Exodus Chapters 33 through 40

Chapter 33

God tells Moses to pack up and leave Sinai and head into the land of Canaan. God would send an angel ahead to drive out all of the people already living there since he promised this land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, he tells Moses that he will not go with them because the Israelites are a “stiff-necked” people. That is, I learned, stubborn. The people were really upset to hear such harsh language about themselves, so they didn’t get all dressed up with their ornaments.

Moses had set his tent up outside of the camp and God would visit him there in a whirlwind and they would talk face to face as friends. The people would bow to the whirlwind when it appeared. Anyway, Moses expresses disappointment that God will not go with them to the land of Canaan and tries to talk him into it. Lo and behold, God can once again be bargained with and he agrees to go with them. However, nobody could see God’s face and live. That’s it, that’s the bargain.

Chapter 34

I’m calling this the last chapter of any substance and it is quite interesting as we will soon find out. I’m calling this an egregious retconning of the commandments. God tells Moses to cut two stone tablets and God shall write upon them what was written on the first set. However (I use that word a lot in this book), as we will see, the commandments are nothing like the previous set. First though, God has to make his presence known, I guess.

6The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 197). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Is it wrong of me to laugh at that, “slow to anger” line? Who flooded the globe again?

Moses is told not to make a covenant with any of the inhabitants of Canaan and to destroy their altars and pillars and cut down their sacred poles. That’s because they are not to worship any other gods because God is Jealous.

Do not make cast idols. Keep the festival of unleavened bread. All firstborn males of livestock, animals, and people belong to God and shall be redeemed. No one shall appear before God without an offering. Remember the sabbath. Observe the festival of weeks. Three times per year, all males will appear before God. Apparently God really hates yeast because the blood of sacrifice will not touch leavening. The best of the first fruits of the harvest will be given to God. And most importantly, no boiling a baby goat in its mother’s milk.

So once Moses wrote this all down, he came down…wait a second…I though they left Sinai, but he was back up there again. Anyway, he came down and apparently his face was shining. So he put a veil over his face unless he was speaking with God.

Chapters 35 through 40

The last six chapters are simply carrying out the instructions given in Chapters 25 through 31. It’s the building of the altar, the tabernacle, the making of the priestly vestments, the assigning of the priests, and the building of the Ark Of The Covenant. I skimmed through it to see if there was anything of interest, nope, not to me there isn’t.

I’m sure in Jewish traditions this is all very interesting and has some historical context and stuff, but for the purposes of this reading, I’m not going to bother. I’m actually more interested in the narrative stories and some of the more well-known laws.

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.

Genesis Chapters 23, 24, & 25

Chapter 23

Sarah’s death and burial could have been summed up in a few sentences and maybe a eulogy for her, but it’s all about Abraham trying to buy a field from the Hittites, where he lived as an alien. They offer him any land that he wants, so he asks for Ephron son of Zohar so he could get the sweet spot with a cave. Ephron gives it to him, but it sounds like an argument because Abraham insists on paying for it. They strike a deal and Abraham has himself a cave.

Judging by the translation, this story was a poem or a song in the original Hebrew. That explains the peculiar structure and the refrain of many of the lines. I still stand by my assertion that something should have been said about Sarah.

Chapter 24

Abraham is old. He makes his servant swear an oath that he will find Isaac a wife, but he can’t find the bride-to-be in the land of Canaan. Instead, he must venture back to Abraham’s homeland. The servant traveled there, came up with the contrived criteria that would determine the correct woman, Rebekah fit said criteria, he put a (nose) ring on it, paid off her family and she went with him. She met Isaac for the first time, they went into his mother’s tent, yada yada yada, they’re married.

I glossed over the story because it’s a lot of filler and repetition. The servant states his plan, then the plan work out perfectly, and then he recounts the plan and the outcome to her family. This is either bad writing or another poem/song.

The details leading up to this include the servant swearing an oath to Abraham which ends with the servant putting his hand “under Abraham’s thigh” which means “touched his junk” which is the way oaths were sworn. According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, this would be the equivalent of swearing one’s life. I just hope that biblical literalists don’t want to bring this tradition back.

This is the longest chapter in Genesis and is also the influence for the start of a new series of Saturday Sermons about “biblical marriage”. I won’t talk much about it here except to comment that the Bible will never be accused of being a romance novel.

Chapter 25

Abraham marries [takes] another wife and has six more boys and probably an untold number of girls which, naturally, is not talked about. He gave everything he had to Isaac and gave the other kids gifts and sent them to the east away from Isaac.

Abraham dies at the age of one hundred seventy-five and Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave that he bought at the beginning of this post. God blessed Isaac and then we get a genealogy of Ishmael, because those are thrilling to read.

Apparently, God can’t point in the general direction of a woman who isn’t barren and requires divine intervention. Anyway, Rebekah gets pregnant with twins and is told that she has two nations in her womb (that can’t be pleasant) and that the older one will serve the younger. Esau was born first and came out all hairy while Jacob followed on his heel (he was gripping Esau’s heel when he was born). Esau, who Isaac loved, was a hunter while Jacob, who Rebekah loved, was the quiet type. I really hope that the parents loved the other boy as well, because that would be poor parenting.

So one day, Esau was out hunting and came home to find Jacob cooking and sold his birthright for a bowl of stew in one of the most anticlimactic scenes so far:

Esau: I’m hungry, give me some stew.

Jacob: Sell me your birthright.

