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After Moses and Aaron spoke to the people and got them on board with God’s plan to rescue them, they went to Pharaoh. Baby steps. All they wanted at first was three days off for the people to go into the desert and hold a feast to the LORD. Not only did Pharaoh tell them no, he punished the Hebrews for even trying to get three days off by telling his taskmasters not to deliver straw to the Hebrews for their bricks. From that day forward, the Hebrews were to gather their own straw for their bricks, but they were also required to deliver the same number of bricks every day that they did when the straw was given to them.

“Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.

The Hebrews complained to Moses, and Moses complained to God that so far his mission had only made things worse for the Israelites, and God hadn’t delivered the people from slavery at all.

God answered that he was the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, though they did not know him as YHWH but as God Almighty. And he remembered his covenant with them to make of them a great nation in the land of Canaan, and the time was come for God to take the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and lead them to that promised land.

“And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

Exodus then diverges into a family record of the sons of Levi: Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari, and Levi died at the age of 137 years. Then Korath begat Amram, who married his aunt Jochebed, and Korath died at the age of 133 years. And Amram was the father of Aaron and Moses, before he died at the age of 137 years. Even considering that Moses was eighty years old at this time, there are not enough generations listed to fill the 430 years between the time Levi moved to Egypt with his father Jacob and the Exodus. That 430 years is called out in Exodus 12:40. The forefathers of Moses would have each had to have lived at least 180 years to make the math work.

Moses died at the age of 120, at the very end of the forty years of the Israelites wandering in the Wilderness, which means that the Exodus occured when he was eighty years old. The Exodus occurred in 1497 B.C.E, so Moses was born in 1577 B.C.E, about 350 years after Jacob and his clan moved to Egypt to be with Joseph.

The Israelites had grown in population to rival that of Egypt itself, which led to the Egyptians putting the Israelites to hard labor. The Egyptians feared the Israelites would unite with Egypt's enemies and overthrow them. Ironically the same fear of a demographic time bomb that led the Egyptians to make the Israelites second-class citizens back then is leading the Israelis to make second-class citizens of the Palestinians today.

Pharaoh told the professional midwives to slay the infants of Hebrew women as soon as they saw it was a boy, but the midwives refused to do that, and their excuse was that the Hebrew women popped their babies out before they could even get to them.

So Pharaoh extended his orders from the midwives to all his subjects, ordering them to slay every Hebrew boy-child, but to allow every Hebrew girl-child to live. And that wasn't very smart if he was trying to limit the Hebrew population, it should have been the other way around.

During this time a couple in the tribe of Levi bore a son, and hid him for as long as they could. When that was no longer feasible, his mother made a little boat, and put the child within, and let it float in the Nile. And the daughter of Pharaoh found it. She remembered her father's command to kill all the Hebrew children, but she had compassion on the babe and kept it, and gave it to a servant to nurse, and later the baby became her official son. She named him Moses.

Later when Moses was grown up, he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. At some point in time Moses came to understand he was not really an Egyptian but a Hebrew, and now one of his kinsmen was being assaulted. He slew the Egyptian and buried him, thinking that no one saw it. But the Hebrew he saved had a big mouth, apparently, and word got around, and Moses became known as an "Egyptian" who kills other Egyptians. And word of this even got up to Pharaoh, who sought to have Moses executed. Moses in turn heard that Pharaoh was looking for him and fled to the land of Midian, where he met a girl named Zipporah and married her.

"I have been a stranger in a strange land." -- Moses

Finally the collective moaning of the children of Israel in bondage rose all the way up to heaven. God remembered his covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and he cooked up a plan to release them.

The Burning Bush

One day when Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, he came to the Mountain of God, Mt. Horeb. "And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

In the beginning God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. He spoke with Cain and Noah and Abraham and wrestled Jacob but by the time of Joseph he was only appearing in dreams. Now he appears to Moses only as the "angel of the LORD", which is not an angel with wings, but an avatar of God, a kind of probe. God has isolated himself from humanity by a layer where a symbol (in this case a burning bush) represents his divinity.

God identifies himself as "I AM THAT I AM". This is not his name, but what he does every moment: He exists. God's essential activity is being. And he commissions Moses to represent God to Pharaoh as God puts his plan into action to bring the children of Israel out of Egypt.

But Moses, ever the pragmatist, doubts God and fears that the Pharaoh won't listen to him, and the Israelites won't believe him. So God teaches Moses a few magic tricks to use as a passport. But Moses still wants to wiggle out of his mission, and God starts to get angry. Finally God says Moses can let his brother Aaron tag along to do all the actual talking to Pharaoh and the people.

