Together, people of varied beliefs will read the King James Bible.
Continuing a discussion from the last thread...Someone mentioned that sometimes Pharoah "hardened his heart" (ie, an active verb) and sometimes Pharaoh's "heart was hardened" (a passive construction). The difference is in the source, and (hidden in the KJV translation) each source actually uses a different word.JE uses והכבד, "made heavy", and P uses ויחזק, "was steadfast". An old sources I'm using ascribes the former to J and the later to E. I think it's wrong on E, but it does lead me to a J connection: the "east wind" (רוח קדים) sweeping in the locusts, and the later "east wind" (רוח קדים) that parts the Red Sea's waters (a J text).10:28- "see my face no more; for in [that] day thou seest my face thou shalt die." Reminds me of God's threat to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:17: "thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (A J text)The Hebrew uses the same vocabulary. Another hint of J in the plague narrative?Also, Moses says "I shall never see your face again", but doesn't "leave Pharoah's presence" until 11:8. That's *another* contradiction within the supposed E text. Maybe this IS all made up.;-)
I can't help but think that after the hail and the fire that "smote every herb and brake every tree" a swarm of locusts would be kinda superfluous! Exodus 10 takes care to mention the locusts ate everything that "remaineth after the hail". In fact the writer takes care to mention that SEVERAL times. Something tells me the author is trying to cover his a**, but that's just a gut feeling. Exodus 11 starts to mention the killing of all the firstborns, but it doesn't actually happen yet does it? Exodus 12 tells of the same plague in more detail. Is this just Moses foreshadowing, a doublet or am I just dense? **** extra points to commenters that ignore that last question! @Bruce - I have real problem with this as well!
Looking at this from a humanist pov it is indeed up there with the worst of God's punishments but as a literary theme it certainly makes us pay attention and remember the message. It is one that is played out over and over again in the bible; the killing of innocent bystanders to make a point. Each time the point seems to be "I am more powerful than you so get down there on your knees and worship me and no one else" I would be very surprised to learn that this theme was absent in other contemporary stories for other tribes.I have a very strong memory of this story from when I was about 7 years old. I was sent to a VBS with my little brother and told this tale. I remember going home and desperately trying to convince my parents to get a lamb and put some blood on the front door so God wouldn't send his angel of death.
@David"I can't help but think that after the hail and the fire that "smote every herb and brake every tree" a swarm of locusts would be kinda superfluous! Exodus 10 takes care to mention the locusts ate everything that "remaineth after the hail". In fact the writer takes care to mention that SEVERAL times. Something tells me the author is trying to cover his a**, but that's just a gut feeling."When I read that I had a different take on it. If the hail smote every herb and brake every tree, the reader would naturally think there was nothing left for the locusts to eat. So the writer took pains to explain (9:31-32) that the hail ruined the flax and barley, but the wheat and the spelt were not ruined because they ripen late. Maybe they had been planted but had not sprouted? The trees were shattered, but that does not mean they were destroyed or annihilated. We had a hail storm here a couple of years ago that stripped the soft bark from the twigs of the pine trees, and the side of the trees struck by the hail are bare now, but the sheltered side is still green and alive. Maybe the situation was similar, and the locusts finished off the trees."Also, Moses says "I shall never see your face again", but doesn't "leave Pharoah's presence" until 11:8. That's *another* contradiction within the supposed E text. Maybe this IS all made up.You know, some medieval priest chopped the Bible up into chapters and verses. Sometimes he did a good job, and sometimes it seems arbitrary. In this case, maybe the start of a new chapter causes the reader to think some time has passed since he said he would not see Pharoah's face again. I take it that ch. 11 is part of the same conversation, and not a later confrontation. Moses had his say and then left. It is a stretch to find a contradiction in every passage.
Sorry, my last paragraph above was not to David but to esdras.
