Exodus Chapters 23 & 24

Chapter 23

The first section of this chapter are probably the most sensible laws in this entire book. They talk about meting out justice fairly, not going with the majority or with the poor where it would pervert justice. Return your neighbor’s lost property regardless of your feelings toward them. Don’t kill the innocent, don’t take bribes, don’t oppress foreigners in your land. I feel like there are some people out there that claim to be Christians that could really stand to read this section over again.

The next section is really short and talks about Sabbatical Year and the Sabbath. The seventh year, land owners will let their fields and orchards lie fallow. I guess it doesn’t just mean a professor taking a year off to record podcasts. The sabbath is, of course, taking the seventh day of the week off and giving your livestock and slaves a break. Today, we have a two day sabbath, but it’s usually used to get our work around the house done because we’re working all week.

I said this a while back and I will say it again (somebody else actually said it, though), any god that demands worship is not worthy of it, and god worthy of worship would not demand it. I mention this because God wants three annual festivals dedicated to him and he will tell you exactly how he wants them celebrated. This to me sounds like an annoyingly popular girl in high school organizing her own birthday party. Also, God hates yeast. And don’t boil a baby goat in it’s own mother’s milk.

The final section is all about how God will help his people conquer the land of Canaan. They’re warned not to worship the gods of their enemies. Nobody living in the land inhabited by the Israelites will ever miscarry or be barren or get sick and all will be fulfilled for the rest of their days.

Chapter 24

We get a short break from laws and ordinances so that Moses could tell the people all of the laws and ordinances that he’s received so far and then wrote them down. The he woke up early the next morning, he built an altar and set up twelve pillars (I’m sure he did this all by himself). After an animal sacrifice, Moses saved some blood in basins and splashed some on his altar. Then he read the book of the covenant to the people and splashed blood on them. It was like an Alice Cooper concert.

God calls Moses, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel up to the mountain. God was apparently standing on something that looked like sapphire, and the men ate, drank, and beheld God. Moses was then called up the mountain to meet God and he would be given the tablets that contain the laws that God gave him. OK, so Moses was told the law by God, told the people, wrote it down, read it to the people again, and now he’s getting the laws on stone tablets. God appeared on the mountain like a devouring fire. Moses entered the cloud and remained there for forty days and forty nights.

Exodus Chapters 21 & 22

Chapter 21

There’s still more rules before Moses comes down the mountain. These laws are concerning slaves, violence, and property. Are these commandments? Were these written on the first set of stone tablets that Moses brought down? I’m assuming they were. Although, these laws are pretty disgusting if you ask me.

Hebrew male slaves are free to go after they’ve served six years, if he was married when he came in, his wife will leave with him. However, if his master gives him a wife, she and any children she has will remain with the master. The male slave can declare his love for his master and wife and stay on as a slave for the rest of his life. Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a moral guide for all time? Yeah, I don’t think so. Oh, then we get to the part about selling daughters into slavery.

Daughters sold as slaves are basically “wives” for their masters. Female slaves are sold for life, and not for six years like male slaves. This is likely because she has to stick around and take care of  any children she might have had with the master. If he takes another wife, the first wife will not be deprived of food, clothing, or marital rights. Should the master fail in this, she will be set free.

The section on violence starts off pretty normal for the bible, if a person kills another person, the killer will be put to death. If it wasn’t premeditated, then the killer will be allowed to flee to a predetermined location. There’s a lot of death penalty offenses for striking a parent, kidnapping anyone, or cursing a parent. If a person strikes another who is then laid up for a few days and needs a cane to walk, the striker will be free of liability and will only have to pay for the victim’s time off.

20When a slaveowner strikes a male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies immediately, the owner shall be punished. 21But if the slave survives a day or two, there is no punishment; for the slave is the owner’s property.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 171). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Please, tell me again how slavery in the Bible is kinder and gentler. It goes on to say that if the slaveowner takes the eye or tooth of a male or female slave, the slave will be freed to compensate for the eye or tooth. That’s so kind and gentle sending a slave who has nothing out into the world. Who is going to hire those slaves? What happens to them?

Apparently the life of an unborn child is not that important. The penalty for injuring a pregnant woman to the point of miscarriage is a fine. If there’s any harm after that point, then it’s eye for eye, tooth for tooth, etc.Property laws are mainly about oxen acting violently. Was this a big problem back in those days? If an ox gores anyone to death, the ox will be stoned to death, but not eaten. If the ox has been known to gore in the past and the owner doesn’t restrain it and it gores someone to death, then both the ox and the owner will be put to death. If the ox gores a slave, then the owner will pay the slaveowner thirty shekels of silver and the ox will be stoned. The rest of the chapter is about paying for the deaths of animals.