In our journey through the odd corners of the bible we enter the book of Exodus, chapter 4, and find our first "jump cut". If the bible was a movie, this would look like a scene that had been caught in the gate of the projector and melted, and the theater had to cut out the ruined part and splice what was left over together.

Moses picked up his wife and kids, and started down to Egypt, and when it got dark, they stopped at an inn. Then, abruptly (the fragmented jump) it gets weird:

On the way, at a night lodging, Yahweh met him -- and was ready to kill him. Zipporah took a flinty stone, cutting her son's foreskin, and touched it between Moses' legs. She said, "Because you are my blood bridegroom." Yahweh withdrew from him.

So what just happened? Moses was a henpecked husband who didn't even stand up for himself when Yahweh came to kill him. Zipporah, his wife, wouldn't allow Moses to circumcize the baby. More than eight days had passed, and Yahweh came looking for Moses to kill him for being late. Zipporah did some quick thinking, did the bloody deed, and then smeared the blood all over her husband's business. This was sufficiently gory for Yahweh, who backed away going, "Oooooooooo-KAY!!"

After Moses and Aaron spoke to the people and got them on board with God's plan to rescue them, they went to Pharaoh. Baby steps. All they wanted at first was three days off for the people to go into the desert and hold a feast to the LORD. Not only did Pharaoh tell them no, he punished the Hebrews for even trying to get three days off by telling his taskmasters not to deliver straw to the Hebrews for their bricks. From that day forward, the Hebrews were to gather their own straw for their bricks, but they were also required to deliver the same number of bricks every day that they did when the straw was given to them.

"Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks.

The Hebrews complained to Moses, and Moses complained to God that so far his mission had only made things worse for the Israelites, and God hadn't delivered the people from slavery at all.

God answered that he was the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, though they did not know him as YHWH but as God Almighty. And he remembered his covenant with them to make of them a great nation in the land of Canaan, and the time was come for God to take the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt and lead them to that promised land.

"And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians."

Exodus then diverges into a family record of the sons of Levi: Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari, and Levi died at the age of 137 years. Then Korath begat Amram, who married his aunt Jochebed, and Korath died at the age of 133 years. And Amram was the father of Aaron and Moses, before he died at the age of 137 years. Even considering that Moses was eighty years old at this time, there are not enough generations listed to fill the 430 years between the time Levi moved to Egypt with his father Jacob and the Exodus. That 430 years is called out in Exodus 12:40. The forefathers of Moses would have each had to have lived at least 180 years to make the math work.

Now we arrive at the sequence of the Ten Plagues. Each cycle begins with God telling Moses to request a few days of religious leave for the Hebrews, and if the religious leave is not granted, Moses will do something with his wizard's staff to change Pharaoh's mind. More often than not, Pharaoh's court wizards are able to duplicate the plague on a small scale, so Pharaoh is not impressed and denies the religious leave.

The first plague was to turn the Nile River into blood, forcing the people to dig wells nigh to the river to drink. Pharaoh's magicians were able to turn a bit of water into blood as well, so Pharaoh did not give in.

The second plague was a great swarm of frogs that would cover every square inch of Egypt. Pharaoh's magicians were also able to make frogs, but they could not remove the frogs, so this time the Pharaoh said he would grant the religious leave if Moses made the frogs go away. Moses made the frogs go away, and Pharaoh went back on his promise and did not grant religious leave.

The third plague was lice, and Pharaoh's magicians could not duplicate the plague, but Pharaoh did not let the Hebrews go on religious leave to worship YHWH.

The fourth plague was a swarm of flies that only came upon the Egyptians but left the Israelites alone. Pharaoh begged Moses to remove this plague, but after Moses did, he refused to grant the religious leave.

The fifth plague was a disease that exterminated all the Egyptian livestock but left the Hebrew livestock standing. Pharaoh still refused to let the Hebrews go, and in fact he probably took the Hebrew livestock because the Egyptians had cattle again by the seventh plague.

The sixth plague was a skin disease. Pharaoh's magicians could not heal themselves, let alone anyone else afflicted in Egypt. But Pharaoh "hardened his heart" and did not hearken unto Moses.

The seventh plague was giant hailstones that killed any people or cattle standing outdoors. None of the hail fell on the Hebrews. Pharaoh admitted his guilt, Moses caused the hail to stop, then Pharaoah went back on his word yet again. We're starting to see a pattern here.

The eighth plague was a swarm of locusts that ate every green thing in Egypt. Again, no religious leave was granted.