@Bruce...I remembered your question about Why God told Moses His name but not Abraham (Exodus 6)...part of the reason, I think, why God says His name to Moses and not to Abraham is because Abraham knew God was the Creator of all. Abraham knew his mission and Moses had fell off his path a little bit. So God had to bluntly give him a wake up call and tell Moses His name and do that whole killing attempt thing. Which I think was set up knowing that the wife would step in and re-establish the Covenant. Kind-of like when your trying to tell someone something serious in a not-so-blunt way and they are not getting it...then you have to come out and tell it like it is. Come to think of it...Does Abraham ever question Gods mission for him? Or anything that God does?Sources:Notes from a college class I took called "The Bible as Literature"
Wow, I never realised he killed the firstborn of the beasts as well. I mean, I can understand the children, given his bloodthirsty nature and the fact that he seems to believe that we are responsible and guilty for the acts of our ancestors, but the kittens? C'mon.But seriously, this (like the flood) is one of the episodes where the immorality of God really becomes crystal clear. Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites go, yet God chooses to punish pretty much everyone but Pharaoh. Right down to people being held captive by the man (sorry, skipping ahead a chapter) and animals which could have had no part to play in the fate of the Israelites whatsoever. It becomes difficult to hold my temper when I'm told you can't be good without God, yet believers hold this up to be the bastion of goodness and light.
I've long thought that the plagues, and particularly the plague of the firstborn, are proof that God is anything but moral. His disagreement is with Pharaoh, not with average Egyptians and certainly not with their livestock. How does God justify this collateral damage?
@esdras: You mentioned in the last thread the different numbers of plagues mentioned by each source. Similarly, the plagues show up again in the Psalms (78 & 105, maybe others) again with different combinations (I think 6 and 8 respectively). I've heard it argued that multiple versions of the plagues account existed in the oral tradition and were combined in Exodus to form a numerically favorable final product (3 sets of 3 plagues, with one special final plague at the end to make 10 - 3 and 10 being powerful numbers in the Israelite tradition).
On a personal note similar to those of momofatheists, Hypatia, and cannonballjones, this is one of the stories for me that highlights the significance of my gradual change in worldview in a striking and salient way. 15 years ago I would read this story as one to cheer about - "Yay, the good guys win." Thinking of that now makes me shudder.
@betterthanesdras - Okay, *that* makes sense about the active/passive construction. Oddly enough, I was just about to go amend yesterday's comment to ask if you (or anyone else) knew whether that was the case. :)
I've heard it argued that multiple versions of the plagues account existed in the oral tradition and were combined in Exodus to form a numerically favorable final product (3 sets of 3 plagues, with one special final plague at the end to make 10 - 3 and 10 being powerful numbers in the Israelite tradition).But aren't there 12 plagues in the final version? The 8 JE + the 4 P.Small correction... I reversed the hebrew words in the first "east wind"... they should both match the 2nd.
@cannonball and others"one of the episodes where the immorality of God really becomes crystal clear"It seems like the thrust behind rebukes like this really has to do with God holding all life in his hands regardless of whether death is met out as punishment to Egyptians or whether a baby dies due to disease or some freak accident in the normal course of events. I haven't read the last few posts but one of the questions you have to deal with in the bible is the Federal headship of Adam over the whole human race. We are all descendants of Adam. Cain and Abel weren't allowed back in the garden as children. The whole human race was kicked out of the garden away from God's presence.Are children just like Adam in the garden of Eden? are children completely innocent before God's eyes? If they are completely innocent without any sinful corruption of their hearts, then it is unjust for God to take their lives as has been pointed out. However, if the whole human race has fallen into sin then death is a just punishment for God to administer to anyone.If any of you have children, do you have to teach them to lie? Do you have to teach them to disobey? Do you have to teach them to be selfish? Ex 20; 34; Num 14; Deut 5 all speak of God visiting the iniquity of fathers on their children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. Rom 5:12"Therefore, just as through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--Rom 5:18"So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men.."19 "For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners..."
I think we're missing the picture of plagues. Just keep reading through chapter 12. This story is setting up the picture of how God saves man from certain judgement and death. Just like the post above me from Faris, even children by nature are sinful and by definition rebellious against God. God being God always does what is good, right, and perfect. DON'T LOSE PERSPECTIVE OF CREATION IS FOR GOD NOT MAN. Good is not defined by what is good or bad for man. Good is defined by what God does.
