I’m game. How about the rest of you?

Several generations pass and Pharaoh has enslaved the descendants of Jacob. At one point, he orders the deaths of the sons born to them. A woman gives birth to a son whom she hides in the bulrushes. Pharaoh’s daughter finds him and adopts him, calling him Moses.

Moses must be aware of his past (his real mother became his nursemaid) so when he is a man and sees an Egyptian attacking one of the Hebrews, he kills the Egyptian. When he realizes he is in danger, he leaves Egypt, marries, and raises a family.

One day, God talks to him through a burning bush. God tells Moses that it is up to him to rescue the Hebrews and lead them back to the Promised Land. Moses is very hesitant. He wonders what he can say when they ask how they can know that God directs him. God teaches him a couple of tricks – changing a rod into a snake and then back again, making his hand leprous and then curing it. Then Moses says that he wouldn’t know what to say. God assures him that he will tell him what to say. Then Moses complains that he is not a great speaker. God tells him that Aaron, Moses’ brother, can be his spokesperson.

Moses reluctantly agrees but when he speaks to Pharaoh about moving, Pharaoh not only ignores him (“God had hardened his heart”) but he increases the workload of the Hebrews. This of course makes Moses less than popular with his own people.

Many people have a calling, whether the ministry, teaching, law, medicine, public service or any other career. Some will claim that God directed them; others will have no clue why they do what they do.

I can certainly identify with Moses. I wouldn’t want to lead. I don’t have enough confidence in my own abilities. I wouldn’t know what to say. How will the people react to me? Why would anybody want that responsibility? Moses was a reluctant leader, and I don’t blame him.

So that leaves me wondering why anybody would want to become a leader – mayor, premier, prime minister. What motivates them? And how much doubt do they have both before running and after being elected. Any ideas?

There is nothing to like about Pharaoh. He is arrogant, cruel, and stubborn. He refuses to let the people of Israel go. Instead he makes life for them harder. Despite the harm done to his own people when Moses sends a series of plagues (blood in the Nile, frogs, flies, gnats, cattle failure, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness), he still refuses to give in. In fact, a couple of times he lies to Moses telling him that his people can go once the plagues are removed. Only after the final plague, when the firstborn of each family was smitten (I like that word) does Pharaoh finally allow Moses and the Israelites to leave. But yet again, he changes his mind and his army chases after the Israelites only to be destroyed when Moses parts the Red Sea. Not much sympathy for Pharaoh here.

I have a vague memory of reading this story as a Sunday school student and being excited by the drama of the events and being happy when the underdog proved victorious. But were the Israelites actual underdogs? They had God so they had to win. On second reading, I have to question God’s role in this story.

To repeat, Pharaoh gets no sympathy, and I have no problem with God helping out his people. However, look what he does. It is clearly stated several times that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. If he could harden a heart, why couldn’t he soften it? Why did he keep Pharaoh from making the right decision?

Next, look what God does to the innocent Egyptians because Pharaoh is such a jerk. No water, dead cattle, crop failure, pestilence and disease. After the first Gulf War, the West boycotted Iraq. As a result many innocent Iraqis suffered. We can argue that that’s war. Under bad leaders, the people suffer. But I am sure if there had been a chance to assassinate Hussein, it would have happened.

Does God think of that? He had no problem killing Onan for spilling his seed on the ground, but he does nothing to this hard-hearted Pharaoh. In fact, instead of wasting Pharaoh, he kills the firstborn child of every Egyptian family. How can that be justified?

Good time to bring up the Israelites building the pyramids myth?


Not that the Bible actually mentions the pyramids.


So that leaves me wondering why anybody would want to become a leader – mayor, premier, prime minister. What motivates them? And how much doubt do they have both before running and after being elected. Any ideas?[/quote]

The people who run for public office, in my opinion, obviously, are relatively comfortable and confident individuals. At some point in their journey to leadershipism ( not bad , eh?), they’ve probably said to themselves " well, here goes! If not me, then who else? I’m not a whole lot different than the average shmuck."

As to what motivates this type of thought process? Some may say it’s financially driven which, at least on a municipal level, is way out to lunch .At a provincial/ federal level, not so much! What ever the case, I have to believe that MOST people that run for public office, do it for just reasons. In that, I mean these people who are ready to " huck their meat" in the public arena, do so because they truly believe that they can contribute to a slightly better society.

I have no doubt that the vast majority of people entering public life do so because they hope to make a difference, to improve the lives of those they represent. For a few, it may be self-serving, especially at the federal and provincial level where people can make it their career, but I doubt that was their intention when they first ran.

I was thinking of the big guns – Campbell, James, Harper, Ignatieff, Obama, Bush. God tapped Moses on the shoulder and he still doubted. Who tapped these people? How much convincing did it take? And once in power, how confident are they about the decisions made?

