Thursday, November 10, 2005

Biblical stuff

My project of reading the Bible, a handful of chapters at a time, is proceeding apace; while I can't honestly say that I've read the three or four chapters every day, I've been reading it at least five times a week, so I guess it shouldn't take a whole lot longer than a year to get through the entire thing. (Especially since I plan to completely skip all the "A begat B, and B begat C, and C begat D, and...." stuff in the early books of the Pentateuch, and maybe all that printing in red type in the NT too. And I've seen the movie of Ben Hur, so I suppose I'll skip over the parts of the New Testament that are about him, too.)

I'm in the Book of Exodus now, which feels strange to me -- I'm coming to this material as a person whose main familiarity with the tale of Moses comes from the films The Ten Commandments (which I think is really overrated) and The Prince of Egypt (which I think is really underrated). All of the backstory stuff in the movies is not really evident in the actual Bible, which basically uses about half a page to dispense with about two-thirds of a movie worth of stuff.

But here's something: In the course of reading the Bible, I'm realizing that I don't like God very much. At least not as he appears in the Bible. He seems to view his worshippers almost as playthings, occasionally to such a degree that it reminds me of the attitudes the Gods of Ancient Greece showed to their worshippers. Here's a representative passage from Exodus (chapter 4, verse 21):

21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
22 And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn:
23 and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.

Clearly this passage plants the seed of what will become the Passover, but that's not what caught my eye here: it's that bit in verse 21 where, after God tells Moses to go before the Pharaoh and tell him to let the Hebrews go, God himself will induce Pharaoh to refuse.

That's a little creepy, isn't it? So, what happens to Pharaoh, it seems to me, isn't entirely Pharaoh's fault, because God makes him do it. This one passage has, for me, cast the story of Moses and the Exodus in a rather different light. It's like God just wants to enact out this little drama the outcome of which He has already predetermined.

That's my impression, anyway. I'm obviously no Biblical scholar or theologian, so maybe I'm entirely wrong.

(But I am enjoying this project of mine, and I may end up moving right on to some of the Apocryphal texts after I finish the New Testament, since I bought this book years ago and still have not read it. I'm especially looking forward to the poetry of the Bible: the Psalms and the Song of Songs, specifically.)

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