Exodus: Moses as a Terrorist, God’s Vengeance and a Potluck of Theoretical Readings

 

TheTenCommandmentsExodus is considered such an epically awesome, action-packed adventure, that it has no less than thrice been adapted for the big screen, first by Cecil B. DeMille in 1923, then again by Cecil B. DeMille in 1956 with a casting upgrade that saw Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner in the leading roles, and most recently by Ridley Scott with Christian Bale playing Moses.  It also provided some of the most memorable quotes from the Bible, such as the phrases “stranger in a strange land” (2:22), “eye for an eye” (21:24), “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (22:18) and Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death” (22:19), the last one being very popular among fans of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast who challenge the antiquated capital laws regarding interspecies love.  More than simply fodder for Hollywood blockbusters and quotable quotes used by sci-fi writers looking for book titles, misogynists, and staunch opponents to bestiality, the book was especially meaningful to the enslaved people of American in the Antebellum slavery-era south who saw the plight of Moses and his people as analogous with their own struggles.  The books prescriptions on slavery are problematic, but the narrative and prescriptions are potentially empowering. There are also heavy ecocritical elements in the plotting and language employed throughout the work.  Unfortunately, the book is rife with problems.  Whilst it argues against xenophobia, it simultaneously promotes terrorism and capital punishment for apostasy, limiting freedom of religion.  This hypocrisy is strung throughout and is linked with several different issues.  There is also an overt patriarchal bias in the book, and not only is it androcentric in terms of characters, but it is also frames women as property throughout.  Though it is understandable how the work gained relevance during the abolitionist movement, and though there are progressive elements in it, the work ultimately promotes ideas that foster and promote violence and intolerance.

 

SLAVERY

 

Was Moses really so pale as Charlton Heston?

Was Moses really so pale as Charlton Heston?

Many slavers often drew on Biblical precedent in order to justify the use of slaves, but ironically it was the Bible, specifically Exodus, that empowered abolitionists and the enslaved people of America.  Americans with African heritage who sought to secure their freedom could see Moses as one who was akin to them, especially since the text appears to frame Moses as a person of colour in a scene where Moses in instructed by God to put his hand into his bosom.  When Moses pulls his hand out, he finds that his hand “was leprous as snow”, and when he put it back in, “it was turned again as his other flesh”(4:6-7).  Given that the purpose of the display was meant to articulate the contrast between the two, and that the display it was paired with allowed Moses to transform a rigid staff into a living snake and back again, it only seems logical that if Moses were transforming his hand from the pasty whiteness of an Irishman in winter, that the opposite of that would be a much darker dark hue.  I mean, somebody isn’t going to try and convince another person that change a medium grey to a light grey is a miracle, right?  The reading is a little ambiguous, but it certainly suggests that Moses would have been at least dark enough to get put on a no-fly list by the CIA if he were alive today, and perhaps more likely that he would be detained by New York police were he to buy an expensive belt buckle at Barney’s, though he doubtfully would have been caught shopping there because if God were speaking to Moses today instead of 5000+ years ago, the 11th commandment would have likely been something to the effect of “Whosoever buyeth belt buckles at Barney’s has committed an abomination and he shall surely be put to death.”  Coupled with this, the text also uses the word ‘brethren’ frequently, and given the rhetoric of the abolitionist and civil rights movement, whereby all members of the Black community were seen as members of a larger family, it seems fair to assume that the cause that motivated Moses and the Israelites served as an analogous tribulation that abolitionists could draw on in terms of rhetoric at the very least.

 

 

For me, the name Moses will always be synonymous with Moses Malone.

For me, the name Moses will always be synonymous with Moses Malone.

