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.

Exodus Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3

Before we get to the main attraction in this chapter, I immediately notice that Moses’ father-in-law in the previous chapter is named Reuel, but in this chapter goes by Jethro. According to the Oxford Bible Commentary, he probably did not have a name in this tradition and different authors probably used different sources and inspirations. This also tells me that there is no possible way that Moses wrote this book because that would mean that he couldn’t keep his father-in-law’s name straight. Anyway, on to the rest of the story.

While Moses was out tending his father-in-law’s flock, he came to Mount Horeb and he saw the bush burning, but noticed that was not consumed by the fire. He likely inhaled deeply and heard the voice of God, as you do. Long story short, God recounts the misery of the Israelites and wants Moses to deliver them to the promised land, or rather, the land of milk and honey. God states that the cry of the Israelites has come to him, as if he didn’t already see this coming to the point that he mentioned it back in Genesis.

Moses asks God what he should say to the Israelites that will convince them that he was truly sent, then he asks for God’s name. It turns out to be the most anticlimactic reveal, “I am who I am.” Moses must tell the Israelites that I AM sent him and they will believe him. He tell him to go to them and then repeats all of the stuff he said earlier. He then says that Pharaoh will not let them go (I wonder why) and that he will stretch out his mighty hand and perform all the wonders, and after that Pharaoh will let them go and they will plunder Egypt.

So Pharaoh won’t let them go until after God performs his magic tricks for the Egyptians. It sounds like God is just showing off. I mean, save something in case they try to keep them from leaving.

Chapter 4

Moses isn’t very confident. I mean, he’s no Charlton Heston here. God teaches him some magic tricks like turning a staff into a snake and pulling a leprous hand out of his cloak. The latter is sure to be a hit at kids’ parties. After Moses masters these tricks God tells him more of what they’ll be doing.

8“If they will not believe you or heed the first sign, they may believe the second sign. 9If they will not believe even these two signs or heed you, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 138). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

You don’t know how much I was hoping that it wouldn’t go through another progression like the bargaining on the way to Sodom. “If they don’t believe the first three signs…, the first four signs, etc. etc.” I’m glad that it wasn’t taken all the way out to the seven plagues.

Once again, Moses tries to get out of it by saying that he’s not a good public speaker. God gets angry and tells him that he will speak through Moses, but Moses asks him to send someone else. So God decides to send Moses and his brother Aaron.

Moses returns to his father-in-law, whose name is still Jethro at this point, and asks to return to return to Egypt to see if his people are still alive. He loaded up his family on a donkey and took his staff and went back to Egypt.

21And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 139). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Uhhh, what? Why? Is this just so that God can show off his superpowers? God wants his people out of Egypt and in the promised land. In order to carry this out, he is going to make Pharaoh NOT want to let them go so that God can perform a magic show. Dear lord, Jason is right, why am I putting myself through this torture?

This is, according to the Oxford Commentary and I agree, disjointed:

24On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the LORD met him and tried to kill him. 25But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” 26So he let him alone. It was then she said, “A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.”

Bibles, Harper . NRSV Bible with the Apocrypha (p. 139). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

I have no idea what is going on here, but accord the commentary, “feet” is a euphemism for “penis” (don’t ask, I just read the commentary). According to the commentary, this is maybe an origin tale of circumcision, but even in the commentary doesn’t know. I may have to ask a rabbinical scholar.

Aaron was sent to meet Moses out in the wilderness to go over the game plan. They gathered the elders and Aaron spoke to the elders while Moses did his tricks. It was a regular Penn and Teller act.