I am rambling a bit here because I have hit a snag in my reading. Genesis is so much better than Exodus. Genesis has far more conflicts and many more characters. Once Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, the story bogs down. Now that Pharaoh is done with, Moses and God are the only main characters. The only other character is the group and they come across as a bunch of whiners. At one point when they are hungry and thirsty, they tell Moses that they might have been better off staying slaves. Even after they are provided with water from rocks and manna from heaven, they are never fully convinced about Moses’ leadership. This takes me back to my original comment about leading. What is the point, when no matter what you do, it is never enough?

Taken literally or symbolically, there is one side story that I found interesting. Joshua gets a brief introduction when he leads the Israelites against the Amalakites. Of course, Joshua can’t do it alone. Whenever Moses raises the rod God gave him, the Israelites do well. When it is lowered they do poorly. As the battle rages on, Moses’ arm grows tired. So Aaron sits him down and holds the arm up for him. Aaron doesn’t hold the rod. God doesn’t give Moses strength to hold the rod for as long as it takes. Moses has to hold the rod and Aaron has to hold Moses’ arm. Don’t ask me why, but a little detail like that one intrigues me.

We now come to one of the centre pieces of The Bible, the Ten Commandments. There are people in the US (and maybe Canada) who want the Ten Commandments visible inside government buildings, including schools. Why? What’s the big deal?

The first four deal with God.

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
  2. That shalt not make any graven images … and bow down to them.
  3. Thou shalt not use the Lord’s name in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

God admits that he is a jealous god and will not allow any competitors. I would like to know who these other gods are. The cultures at that time were polytheistic, but are we to believe that there were actually other gods that could be worshipped. There is supposed to be only one all-powerful god, but were there lesser, maybe evil gods as well? I don’t know. All I know is that I fail these four commandments. I could give myself a pass on the first two because I don’t worship other gods or make graven images but I think that is getting by on a technicality.

  1. Honour your father and mother. I was lucky. My parents were deserving of my respect. I am not sure what you do when your parents abuse you or behave criminally or act less than honourably.

  2. Thou shalt not kill. I guess this is pretty straightforward if it applies to murder. But does it apply to other forms of killing as well? And do we need a commandment to know that murder is wrong?

  3. Thou shalt not commit adultery. This must have been pretty serious if it comes right after killing. Breaking up the family unit, especially when wandering around the desert with thousands of others, should be a concern. But the family unit at that time, as seen in Genesis, consisted of multiple wives. I am not sure here, but I am guessing that a married man could have sex with an unmarried woman and then marry her without a problem. A married woman having sex with an unmarried man would be the worst of sins. That’s a double standard for sure.

  4. Thou shalt not steal.

  5. Thou shalt not bear false witness.

  6. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house etc. I think most of us have at one time or another felt some pang of jealousy or envy at the good fortune of others. Acting on that jealousy or envy is when we get into trouble.

I am giving myself a pass on the last six. I haven’t killed unless you count earwigs or the time I hit a mouse a little too hard with a broom when I was sweeping it out from under the couch. I haven’t committed adultery. I did steal a handful of jawbreakers when I was a kid. But being six I was so proud of my theft that I showed my mom who promptly took me back to the store and paid for them. I don’t remember the exact punishment, but I have been theft free ever since (unless you count the time I didn’t return the extra dollar the clerk gave me when she miscounted my change!) I wouldn’t call myself a liar even though I may avoid the truth in awkward situations.

So I fail when it comes to god but I think I pass when it comes to human behaviour. Regardless does following the Ten Commandments make us special? Don’t lie, steal, cheat or kill. Good advice, but I don’t think we need a superior being to point that out to us.

And are there any other important commandments that have been left out. There is nothing about how we should treat children, other family members, friends. There is nothing about how we should treat the environment. There is nothing on how we should treat people we don’t know, especially the poor, the weak, the sick. There is nothing about going above and beyond the obvious.

I wonder what each of us would say if we were asked to come up with our own ten commandments. I am sure that many of them would be worth posting in public buildings.

[quote=“DWhite”]… Moses sends a series of plagues (blood in the Nile, frogs, flies, gnats, cattle failure, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness), …

Could this be the first recorded acts of terrorism in written history?

Nah, there are earlier acts of terrorism in the bible, check out the Genesis thread :smile:

Besides, nobody really considers this part of the bible to be written history. More like written folklore?

If you read early histories, you’ll find other acts of terrorism that happened way before the events in the bible supposedly took place.

If you read early histories,… [/quote]

I don’t. Even if I did, you would still find something wrong.

Boy, you hoshq me again!

Carlin breaks down the commandments even better!