Though Exodus is problematic as it condones slavery, it prescribes a system of slavery that is far less barbaric and oppressive than the institution common in the southern United States.  If, for instance, one were to buy a Hebrew slave, it is noted that the slave shall serve for six year “and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” (21:2).  This contrasts Lady Antebellum slavery, as that institution allowed for Christians to be enslaved for the entirety of their lives.  Exodus also states that if one “stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death” (21:16).  In the context of the American institution of slavery, it could certainly be argued that every single slave was stolen from their home in Africa and that those who instituted and perpetuated slavery in the Americas were in line for capital punishment under Biblical law.  The Bible seems to describe slavery more in terms of indentured servitude, where by a person would sell themselves into service, not be stolen, and that the servitude had an expiration date.  The institution of slavery laid out in Exodus also excludes the violence associated with slavery in the Americas.  For instance, it is noted that “if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished” (21:20), prescribing corporal punishment for people who physically abuse servants or slaves (the term servant and slave are sometimes interchangeable depending on the interpretations).  It is also written that “if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake” (21:26).  Given that executions, amputations, castrations, and mutilations of enslaved peoples were frighteningly frequent in the Americas, any number of enslaved people should have been freed under this Biblical prescription, and any number of slavers executed.  Though Exodus does make allowances for slavery, the rules set out would have not only put an expiration date on slavery and eliminated physical abuse, it would have prevented the entire institution altogether as the theft of people from Africa would not have been allowed.

 

Hollywood seems predisposed to casting Moses as a white guy.

Hollywood seems predisposed to casting Moses as a white guy.

Unfortunately, there are elements of Exodus that reinforce the institution of slavery.  One of the cruelest elements of the institution of slavery was the ways in which slavers used familial bonds as leverage for obedience, and Exodus seems to facilitate this.  In one passage, it is observed that if a slaver gives an enslaved man “a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself”, and that if he chooses to stay with his family, then he remains in the possession of his enslaver (21:4-6).  If a man, then, is made free but wishes to remain with his family, his must also remain a slave, thereby setting a precedent for the slavers who sought to exploit familial bonds in order to maintain their totalitarian authority and empower them further.

 

TERRORISM

 

Christian Bale, who played Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Christian Bale, who played Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Christian Bale, who recently portrayed Moses in a film adaptation of Exodus, caused a stir in an interview when he suggested that Moses could be viewed as a terrorist from the perspective of the Egyptians, and though this may be an unpopular view among Christians, Exodus does prove problematic when one reads it in the context of the current definition of terrorism.  Early in his life, Moses commits and act that would frame him as a murder in the eyes of many.  When seeing an Egyptian beating an Israelite, he looks one way and then another, and after seeing that nobody was they, he “slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand” (2:11-12).  In the context of the laws laid out in Exodus, which prescribed that a man who beats his slaves should be punished (21:20), and that one should only get an “wound for a wound” (21:24-25), and not a life for a wound, the murder that Moses commits is excessive.  One might argue that it was an act of self-defence, but even his father in-law questions the approach Moses takes.  This, however, is nothing compared to the havoc Moses reaps when following God’s instructions.  There are ten plagues unleashed on the Egyptians, culminating in the death of every first-born child, and the death of any number of Egyptian soldiers who drowned in the Red Sea when Moses brought the water down upon them after he had parted it for the Israelites to cross.  Given that Moses and the Israelites were in slavery, their actions seem to be a justifiable for of defence, but Nat Turner made similar efforts and has not been celebrated in American history books in the same manner that Moses has been culturally celebrated.  Turner often faces harsh criticisms for his slave revolt that included the killing of an infant.  While Turner killed one infant, Moses had a hand in killing the first born of every first-born Egyptian in the entire country, but few have expressed the kind of disgust for Moses that Nat Turner has received for his actions.  However, when one sees how analogous southern slavers with the Egyptians, Turner’s actions are far less offensive than are the actions of Moses.  The excessive death toll that Moses spurred seems akin to genocide and would certainly frame him as a terrorist by today’s standards.

 

 

Yul Brynner, who played Pharaoh opposite Charlton Heston.

Yul Brynner, who played Pharaoh opposite Charlton Heston.

