On to book two of the summer challenge: Exodus. Here are some reflections.
Much like many of the scenes in Genesis, I think the whole escape/deliverance from Egypt would make for a spectacular film (Prince of Egypt = watered down for kids; The Ten Commandments = admittedly more of an anti-communist/pro-American agenda than an accurate one). Interacting with all the murdering, slaughtering, and pestilence makes me openly wonder if we get this right by watering it down for children. Should we not let kids read it until they’re older, or tell them what the text is really saying? That will be a conversation I’ll save until I’m a papa I guess.
Alright, so I’m sucked into the story at the beginning because it’s all being masterfully told when lined up with Genesis. Joseph does some great things while in Egypt, but his consolidation of all the land for Pharaoh sets up some power struggles generations later (slavery). It’s bad times for the Hebrews, even though they keep growing and growing and growing in size, like the stars in the sky (cough cough, Abe). By the time they leave, I’m thinking this is some pretty epic story telling.
THEN I get to the laws. The ten commandments serve as a good refresher, but then I start reading into some of the later laws and man I was getting angry, frustrated, and down right irritated. Slaves are still allowed, and have little rights. Women have little rights and are often used as vessels for growing a man’s family/workforce. Gross. Patriarchy is reigning supreme, and it’s unsettling. Once again, does anyone remember the beginning of Genesis? Also, the way the law is dictated, it sometimes seems like the line between God and human commanding gets blurred. It’s unsettling because this stuff is pretty foundational to many people’s beliefs, and I’m not enjoying the read.
BUT, I remind myself, I need to look at these laws through the lens of what the rest of the world was like. In a polytheistic world where innumerable gods means innumerable views of ethics, morality, justice, a law is being set up that – though many parts make 21st century Dave cringe, it probably would have been freeing to Hebrews hearing it. One God is laying it down in ways that show up the other nations and their god-kings.
So while there is slavery still, freedom is granted after six years penalty free. So while there is patriarchy still, a man can’t forsake his wife of old for the next desirable wife he takes on (On this note, while polygamy seems permitted here, there has yet to be an example of a polygamous context that sees healthy relationship [Is there ever?]. One man + one woman = one flesh; one man + many women = hatred, resentment, deceit, jealousy, etc.). So while putting people to death is allowed, a measure of justice is produced that introduces consequences into society. It’s not the ideal, but lets remember that we keep choosing out of the ideal, so this seems to be the band aid solution until something brings the ideal back to the forefront.
Perhaps 21st century B.C.E. Dave would love this law (is it 21st B.C.E.? I don’t know), but I’m uneasy if it remained as is.
If you are an engineer, you might enjoy the final part of book with all the instructions on what to build. For me, it was tedious and undesirable to read. Except the narrative gem in chapter 35 on vision, willingness, and generosity.
Oh yes, I almost forgot. While Moses got the tablets on the mountain, the people made a golden calf (reverting back to their polytheistic ways again), and Moses leads a group of people on a slaughtering purge of the unfaithful. Brothers kill brothers. Lots of blood. Thousands die.
But seriously, things are looking better…