The ninth plague was a darkness in Egypt so thick that the Egyptians could not even see each other across the room, while the Hebrews all had light in their household. The Pharaoh was weakening now. He told Moses to go ahead and take his religious leave, only leave all his cattle and sheep behind. But Moses said no can do, because they needed the cattle to make a sacrifice to the LORD, and they needed all of it to provide a better selection. Pharaoh refused to let him take the animals, and he told Moses that he didn't want to see his face ever again. The next time they met, Moses would die. Moses said Pharaoh spoke true, he would never see the face of Moses again.

Moses made one last prophetic utterance:

All the firstborn of the land will die at midnight. The firstborn humans, the firstborn of the beasts, and even the firstborn of the Pharoah himself. But all the children of Israel and their beasts shall escape this judgment. And when Pharoah's servants came to Moses and bowed down before him, begging him to take the people and leave Egypt forever, only then would Moses go.

On this night the children of Israel would become an independent nation. It would be, essentially, their "Fourth of July". God told them it would be New Year's Day for them, and he described the Passover Ritual, which involved each family killing a lamb without blemish, marking their front door with the lamb's blood in a Sign of a Cross, roasting the lamb, and eating it in haste while Sammael, the Angel of Death, passed over the land of Egypt smiting the firstborn of every house where there was not a token of blood on the front door.

"And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever."

The lamb was to be killed without breaking any of its bones, foreshadowing Christ as the ultimate Paschal Lamb. Pascha in Aramaic, based on the Egyptian "Pesach" which essentially means coup de grace. This plague was the final straw that broke Pharaoh's back. Because:

...it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharoah that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead...

Now Pharaoh told Moses to take his people and flocks and herds out from his people and go serve God on religious leave. What he had in mind, of course, was merely a temporary leave of absence, and he was counting on them coming back to make more bricks later. That is why the Egyptians "lent" them jewels of silver and gold, and clothing for the trip. The assumed the Hebrews would come back within the week and give them all back.

So a great multitude went into the desert on foot, six hundred thousand adults, and all their children, and their animals. This crowd was not pure Hebrew, but included those of mixed ancestry, half-Hebrew and half-Egyptian. They were in such a big hurry that they had to eat unleavened bread, because there was never time to let the bread rise, and that is in fact what the feast of unleavened bread commemorates, the necessity to make do when responding immediately to God.

The entire span of the House of Israel in Egypt was four hundred thirty years to the day, bringing us to the calendar year 1,497 B.C.E.

God himself led the Chosen People out of Egypt. He went concealed inside a moving pillar of smoke during the day, and at night this was seen as a pillar of fire which gave them light to see. He did not go straight to Canaan to show them the land of the Philistines, which he promised them, because he knew they would chicken out when the saw Philistine chariots, and scurry back to Egypt.

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, to honor the oath the House of Israel swore to Joseph to take his bones with them when God delivered them from Egypt.

The Red Sea separates Egypt from Saudi Arabia, and at the Sinai Peninsula it divides into two long fingers of water that resemble the eye stalks of a snail. In ancient times the left eye stalk terminated at what is now Lake Timsah, or Crocodile Lake. Timsah Lake and the Bitter Lakes are in the ancient depression of this old seabed. Perhaps the land has risen a bit, or the sea level has fallen. But so nearly flush with sea level is this whole area that a simple ditch dug in the 1800s was sufficient to link these lakes with the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to create the Suez Canal.

Soon after fleeing Egypt, God led the people to make their first encampment on the west shore of this extension of the Red Sea, just south of Timsah Lake. When it was obvious the Hebrews were not coming back to make bricks for Egypt again, nor to return the jewelry and clothing they "borrowed", the Pharaoh took his charioteers and went out after them.

The tide went out, and the stretch of land between Lake Timsah and the Great Bitter Lake became mudflats that were dry enough for those who go on two and four feet to cross to the eastern shore, but those who went on chariot wheels had a little bit of trouble. Pharoah and his Egyptian cavalry got stuck in the mud. They could not escape before the tide came in and drowned all of them.

Then Moses broke out into song:

I will sing unto the LORD, For he hath triumphed gloriously: The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, And he is become my salvation:

He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; My father's God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone...

There is a tradition in the Talmud that the angels of heaven started singing this song too, thinking it would please God, but God told them, "What the hell are you doing? My children are drowning and you want to sing about it?"