Esau: I’m really hungry…okay.

…and scene. We are now halfway through the book of Genesis.

Genesis Chapters 12, 13, & 14

Chapter 12

Abram, his wife, Sarai, and his nephew Lot set off for land that God will show him. This is so that God could make Abram a great nation. They end up in the land of Shechem, which God says that he will give to Abram’s offspring, despite the fact that people are living in this land right now. So, Abram did what you do when land is promised to your offspring, he built and altar. Then he moved on and built another altar where he slept for the night.

Abram and Sarai go into Egypt because of a famine in the land. Because she is very beautiful, Pharaoh will want her for himself, so he will have Abram killed. They tell a little, white lie that Sarai is his sister so that Abram will live. Pharaoh, it seems, buys Sarai off of Abram for slaves and livestock.

God takes exception to this despite the fact that Abram came up with the scheme to save his own skin. Pharaoh has plagues visited upon him for taking Sarai as his wife. So he gives her back and lets them leave with everything Abram was given for Sarai.

Wait. Where was Lot this whole time?

Chapter 13

Oh, here’s Lot. Where have you been? We get no explanation, but it seems he’s got some property now. Abram also has a lot of sheep and shekels, so the land wasn’t big enough for the two of them. So they decide to part ways and Lot goes to the cities of the Plain and settles in Sodom. There’s a spoiler right before this, “…this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.” It goes on to states, “The people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” Obviously we will be returning there in a few chapters.

Meanwhile, Abram settles in the land of Canaan and God tells him to look around him and then reiterates his promise that he will give all of the land he sees to Abram and his offspring. Abram is commanded by God to walk all around his newly gained land and then, once again, he builds an altar to God (he builds a lot of altars).

10 Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the LORD had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen 13: 10, p. 48). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Spoilers! Yes, this story was written down after the event of a few chapters from now when Lot and his wife flee the cities stated at the end of the verse above. Lot moved as far as Sodom…and we know/will know how that turns out.

Chapter 14

This is the story of Lot’s capture and rescue, except that a majority of this short chapter is spent talking about the kings of the Dead Sea valley, including those of Sodom and Gomorrah, than it is about the capture and rescue of Lot. When we finally do get to the capture of Lot, it’s almost stated as an afterthought.

11 So the enemy took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way; 12 they also took Lot, the son of Abram’s brother, who lived in Sodom, and his goods, and departed.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen 14:11-12, p. 49). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Somebody escapes and tells Abram what happened. Finally, the author simply refers to Lot as Abram’s nephew instead of, “the son of Abram’s brother.” OK, I’m nitpicking, but I feel like this book could be a third shorter if the authors had written in simpler language, but I digress.

So after finding out about Lot’s kidnapping, he gathered together an army of three hundred eighteen and attacked at night and drove the rivals north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the stuff that was taken…oh, and his nephew, Lot. It seems like Lot is chopped liver here.

Abram received the blessing of Melchizedek and Abram gave him ten percent of everything. The King of Sodom offered Abram all the goods, but not the people. But Abram took only the men he brought with him because he did not want people to think that the king made him rich.

This story is the origin of tithing in the Jewish tradition as Abram gave ten percent of the spoils of war to the king. Also, twice in this chapter there is mention of Bela which is followed parenthetically by it’s other name. All I could think is, “There is no Bela, only Zoar.” (That’s a Ghostbusters reference. It’s okay if you didn’t find it funny.)

Genesis Chapters 9 and 10

Chapter 9

God tells Noah that all animals will now fear humans (and boy do they ever), but you shouldn’t eat and animal that is still alive. There’s also some eye for an eye stuff in the form of,

6Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (Gen 9:6, p. 42). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

We get more repetition from Genesis 8 that God will never again destroy the entire earth with a flood. So he’s saying that he may destroy the earth again, but it will be in some other way? He seals the deal with a rainbow. Except, he says that the rainbow is to remind him not to destroy the world a flood again.

Verse 18 makes it sound like we might expect some other sons to leave the ark as we are, once again, reminded of their names. Noah somehow, in some unspecified amount of time, plants a vineyard, grows the grapes, picks them, ferments them, and gets drunk on the wine laying naked in his tent. His son Ham, who we are reminded time and time again is the father of Canaan, walks in on this and goes to tell his brothers who walk backward with a cloak to cover the old man.

When Noah awakens, he somehow knows that Ham saw him nekkid and curses Canaan and asks God to bless his other two sons and make Canaan their slave. This story seems completely unrelated to the rest of the flood narrative. I’m just glad it’s over now.

Chapter 10

This is the Table of Nations which explains how all the nations of the world were descended from Ham, Shem, and Japheth. As it turns out, shockingly, Ham is the father of Canaan <–#END SARCASM–> and Egypt. Here’s another problem for young earth creationists, if the flood happened anytime between 2430 and 2475 BCE (there are at least three different creationist groups that claim a different year for the flood), Egypt’s history goes back to 3100 BCE and there is no mention of global flood. Wouldn’t that be notable? Wouldn’t one of Ham’s relatives have written, “…where were we before all that flooding?”

As I mentioned in an earlier chapter, there were plenty of cultures that were well-established before the supposed Beginning which, according to James Ussher, took place in October 4004 BCE. None of them write about a global flood around the same time. Sure, they had floods, but that is the peril of living next to a river as most civilizations did.

One other thing, because I’m me, I have to chuckle at the name Nimrod. That is all.