Whilst violence in the name of expunging the institution of slavery is acceptable to some, and for good reason, there remains some troubling elements to the nature of the ten plagues that are released on the Egyptians.  Firstly, there is the use of what might fairly be referred to as biological warfare, namely the boils.  Some might argue that it was God who sent the boils (which makes the narrative problematic on an entirely different level), but Gods does not carry out the acts directly.  He instead empowers Moses and his brother Aaron to carrying them out, as it is noted that Moses and Aaron “took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast” (9:10).  They also use ecoterrorism, filling the rivers with Blood and later unleashing frogs, gnats, flies, locusts and hail consecutively.  Again, because the Egyptians have enslaved the Israelites, these actions might seem reasonable to some, but there are innocent people killed in this process.  The final plague is the death of all the first born children in Egypt: “all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts” (11:5).  The frightening part about this is that God, with foresight, already knows that none of these plagues will work, but still unleashes the plagues on the innocent and guilty people in Egypt alike.  God unleashes this misery on innocent children and servants (9:14), many of whom may not have the kind of autonomy that would make them culpable of the wrongs committed against the Israelites. Indeed, the servants may have themselves been victims of similar abuse.  God and Moses also punish innocent animals as one of the plagues leads to the death of all Egyptian cattle (9:6).  This indiscriminate killing is exactly the kind of approach employed by militant groups like ISIS, so offering a Biblical precedent for such violence can serve to exacerbate such issues.

 

Debra Paget, who starred in the 1956 film adaption with Heston and Brynner.

Debra Paget, who starred in the 1956 film adaption with Heston and Brynner.

In the face of such indiscriminate and universal violence allowed by an omnipotent being, one is inevitably led to ask what the purpose of such an approach is.  Is it to display his power?  Surely the bloodied rivers, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness has already done that. There is also the fact that it the separation the Red Sea which allows the Israelites to escape, which could have been done without the ten plagues.  So why kill the first born children?  Is there an implication that every Egyptian is universally guilty?  If so, this is troubling because it offers an examples where an entire people can be lumped together, fostering the kind of xenophobia that facilitates conflicts.  Is the action justified because Egypt has wronged the Israelites?  If this is the case, then the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam and any number of other countries likewise have or have had legitimate claims against countries like America.  Does that mean a violent response  like 9/11 is acceptable?  Perhaps God unleashed this violence because the Egyptians do not share the same faith?  Then this is also problematic as it offers a justification for the violent attacks against groups that are viewed as heathens.  Though it is easy to empathize with an oppressed class fighting for their autonomy, the genocidal level of violence in the name of religion seems to be the kind of narrative that contributes to and romanticizs the problem, not one that solves it.

 

APOSTASY

 

Aaron Paul, who stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings, but doesn't play Aaron.

Aaron Paul, who stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings, but doesn’t play Aaron.

Many would argue that the act taken against the Egyptians were to secure the autonomy, not religion; however, the work clearly situates contrary religious practices as a capital offense.  Bill Maher made headlines in 2014 when he argued that Islam was the only religion condones capital punishment for those who leave the religion; however, Islam is not the only religion who prescribes capital punish for apostasy: Christianity and Judaism do as well.  For those who choose to practice a faith other than Judaism, God instructs the Israelites to “destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves:  For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (34:13-14).  This prescribed vandalism graduates to homicide as God threatens to kill everybody before being talked out of it by Moses, as if her were Tony Montana on a coke binge threatening to destroy the world, only to be talked down by Manny Ribera.  The problem is that Moses then goes ape shit on everybody when he speaks to them and tells “every man [to put] his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour” who is worshiping anybody or anything other than God/Jealous (32:27).  He then goes onto say that “the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made” (32:35).  The grammar issues with this sentence aside (I mean, come on, who made this fucking calf: Aaron or the people?), this capital and corporal response to divergent religious beliefs is exactly the kind of approach adopted by jihadists, and thereby aligns the Judea-Christian tradition with the same kind of extremism demonstrates by those framed as terrorist in a contemporary setting.  That said, some of the prescribed laws were progressive at the time. Though the oft quoted “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” passage (21:24-25) might seem harsh by today’s standards, given that a man stealing a loaf of bread would have his hand cut off for his crime at that time, the ‘eye for an eye’ mentality is far more reasonable.  Still, in the context of God’s approach to freedom of religion and apostasy, the work fosters attitudes that have proven to be a source of violence.

