Humm … ok so … what rating did I give Genesis again? A 2/10 huh? I just finished Exodus … and uhh … wow. The craziness in Exodus makes the craziness in Genesis look like a stroll in the park on a nice spring day. Exodus is where all those 10 plagues happen, after all. How can that NOT be insane?? It is certainly insane, let me tell you. In more ways than one.
I’m trying to figure out how to organize this review, because this book could basically be broken down into two main parts:
- Part 1: Moses is born and grows up and eventually he and God lead the Israelites out of Egypt.
- Part 2: Moses and the Israelites are kickin’ it in the wilderness after escaping from Egypt, and God gives them all those commandments.
I think I will break this review up into these two parts for my “pros and cons” lists, because there is a LOT of stuff to cover here; it could get unwieldy otherwise. Let’s start off with Part 1 first:
Part I: Intro of Moses and the Escape from Egypt
O.k. so, what happens in these chapters? Here’s the long story made very very short: It’s been a couple/few generations since the time of Joseph and the Pharaoh who was nice to the Israelites, and now the Israelites are enslaved in Egypt by the new/current Pharaoh, because the Israelites have multiplied in numbers and apparently the Egyptians are feeling threatened and annoyed by them. Moses is born, he’s set afloat in the basket on the Nile, he’s discovered by Pharaoh’s daughter, adopted, raised as an Egyptian, grows up, sees the burning bush where God tells him to help the Israelites escape from enslavement in Egypt, goes through the orchestrated rigmarole of the 10 plagues in Egypt just for (God’s) shits and giggles, Israelites finally escape, Moses parts the sea, they lose the Egyptians from their path, and everything is hunky dory (for the Israelites anyway – it’s pretty shitty for everyone else).
So what did I like and what did I not like? Let’s get right to that.
What I Liked:
- During the time that the Egyptians are first starting to enslave the Israelites, the king of Egypt tells these two Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah, that they need to start killing all the boy Hebrew babies. The midwives end up deciding not to carry out this evil deed, because well, I mean what kind of monster could do that, really? (God can, but I’ll get to that later). When the king gets pissed and confronts them about it, they lie about it and say that the Hebrew women are “vigorous” and they give birth before the midwives even arrive … lol. So God rewards them with families of their own. Although they’ve broken a commandment by lying, which is contradictory to those 10 little commandments that come up later on in Exodus. But at the very least … we do get a specific example of something that someone does that is
considered to be “good” … and shockingly, it’s two WOMEN who get to do the good thing here. Rather than just running around and causing trouble like they did the entire time in Genesis.
- Umm let’s see … I did like that the Egyptian King’s daughter rescued Moses from the basket when she found him in the river and that she raised him, rather than just letting him die (as her father had commanded for all the Israelite boys – to throw them in the Nile to die). Another shocking example of a woman getting to do something good (though of course she’s just causing trouble for her father).
Yeah … I hate to say it but that’s pretty much it as far as anything good or admirable that happens in this first half of Exodus. Because most of these 18 or 19 chapters are filled with murder and mayhem of the highest order. Which, granted, is entertaining as hell, but it’s not exactly teaching me any good life lessons. Let’s get to that next.
What I Didn’t Like:
Remember in my review of Genesis, when I described God as violent (even murderous), inconsistent, insecure, and misogynistic? Well, in Exodus, he graduates from those qualities into full blown maniac … a complete psychotic lunatic on the loose. In Genesis, he kills people because he feels that he simply “must” … for the betterment of society. However, in Exodus, it seems as if he actually starts to take PLEASURE in it. You know how sometimes a carnivorous animal will catch their prey and then play around with it for several minutes, before killing it, seemingly just for a sick version of fun that they somehow gain from torturing the poor thing? Well, that is God, in Exodus. Think I’m exaggerating? Read on, and when we get to the story of the 10 plagues, you’ll see what I mean.