Operation Manna

On a Friday, one full month after leaving Egypt the Hebrews came to the Desert of Sin and there was no food. On Saturday the people started to murmer, but God sent a bunch of quail that evening. Overnight God left on the ground white flakes of bread from heaven called manna which translates literally as "What is this?" For six mornings the people could gather manna, until about noon when the sun grew hot and melted it away. He told them to eat it all and leave nothing for the next day, but some of the people didn't trust Moses, and they squirreled some manna away, but it got rotten and wormy, and pissed off Moses. On Friday he said leave some manna because the next day would be the first Sabbath of the Lord, a day of complete rest, when there would be no new manna to gather. Overnight into Saturday morning the manna they stashed away did not become rotten, so they had some to eat all that day.

Some of the people didn't observe the Sabbath and tried to look for manna, but there was none, just like Moses said, and he was pissed off that they broke the Sabbath, but it was a new ordinance so it took a little bit to get used to. The people all stayed in their tents the following Sabbath.

The people ate this manna for forty years, for the entire time they wandered in the desert of the Sinai peninsula. Moses told the people to put a little bit of manna in a time capsule so their descendants could see what they had to eat. This ended up being placed in the ark of the covenant.

The next order of business was water. God told Moses to strike a rock in Horeb, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.

After that came the first test of arms for the Israelites, in the form of an attack by the Amalekites. Joshua was chosen by Moses to lead men into battle against them, while he stood on a hill with the rod of God in his hand.

And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

When Moses grew tired, Aaron and Hur held up his arms for him, until Amalek was defeated. God told Moses to write in a book that he would utterly put out the rememberance of Amalek from under heaven. Which Moses promptly did. Then Moses built an altar to God and dedicated it by saying, "Because the LORD hath sworn that the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation."

Which exactly contradicts what God just told him, that he would wipe the remembrance of Amalek from the annals of the Earth!

Moses had sent his wife Zipporah and his two boys to live with his father-in-law Jethro, and now Jethro had taken them to catch up with Moses. When he got there, he noticed that Moses was spending all day judging the miscreants of the Israelites, and his caseload was killing him. Jethro advised that Moses delegate authority to minor judges, and Moses found this to be sound advice.

Exod.18:25-26 And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And they judged the people at all seasons: the hard causes they brought unto Moses, but every small matter they judged themselves.

About two months after leaving Egypt the people came to the foot of Mount Sinai near the southern tip of the triangular peninsula. Moses went to the summit, where God announced that the Israelites had been chosen to be his priestly people. They would be a race of priests among the human race, participating in the ritual sacrifices, just as the Aaronic priesthood would be super-duper priests among the Israelites themselves who would perform the actual sacrifices. Moses went back down and told the people that's what God had in mind. And he told them to get ready, and not have sex for three days, because on the third day God was going to land on Mount Sinai.

And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.

But something had happened to God in the years since he used to walk in the Garden of Eden, or have a picnic with Abraham. He didn't want the people to come too close to him anymore.

"Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the LORD, lest he break forth upon them."

Then God spoke to Moses the Ten Commandments (orally before committing them to stone):

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.

4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

8. Thou shalt not steal.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Catholics traditionally use the restatement of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy chapter five as the template for the Ten Commandments which they teach Catechumens. It more clearly states the precept of not coveting another man's wife as separate from not coveting his earthly goods. In order to maintain the number ten (because Exodus itself, in chapter 34, calls them the ten commandments), the first two commandments are merged into one, to read "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Thus, Catholic catechisms often will not state the commandment against making graven images because it's "covered" by saying have no other gods. Anti-Catholic Protestant sects such as the Seventh Day Adventists jump on that omission, claiming that Rome "changed the Bible" to allow devotions using Marian statuary, but that is not precisely true. Catholic Bibles retain the original text.

Pascal Fervor said...

Where you see contradictions one can find double-entendres. Any additional meanings that are truly contradictory would be, in my opinion, incorrect, because that would be immoral and discrediting. And that is fitting here since Amalek represents the human urge to bring discredit to God and those who worship Him.

Teresita said...

Hello Pascal, welcome back. You seem to have an abiding interest in the Amalek issue. I hope you weigh in during Numbers and especially 1 Samuel. I have a great deal to say about it because I got into a lengthy tussle with some Calvinists over the issue of Samuel's urge to carry out the commandment to make war on Amalek even against the children and animals.

Pascal Fervor said...

Yes. I'm sure you recall I told you this passage would come. I've come to interpret the meaning of the appearance of Amalek a bit differently than the few who even bother commenting on him. I've been asked more than once to write for other publications a wider exploration of the meaning of Amalek. I've always declined for one reason or another. It's simply of no interest to the vast majority.

Direct me to your previous tussles so that I may understand.