 

DETERMINISM

 

Anne Baxter, who also starred in the 1956 film adaptation.

Anne Baxter, who also starred in the 1956 film adaptation.

Another problematic element of the violence taken against the Egyptians is the deterministic nature of the narrative.  Some argue that God has foresight and does not shape the course of human history, but rather simply knows its outcome beforehand (I’m not taking any bets with that guy in future).  This is not the case with Exodus, however.  God gives Moses the power to carry out the ten plagues, thereby re-shaping human history by direct intervention.  He likewise ensures that these plagues fail as the book notes several times that God will personally harden the heart of Pharaoh, or of the Egyptian people (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:20; 14:4; 14:17).  Pharaoh, then, may have proved legitimately willing to concede to Moses after the first plague, but God made a point of hardening Pharaoh’s heart that God and Moses might push forward.  This not only controlled the outcome of Pharaoh’s life, but the life of all Egyptians given that they have no control over their fate.  Since Pharaoh had no control over his actions, and since the Egyptians were under Pharaoh’s rule and did not choose to be born Egyptian, the entire conflict is deterministic in nature, with God being the source of the conflict.  Given that Moses eventually only needed the miracle of parting the Red Sea to escape Egypt, the ten plagues seems like masturbatory violence on the part of God.   His direct intervention, both in giving Moses the power to bring about the ten plagues, and his assertion over the emotive response of Pharaoh, seems to suggest that far from allowing the course of human history to take its course, God has asserted an rigid narrative onto humanity, usurping their agency and autonomy that he might have an excuse the demonstrate the full force of his power, like Vince McMahon writing the script to his latest main event that Hulk Hogan’s might can shine.

 

HYPOCRISY

 

Sir Ben Kingsley, who has been involved in two film adaptations of Exodus.

Sir Ben Kingsley, who has been involved in two film adaptations of Exodus.

Part of the struggle that comes with extracting a theology from the text is the overt hypocrisy in it.  God, for instance, instructs that “Thou shalt not kill” (20: 13), however, prior to this he instructs Moses to kill every first-born child in Egypt, and afterwards, instructs him to kill all apostates.  The rule: Thou shalt not kill, then should be amended to read: Thou shalt not kill, unless somebody touched my fucking mount, then put that mother fucker to death (19:12).  Of course, this list of capital offenses is extended in Leviticus.  Likewise, God’s stance on xenophobia seems hypocritical.  Though he tells Moses to be sympathetic to strangers, given that the Israelites were themselves strangers to Egypt and offered hospitality by the Pharaoh when they first arrived (22:21; 23:9), he later promises to “send an angel before the[m]; and… drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite” (33:2) from their homes.  This seems to mirror the conflict that has been going on in Palestine/Israel for decades, and certainly doesn’t foster empathy for strangers, conflicting with the instructions God offers earlier in the books.  Given that God is supposed to be the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), it seems odd that he can’t even keep his shit on the same page in a single book.  This hypocrisy is reinforced by the fact that God twice professes to be jealous (Exodus 34:14; 20:5), noting that worshiping other gods is not a good idea because God is a jealous god.  This is translated in other ways.  The King James version, which I use, employs the word ‘jealous’, as do most other translations, but I have read translations that use the word ‘envious’ or ‘vain’ in its place.  The issue here two fold.  The fact that God says he is a jealous god, implies through the syntax that there are other gods, otherwise he would have simply stated that he was jealous.  This is reinforced by the fact that he references other gods (23:13), and not simply false idols or false gods.  The other issue is that jealousy is a sin.  There is ample scripture suggesting that envy is a sin, which some conflate envy with jealousy.  However, the two are slightly different. Envy is the desire to have what another has, whereas jealousy is the fear of losing what you have to somebody else.  Still, the two words are used interchangeably in some instances, and the passage has been translated with both words being employed.  For translations that use the word ‘vain’, there is also ample scriptural evidence that vanity is likewise a sin.  This, then, makes God a sinner by his own language.  When a leading figure forbids a behaviour and then engages in it, the leader’s followers received a mixed message and thereby see the sin as acceptable so long as it is in a specific context.  This confuses the message and renders the text impotent.