Chapter 22

This is getting ridiculous. Another chapter of laws. Either there were a lot of stone tablets, or the text was so tiny that nobody could read it. I am not going to write about every law since much of it seems really uninteresting. The first section can be summed up as, “It you stole somebody crap and you get caught, you pay double.” The curious thing I find is that if the thief isn’t caught, then the owner stands before God to see if he’s running a con.

2If a thief is found breaking in, and is beaten to death, no bloodguilt is incurred; 3but if it happens after sunrise, bloodguilt is incurred.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 172). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

The Oxford Commentary is no help here simply stating that time of day might have been taken into account. I am still trying to think of a reason that makes this make sense. I’ll get back to you.

The rest of this section refers to money, property, and livestock. Livestock seems to be dealt with the most harshly because it was most likely a person’s source of livelihood.

Next we come to social and religious laws, and another addition to the Biblical Marriage list. If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed, then the man has to pay the bride-price and take her as a wife. If the father refuses to hand her over, then the man will pay the virgin bride-price.

There is no rhyme or reason to this list of laws. One would think that God would be more organized in his lawgiving. Instead, it looks like a brainstorming session for a bunch of ancient people trying to think up laws. The next three laws are as follows:

18You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.
19Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.
20Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 173). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

This is a group of guys sitting around the fire and thinking of things off the tops of their heads. I don’t want to know why that second item was put in there, but at least one person around that fire was disappointed.

The next part of the chapter is about being a good neighbor, like not oppressing resident aliens (I think some people need to reread this), not abusing widows and orphans (lest ye wives and children be made likewise). Don’t charge interest on money lent or take items in pawn. These are just laws that make for good neighbors.

The final few laws are about respecting God and leaders, making timely sacrifices including crops, livestock, and children. Also, don’t eat the meat of any animal that has been killed by animals.

Where Am I?

This week is less a sermon and more of a status update. I’m currently deep in the heart of Exodus, slogging through law after law about slaves, violence, farm animals, eyes, teeth, and countless things that deserve the death penalty. It took some time to get through and I’m still deep in the muck right now, but hopefully I’ll have two posts next week and I’ll be able to get this train rolling again.

Here’s the thing, and it won’t surprise you, I prefer writing about narrative stories and descriptive text. When it comes to laws, and I know Classic Jason, I have plenty more chapters full of laws ahead. I’m trying to figure out how to write about them that is halfway interesting. I may just skip to the interesting and controversial ones and maybe make a passing mention of the boring ones.

I also took the week off because we are in the heart of Oktoberfest season and my girlfriend plays in German brass band. I enjoy going to the fests and partaking of the food and beer. Being where I am in the Bible and having less time to write over the weekend made this past week a non-starter. If I was in the Book of Jonah or Judges (esp. Samson and Delilah) that would be easier to write about and get my thoughts down. As it were, laws just leave something to be desired.

Anyway, that’s it. Go in peace and all that jazz. Sorry, skinofmyteeth1960, that’s partially your line.

Healthy and Selfish

“Why should healthy people have to pay for sick people?” –A common question asked by “healthy” people

There are a lot of Americans (and probably people all over the world) who think that sickness, disease, and chronic conditions are somehow caused only by lifestyle choices, whether it’s following a “proper” diet and exercise, or leading a truly “moral” life according to some criteria of someone’s choosing.  People get sick and hurt for myriad reasons, and it’s rarely due to their morality. However, some politicians of certain stripes keep using this faulty logic so that their base will continue to defend a system of healthcare that can bankrupt families.

What will it take for people to learn? During this pandemic, we’ve seen several anti-vax, anti-mask radio hosts lose their lives to COVID-19. They preached selfishness and ended up losing their lives and yet, most of their listeners will still tow that deadly line. And for what? So that from now until they contract this awful virus they can say that they avoided it? Then what? Their endgame appears to be trying out a new ventilator.

I don’t have a lot of followers here or on Twitter, but if I can reach one person and change their mind on vaccines and masks, then this would be worth it. Read that previous paragraph again. There are people in this country who are at risk and, even with the vaccine, can still suffer greatly if they contract this virus. A mask is not a sign of weakness or being “sheeple”, it’s a small gesture that shows people that you’re not a dick.

Exodus Chapter 20

It’s been a while since I’ve only covered one chapter in a post, but this one is a long one (that’s what she said…sorry).

