OLD TESTAMENT: Exodus

Chapter 1 – Joseph and his 11 brothers die after fathering many descendants. The new Pharaoh, having never known Joseph, regards the growing number of Israelites as a threat. He orders the Hebrew midwives to kill all newborn Hebrew males.

The Hebrews must endure yet more struggle and adversity before receiving the promised land – Canaan.

Chapter 2 – A female descendant of Levi gives birth to a son. She hides him for three months and then places him in an ark of bulrushes on the Nile River. The Pharaoh’s daughter discovers the baby boy, who begins to cry. She pities the baby boy, names him Moses, and sends for his mother. She adopts Moses as her own and she tells the mother to nurse Moses for her. When Moses is a young man, he sees an Egyptian strike an Hebrew. Moses kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. When Moses learns that his murder known, he flees to Midian, where he helps the daughters of a local priest named Reuel/Jethro draw water from a well. When Reuel learns of Moses’ assistance to his daughters, he offers Moses his daughter Zippora’s hand in marriage.

No man is perfect in virtue, but a murderer is not exactly the best choice for a religious leader.

Chapter 3 – Moses tends Jethro’s flock. He arrives at the mountain of God – Mount Horeb. He sees a burning bush that the flames do not consume and then he hears God’s voice. God tells him that He will deliver the Israelites from their affliction in Egypt to land flowing with milk and honey, the land of Canaan. He tells Moses that His name is I AM.

I am that I am. This means that God is existence, that which is, that which does, that which creates. In other words, He is. This sounds very pantheistic, but I suppose that one can interpret it to mean that God is the divine author of existence.

Chapter 4 – Moses fears that the Israelites will not believe that God appeared to him. God reassures Moses, telling him to perform for the people three miracles: 1) turn a rod into a serpent and back to a rod, 2) turn his hand leprous and back to normal, and 3) change water from the Nile into blood. Moses also complains that he is not eloquent. God tells him that his brother Aaron will be his mouthpiece and that God will guide the actions of both Aaron and Moses.

This is not the first instance in which God acts through others. Recall the story of Joseph’s brethren selling him into slavery. Joseph proclaims that it was not his brothers that sent him to Egypt, but God. God is the divine author. His plan is fulfilled.

Chapter 5 – Moses and Aaron request of the Pharaoh that he allow the Israelites to go into the wilderness for three days to offer sacrifice to their God. The Pharaoh scoffs that he does not know their God and he orders his servants to withhold from the Israelites the straw used to make bricks, yet not diminish the quota of bricks that they must make. Naturally, the Hebrews fail to satisfy the quota and they are beaten. They complain to Moses and Aaron, scolding them for drawing the ire of the Pharaoh upon them.

God enjoys subjecting his chosen people to struggle. The moral – the good is only attained through pain and hardship.

Chapter 6 – God commands Moses to tell the Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. Moses does not believe that the Pharaoh will listen to him.

Chapter 7 – In the audience of the Pharaoh, Moses has Aaron throw his staff on the ground, upon which it changes into a serpent. The Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers perform the same feat and the Pharaoh does not let the Hebrews go. Next Moses and Aaron change all the waters of Egypt into blood. The fish in the river die and the people cannot find water. The Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers perform the same feat and the Pharaoh does not let the Hebrews go.

Chapter 8 – Next, God sends a plague of frogs. The magicians perform the same feat. The Pharaoh tells Moses that he will let the Israelites travel into the wilderness to sacrifice to their God if he will rid Egypt of the frogs. Moses does so, but the Pharaoh reneges on his promise. Next, God turns all the dust into lice. The magicians tell the Pharaoh that this is the work of God, but he does not heed them and he does not let the Israelites go. Then God sends a plague of flies. Again, the Pharaoh promises to let the Israelites go if Moses removes the flies. Moses does so, but the Pharaoh reneges on his promise again.

The broken promises of the Pharaoh are excellent examples of resolves, made during struggle, being broken during prosperity. (See analysis in Genesis post)

Chapter 9 – God strikes dead all the cattle of the Egyptians. Then He causes boils to break forth on the skin of the Egyptians. Then He causes it to hail and destroy all the crops, livestock, and people in the fields.