 

FEMINISM

 

María Valverde, who stars as Zipporah in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

María Valverde, who stars as Zipporah in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

From a feminist perspective, it seems clear that the text sees women as second-class citizens, if it sees them as citizens at all.  As mentioned, if a man works as a slave for six years, he is set free, but this is a gender specific instruction.  If the slave is given “a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself” (21:4-6).  There is no scripture suggesting that the woman be given freedom after a specific time in servitude, but rather that she remains perpetually in slavery.  Women are also seen a property.  When Moses befriends a man named Reuel/Jethro, this patriarch rewards the friendship by giving Moses his daughter, Zipporah (whose descendants would go onto start a lighter company).  I would have liked to see that conversation go down.  I imagine it would have sounded like this: “Hey buddy, you are such a good friend I’d like to see you fuck my daughter forever.”  In another passage, Exodus speaks to premarital sexual relations: “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins” (22:16-17).  This passage is problematic for three reasons. The first being that the fault of the sin is placed squarely on the shoulders of the man for ‘enticing’ the woman, implying that she could not entice him and that she is inherently too naïve to make up her own mind about sex and is therefore corrupted by a man.  The second issue is that she is framed as property as she is to be ‘endowed’ to her enticer, and should the father not approve of the match, the father is given compensation in the form of a dowry.  The third problem is that the autonomy of the woman involved is completely overlooked.  The law prescribes that she be endowed, regardless of whether she wishes to be with the man or not, and should her father oppose such a union, even if she wishes for it, he can refuse to allow the relationship.  By couching the experience as one of victimization instead of an expression of personal desire, framing women as property, and ignoring the woman’s autonomy, this passages manages to encapsulate in 44 words, everything that is wrong with the way in which the Bible frames women.  Such passages make the work an overt example of the antiquated chauvinism.

 

Yvonne de Carlo, most famous for her role as Lily Munster in The Mundsters, also starred in the 1956 film adaptation of Exodus.

Yvonne de Carlo, most famous for her role as Lily Munster in The Munsters, also starred in the 1956 film adaptation of Exodus.

This lack of feminine autonomy is restated in a passage that some have used to argue against abortion.  It is noted that if a man were to hurt a woman with child so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life” (21:22-25).  It is important to note that this passage does not actually argue against abortion as it states if a man seeks the “hurt a woman”.  If the abortion is a consensual act, the aim is not to hurt the woman, and therefore this instruction does not apply.  As for the punishment itself, it serves to disregard the violated party’s interest.  The man who hurt the woman is not punished according to her will, but according to her husband’s will, which suggests that the offense is not against the woman, but rather against her husband.  This only way that this would make sense is if the woman were viewed as property.  This is furthered by the fact that if harm comes to her, then judges will determine what is to be done.  Since the judges were all men, this serves to further silence the victim in the scenario based on her gender.  It becomes clear in this context that there is no mistaking the notion that women are viewed in strictly from the perspective of patriarchal property rights.

 

ECOCRITICISM

 

John Turturro, who once played Jesus, also starred in Exodus Gods and Kings.

John Turturro, who once played Jesus, also starred in Exodus Gods and Kings.