Now we come to the Ten Commandments. As I read these, God only really explains clearly the commandments about himself. The first commandment verifies what I’ve said all along this project so far: There are other gods, and I am assuming that this is where the monotheistic tradition truly starts.

The second commandment is an odd one, and taken at face value states that there shall be nothing made that represents anything in nature.

4You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 168). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Of course, it also says that those things shall not be worshiped, so it could appear to be a warning not to put earthly possessions above God. Or something.

Third, the commandment about taking the name of the Lord in vain, or as worded in the NRSV…

7You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (pp. 168-169). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

From what I could gather, this seems to mean that you shouldn’t make oaths on the Lord’s name that you do not intend to keep. The sixth commandment is about not working at all on Sunday…or Saturday…or sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. This prohibition includes children, slaves, livestock, and alien residents living in you town. All of this is because God made everything in six days and rested on the seventh.

That does it for the God-related commandments, but the next one deserves some attention for wording.

12Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 169). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

In other words, be nice to your parents because they brought you into this world, and by God, they can take you out of it.

Then we get the rest, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness against your neighbor, don’t covet your neighbor’s house, wife, slaves, ox, donkey, or anything that your neighbor owns.

According to the Torah and Talmud, the sixth commandment refers to murder specifically. This comes from real Rabbis on Twitter.

Whenever people try to say that the Constitution or other modern laws are based on the Ten Commandments, they usually refer to the sixth, eighth, and ninth. The first commandment violates the first amendment. The tenth commandment is actually the whole basis of capitalism.

The people witnessed the smoke and the thunder and the trumpet and they were afraid and wanted only Moses to talk to them because they feared that if God spoke they would die. Moses tells the people that God is only testing them and putting the fear of him in them so that they will not sin.

So, that’s it. That’s the ten commandme–oh, there’s more. Apparently, there is a commandment about how to build an altar to God. Of course, you shall not make gods of silver or gold. Also, altars should be made of earth. However, if you make an altar of stone, it shouldn’t be from chiseled stone because that would profane it.

OK, so that’s it, right? Well, for this chapter, yes. However, the next chapter contains more laws about slaves, violence, and property. Join me won’t you?

Exodus Chapters 17, 18, & 19

Chapter 17

As we read in the previous chapter, the Israelites complained about not having enough to eat, so God gave them manna from heaven. This time, they’re whining that they don’t enough water to drink. Moses is afraid that they’re going to stone him to death, so God commands him to take his staff and hit the Rock of Horeb and water will come out of it. So he does it and sure enough, water came forth. The Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord and wondered if he was with them.

Then we get the story where Amalek came and fought with Israel. So Joshua was told to choose some men to go out and fight while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up on the hill and as long as Moses raised his arms, the Israelites would be winning, but if his arms dropped, then Amalek would start winning. Eventually, Moses got tired, and so Aaron and Hur each held up an arm, which to me sounds like cheating.

14Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a reminder in a book and recite it in the hearing of Joshua: I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 164). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

If you write down a person’s name in a book that you intend to blot out of remembrance, are you actually doing just that? This makes no sense.

Chapter 18

So apparently Moses sent his wife and kids back to her father, Jethro (pictured), but now sent word that he was coming to see him and bringing his wife and kids. They met up, Moses told him all that had happened, and they made burnt offerings, and ate bread.

The next day, Moses sat as judge for the people to settle their disputes, but Jethro convinced him to created a municipal court system where judges would be appointed to settle lesser disputes. That’s it. That’s the chapter. It’s a lot of words for not a lot of substance.

Chapter 19

After three months, the Israelites came to Mount Sinai and the Lord told Moses to tell the people, paraphrasing here, “obey God.” God also tells Moses that he will appear as a dense cloud so that the people could hear what Moses is being told so that they will trust him.

So God tells Moses to tell the people not to go up the mountain or even touch the edge of it or else they will be stoned (not in the good way) or shot with arrows (also, not in the good way). They were to wash their clothes and prepare for the third day, and not go near a woman. Of course, if the person in question is a woman, that would be difficult to do.

God appeared as a pillar of smoke and descended on the mountain as he said would and Moses introduced Israel to God. Then God summoned him up the mountain and told him to go down and tell the people to stay off the mountain. Moses had to be in spectacular shape from going up and down the mountain so many times. Moses was told to go down the mountain and bring Aaron up, again, telling the people not to come up.