Few bother making the connection that Isaac was related to the original Amalek in almost the same way he was to Manasseh and Ephraim: great granddad. (There is some question of Amalek's legitimacy.)

I think we see in the stories that there was a part of Isaac that wanted none of the covenant. It was clear in his preference for Esau, the son who made the preference to live by his own code his chosen way of life. It became most concentrated in Esau's grandson Amalek.

I see from Samuel's repeated efforts to convince the Israelites to fore-go the idea that he believed that a King would not solve their problems. But they kept insisting. God told him to relent. I believe Sam's insistence on the killing of every man, women and child was because they believed they were fighting a blood-connected problem and not an ideology. Today, most of us think differently. But what most find really odd (as did Saul's men) was the insistence on killing all the livestock. (Talmudic tradition actually offers a good explanation: along the lines of wolves in sheep's clothing.)

I think Samuel was out to prove that even if you killed every Amalekite without doubt, prophecy foretold that Amalek would still return. He was trying to prove to the Israelites for all time that being an Amalekite is a choice not an inheritance. Thanks to Saul not following the agreement under which he was made King, the chance to proof it was lost.

Teresita said...

1 Samuel is such a perfect picture of Christianity as it is practiced today it should be moved into the New Testament. For when Samuel rebuked Saul in the name of the LORD for sparing King Agag, Saul repented, acknowledged his sin, and begged for forgiveness. And it was not forthcoming! Then Samuel himself finished the job on Agag, went away, and never saw Saul again.

1 Samuel 15:

[24] And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

[25] Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.

[26] And Samuel said unto Saul, I will not return with thee: for thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD hath rejected thee from being king over Israel.

And when did Amalek sin against Israel? Back in the Sinai days, probably 400 years before the days of King Saul. There are basic principles at play when you punish someone. One, it has to be timely in order to correct the behavior at hand. Two, you have to leave the punishee alive, or the correction is a waste of time. Three, the punishment should be proportional to the offense…you don’t cut off someone’s hand for flipping the bird. Since the Amalekites did not wipe out the Israelites but only discomfited them, it’s not logical to wipe them out down to the last man, woman, child, and head of cattle 250 years later. In fact, it smells like nothing more than vengeance. April 19, 2010 11:36 AM Pascal Fervor said...

First of all, both God and Sam did NOT want to give Israel a King. It's been said the failure of all Kings was foreseen.

Second. Sure Saul asked to be forgiven, but it smelled of "It's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission." His people insisted, and he hearkened to them, not God's command as told him by Sam.

Third. He left Agog alive much as Hadrian left the Western Wall. It was a tribute to himself after the long battle (there again is that form of ego I claim got us kicked out of Eden, remember?).

Fourth. He hadn't heard directly from God, but he still accepted His anointing on terms he didn't live up to.

I don't think that Jesus himself would have forgiven Saul the King even if Saul the man and his soul are eligible. There is indeed two different aspects of Saul involved here. Surely you understand the diff. God "voted" him out of office.

As far as the Amalekites and their herds were concerned, they annually pillaged whatever was in their path. Range wars are like that. Only a hapless few would be hurt annually, but it was an on-going festering sore that surely hurt members of the outlying tribes the most. It only got mentioned a few times in the main scriptures (history-like synopses), but there is more details in the apocrypha, in diary-like accountings of day-to-day life. Surely you stumbled on a few by now.

Pascal Fervor said...

Oh, and don't forget that it's the ideology of Amalek that is never-ending as implied by this chapter passage in Exodus. The man Amalek is long gone, but his way of thinking would remain. Indeed, it was apt to come the minds of Jews who were sick and tired of being Jews. After all, it surely crossed the mind of Isaac, grew with Esau, and peaked with Amalek. Isaac: "sigh; okay I guess;" Esau: "I don't need this!" Amalek: "I'm against You."

Teresita said...

If Samuel was truly relaying the commandment of God, We are talking about a God who sets aside his own "eternal" commandment not to commit murder so that Samuel could kill their helpless, captive king and complete the genocide. And that's a child-god who changes the rules any time he doesn't get his own way. One doesn't worry overmuch about offending a screaming brat. But it does make it difficult to criticize Mormons for the event in 1 Nephi where God commands Nephi to kill Laban to get some brass plates.

Saul pointed at God and said "Your command is unreasonable so I refuse do it." and stood condemned because of it.

So we have two conflicting demands, we have to magically know when to test the spirits, and when not to. And we can't rely on the Law, because God might command us to break the Law, such as when he told Saul to murder the Amalekite babies. And if we don't correctly guess that some guy is really speaking for God, like Samuel, we'll lose our kingship and perhaps our salvation.