But first off, let’s start with Moses. The very first thing that the Bible describes Moses doing as an adult is killing someone. Remember as mentioned earlier that he is raised as an Egyptian by the king’s daughter, so he manages to escape enslavement, unlike all his fellow Israelites. But one day, as an adult, he witnesses an Egyptian hitting and abusing his Hebrew slave. So he gets pissed, and what does he do? He looks all around to make sure no one is watching, and he kills the Egyptian dude. Then he buries his body in the sand. I mean look, I’m not saying I blame the guy for being pissed or even for feeling the need to physically intervene in the situation, but certainly God would not condone him KILLING the guy, would he?? Especially since later on in Exodus he gives that little “thou shalt not kill” commandment?? Well, no. God never says one word about this at all. Granted, there are two Hebrew men who end up witnessing it and one of them tells Moses that he had no right to do such a thing. But is that also what God thinks? The only purpose this short passage seems to serve is to show that Moses needs to escape from Egypt because people are finding out what he did, including the Pharoah. And instead of offering up any opinion/punishment on the matter to Moses, God finds Moses to be a wise choice to lead all his people out of Egypt and to basically become his “right hand man”. The Andy Richter to God’s Conan O’Brien, if you will. So … yeah. The only lesson that we get out of this is – do what you gotta do and move on … as long as you don’t get caught … it’s all good, bro.
Now, moving onto the next bit of “things I didn’t like,” you might be wondering how I could NOT list the story of God saving the Israelites from slavery in Egypt as a good thing, in my “Things I Liked” section. Well, that’s because of how he goes about this … it is pretty much insane and psychotic in every sense of the word. God sends Moses and his brother Aaron back to Egypt to prove to both the Israelites and the Pharaoh that he has been sent by God … with some “miracles” up their sleeves. God gives them a staff that they can magically turn into a snake. He also gives them the power that each of them can put their hand into their cloak and then when they pull it out, it’s all leprous, but then they can magically turn it normal again. Oh and they can also turn the water from the Nile into blood. Creepy. They are supposed to use these powers to convince the Hebrews that they should follow them out of Egypt, and also to convince the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go free from slavery and worship their God and everything. BUT!! Here is the kicker: God tells Moses/Aaron that he’s going to PURPOSELY “harden the Pharaoh’s heart” so that he will NOT listen to them. Why is that??
Well pretty soon we find out that he is doing this specifically so that he can “lay [his] hand upon Egypt” and basically show them who is boss. And not only do we eventually find out what he me means by this, but we have it pounded into our skulls over and over again throughout the next 10 or so chapters. It starts off with a magic competition between Moses/Aaron and the king’s magicians, which is pretty awesome/hilarious. I’ll talk a bit more about that later, but let’s just say that the Pharaoh is indeed NOT convinced by Moses and Aaron’s magic tricks. Even though the first plague is a result of one of them: Not only all the water in the Nile, but every drop of water in all of Egypt is turned to blood by Moses and Aaron. The people are starving to death with no water for 7 days, but the Pharaoh’s heart is still “hardened”, which God had said he would do on purpose. So the Pharaoh doesn’t budge, and to top it off, he keeps making life harder and harder for the slaves.
So then Moses/Aaron unleash the next plague: Frog infestation. After these two plagues, the Pharoah finally relents and says that he’ll let the Israelites go if Moses promises to clear up the two plagues. Moses agrees, and asks the Lord to clear everything up, and he does, but as soon as everything is clear again, what happens?