Chapter 10 – God sends a plague of locusts. Then He casts Egypt into darkness for three days.

Chapter 11 – God tells Moses that He will send one last plague and then the Pharaoh will let the Israelites leave Egypt. The plague is the death of every first born Egyptian, both man and beast.

Chapter 12 – God tells Moses to urge the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb, spread its blood over their doors and on the door posts of their homes, roast it, and then eat it. The blood will serve as a sign to God to passover their house and to not destroy their first born. God also commands the Israelites to commemorate this event every year upon the date which it occurred. God sends the plague and it passes over the Israelites, but smites all the first born Egyptians. The Pharaoh tells Moses to take the Israelites away from Egypt. The Egyptians give them goods and jewlery to hasten their departure lest they incur further wrath at the hands of God.

Many have said that there is no greater happiness than that experienced when liberated from bondage. Although the Hebrew liberation was a brutal and bloody affair, most liberation movements are. Freedom is not cheap – thus runs the tired phrase.

Chapter 13 – God leads the Israelites through the wilderness. He takes the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire during the night.

Chapter 14 – The Pharaoh assembles an Egyptian army and pursues the Israelites. God parts the Red Sea and allows the Israelites to pass through on dry land. The Egyptians follow them, but God restores the waters and drowns the Egyptians.

God frequently says that He wishes to gain honor by destroying the Egyptians. Thus, he hardens the Pharaoh’s heart and compels him to persecute the Israelites. God needs an enemy to overcome. To become great – to gain honor – one must overcome resistance.

Chapter 15 – The Israelites sing a song, praising the war-like power of God.

In the song, the Israelites declare God to be a man of war. Aren’t all gods men and women of war?

Chapter 16 – The Israelites starve in the wilderness and begin to murmur against Moses and Aaron. God send them Manna in the morning and meat – in the form of quail – in the evening to prove that He is the Lord. God provides twice as much Manna on the 6th day because He commands the Israelites not to work on the 7th day; for the 7th day is the Sabbath.

Purpose of Sabbath – to direct one’s mind toward God. A day must be set aside to contemplate God, lest one become lost in the wilderness of worldly affairs.

Chapter 17 – The Israelites become thirsty and complain to Moses. Moses strikes a mountain with his rod and water pours forth from the spot. A ruler named Amalek leads an army against the Israelites. Joshua leads the Israelite army against the enemy. The Israelites prevail so long as Moses raises his hands above them. Aaron and Hur helped prop up Moses’ hands until the Israelites achieved victory.

The Hebrews either favor God or do not believe He exists according to events that transpire in the world.

Chapter 18 – Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, observes Moses acting as judge over every trifling affair that the Israelites have. He urges Moses to delegate some of his responsibilities to others so that Moses can focus on primary issues concerning God’s will.

It is hard to be judge. Sometimes one must rely on others.

Chapter 19 – The Israelites reach Mount Sinai. God appears to them in the form of a thunderstorm that encompasses the top of the mountain. God forbids all except Moses from climbing the mountain to see and speak with Him.

Chapter 20 – God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. As numbered by the Catholic Church, the Ten Commandments are the following: 1) Thou shalt have no other God before me and shalt not worship any graven images, 2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, 3) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, 4) Honour thy father and thy mother, 5) Thou shalt not kill, 6) Thou shalt not commit adultery, 7) Thou shalt not steal, 8) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, 9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, 10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, servants, animals, or anything else.

Besides the Ten Commandments (which are generally good morals principles, but there are occasions where breaking them would be morally right), the most interesting part of this chapter is God’s description of Himself as a “jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” The concept of the sins of the father being visited upon the sons is not unique to Hebrew thought. The Ancient Greek myths are filled with such tales. One example is the House of Atreus. There is clearly some truth in this concept. Regardless of the existence of avenging deities, sons will often reap what their fathers sow.

Chapter 21 – God issues more laws regarding slaves and women. He also imposes sentences of death for crimes such as cursing one’s parents.