Ask Me Anything

I am taking a much needed break from posting this weekend. The flood of news along with a busy life right now between work and an Oktoberfest or two each weekend has my mind so foggy right now.

As the title says, I am welcoming questions from you. Ask me about this project, or my beliefs, or about me personally. I’ll do my best to answer in an upcoming Saturday Sermon. Mind you, getting too personal will result in a smart-assed answer. So what have you? Leave your questions in the comments and if you haven’t commented before, it will have to be approved.

Exodus Chapters 14, 15, & 16

Chapter 14

We now come to the crossing of the Red Sea. God tell Moses where to camp so that it looks to Pharaoh like they’re wandering aimlessly. Then God decides that he is going to…oh here, read for yourself.

4I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, so that I will gain glory for myself over Pharaoh and all his army; and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. And they did so.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 157). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

At this point, God just looks like he has two pawns that he is playing against each other. This is not a good and just God. This is pure evil in any context. He is going to drown the entire army of Egypt because he hardened their hearts.

Moses stretched out his over the sea and it parted so that there was land for the Israelites to walk on and cross to the other side. Of course, the Egyptian army chased after them and God told Moses to once again stretch out his hand over the sea so that the waters would close up around the Egyptian army and drown them all.

30Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 159). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

The Lord made the Egyptians chase after the Israelites in the first place so that he could prove his manliness as a God. He also killed a lot of men and horses. The God of Exodus is a monster.

Chapter 15

The first part is song of praise to God for drowning the chariot drivers and their horses. It’s also a recounting of the events of the last chapter with no mention of Pharaoh’s hardened heart.  Then the prophet Miriam (Aaron’s sister) joined in to celebrate the deaths of horses and riders.

They ended up in Marah, which means bitterness, and they could not drink the water because it was, you guessed it, bitter. So Moses cried out to God who gave him a piece of wood and he threw it into the water and that bitterness cleared right up.

Finally, God tells his people that they won’t catch any of the diseases that the Egyptians caught if the listen to him and heed his commandments. This is the God that heals them. They camped a lovely oasis with twelve springs and seventy palm trees.

Chapter 16

This is a long story about bread with a lot of repetition. Anyway, it’s a test by God to see how well the Israelites follow directions. Each morning, God will provide the Israelites bread and they have to gather enough for the day for their families, no more, no less. They are not to keep the bread until the following morning. Some do just that and it bred worms (I see what they did there) and was inedible. So, they learned their lesson and collected and ate the bread in the same day.

On the sixth day, they were told to gather twice the amount of bread, which they did. They were told this time to save half for the following morning, which they did. This time the bread did not grow worms and go bad. The seventh morning, they went out to gather bread and found none and God got upset because they weren’t keeping the Sabbath. Aaron placed a portion before God as an offering to kept for generations.

Exodus Chapters 11, 12, & 13

Chapters 11 & 12

Chapter 11 is the warning to Pharaoh of what is to come because he has not let the people of Israel go. God will go throughout Egypt and kill the firstborn son of every Egyptian from Pharaoh to slave and of every animal.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (that phrase is pretty common throughout this series of chapters) and blamed Pharaoh for not letting the Israelites go. That to me is a moral monster, honestly. I’ve gone on about it enough, so I’ll be quiet now.

Chapter 12 starts off with a paragraph and a half about how to pick a lamb, use its blood to mark the door posts, prepare the lamb, and eat the lamb. Basically, each household will eat their lamb in one night, leaving none for morning.

The blood is a signal to God that his people live in that house because he is going to go throughout the land of Egypt and kill the firstborn of Egypt. He also gives Moses and Aaron the rest of the instructions for the Passover. On the first day, all yeast (leavening) is to be removed from their homes and they are only to eat unleavened bread for the seven days of the observance. This is followed by Moses explaining all of it to the Israelites.

So God did exactly as he said he would do. He went throughout Egypt and killed the firstborn Pharaoh’s son because he’s creeping death, apparently (Metallica reference). He also killed everyone’s firstborn and everything’s firstborn, because it’s the cattle’s fault if they didn’t know to put lamb’s blood on their stable doors. I do wonder if the sheep and goats were spared since they likely already lost their firstborn to the Israelites.

Finally for the third time in Exodus, Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron to take the Israelites and leave. This time, God doesn’t harden his heart and instead, makes the Egyptians see favor in the Israelites which allows the Israelites to plunder them. Then the Israelites went from Rameses to Succoth on foot carrying unleavened bread, and taking they livestock with them.

Finally, God gives Moses the instructions for Passover. A lot of this involves circumcision of slaves if they are to eat of the feast. Also, any alien who wants to eat the feast must also be circumcised.

