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Saturday, February 04, 2017

Ex. 16-18 (take what you need)

This passage has a lot of cool stuff.  I'm enjoying it before I start reading about how many doves to kill if inadvertently disrupt the den of an unclean animal on a Tuesday.

First reference to the 40 years in the desert, which is how long they ate pan de cielo.  Ex. 16:35.  I don't think I mentioned that in Ex. 12:40-41 we learn it is 430 years from Joseph to Moses.

There's a cool montage scene where Moses' father-in-law comes to visit and takes some of the burden of governing off of his shoulders.  Ex. 18.

Most interesting to me, is the guidance for the Israelites to only take what they need from the manna.  The passage examines this guidance very particularly.  Ex. 16:21-30.  It deals with greedy people and careless people. Taking only what you need is important.  Of course, it is important because it is a way to live faithfully with God.

Couple this with the fact that the story makes very clear it is not the greatest of the leaders that is saving Israel.  Even our favorite fighting Hebrew, Joshua, doesn't prevail unless Aaron and Hur, are helping Moses, invoke God, to help Joshua.  Seems like you have the makings of a pretty old collectivists society. 

I've always thought Marx made a mistake by not referencing the early Christian church as his model.  Looks like he could have gone father back, much farther back, for each according to his needs.  And, yeah, I know I'm not the first person to think of this.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Ex. 13-15 (Mighty God)

These chapters cover a scene included the The Ten Commandments movie.  Pharaoh lets God's people go only to pursue them into the desert.  At climax, Moses doesn't actually know what God will do as the Israelites are pinned between the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds) and Pharaoh's approaching army.  Ex. 14:13-15.  It all works out.  Miriam and Moses both sing some songs on the other side.

Moses trying to impart confidence to the people facing impending disaster while not knowing for himself what solution God would provide struck me as real.  As a church leader myself, I've been in that position where we don't know exactly the way forward.  I have mixed feelings about this notion of "God will provide."  Sometimes God doesn't.

Faith to do what is right even when it seems like you may lose all is a risky proposition.  How do you know if standing in front of an approaching superpower, or holding a knife over your beloved son, or accepting execution by the State is right and not foolish?  

More observations from this passage.  Mixed in with story are explanations of ritual.  This section includes how to conduct the Passover ceremony.  It is interesting to read law & narrative mixed together.  More to come for sure.

Then there is this little passage which directly connects keeping Kosher with physical health.  I actually thought that was a modern thought ("Back then a pork chop could kill you!")  But, it appears to have Scriptural foundation.

The Waters of Marah and Elim

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.

Ex. 15:22-27.

Interesting Note: we get yet another description of the Promised Land.  Here are the last two:

 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.

When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month.

Ex. 3:8 v. Ex. 13:5.  I must admit, I didn't realize how much this jumped around.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Ex. 10-12 (bad faith)

These chapters cover the last three plagues.  Locust from the sky.  Darkness in the sky.  Then the Angel of Death.  Which, seems to not be carried out by an angel, but by God.  Except, in the Spanish translation "angel" is present in the reference where the English translation uses only "destroyer."

Compare translations of Ex. 12:23

When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

Cuando el Señor pase por el país para herir de muerte a los egipcios, verá la sangre en el dintel y en los postes de la puerta, y pasará de largo por esa casa. No permitirá el Señor que el ángel exterminador entre en las casas de ustedes y los hiera.

Later, when the killing happens, both translations attribute in directly to YHWH.

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Ex. 12:29.

Some observations about Moses' negotiations with Pharaoh: Moses had to work really, really hard.  Moses had some spectacular tools at his disposal, and he still need to slowly chip away at the Pharaoh's resolve.  First his wise men started saying, "Yeah, we can't do that."  Then Pharaoh started to give in, "What if only the men go worship?" later, "What if you leave your flocks."   Finally, Pharaoh relents, but only after what seems to be an act of terrorism.  Message?  Not sure.

The other sort of creepy thing about this story is that Moses never gives up the lie that they want to go worship and sacrifice to YHWH in the desert.  That's frustrating to me as someone who values honesty. Nothing compared to killing innocent children.

Final thought.  If I believed a god killed thousands of innocent Egyptian children so that a leader would bend to his will--a leader whose heart was hardened by that same god--I would not worship that god.  I read these passages because they given incite into the faith of the people who are my spiritual ancestors.  The path they took to discover God, is the path I am on.  Their stories about how they understand God are crucial to me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Ex. 7-9 (stories we know)

Exodus chapters 7 through 9 covers the first plagues.  Some things I noticed on this read through, the progression from water, to earth, to fire, to air.  The Nile & Frogs are water.  The gnats and flies are earth.  The boils are from the dust of the furnace, fire.  The hail is, well, hail, air. 

I also noticed that the original request is not complete release from bondage.  Rather:

Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.  Ex. 7:16

Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. Ex. 8:1

And more specifically after the flies, from 8:25-28

25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.”
26 But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the Lord our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.”
28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me

So, up through the hail plague, at least, the request was just a week or so to go make an offering to YHWH.  All very interesting to me. 