My eyes are starting to glaze over. It is a struggle to plod through the rest of Exodus. I want stories. Instead I get laws. We can learn a great deal about a society from its recorded laws. But I would rather read stories.

So what did I pick up from reading these laws? Slavery existed. That is not surprising from a culture 3000-4000 years ago. What is surprising is that God appears to condone it. The treatment of slaves is fair, but if these are God’s laws wouldn’t we expect something along the line of setting the slaves free. There is even a section on what should happen when a daughter is sold as a slave.

We learn that witchcraft existed or at least was thought to exist as “you shall not permit a sorceress to live”.

We learn that these wanderers must have been farmers in Egypt or the laws were written well after they had entered the Promised Land because there are laws discussing crops. They were certainly herders as there are many laws discussing animals. For example, “when an ox gores a man or a woman to death the ox shall be stoned”.

We know that they were polygamists as there are rules about taking a second wife. But there was little sympathy for the poor guys who missed out on a wife because having sex with an animal is punishable by death. (I wonder how common that was.)

One verse says not to afflict widows and orphans or “your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” How should we read negative statements? I am not sure how proud we can be for not afflicting a widow or an orphan or a homeless person. It is easy to do nothing; much harder to help.

For certain they were a strict group. Despite the commandment not to kill, lots of acts are punishable by death.

Then there are several chapters devoted to religion – the building of the tabernacle, priestly robes etc. – when my brain shut down completely.

I have not read chapters 21 -31 very carefully. If anybody found anything of interest let me know.

The “sorceress” was not exactly that, nor was he/she a witch. When the texts were being translated from aramaic to greek there was no comparable noun to describe this individual. The person being described in the original aramaic was a person who made poisons for assassins. I suppose because they made “potions” the translation of witch was the logical choice.

We finally get to a bit of a story and a strange story it is.

Before beginning though, I have a question. Why does God need to be worshiped? Why is he a jealous god and will not tolerate competition. I understand why dictators demand complete obedience. Without it, they lose power. God is all powerful so that is not a concern. We all need some kind of approval from family, friends, co-workers. Without it, we feel worthless. I have a hard time thinking god has issues with his own self-esteem.

Maybe I am having a hard time distinguishing between good deeds and faith. I was told by a Catholic priest that I would go to Heaven if I continued to lead a good life, but I would never see or feel the glory of God because of my lack of belief. On the other hand I was told by a Protestant fundamentalist minister that I would not enter Heaven though I still had a chance if I would start to believe.

I like to think of myself as a pretty decent person despite my non-belief, but that still puts me below the not so good believer.

Anyway, back to the story. Moses has been up the mountain for a long time. The people are getting scared. They wonder what has happened to him and the god that he told them about. What if he never comes back?

They ask Aaron, who god as anointed as high priest, to construct a god that will lead them on the rest of the journey. Aaron does so. He asks for gold and constructs a calf. He even builds an altar. The people worship the calf as the god that brought them out of Egypt.

When God sees this, he is furious with the people. He wants his “wrath … to burn hot against them and I may consume them.” Moses intercedes on the people’s behalf. He asks what the Egyptians would think of a god that takes his people into the mountains only to kill them. Then Moses makes the most amazing statement. He asks God to “repent of this evil against thy people”. Pretty gutsy, and God - God! - “repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people”.

Not so Moses. When he arrives and sees the singing and dancing he flies into a rage. He smashes the calf, grounds it into powder, throws it into water and forces the people to drink it. Then he asks Aaron what happened. And Aaron lies! He tells Moses that the people wanted a god, that he asked for gold and when he threw it into the fire, the calf came out.

And what is Aaron’s punishment for constructing the calf and lying about it? Nothing.

In fact, Moses asks who is on the Lord’s side. All of the tribe of Levi which Moses and Aaron were members come forward. Moses asks them to kill brothers, companions, neighbours. They do so, killing 3000. Moses says they have ordained themselves for the Lord. Not quite done, God sends a plague for good measure.

There is a lesson there for sure, I think.

Exodus ends with Moses going back up the mountain to talk with God. More information is given about the keeping of the Sabbath and the building of the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. Most importantly, God renews his covenant with his people.

Unlike Genesis which had multiple stories and characters, Exodus can be summed up in three parts: the escape from Egypt, the giving of the law, particularly the Ten Commandments, and the renewal after the fiasco of the golden calf.

As we look ahead we can only wonder what will happen to these, in God’s words, “stiff-necked people”. They are led by a killer. I will give Moses a free pass when he killed the Egyptian who was abusing the Israelite, but I am not so generous when it comes to the mass murder of 3000 idolaters. The second in command, Aaron, was too weak to stop the people from worshiping the calf and then lied about his role in its creation. Their god is jealous and wrathful.

It is hard to imagine that everything will go well.