When looking at Exodus through a contemporary lens, the work seems largely obsolete and regressive, but from an ecocritical perspective, the work can be viewed as progressive.  Though the plagues do involve damage to the environment, the fact that most of them are expressions of the power of nature is demonstrative of the power that nature has. God expresses his omnipotence through nature, and so, fosters a reverence for nature.  The plagues of bloodied rivers, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock, hail, locusts, and darkness are all demonstrate how dependent humanity is on nature and that we are in turn subservient to it.  Even when enacting his power, God does so through nature.  He does not, for instance, simply part the Red Sea, but rather “caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (14:21).  It is the wind that moves the water, not an invisible hand.  Likewise, in defeating the Egyptians, it is not hand-to-hand combat that serve to defeat them, but the water of the Red Sea, which is release by the wind and comes down upon them.  Here again, it is nature that humanity succumbs to, placing humanity in a subordinate position to nature.  God even employs ecological metaphors when speaking to Moses, noting that be bore the Israelites on “eagles’ wings” (19:4), using the language of nature to bring clarity to what it is he is communicating.  This passage is doubly important from an ecocritical standpoint because God says he did this to bring the Israelites to him, or, as he says “unto myself” (19:4).  The interesting thing about this is that throughout the book, God tells Moses that he is bringing the Israelite to the ‘wilderness’ (3:18; 5:3; 8:27, 28; 13:20), and then says in this passage that he is bringing them to him.  This could be read as simply aligning God with the wilderness, or situating him in the wilderness and thereby framing nature as the only place where one can commune with God, but it could also be seen as framing nature as God, given that God swaps out the wilderness with himself in this passage.  Regardless of what antiquated laws and customs are present in the work, this communion with nature is an element that remains valuable, most especially in an era when Republicans ironically combat environmental laws under the banner of Christianity.

 

IMMIGRATION

 

Barrack Obama has scriptural precedent to support his executive order on immigration.

Barrack Obama has scriptural precedent to support his executive order on immigration.

Environmental concerns are not the only issue that scripture and the Republican party disagree with, as Exodus also provides precedent that supports Barrack Obama’s executive order giving undocumented workers temporary status.  Though the Republicans have publicly opposed the executive actions (which seems more like performance on their part given that any number of Republicans have hired undocumented workers), this ‘official’ stance stands in contrast to the instructions of God laid out in Exodus.  Moses notes that he has “have been a stranger in a strange land” (2:22), placing Moses on a par with immigrants.  God also instructs Moses to be empathetic, noting that Israelites “shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for [they] were strangers in the land of Egypt” (22:21), reiterating this sentiment when he states that they “shalt not oppress a stranger: for [they] know the heart of a stranger, seeing [that they] were strangers in the land of Egypt” (23:9).  Just as the Israelites came to Egypt during the time of famine and were welcomed by the generosity of the Pharaoh who fed them, so too were the European settlers colonizers who came to American offered kindness and food by the generous Native people.  In this context, then, God instructs that the descendants of these colonizers offer the same kindness that was once offered to them.  Obama’s claim that only Native have a right to object to his executive order on immigration, then, seems to fit with scripture, whilst the Republican’s stance seems diametrically opposed to it.

 

MARXISM

 

For some, Karl Marx (no relation to Richard) and God are one in the same.

For some, Karl Marx (no relation to Richard) and God are one in the same.

For any socialists, communists, or Marxists looking to draw on Biblical precedent in order to explain to a capitalist Christian why sharing is alright in God’s eyes, one need look no further than Exodus.  There is a famous slogan believed to have been either coined by Louis Blanc or Étienne-Gabriel Morelly and later popularized by Karl Marx: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need”.  The expression, though, seems to be rooted in a text published far earlier than the 19th century: it seems to be pulled from Exodus.  God commands Moses to gather “every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents.  And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less.  And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating” (16:16-18).  This is simply a rephrasing of the statement made popular by Marx.  The works of all are gathered together and divided according to the needs of all, ultimately leaving no person wanting.  Some might suggest that because this was during a time of tribulation and trials, this is an emergency provision, but given that those in need are constantly in a state of tribulation and trials, it seems reasonable that this is an approach meant to be applied at all times.  God, there for, IS A COMMUNIST!!!!!!

 

TRULY TASTELESS JOKES: 2000 BCE EDITION

 

So apparently God has a sense of humour, as he demonstrated bot in Exodus, and a recent video featuring Sarah Silverman.

So apparently God has a sense of humour, as he demonstrated bot in Exodus, and a recent video featuring Sarah Silverman (both of whom are Jewish).