Pascal Fervor said...

Saul pointed at God and said "Your command is unreasonable so I refuse do it." and stood condemned because of it.

I observe that you found it necessary to invent that quote. There is no indication that Saul saw any of it as unreasonable save the slaughtering of all the livestock. Indeed, given the history of the conquest of Canaan under Joshua wherein all worshipers of Moloch were put to the sword, complete and utter destruction of tribes was common practice and apparently not considered murder.

As for Agog, had Hitler been captured, I suppose he'd have been helpless too -- and you would have been in favor of sparing his life. How many more wound up dead because Napolean was kept alive so he could escape and war again?

Had I known you were against capital punishment so resolutely I wouldn't have bothered bringing this up. Certainly Amalek gains when murderers are permitted to live. Amalek is an ideology that poisons all. It endangers the innocent by weakening and harassing their defenders.

Teresita said...

I find it difficult to reconcile the merciless tribal war God of Samuel with the universal God of Isaiah who says in chapter 19:

[24] In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: [25] Whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.

Your solution is to defend the warrior-king version of God, which is the God of the party of Deuteronomists, who claimed that God told Moses to take Canaan by genocide...and they guessed the reason the northern Kingdom fell was that God's last orders to Moses to put everyone around them to the sword were lost until someone "found" the scroll of Deuteronomy in the temple somewhere. But even the Deuteronomists were a henotheists who viewed Yahweh as only the chief of the gods, and gods of the pagans existed side by side with him, a temptation for the people, so they were an existential threat to the religious order.

This is contrasted with the prophets who were social reformers, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos. Jeremiah sided with Nebuchadnezzar (and Daniel!) against the puppet king he had installed in Judah in 597 BCE. Jeremiah told the people not to resist Babylon. He was thrown into a well for his dissent. When Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem in 587 BCE he sought out Jeremiah and gave him his freedom. Jeremiah went to Egypt, where he found some Jews reverting to Isis worship, but finding happiness despite them having ceased temple worship in the rigid Jewish forms. This inspired Jeremiah to write his famous passage about a New Covenant that would be written on the human heart, not in a book. And that passage was crucial to the formation of Christianity.

In Christianity God is no longer a warrior king but a loving father, and even love itself. "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you." Until, like the Deuteronomists in the aftermath of the fall of the northern kingdom, Christianity was put under stress by persecution. Then we got the book of Revelation, where God was the avenger who delights in seeing the enemies of Christians screaming over a slow fire.

After God gave the Ten Commandments, Moses was given an expanded set of laws which were variations on the basic ten, with extenuating circumstances and penalties. For instance, the penalty for unpremeditated manslaughter was exile, not death. Slaves were allowed to be beaten to death, but they had to die slowly over the course of several days. If they died quickly that means their beating was too severe and the slave owner was culpable.

But I want to focus on the offenses which merit the death penalty, according to the Bible. Because advocates of the death penalty rest on these verses as justification for humans atoning for sin with their own blood. The Christian Reconstruction movement in Protestantism seeks to make theonomy the basis for US civil law.

1. Murder - Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:12-14,20,23; Lev. 24:17,21; Num. 35:16-34; Deut. 19. 2. Failing to circumcise - Gen. 17:14; Ex. 4:24,25. 3. Eating leavened bread during feast of unleavened bread - Ex. 4. 2:15,19. 5. Smiting Parents- Ex. 21:15. 6. Kidnapping - Ex. 21:16; Deut. 24:7. 7. Cursing Parents - Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9. 8. Negligence with animals that kill - Ex. 21:28-32. 9. Witchcraft - Ex. 22:18. 10. Bestiality - Ex. 22:19; Lev. 18:23-29; 20:15,16. 11. Idolatry - Ex. 22:20. 12. Making holy anointing oil - Ex. 30:33. 13. Putting holy anointing oil on strangers - Ex. 30:33. 14. Making the holy perfume - Ex. 30:38. 15. Defiling the Sabbath - Ex. 31:14. 16. Working on the Sabbath - Ex. 35:2. 17. Eating the flesh of the peace offerings in 18. Uncleanness - Lev. 7:20,21. 19. Eating the fat of sacrifices - Lev. 7:25. 20. Killing sacrifices other than at the door of the tabernacle - Lev. 17:1-9. 21. Eating blood - Lev. 17:10-14. 22. Incest - Lev. 18:6-29; 20:11-22. 23. Eating sacrifices at the wrong time - Lev. 19:5-8. 24. Consecration of children to idols - Lev. 20:1-5. 25. Spiritualism - Lev. 20:6,27. 26. Adultery - Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22-30. 27. Sodomy/Homosexuality - Lev. 20:13. 28. Relationship with a menstruous woman - Lev. 20:18. 29. Whoredom - Lev. 21:9; Deut. 22:21,22. 30. Sacrilege - Lev. 22:3. 31. Refusing to fast on day of atonement - Lev. 23:29. 32. Working on atonement - Lev. 23:30. 33. Blasphemy - Lev. 24:11-16. 34. Failure to keep the Passover - Num. 9:13. 35. Presumptuous - Num. 15:30,31. 36. Gathering firewood on the Sabbath - Num. 15:32,36. 37. Failure to purify self before worship - Num. 19:13,20. 38. False prophecy - Deut. 13:1-18; 18:20. 39. Leading men away from God - Deut. 13:6-18. 40. Stubbornness and rebelliousness - Deut. 21:18-23. 41. Gluttony - Deut. 21:20-23. 42. Drunkenness - Deut. 21:20-23. 43. Backbiting - Deut. 17:2-7. 44. False dreams and visions - Deut. 13:1-18.