Pharaoh’s heart hardens RIGHT back up again. So God gets to gleefully throw out the next plague: Lice. Same story again, Pharaoh eventually cries uncle, promises to let the people go, God clears up all the lice, and then the Pharaoh is like, “Psych!! I’m not letting anyone go.” So, onto the next plague: Flies. Same cycle again. At this point it’s still a little confusing as to whether God is still purposely hardening the Pharaoh’s heart, or whether it’s all the Pharaoh’s own bad behavior. Next plague up: God kills ALL the Egyptian’s livestock. Man, it would really suck to be an animal in Bible times. They get screwed again and again by God’s craziness. Anyway so the cycle repeats yet again and then the next plague begins: Festering boils over all the Egyptians and all their animals (even though God already killed the animals in the previous plague). Now is the first time that it is made TOTALLY clear that it really is GOD who is hardening the Pharaoh’s heart on purpose every single time, like he said earlier that he was going to do: “But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.”
So now it is 100% clear that God is purposely torturing these people, JUST so that he can show off his mad skills. Does every single person in Egypt really deserve this?? Even the kids and babies and animals!!?? Now God is starting to really seem like a full blown psycho. Next plague: Hail. Now a lot of the Egyptians’ crops are destroyed too (and some of the animals again even though they’re already dead). Once again Pharaoh begs for it to stop and then God stops it, but then God hardens Pharaoh’s heart again. Now Locusts. Same story. Will this ever stop!!?? I was feeling like I was being tortured just from having to read this over and over again by this point. When is enough enough, God? Overkill, much?? Next up: Pitch black darkness for days. Then MORE heart-hardening.
So NOW we get to the real kicker: The 10th Plague: Here’s where God really loses his shit. How so, do you ask? Well, let me tell you. He MURDERS
the firstborn boy of every family in all of Egypt!!!! Including the ANIMAL babies even though he already killed all the animals like three times over in the previous plagues!! And that is what the lovely festival of Passover is all about, kiddies!: God tells the Israelites to all take a lamb and eat it, and to smear the blood on the sides and top of their doorframes, so that God knows to pass over (i.e. skip) their house when he goes around murdering all the firstborn kids, babies, and guys in all of Egypt!! Whee!!
Uggh, I am finding it just as exhausting to write this review as it was to read through this stuff to begin with, because this first half of Exodus is just SO dense with demented crap. So I am going to describe the last part of this story as concisely as possible: The Israelites fiiiinnally escape out of Egypt after the 10th plague, and at some point along their way, they need to cross over a sea. In the meantime, the Egyptians (including the Pharaoh) are back in Egypt just like screaming and crying in the fetal position because ALL their firstborn sons are dead. So God tells the Israelites to camp for a bit by the shore, because he has just oooone more trick up his sleeve that he needs to prepare for. Let’s call it an encore. An encore that no one ever needed, except God, who seriously just does NOT know when to stop.
So what does he do? He hardens the Pharaoh’s heart (and the hearts of all his army officers) just one last time!! So, being hypnotized under God’s spell, they go, “Oh wait?? why the hell did we let those bastards escape?? Let’s go get them back!!” So they go, with 600 chariots full of military men. God gives Moses the power to part the sea, and the Israelites all start high-tailing it through there. Then God takes his little puppet strings and purposely makes the Egyptians follow. Then, right as they are in the middle of the sea, he makes their chariots all crash and the wheels fall off so that they are stuck. Why does he do this? So that he can then UNpart the sea (Moses and them are already safely out by this point), and kill/drown them all. The entire army of the Pharaoh. As they are all desperately trying to run back to shore, because once God rips the wheels off all their chariots, they snap out of their spell and realize that they need to get the hell out of there. But they don’t make it, because God drowns and kills every. last. one of them. Really, God, was this really necessary?? God thinks so, because “Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.”