Bible studies avoid this chapter, I’m certain.

Chapter 22 – God hands down more laws, including ones regarding bestiality and the execution of witches.

Chapter 23 – God hands down more laws and tells the Israelites that He will send an Angel to guide them to the promised land.

Chapter 24 – Moses and the elders of Israel approach Mount Sinai. They see God, who is standing on a paved work of sapphire stone. God tells Moses to follow him to the top of the Mount while the rest of the Israelites remain at the bottom of the mountain. A cloud envelops the top of the mountain, and Moses remains there for 40 days and 40 nights.

The King James’ Version is truly a great poetic work. The language is beautiful, the descriptions concise and vivid.

Chapter 25 – God orders Moses to build an ark in which Moses will place the testimony that God gives him. This ark is the ark of the covenant. It resembles a golden treasure box with two angels on top.

The ark is a symbol of God’s presence with the Israelites. Men often believe that certain objects or places possess some part of a beloved. People are often either incapable of stabbing a picture of their beloved or experience signs of anxiety upon doing it.

Chapter 26 – God gives instructions regarding the assembly of the tabernacle and the place about which the ark of the covenant will abide.

Chapter 27 – God finishes his instructions regarding the construction of the tabernacle.

Here is a picture:

Chapter 28 – God gives instructions for the making of the holy garments, which priests, specifically Moses’ brother Aaron, will wear.

The holy garments are very elegant and very expensive. Regarding this, God’s commands seem more likely to be Moses’ commands. Greed is a common human vice. Moses seems to have suffered from it.

Chapter 29 – God gives instructions on how to sacrifice a ram, bullock, and lamb, and how to spread their blood upon the altar.

Chapter 30 – God commands the Israelites to make a money offering to maintain the tabernacle and the priests.

Moses has greedier motives than he appears to have.

Chapter 31 – God once again urges the Israelites to keep the Sabbath holy. If any man works on the seventh day, then he shall be put to death. God finishes his exhortations and gives his commandments to Moses on two stone tablets.

Chapter 32 – Meanwhile, the Israelites grow impatient. They ask Aaron to make them gods so that they can worship. Aaron takes the gold earrings from the people and fashions a golden calf, which the Israelites worship. God grows angry and tells Moses that He will destroy the Israelites. Moses pleads on their behalf and appeases God. However, when Moses descends from the top of the mountain, he sees the Israelites worshiping the golden calf, and he angrily throws the stone tablets on the ground and breaks them. Moses commands all Israelites that believe in the Lord to slay those who do not. The tribe of Levi slays those who do not believe in the Lord.

Moses and God bear a striking resemblance to one another. God becomes angry and threatens to destroy the Israelites. Moses becomes angry and commands those who believe to slay those who do not. It is possible that Moses made up everything about God. Moses, not God, wants the Israelites to build the tabernacle and give money to the priest class.

Chapter 33 – God commands Moses to depart toward Canaan.

I have noticed that my frustration level has elevated after reading the preceding chapters. I am having difficulty in finding much edifying symbolism. I am rather easily finding mere barbaric laws to govern an ancient people. I will try to seek useful ideas in the remaining chapters. If I cannot find any, then I will tangentially contrive some.

Chapter 34 – Moses reascends Mount Sinai and receives two new stone tablets with God’s commands on them.

Chapter 35 – Moses reads aloud God’s commands to the Israelites. Then they begin to fulfill his commands regarding the construction of the tabernacle and the making of the priests’ vestments.

Chapter 36 – The construction of the tabernacle continues.

Chapter 37 – The Israelites construct the ark of the covenant.

Chapter 38 – The construction of the tabernacle is finished.

Chapter 39 – The making of the priests’ vestments is finished.

Chapter 40 – Moses places the covenant inside the ark. The Israelite offer sacrifice to God, and God sanctifies the tabernacle by his presence in the forms of clouds and fire.

Most cultures claim that God is “on their side.” A physical manifestation of this claim reinforces the belief in the minds of the people.

Quotes:

I have been a stranger in a strange land.

I Am That I Am.

Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.

The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.

I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.

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