When the Israelites agreed to do everything that Moses told them that God wanted them to do, he wrote it all down, read it back to them, and sprinkled them with the blood of oxen. And he sprinkled more blood on an altar where the oxen were burnt. This was the ritual that ratified the Covenant between God and the Chosen People. Then God called Moses up to his mountain again, where he was to tarry for forty days and forty nights.

On the mountain God gave Moses detailed instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant, which was to carry two tablets of stone which God himself was going to make, with the Ten Commandments written on them. And the next few chapters go into the precise details of all the other religious paraphenalia which God wanted Moses to cause to be made as part of the Tabernacle. This was essentially God's tent among the people, a stop-gap measure until the permanent Temple could be built.

God set aside Aaron and his sons, and their sons, forever after, to be his liturgical ministers. They were the Kohanim, and survive today as the Cohens. God had no problem with these priests being married, but the high priest had to marry a virgin, and no Kohanim could marry a convert, a prostitute, or a woman who had been raped.

And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

Now while Moses was on the summit of Mount Horeb for more than a month the people grew restless and began to think Moses was never coming back down. They went to Aaron and said, "Make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him."

So Aaron, without objection, told everyone to turn in their golden earrings. He made a golden calf from this gold, and an altar for it, and the people all said this golden calf was the god that brought them out of Egypt.

But God knew what has happening and told Moses to get safely away while God destroyed all the people, and then he would raise up another nation from the loins of Moses and start over. But Moses performed intercession, and reminded God that it would scandalize the Egyptians to know that God had taken the people out of the land only to slay them in the mountains. So the eternal, immutable, all-powerful and all-seeing creator of the universe changed his mind:

And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

Moses took the two tablets which God had made and went down to the camp at the foot of the mountain. But when he saw the golden calf, and the people singing and dancing naked around it (to the delight of their enemies looking on), he flew into a rage, and cast the two stone tablets off the mountain, which shattered them into many pieces. Then he ground up the golden calf into fine powder and made the people drink it mixed with water.

He said to his his brother, "What is your major malfunction, Aaron? You know the LORD cannot be represented by physical images!" Aaron lied and told his brother that the people were set on mischief, so he had collected all their gold and threw it into the fire "and this calf came out".

Sure Aaron.

Moses rallied his own tribe the Levites back to his side, and sent them out to punish the people. He did this in the same manner as the Roman penalty of decimation. They went from camp to camp and put selected people to the sword, perhaps the ones who had been especially culpable of worshipping the calf, until three thousand of them lay dead.

The remainder of the book of Exodus largely concerns the construction of the Tabernacle, or meeting tent, which was to be the portable dwelling place for God as he traveled with his people. It was constructed by materials which were donated by the children of Israel and by artisans who donated their time, as God moved them to do so.

The required materials were gold, silver, brass, fine linen, goats' hair, rams' skins dyed red, badgers' skins, shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to be set for the ephod, and for the breastplate.

With these materials, craftsmen made the tabernacle, the ark, and the staves to carry it, the altar and its staves, and all its vessels, and the showbread. They made the candlestick for the light, the incense altar, and the hanging for the door at the entrance of the tabernacle. They made the holy garments for Aaron the priest and his sons.

When the work was complete it was almost one year since the House of Israel had departed Egypt. Let's call it 1,496 B.C.E.

