Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bible Book 2: Exodus

Jan. 9-Jan. 15. Finished reading Exodus in 7 days

Moses and the plagues (aka, the Passover Story)
I know this story pretty much back to front, because we retell it every year during the Passover Seder. But it was still interesting to see the Bible's take, to see what "really" happened. For example, I learned that when Moses tells Pharaoh to "Let my people go", he was 80 years old! Pretty brave of the old guy to go about rescuing the hundreds of thousands of Hebrew slaves under Egypt's mighty rule. Especially when you realize that they had all been slaves for four hundred years!!! O,O Imagine, four hundred years, and the status quo never changed, until Moses came along!

After Moses demonstrates to the Egyptians that God is all powerful (sending them plagues of frogs, hail, darkness, etc. to prove the point), the Jews are free to go and Moses leads the way through the Red Sea (yeah, I have never believed that this could really happen, but I'll go with it) and through the wilderness. Since they rushed out of Egypt so fast, they didn't have time to bake their bread properly, so they carried the dough on their backs and the sun baked it, which is why we eat the traditional Passover food Matzah, (unleavened cracker-like bread) today.

Jews in the desert
God lead the people as a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night, so they knew which way to go. When the matzah ran out, God fed the people by making a doughy substance (which they decided to call manna) fall from the sky every morning, which would last them enough for the day. That was pretty smart and generous of God, I should say.

The 10 commandments and other rules
So about halfway into the book, all the Jews camp near the famous Mount Sinai, where God calls Moses up to meet with him and have a little chat. This is where God talks about the 10 basic commandments that everyone should follow. He doesn't stop there, though. There's an entire list of other ordinances and rules to follow in relation to slaves, animals, wives, thieves, and lots of other things, which goes on for a couple of chapters straight! God is very specific about this stuff, I gotta say. But He's not done with Moses yet. Oh no, there's much more God needs to say...

The tabernacle
For 3 long chapters, God says how He wants everyone to collect gold, silver, precious gems, rich fabric and cloth in many colors, accacia wood, and other stones and materials, and make him this holy structure, this tabernacle. He tells Moses exactly how the thing must be built, how big it must be, how it must be plated with solid pure gold, how there must be two golden cherubim (cupid-like angels) decorating the sides, how there will be curtains all around it that are so long... on and on and on, right down to the last detail! It's an entire verbal blueprint, just... ugh, so much reading! >_<

THEN God describes how all the stuff that goes inside the tabernacle, like the 7-pronged candle stick (aka, a menorah),the table, the bowls and all the other furniture are plated in gold and silver and brass, and it's just amazing how specific God is! Just remember, Moses is still up there on the mountain, and he's listening to God tell him everything. And he's STILL not done yet!

Costume specs
God needs some priests, so Moses' older brother, Aaron (who helped him a lot in Egypt) and his sons will do nicely. God goes on to order Moses precisely what he wants their costumes to look like. There's all these separate pieces, like a breastplate, a robe, a tunic, a girdle, and there's all these carved stones and gems to be set into the clothes, and gold chain to be wrapped around it, etc, etc, etc, you get the idea. This goes on for a whole chapter.

Ceremony specs
Finally, God specifies exactly how Aaron and his sons will perform their holy ceremonies. I never had any idea that God was so darn particular! The way he wants these sheep sacrificed, how there's always these feasts, how the candle stick should always be burning, the ingredients needed to make the holiest oil and incense, and all that! I mean, come on! What do you really need all this stuff for, God?! It's madness! (sigh) But hey, since it's God, I'll just go with it.

Golden calf God
Here's where the story picks up and gets engaging again. The people start getting impatient with Moses, because he's been up on the mountain "talking to God" for days and days and they don't know when he's coming down, or if he ever will. So they fashion a statue of a calf out of their gold earrings and other jewelry, call it the God that rescued them from Egypt, and throw a big party. Okayyyy... pretty dumb move by the people, if you ask me. Did they forget so quickly how they had manna rain down for them every morning? A calf idol can't do that. Oh well.

So God realizes what the people have done, and Moses comes down from the mountain so angry that he breaks the two stone tablets with God's commandments that he'd taken. God considers doing away with all these unfaithful and ungrateful people, but luckily Moses reasons with Him that He may have made all these rules, but the people didn't know about them yet. Can you really blame someone for breaking rules if they didn't know about the rules? Also, God promised Jacob that his generations would be as numerous as the stars, so what good would it be to wipe all the Jews out? So God gives them a second chance.

The people follow God's commands
So the rest of the book is Moses going back up the mountain and carving out God's commandments into stone tablets again, and then coming down and telling everyone what God wants to be done. So they gather up all the materials that were asked for and start following out God's ultra-specific instructions, with the tabernacle, the furniture, the priest costumes, the incense and everything, and I had to read exactly how they followed God's instructions almost entirely all... over... again! Honestly, talk about filler! I flipped through the last chapters of the book pretty quickly, since it was practically the same text, and that's where we end.

Might I add that whereas Genesis was particularly clear about when all the stories took place, Exodus was extremely vague about dates and things. However, with the Jews being slaves for 400 years, and knowing that they followed Moses through the desert for about 40 years, that gave me a good clue that Exodus ends somewhere around 2770 years after Creation. Great.

Exodus was nowhere as entertaining as Genesis was, but at least the first part of it was interesting. The next book in the series, Leviticus, is something I'm interested in reading, because I don't know it as well as the first two. Of course, I hear that it's full of even more rules, so I don't know... Well, at least it has less chapters!

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