Uggh, I mean it’s seriously exhausting. I just do not understand how anyone could read Exodus and think to themselves, “This makes sense to me, this God character is a really great guy. I want to follow his word.” Are people just not really reading this stuff, is that the problem? These stories are all really really famous. But somehow I managed to not know all the gory details until I really read it for myself. Is that the problem for others too? I don’t know. Well anyway, here are some funny things and plot holes from this half of Exodus:
- I mentioned earlier that the 10 plagues basically start off with a magic competition between Moses/Aaron (i.e. God) and the king’s magicians. Moses and Aaron are using their “miracles” to try to convince the Pharaoh that God is really powerful and can strike them down, even though they know that it’s not going to work because God has hypnotized the Pharaoh to not believe it. Anyway, what
is hilarious about the magic competition is the number of God’s miracles that the king’s magicians can apparently easily replicate on their own. It starts off with them being able to replicate the staff-into-snake trick. O.k., I can believe that a magician could do this trick with a slight of hand. But then, after Moses/Aaron turn ALL the water in the Nile and in every bucket in all of Egypt to blood, the magicians can replicate that too!! First off, if all the water is already blood, then how did the magicians replicate it? Why didn’t they just turn it BACK to water again and solve the entire problem?? And second off, come on!! A magician can NOT do that, and it makes God’s powers seem a lot less awesome if some freaking Criss Angel-Vegas-type magician douchebag can just waltz right up and do the same thing!! And then when Moses/Aaron unleash the frogs, the magicians can replicate that too! It’s only when Moses and Aaron do the lice trick that the magicians are like OK there’s no way we can do that!! Snakes? Easy. Blood? Piece of cake. Frogs? We can do it in our sleep. But lice!? Of course we can’t do that!! It’s only then that they concede that these magic tricks must be the hand of God.
- I mentioned earlier that during the 10 plagues, all the animals in Egypt (except the ones owned by the Israelites cause God spares them) are killed one time, and then God goes back and kills more groups of them at least two MORE times. I’m not sure how that’s possible.
- There is this totally random passage when Moses and Aaron and their families are traveling back to Egypt where God intercepts them and tries to KILL Moses. Why? Because his son is not circumcised. So Moses’ wife quickly finds a knife and CHOPS off the kid’s foreskin, and then God is like, ok ok, I won’t kill him, I suppose. Now let’s continue this damn trip so I can kill me some Egyptians!! Yee-haw!!
- Oh, I forgot to mention earlier, when the Israelites are escaping Egypt, God tells them to steal jewelry and other goods from the Egyptians as they are on their way out! And then a few chapters later we get “Thou shalt not steal.”
O.k. let’s get right on to the second half of Exodus …
Part II: God’s Commandments
Oh dear. I think this review is already longer than my Genesis review, and I’m only halfway through Exodus!! I need to make this part shorter because I really cannot handle much more of this. I’ll have to just try to call out the most important stuff. So ok basically all the rest of the chapters of Exodus involve the Israelites kickin’ it in the wilderness, and God appearing to Moses a few times to give all his commandments. Apparently it takes 40 years before they get to their “promised land” of Canaan, which makes no sense to me. Anyway let’s just get to my likes and dislikes:
What I Liked:
- So God calls Moses up to Mt. Sinai to give him the commandments, and obviously there are very important ones in the first 10 that we should all live by. Such as: Do not kill (which has already been contradicted a bazillion times up till now), do not steal (contradicted just a few chapters earlier), do not lie (contradicted at the beginning of Exodus), do not commit adultery (but dudes can have many wives), do not be jealous of others, and honor thy mother and father.
- God doesn’t just give the 10 commandments, but he also basically lays down a bunch of detailed laws too. A lot of them are weird/crazy but a decent number of them are logical and some of them still apply in today’s society. Stuff about repaying people if you steal from them, general property ownership laws, social responsibility, and laws of justice and mercy. Here’s a few examples of good ones:
- Be kind to strangers and to people who are foreigners to your land. Do not oppress them.
- Don’t follow the crowd if you know what they are doing is wrong.
- Help people if they are having trouble, even your enemies.
- Don’t put innocent people to death. And don’t show favoritism in a court of law.
- Don’t accept bribes.
- There’s something about leaving your fields unharvested every 7th year so that the poor people can eat from it instead.
- Always be honest and fair.
- Don’t have sex with animals haha, ok that one is just funny.