Often Moses would go to the Meeting Tent outside of the camp of the people, sometimes with his assistant Joshua. It was at the center of a little compound that was like a portable version of the top of the Temple Mount much later. A pillar of clouds would come down and stand outside of the tent, and there God would talk to Moses as one man speaks to another. God mentioned that the Israelites were so ill-behaved that if he went with them even for a moment it was very likely that he would exterminate them.

Moses interceded for the people, reminding God that they were, after all, God's own people, and the only way that other nations would know that God favored them was if he went with them to Canaan. God said to Moses, "I will carry out your request, because you have found favor with me and you are my close friend."

Moses asked to see God's glory, but God told him that he would only be able to see his back. No man can see God as he is, face to face, and live. Even so, every time Moses talked to God and returned to the camp, the people noticed that his face glowed with light, the afterglow of the glory of God.

When God was physically inside the Tabernacle, Moses could not enter because the glory of God filled the tent. The Israelites did not move from their camp until the cloud which veiled God rose from the tent. This was a cloud of smoke by day, and a cloud of fire by night, and it accompanied the children of Israel at every point of their journey.

Pascal Fervor said...

Here's a recent bit of scholarship that explains away an apparent contraction that occurs in Leviticus to No man can see God as he is, face to face, and live.

Lev 26:11 And I will set My tabernacle among you, and My soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you, and will be your G_d, and ye shall be My people.

Here's an excerpt: "The other interpretation is the more direct and spiritually challenging: G_d Himself would set up HIS tent among the people and walk among them as He had with Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. While it is indeed almost inconceivable, a whole nation keeping Shemitta would require an enormous act of faith demanding strict discipline to continue camping out, cycle after cycle, eating old food stocks just for the purpose of national strength in brotherhood with His beloved people of the land. It is a command that is especially demanding in time of peace when there is no apparent justification for enduring such hardship."

Verse 12 is the only place in the Torah where G_d Himself promised to walk among the common people of Israel57 (although the root for “walk” is a verb with many meanings). Still, who among the people could be in the presence of the Lord and not die? Only the High Priest on Yom Kippur. To me, this verse is as if He’d said, ‘If you manage to keep this law out of love for Me, you will have become a nation of priests,’ a light to the people of the Earth demonstrating how liberty really works and what they can do to make it happen. This verse is the last promise of blessing in Leviticus. The key is keeping the Sabbath for the Land. Every time I think about it, I’m blown away." -- Shemitta [emphasis in original]

I hope you find that intriguing. The lay author believes he's deciphered how the Shemitta should be kept -- and that it has never been kept properly. Scholars are taking him seriously in that they are not ignoring his treatise. I expect there will be a fight over this for a number of reasons, but especially the most common one: Not Invented Here.

Teresita said...

My thesis is that the Sabbath tradition did not exist until the Exile, when the Jews picked up ideas from Babylon of the Shabbattu, the "full moon" which was the 15th day of the lunar cycle. They had four "evil days" on the seventh, fourteenth, twenty-first and twenty-eighth day of the month when the Babylonians did certain types of fasting. The captives reversed the meaning of these evil days and made them their own holy days. This new tradition was read back into the Torah when it was redacted from various existing documents. During this exile the priests needed a reason to blame the people for their sorry state, so they read the sabbath back into history by a year-day principle and said the Lord would let the Holy Land lie fallow until all the missed sabbath-years were caught up. Then they would return.

Pascal Fervor said...

Yes, I recall you wrote of this in response to me before (though I didn't see in your evidence enough to buy into your conclusion). Nevertheless, if Jubilees may be shown to be authored after Babylon (I think it is), your reasoning is strengthened even more, because the way it keeps time it can be seen to be valiantly trying to set the new(?) command, (though I don't see how the fourth commandment could ever be successfully back-inserted).

In Mr Vande Pol's book, he also ties the length of the captivity to the number of sabbaths for the land gone unobserved, so you at least have some common ground.

Of importance to me is the fact that he has a exceptionally good understanding of land management. His being moved to write a well researched and evidence filled book by what he discerned from the biblical text, however it came to be there, suggests to me that it may be worth of you giving it a bit more of a look.

OTOH, as you stated up front, you've "finally lost all faith" (am I close enough?), so any value there would merely be coincidental, and not of interest to you at this time (if ever).

Teresita said...

The actual length of the captivity was 49 years, seven sevens of years. Jehovah's Witnesses go to great extremes of historical revisionism to make it the seventy years called out by Jeremiah but it doesn't fly.

My faith is not completely lost, there is are still some sparking embers. This deep Bible study, which could take three to five years, seems to be keeping it alive.

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