Friday, September 4, 2009

God According to Exodus

The detailed studies of the Book of Exodus are done for now. It is time to review the highlights and considered what we have learned about the true nature of God.

God According to Exodus
Back in Genesis, God had made a covenant of “blessing” with Abraham, part of which was that his descendants would be oppressively enslaved for 400 years, while the sin of the Amorites reaches its full potential, and then would be led out of slavery with great riches. Early in the book of Exodus 400+ years have come to pass. God was not moved into action right at 400 years, nor was He moved by the Amorites becoming totally sinful. Instead it seems that God had to be reminded of His promise by hearing the groaning of the Hebrew slaves before taking action. Their slavery did not bother God until that time, maybe because it was God that caused their slavery in the beginning. When God does get concerned, He selects a fugitive murderer, Moses, to lead the Israelites out of slavery.

In burning bush form, God tries to convince Moses to become the on-earth leader of the Israelites for the upcoming Exodus from Egyptian slavery. Despite having created Moses, knowing everything about Moses since his birth, knowing historically the way that humans behave under all sorts of circumstances, and knowing perfectly all of the past, present, and future, and despite choosing the exact course of the conversation, God gets impatiently angry with the reluctance that Moses exhibits. Moses does not even commit after God reminds him that God is the one that makes people blind, deaf, or mute, and visa versa. Eventually, Moses does agree to go on with God's plan, after He changes it to be more palatable.

God gives Moses a teaser of what was to happen: Moses would perform some miracles and ask the Pharaoh to let the Israelites go worship God, but God would harden the Pharaoh's heart so that he would not let the Israelites go. Then God would punish the Pharaoh for not letting the Israelites go by killing his innocent firstborn son. God's planned beastly spectacle of power shows no evidence of love, forgiveness, mercy, or justice, but the actual story of events leading up to the Exodus would be much worse.

When God was about to kill either Moses or his son, Gershom, for not having Gershom circumcised, Moses's wife, Zipporah, cuts off Gershom's foreskin to prevent the murder. If God was going to kill Gershom, it speaks of willingness to punish, or in this case kill, the innocent to punish sinners and a reduced sense of value of the life of children. If God was going to kill Moses, it speaks of a lack of omniscience and a malleable master Plan. God chose to have this dramatic confrontation instead of simply reminding Moses to circumcise his son.

After Moses and his brother, Aaron, confronted the Pharaoh the first time, the Pharaoh increased the burden of the Israelites. This prompts Moses to question God's Plan. God tells Moses that His Plan for Redemption is to bring the Israelites from Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land with mighty acts of judgement. Furthermore, God will harden the Pharaoh's heart to prevent his repentance, presumably to justify God's acts of judgement. So much for mercy, forgiveness, and free will.

God begins to plague Egypt for the Pharaoh's refusal to let the Israelites worship. The Pharaoh's magicians can inexplicably copy the first two plagues, but fail to do so on the third. It is not until the fourth plague that God thinks to spare the Israelites from the plague effects.

God kills all of the Egyptian livestock, then afflicts Egyptian people, pets, and wild animals with painful boils, and then kills all of the Egyptian livestock, slaves, and people who were still outside during a terrible hailstorm. (Yes, it appears that some Egyptian livestock were killed twice.) From the sixth plague on, God is explicitly hardening the Pharaoh's heart, thereby making a mockery of free will and repentance.

By the time the eighth plague rolls around, God tells Moses that the reason He is plaguing the Egyptians is so that stories can be told to later generations about how harshly He dealt with the Egyptians.

By the time of the tenth plague, it is clear that things are not going exactly according to the original plans. God decides that the plague will not just kill the Pharaoh's firstborn son, but also all of the Egyptian firstborn sons, all of the firstborn sons of the non-Israelite Egyptian slaves, and all of the Egyptian firstborn male livestock. (Yes, it appears some livestock were killed a third time!) For the God-forced stubbornness of the Pharaoh, many innocent people and animals suffered and died in God's wrath. After the killing was done, God has the Israelites pillage the Egyptians as they begin the actual Exodus.