Last thought, at Ex. 7:7 we learn that Moses is three years younger than Aaron. First born children get a bad rap for the Hebrews it seems.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Ex. 4-6 (confluence)

Exodus 4-6 has important stuff for people of faith.  Moses, who is a murderer and fugitive, doesn't want to help, but God's compels him to do so.  Nonetheless, God relents and lets, actually suggests, Aaron to be Moses' mouthpiece.  And, when they start their efforts to work for freedom for the people, things get worse at first when those in power demand more from the people while taking away their ability to do the work demanded and call them lazy for failing.  As they say, "That will preach."

This is also, however, a passage that demonstrates remarkably well that the books of the Bible themselves are a confluence of conflicting traditions.  Beside God's capricious choice to "harden [Pharaoh's] heart so that he will not let the people go," Ex. 4:21, we have this inexplicable passage that follows God commissioning Moses from the burning bush, giving him three signs to show he is the messenger of God, and suggesting brother Aaron help him:

At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met Moses[a] and was about to kill him. 25 But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it.[b] “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me,” she said. So the Lord let him alone. (At that time she said “bridegroom of blood,” referring to circumcision.)
Ex. 4:24-26.  I'm not going to pretend to understand this passage.  It's obviously a vision of God that is very different from the Todopederoso/Almighty we've been hearing from for some time.  Much more like the God who walks in the Garden of Eden and from whom people can hide, or the God who wrestles with Jacob.

And lest you think I'm making up the evolution of God.  Check out this passage:

God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty,[a] but by my name the Lord[b] I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

Ex. 6:2-5.  The notes are important.  "Lord" means YHWH, which sounds like "I am."  God Almighty is a translation as El-Shaddai.  This passage makes it clear that these were not always names from the same people.

POINT:  We have an evolution of who God is well documented in Scripture.  God has a court with sons of God that impregnate women.  Then we sort of drop that and go to monotheism.  And along the way we make sure we pick up the traditions of several like minded peoples.  That doesn't mean God isn't real.  It means human understanding of God evolved while they were writing the works collected in the Bible and it is okay that they are still evolving.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ex. 1-3 (A New Hope)

Exodus explains that while the Hebrews had immigrated to Egypt out of need, they were initially important to making Egypt great.  But then, Egypt got a new ruler and he turned on the immigrants.  He exploited them, and so they raised up their voice to God.  Sound familiar?

We've added "la leche & la miel/milk & honey" to the definition of promised land now.  E.g. Gen. 3.8.  NDT pointed out on a podcast the other day that the only fuel human use that does not require the death of another living thing is milk & honey.  Huh.

Legal question: Pharaoh orders all the Hebrew children thrown into the Nile.  Did Moses' mother comply?

This passage also continues the flawed leader motif, extending God's chosen leaders to include straight up murders.  Could Moses have shot someone in Time Square and still be loved? #IOOIYAAR.

Last note: the boundaries of the Promised Land continue to be fluid.  If you compare Gen. 15:18-21 to Ex. 3:8 you will find that the land of the Hivites is newly added to the territory and the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, and Kadmonites is no longer included.  This isn't a gotcha for literalists or anything.  Maybe the tribes occupying the territory changed.  I'm just noting that it is interesting and wonder if it is a merging of traditions that gives rise to the difference.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gen. 48-50 (the end)

Genesis ends with the people of God living in Goshen, treated well out of respect for their relative Joseph.  Joseph is embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.  Gen. 50:26.

This passage has many compelling components.  There is a little bit of "that's why we call it . . ." Gen. 50:10-11 relates how when they went back to the family burial cave in Canaan, the silly Canaanites thought they were Egyptians mourning a death which is why they named the place "Mourning of the Egyptians."  Stupid Canaanites.

The blessings of Israel are also fun.  The older kids get this super detailed blessings recounting important things in their life--not always nice things--but by the time they get to the kids of the handmaidens, the blessings really start to thin out.  Dan does okay--he'll be a champion of justice, like a snake on the road biting the heal of the horse.  (Although, that sounds sort of like asymmetric warfare, aka terrorism, but why quibble.)

The other three get this Gen. 49:19-21:

Las hordas atacan a Gad,
    pero él las atacará por la espalda.
Aser disfrutará de comidas deliciosas;
    ofrecerá manjares de reyes.
Neftalí es una gacela libre,
    que tiene hermosos cervatillos.

Gad will be attacked by a band of raiders,
    but he will attack them at their heels.
Asher’s food will be rich;
    he will provide delicacies fit for a king.
Naphtali is a doe set free
    that bears beautiful fawns.

I can just hear Asher & Naphtali after the ceremony.  "Seriously?  I'm a good cook?"  "At least your whole blessing is not your kids are going to be kind of hot."

In the end, though, the message of the Patriarchs seems to be that we as a people of God did not start out on top.  The blessing never runs through the first child for every generation from Abraham--Isaac not Ishmael; Jacob not Esau; Joseph not Reuben; even Ephraim not Manasseh Gen. 48:17-22.  Our spiritual heritage is of a hungry people, fleeing disaster and seeking refuge in a foreign country that had the wisdom to accept our gifts.  Kind of like a national history of a nation of immigrants.  Also full of ugliness that must be reckoned with from time to time.