So, finally, for the first time, I feel like I’ve gotten some real substance in terms how we should be living our lives as good people. If only it wasn’t buried in like 39 other chapters of terrible stuff all around it!!
What I Did Not Like:
- O.k. so, all the rules around how Moses is supposed to talk with God to get the commandments (and in general) are pretty ridiculous. Conveniently, Moses is the ONLY one who is allowed to see God. Exodus 19 says, “Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death. There shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live.” And while Moses is up there, there’s like a cloud surrounding them up on the mountain so that no one can see anything. Why all the secrecy around this whole thing?? Was Moses pulling a “Wizard of Oz” on the Israelites or something?
- All the more ridiculous commandments and laws that God gives:
- Almost right off the bat in giving the commandments, God describes himself as a “jealous god,” and several times throughout Exodus, he talks about “other gods”, and how you are supposed to pay no attention to them, and only follow HIM. Are there other gods? I was always tought that there was only one God.
- It’s fine to own slaves. You just have to let them go after 6 years (very kind). But if a male slave marries and has children while you owned him, then you get to keep his wife and children when he goes free.
- A child who curses or hits his parents should be executed.
- You can kill your slaves as long as you do it in a manner of slowly beating or working them to death rather than just outright killing them right away. Because after all, they are your property.
- 21:24-25 “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” I guess that “eye for an eye” thing really is in the Bible. Seems pretty dangerous to tell people to live by this rule, yeah? As much as I would really WANT revenge in some situations, I don’t really think it’s the responsible thing to do. If everyone lived their life this way, we’d all be living like Bloods and Crips.
- 22:29-30 “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.” God hints at human sacrifice for him a few times in Exodus and it’s really disturbing.
- Speaking of sacrifice, this guy is BLOODTHIRSTY for animals ALL the time!! He gives such detailed instructions for slaughtering just like preposterous numbers of animals for him constantly … what the hell is the point of all this??
- Witches should always be killed.
- If you work on the Sabbath, you shall surely be put to death.
- There’s a lot more of this stuff, but these are just some examples to give you an idea.
- God mentions in chapter 23 that not only will he lead the Israelites to a land flowing with “milk and honey” (Canaan), but he will kick everyone that CURRENTLY lives there, out!! Ummmm … really?? Why? What did these people ever do that was so wrong? I guess it’s because they don’t know/believe in God? 23:28 “And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.”
- There is a hilarious part where the Israelites get bored waiting for Moses while he’s getting the commandments from God, and they all of a sudden turn into these wild freaks and mold a statue of a Golden Calf from their gold jewelry, and start dancing around naked and worshiping it! And what’s more hilarious is that Aaron seems to be their ringleader, and all this is going on while God is making plans for Aaron and his sons to be the priests for God! Then Moses and God find this out, and God asks the people who are loyal to him to come forward, and then to MURDER everyone
else who had been dancing around naked and worshiping the golden calf!! “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man 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.” (Exodus 32:27). All in all, three THOUSAND people are killed that day, and the demand of God, and when it’s all over, God says that he will REWARD the people for all that killing they did for him!! Sigh.
- There are several chapters late in Exodus that are devoted entirely to God’s instructions to Moses for the people to build him a tabernacle, and alter for sacrifices, candlesticks, a table, making priests’ garments, etc. You just have to read these chapters to get the idea, but let’s just say that God’s taste is expensive. He makes the Kardashians look like Tibetan monks when it comes to extravagance. Why is this necessary?
O.k. so that pretty much covers it, I think I have written all I can possibly bear to write about Exodus. So what rating would I give it? Well, on the bright side, there are a few more helpful bits in Exodus than what I found in Genesis, but the amount of AWFUL stuff is just … monstrous. So, given that fact, I will have to give it:
Surely there aren’t any other books that can be as insane and violent as this one, right?? We’ll see, I know Leviticus does have some crazy/weird stuff in it. But I’m sure that eventually we’ll get to some better books. 😉