Not content with leaving the Egyptians without a massive slave population they have counted on for hundreds of years, without livestock, without their firstborn sons, and wallowing in the various corpses of the plague carnage, God goes on to add insult to injury. Well, actually add injury to injury. God manipulates the Pharaoh's free will again to lure the Egyptian army into the middle of the parted sea where God then drowns them all. Now the Egyptians are utterly defenseless as well.

After drowning the army, God leads the Israelites through the desert. Contrary to being eager to supply the essential needs of His Chosen People, God does not provide them with any water for the journey for 3 days, and then only after the Israelites complain of thirst.

Eventually, God gives the Israelites rules to live by. They included the popular version of the Ten Commandments, which are associated with some rather excessive punishments. They also included rules about slaves and Hebrew servants, which collectively suggest a sexual role for female maidservant and that slaves and servants were worth less than free men in terms of their value as people. Furthermore, because God gave rules that regulate as opposed to prohibiting slavery, God implicitly approves of slavery.

Most of the rules were merciful when appropriate, but just; what you would expect from a loving, fair, and omniscient God. But some of these commandments really leave you wondering. Besides the slavery and inequality mentioned above, there was also an absolute intolerance to witches and those which worshiped other gods. Also, God demanded that the firstborn sons be redeemed to Him, only to later supersede that rule, thereby challenging His own Plan and omniscience.

In the process of God and the Israelites promising each other devotion, replete with burnt offerings blood sprinkling, we learn that God only wants the men to appear before him three times a year and that He controls all sickness, miscarriages, and infertility. In the closing ceremony, 70+ people see God standing on blue crystals, and God graciously decides not to kill them even though they have seen Him.

When discussing the rules for priests, we discover that God would kill His priests for something as trivial as having the wrong underwear or forgetting to wear bells.

Later when a census is desired, we find that God sometimes accepts cold, hard cash for atonement; no blood required. This atonement is only extended to men, who are the only ones counted in the census.

God gets so angry when the Israelites begin worshiping a golden calf that He wants to kill them all. It's up to Moses to calm God down. Then Moses then destroyed the original stone tablets in front of the Israelites in an angry fit. So God has Moses hang out again while new tablets are inscribed upon, but not before God brags about how He is slow to anger (which is yet to be proven) and how He is just in punishing the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of the wicked. When the stone tablets are done, we find that the true Biblical Ten Commandments all have to do with honoring God as opposed to dictating a master ethical code.

In the final chapter of Exodus, we see the Tabernacle constructed in a manner which keeps people separated from God. The most sacred stone tablets containing the Biblical Ten Commandments are put inside the Ark of the Covenant, which is then put in the Holy of Holies which, under normal circumstances, nobody but the High Priest can enter once a year. While God will be with the Israelites, it is clear that He does not want to spend much time with any one of them. And furthermore, God wants to hide the proof of the Covenant from everyone, which yields the curious question of why the stone tablets were made at all.

What We've Learned
God sometimes must be reminded to care and to keep His promises.

God is the one that makes people blind, deaf, or mute. God also controls all sickness, miscarriages, and infertility. God may at times neglect even the basic needs of His people, like water.

God would have killed either Moses or his son for not circumcising his son, which either shows a lack of an omniscient master Plan or shows a willingness to kill innocent children.

God does have a plan of Redemption and Judgement, but it has nothing to do with an eternal afterlife reward.

God will take control over free will at His whim. God toys with the Egyptian nation like a beast, like a cat toying with a mouse, showing no desire for repentant converts, and actually wants children to be told about how harshly He treated the Egyptians, a harshness which even extended to the innocent non-Israelite Egyptian slaves.

God's laws, while mostly good, are sullied by some extreme punishments, inequality, slavery, absolute intolerance, and even a lack of planning and omniscience in some laws which He would soon supersede. God will kill you for not dressing the way that He wants you dressed. God is also proud of His brand of justice, which involves punishing generations yet to come for the sins of their forefathers. God's top Ten Commandments are about honoring Him, not behaving ethically.

God is proud of characteristics He thinks He has, despite all evidence to the contrary.

God is impatient despite omniscience. God repented bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and wanted to kill them all.

In short: God is a forgetful, cruel, non-egalitarian, megalomaniacal beast, wielding absolute power according to His desires, and not according to perfect code of ethics.

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