No book would be complete without overt sexual references that people for some reason consistently gleam over.  In Exodus, this occurs in the fourth chapter (4:2-4) and appears as not-so-subtle double entendre referencing the masturbatory practices Moses.  Here’s how the joke goes: “And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod.”  By rod he means erect penis.  “And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent”.  The penis becomes flaccid when he lets it go.  Bummer for Moses.  “And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail.”  So then God tells him to start stroking again.  “And [Moses] put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand.”  The penis becomes erect again.  Not really that impressive a miracle if you ask me, which is likely why the Pharaoh didn’t let the Israelites go when Moses said: “Let my people go!“.  Wait… was ‘let my people go’ code for let my ejaculate go, and ‘his people’ was his semen?  Anyways, the hard rod/soft serpent double entendre is a little too obvious to be funny to anybody over the age of twelve, but it does help break up the monotony of the narrative.

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS

 

God, who should really sit down with Freud for a few sessions and get some of his issues sorted out.

God, who should really sit down with Freud for a few sessions and get some of his issues sorted out.

From a psychological perspective, it seems that the God who is presented in in Exodus could certainly use a little psychoanalysis, with the emphasis on ‘psycho’.  Given the way he swings from one end of the spectrum to the other on issues like immigration and murder, it certainly seems that God might be fairly classified as bi-polar.  Likewise, God also seems to be a tad passive-aggressive toward us: “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (34:6). WOW!!  “Longsuffering”?  I’m sorry I’m such an albatross around your neck God, but if you didn’t want to deal with this, maybe you shouldn’t have made humanity in the first place.  I mean, you do have foresight and such, so you knew what you were in for.  And the ‘merciful’ and ‘gracious’ bit?  Yeah… we get it… you do all kinds of shit for us, but you know, rubbing it in like this kind spoils the efforts you make.  If you are just going to remind us of all you do for us and make us feel guilty for not appreciating it, I’d rather you just not give us anything in the first place.  You don’t have to be reminding us all the time.  As for the ‘abundant goodness and truth’, those are really things you should be getting your hype man to say.  If you just say it yourself, you come off as arrogant.  God also might be a tad sociopathic. I mean, killing somebody for touching your mount or practicing a different religion?  I don’t get those folks who worship golden calves any more than the next guy, but killing them?  That seems kind of harsh.  Certainly killing the first-born child of your enemies is a little extreme, even for a sociopath.  Bottom line is that in a psychiatric setting, these actions would be indicative of some serious, deep-set issues, perhaps rooted in abandonment concerns.  Where is God’s parents anyway, and why didn’t they do a better job of raising this guy?

 

OBLIGATORY CONCLUSION

 

ExodusThere are any number of bizarre books in the Bible, but there are perhaps non that are more bizarre than Exodus. Its commentary on slavery and immigration has some potentially progressive readings, as does it Marxist and ecocritical elements, but its promotion of violence and patriarchal oppression serve to undo a lot of the good in the text.  There is also any number of bizarre elements, such as when God just throws out the ‘don’t fuck animals’ bit (22:19), and the “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (22:18), and especially the “if you touch my mount you die” bit (19:12).  God’s comparison of oxen and sheep seems baffling as well.  If a man kills an ox, he has to replace it with five oxen, but if he kills a sheep he only has to replace it with four (22:1)?  I’m not sure I follow the math there.  Is killing an oxen somehow more offensive to God than killing a sheep?  Then there is the long, arduous task the arc, and the altar, and all his specific instructions for that.  And the curtains?  I think God wanted to be an interior designer/architect when he was growing up, what with all the curtains and gold inlets.  And what the fuck is a cubit anyways?  Can’t this guy just use the metric system?  Even standard would be fine, but this is just cubit shit is ridiculous.  I always find it odd that this part of Exodus is left out of the film adaptions.  I can just image Christian Bale spending 45 minutes of the film instructing people on how many rings a curtain should have: “I said TWO curtains!  Don’t be sorry; think for one fucking second.  Two curtains fastened together with fifty gold clasps.  Are you professional or not?  Fuck’s sake man, you’re amateur” (36:13).  Upon reading this work, it becomes easy to understand why so many people who claim to be Christian are able to hold overtly contradictory views simultaneously as the source text of their faith can’t even seem to hold onto one idea throughout a single book without contradicting it at least three times.

 

If you enjoyed this post and would like updates on my latest ramblings, be sure to follow me on Twitter @LiteraryRambler.

 

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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