc (I thought there was a famine on, where are all these gifts coming from?), and extra money so they can pay for the food they got before also.

They go to Egypt. Joseph sees them all and tells the steward of his house to bring them home for lunch. They're pretty freaked out about being summoned to Joseph's house, they think it's because they didn't pay for their food last time. They tell the steward that they don't know how they ended up with their money back last time, but they brought it back. The steward is like, "don't worry about it!" Then he goes and gets Simeon out of jail.

Joseph shows up, and they present their gifts to him. He asks about their father, and when he sees Benjamin he has to run out of the room and cry for a while. Hmm, I guess he did just really miss Benjamin. Then he came back, and they all "feasted and drank freely." Aww.

Then it was time to go...Joseph told the steward to give them grain, to put their silver back in their bag, and to put his (Joseph's) fancy silver cup in Benjamin's bag. Then he told the steward to chase after them and accuse them of stealing the fancy silver cup. They say, "If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord's slaves." (Idiots!)

So of course, Benjamin is found with the cup. They "tore their clothes" and returned to the city. Joseph says, (paraphrase) "Don't worry! Only the one who had the cup must be my slave, the rest of you are free to go."

Judah makes this long plea to Joseph (seriously, it goes on for an entire chapter). Oh please, if we come back without Benjamin it will break our poor father's heart, he will die of sorrow. I personally guaranteed Benjamin's safety, if we come back without him it will be bad for me. And so on and so forth. Therefore, please let me stay as your slave instead of Benjamin.

Then "Joseph could no longer control himself." He tells all his servants to leave, and then reveals himself to his brothers. He tells them not to feel bad about what they did, and that he's not angry (gee, I would have never guessed that from the way he's been acting...). It's not their fault, God brought him here so that he could save people from this famine.

Then he tells them to go get their father and all their households and move them here to Egypt...there's 5 more years of famine coming, so they may as well come closer so Joseph can provide for them.

So they are sent back to Jacob with shiny new clothing, more food, and carts for the women and children. They tell him that Joseph is alive and in charge of Egypt, and they should move up there. After a bit of convincing, Jacob says, "I'm convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." Fantastic.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Genesis 41: Joseph - cut throat businessman

2 years later, the Pharaoh had some dreams...7 fat cows being eaten by 7 skinny cows, etc. And no one could interpret the dreams for him, aww. Then the royal cupbearer was like, "OMG! I totally left Joseph rotting in jail!" So he told the Pharaoh about Joseph's awesome dream-interpreting skills, and so the Pharaoh sent for Joseph. And of course, Joseph is able to interpret the dreams...they mean that Egypt will have 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine.

Then Joseph cleverly suggests that the Pharaoh finds a "discerning and wise man" to collect some extra food and store it for the famine. The Pharaoh says (paraphrase), "well, you were wise enough to interpret my dreams, you do it!" Uh...this Pharaoh must have been an idiot. So Joseph becomes the Pharaoh's #2.

The Pharaoh gives him robes of fine linen, a gold chain, a fancy new name (Zaphenath-Paneah, which doesn't seem to ever be used again...I guess 'Joseph' is more memorable), and a wife! Things are going swimmingly for Joseph; he has 2 sons, and "men shouted before him, 'Make way!'" He travels all over Egypt and takes food and stores it in the cities, so much food that "he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure."

However, the bible also said that Joseph stored 1/5 of all that was produced, which doesn't sound "beyond measure" to me. It sounds like "not enough." I mean, if you assume that the rate of consumption is the same, wouldn't you have to save 1/2 of everything for 7 years to survive a 7 year famine?

So the years of abundance are over, and the famine begins... it's happening in Egypt and all the other countries in the area. The people of Egypt start asking for food, and the Pharaoh sends them to Joseph. Joseph opens up the storehouses and "sold grain to the Egyptians." Sold grain to the Egyptians??? Joseph is selling these own people's food back to them! That's just wrong. That would be like if the government took money from the people and gave it to banks, just so the banks could lend it to the people at increased interest rates...oh wait.

Joseph also sold food to other countries. Apparently, Joseph didn't bother to tell anyone else that a famine was coming. That's nice. Also, I do not understand how there is even enough food for the Egyptians, let alone everyone else.