Chapter 13

God tells Moses to consecrate to him all of the firstborn of the Israelites and their animals (more on that later). As it turns out he’s not all about the human sacrifice.

We then get more about unleavened bread because I guess God doesn’t like yeast or something. I do know that there is a lot more about this in the Talmud, but I’m not reading it. However, I have no problem looking for further explanation wherever I can find it. The Oxford commentary isn’t much help here.

We come to the explanation of the consecration of the firstborn, and instead of sacrificing the firstborn of the Israelite people, they will be redeemed.

15When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from human firstborn to the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD every male that first opens the womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 156). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I’m not saying a word about Pharaoh and his hardened heart…

OK, so God led the Israelites out of Egypt, but not through the land of the Philistines because he didn’t want them to experience war or else they might return to Egypt. Instead he led them to the Red Sea. Egypt was preparing for battle (I assume with the Israelites despite having their hearts softened so that they would help them out). Moses was carrying the bones of Joseph (oh, right, I forgot about that) because he made them promise to bury him with this father when God led them out of Egypt. God led the Israelites as a pillar of clouds by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Refuting Apologetics

The following article crossed my Twitter feed the other day, “How Understanding Divine Omniscience Helps Anxiety“. It is from the website, Cross Examined which is a Christian apologetics website run by Dr. Frank Turek. This article was written by Brian Chilton for his own apologetics blog.

The first part of the article is an introduction to the author’s point of view, his theology studies, and the fact that he suffers from anxiety. I’m not making any comment on that since I know folks who also suffer from anxiety. He also does the common apologist thing of breaking down and defining a big word. In this case, it’s Omniscience. It means “all-knowing” so now you know. So apparently, knowing that God is all-knowing can help people handle anxiety in three areas. That’s what I’m critiquing, but I’m doing them out of order.

1. Anxiety lessens with God’s knowledge of events in time.

Um, what? The author says, “However, when a person couples God’s knowledge of what will happen along with God’s goodness and love, then anxiety should fade into the divine arms of God.” First of all, I am going to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that he’s talking about acute anxiety and not chronic anxiety. That said, it still doesn’t matter who knows the outcome. If I don’t and if I can’t get the answer, especially if it’s a health-related issue, no amount of fantasizing about God’s knowledge is going to help.

I’m skipping #2 for a moment. I’ll get back to it.

3. Anxiety lessens with God’s knowledge of purpose.

According to the author and pretty much every apologist out there, God has a specific purpose for each one of us. That purpose happens to be what I ultimately end up doing that makes me happy. Was that God’s purpose for me? I don’t know and I won’t know. This is the equivalent of writing my purpose down, locking it in a safe with a four number, 1-100 combination lock, then encasing that safe in a four-foot thick concrete block, and launching it into space. I might as well decide what I want to do with my life and be happy.

OK, on to #2.

2. Anxiety lessens with God’s knowledge of injustices.

I remember back years ago when I was in elementary school and getting teased and harassed because I was a big kid with ridiculous hair. I would lay in bed at night and fantasize about being a superhero type and kicking those kids’ asses or some great justice being rained down upon them as a sort of schadenfreude. Of course, I wasn’t a superhero and there was no supernatural force that would teach them a lesson, so I would have to face down the same misery the following day. This is basically what the author wants us to do about things worse just being made fun of. He wants to look at the injustice in the world and just say, “God will sort it out.” He’s telling his readers to bury their heads in the sand because a supernatural force, at some unknown time and place, will correct everything.

Ignoring injustice and imagining that a supernatural being will take care of it without actually doing something is juvenile at best. And I’m talking about actual injustice as opposed to mask mandates and vaccine passports (rules designed to keep people safe and healthy are not injustices). I’m talking about subjugation of women, the disproportionate killing of minorities, the marginalization of the LGBTQ+, and religious persecution of minority faiths* among other injustices too numerous to be named here. These are things that can be defeated with a concerted effort by those of us who are willing to stand up for these people and for what we believe in. I’m not willing to wait for a day that will never come when God will sort out the bad guys from the good guys. We need to take action by donating time and money to groups who will take up these causes, by voting for candidates who will fight for everybody and not just their big-money donors, and by holding those elected officials accountable. If you are like me and disproportionately privileged because of your race, color, and gender, then get out there and stand up for everyone. But wear a mask because there is a still a pandemic happening.

*NOTE: I’m not talking about religious types who claim to be persecuted because they can’t persecute others.