The newest Bible as Conan movie candidate is “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. It’s a Cecil B. De Mille-ian event with a cast of at least digital thousands. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I have watched the Discovery Channel show that is trying to ride its coattails. I’ll review that after I’ve reviewed the book of exodus.
My friend John has a couple excellent posts on just how the exodus story has lost any credibility (here, here, and probably more that he’ll remind me of). I’m going to amuse myself with the bible story and what it really says, as opposed to how it is whitewashed to make everyone feel good.
Let’s look at the story of Exodus (you can find it here in just about any version you’d like). It’s not that long, at least the story itself. A lot of the book is taken up by those “commandments”. Like many events in the bible, there is no way to know when this supposedly happened. There are guesses, but again like many bible events, they never quite match up with reality. This part will cover chapters 1 through 6.
After a bit of exposition, where the baseless story of enslaved Israelites gets its start (sans pyramids), we start with the pharaoh telling the Israelite midwives, a whole *two* of them to service supposedly thousands, to kill the boy babies. They don’t and lie to the classically gullible bad guy. For some reason, Pharaoh doesn’t just have the kids killed right then.
Pharaoh tries again. He tells everyone to drown the boy babies which also doesn’t seem to work. Then we get to the story of Moses, with basket, the princess and the conveniently nearby mom, which again, no one suspects. The princess does know that it’s an Israelite baby, I’d guess by the circumcision. Teen Moses must have been the object of comment by at least his fellows.
Fast forward some indeterminate time (this happens a lot with bible characters) and Moses is now killing someone beating a Hebrew and hiding the body. An excuse given for this is that it is pre-commandments so it’s okay. He then is found out and Pharaoh tries to kill him. Moses leaves and ends up in Midian (yes, those people who this god commands to be annihilated except the young virgins whom are taken as slaves and temple profit). Moses marries a Midianite woman (peachy keen here, very very bad in books to come) the daughter of the priest of Midian and has sons.
Meanwhile, this god finally remembers the Israelites and its covenant with them after they make enough noise about how much they don’t like being slaves. Yep, this god has to be prompted.
Moses finally gets to Horeb, the mountain of this god (not to be confused with Sinai, the other mountain of this god) and we get the scene with the burning bush. An angel and Yahweh are in the bush and Y talks to Moses. Y has him take off his shoes, and says now that he’s realized that the Israelites are complaining, Moses will lead them out of Egypt. And return to this mountain to worship this god. Y says that the elders will listen to Moses and that they will all go to the pharaoh and ask that they can take three days off and do some sacrifices. Y says that he knows that Pharaoh won’t let them so this god will perform wonders so that the pharaoh will let them go. Which at this point makes it sound like the only “letting go” Pharaoh will be doing is allowing a short vacation for sacrificing, not “let my people go” Charlton Heston style. There’s no concern for slavery at all. Y also says he’ll mind control the Egyptians so they will give the Israelites anything they ask for. “And thus you will plunder the Egyptians.”
In Chapter 4, Moses isn’t really buying it. This god does have some problems in getting good help, after the mess with Noah and all. Y does some magic tricks to get him to believe. Moses still isn’t really keen on the idea, and Y finally gives up and suggests Moses’ brother Aaron, whom Moses evidently has never met. Rather than just have Aaron do things, Y comes up with this plan that he’ll tell Moses and then Moses will tell Aaron what Y has said. Oh and Moses has to take the same stick along to do the magic tricks with.
Moses asks his father in law the priest if he can return to Egypt to see if any of his people live. Evidently any except Aaron who is just wandering around and whom this god said was coming. Now we get to some of the meat of the story. Here is where Y says that he intentionally will mind control the pharaoh (“harden his heart”) so he won’t let the Israelites go no matter how many miracles Moses does. Then Moses is to threaten him with the death of his first born son because this god won’t allow him to believe the wonders and let the Israelites go. Makes just bunches of sense doesn’t it?
What makes even less sense is that Y gets murderously angry with Moses for no reason and his wife has to circumcise Moses’ son with a flint knife(?) and touch M’s feet with the blood so Y won’t kill him. Unsurprisingly, the NIV gives up trying to explain that one.
Moses and Aaron finally meet, do their miracles for the elders, who had no problem in wandering around despite supposedly being horribly overworked slaves. Everyone is happy and believes.
Chapter 5 has a confirmation that it was really only for a vacation to do some sacrifices that was the “letting go”. There is nothing at all about freeing the Israelites. Moses and Aaron threaten the pharaoh, but don’t do any magic tricks like Y said to do. The pharaoh gets annoyed and tells the slave masters to not give the Israelites any straw to make bricks from but to make them get it themselves. This would make the process harder. So, supposedly the Israelites wander all over Egypt getting straw.
Moses gets fed up and asks his god why he stands by while the pharaoh makes the Israelites work harder. Y promises again that everything will work out and this is where we first hear that this god means to have pharaoh drive the Israelites from his country, not just having a festival for a few days as it said earlier. Moses goes back and no one believes him. Now, one would think that this god would have seen this coming. Y says again to tell Pharaoh that he has to let the Israelites go. Which makes no sense to Moses since that didn’t work before. It also bears mentioning that Y knows that it makes no sense since it has claimed that Pharaoh won’t listen because Y doesn’t allow him to. We get a small commercial break for a bit of “begats”. And one more instance of Y trying to get Moses to do something.
Next, the plagues begin. And things get stranger from here.
“abracapocus” and lots of collateral damage, the peculiar story of exodus part 2
big miracles, little evidence and the beginning of the kvetching part 3
Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – the kvetching continues, and “you want these in the courthouse?” part 4
12 thoughts on “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – “let my people go……. For a long weekend!” the peculiar story of the “exodus”, part 1”
I love the commentary!
Of all the astonishingly awkward problems with the story, my favourite is always that 2.5 million people left a country (Egypt) which only had a population of 4 million at the time, and absolutely nothing happened to the economy, nor did it inspire other empires to take advantage of this fortuitous calamity and invade.
thanks 🙂 you did the hard work in showing how this story is ridiculous in the real world. I’m just amusing myself by kibitzing about the story.
I’m also kind of fond of the Hebrew’s stealing the
Babylonian tale of King Sargon of Agade:
“My humble mother bore me secretly. She put me in a basket of rushes and sealed me in with asphalt. Then she put me into the river…. The river held me up, and carried me to Akki, the irrigator who drew water from the river for the people. As he dipped his jug into the river, Akki carried me out. He raised me as his own son.”
Sound familiar? 🙂
heh. always good to watch plagiarism in religion, eh?