@Tom: God's standing as the Creator was not important in His relationship with Abraham. What was important was the constant promises to turn him into a nation builder. He promised Abraham seven times that Abe would spawn a nation and yet he never delivered until, finally, Sarah gives birth to Isaac at the very end. Also, God never sent Abe on any missions. Even when Abe went to battle with those four kings, God didn't promise victory or protection until *after* Abe had already won. So, effectively, Abe questions *everything* God tells him to do. Even by the end of Abe's life, when Abe hands his power over his own fertility over to God through circumcision, God isn't so much a master over Abe but rather his begrudging partner in crime.Everything in Genesis revolves around God's commandment to man to multiply and God's eventual buyer's remorse when he realizes how good man is at multiplying. Then comes the flood. Afterwards, all man is gone except Noah. God again commands Noah to multiply. Even though God later picks Abe and his descendants, everyone else--including the Egyptians--are implicit in that command to multiply because everyone, logically, should come from Noah. The only real edge Abe has is that his people will multiply at a greater rate than others. That's what the promise of spawning a nation means. Reread the beginning of Exodus with this in mind. Pharaoh sees his own people's fertility being outraced by the israelites, so he engages in fertility warfare. So, by extension, God is responsible for the israelites' bondage. And now we're seeing God's self-inflicted dilemma. So to uphold the covenant *Abe bound Him to* with his circumcision, God has to slip into canaanite-war-god-Baal mode to undo some of the Egyptian fertility gains. Hence the death of the first-born.Something else I just noticed is that it's the first-born who are sentenced to death while throughout all of Genesis, it's usually the non-first-born (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) who find favor with the Lord. Also, Pharaoh doesn't die, so obviously he wasn't first-born either.
@Matt33: I agree--sort of. Not once have we see or heard God engage in dialogue with other gods (how could he when he's supposed to be the one true god) nor engage in any sort of soliloquy. The only way for him to communicate or even *know himself* is through the actions of Man. This isn't me making some comments based on faith or belief. This is analysis of God as a literary character. Carl Sagan once said life is how the universe comes to know itself, and that rings truer and truer in my mind as we get deeper into this. So the actions of man--of creation--and the way he interacts with God is a direct reflection on and insight into God's personality. Right now God is exploring and reveling in his new warrior status. What is good, right, and perfect has nothing to do with any of this. That stuff comes much later. Right now He's basically a 2-year-old who's discovered the power of the word "No."
Are children just like Adam in the garden of Eden? are children completely innocent before God's eyes? If they are completely innocent without any sinful corruption of their hearts, then it is unjust for God to take their lives as has been pointed out. However, if the whole human race has fallen into sin then death is a just punishment for God to administer to anyone.So it's okay for God to slaughter innocent people, because his first model (Adam) screwed up? We all deserve whatever pain God wishes to bestow on us, because somebody ate an apple.No.I don't accept any of these premises. I don't think people should be punished for the sins of others- especially not characters in a book.I think a God that allows suffering is a horrible monster. If he's omnipotent, he let Adam sin. If he's omniscient, he knew Adam was going to sin, but put the tree in Eden anyway. (He could have just, well, NOT done that.) If he's omni-benevolent, and needed to judge us (why, really?) he could have set up a universe without pain and suffering.I find this Christian "morality" reprehensible, frankly. Your "justification" for the Bible's atrocities are atrocities in themselves.Slaughtering innocent people is wrong. That's my horrible godless morality. How do I sleep at night???
@DiomedesYour last paragraph is a great observation. I never would have thought of that. Such insights are why I enjoy keeping up with this blog every day.
@Faris"If they are completely innocent without any sinful corruption of their hearts, then it is unjust for God to take their lives as has been pointed out."No, it is unjust for God to take their lives regardless. Even if you believe that God created the world it's still a massive leap to say that he's then allowed to kill autonomous, conscious beings because their great-great-great-great-grandmother was tricked into eating an apple by a talking snake - especially when this slaughter is of beings who have had no chance to 'redeem' themselves. To do so is beyond unjust, it falls straight into the realm of evil.
"I have a problem with that."I imagine you do, but can you explain why. The atheist who is a moral realist has a grounding problem in that you want to have absolutes but have nothing solid to ground them with. An absolute (let's say, torturing babies for fun is always wrong) is unchangeable, universal and objective. How do you get that from evolution?
Morality is complicated and I'm not going to argue exactly where it comes from. It's a combination of evolved ethical instinct and social pact. I don't think it's universal and objective.Where it does *not* come from is the Bible. I've read Joshua. Probably the most morally bankrupt book in the Bible. Joshua and his savage gang pillage and murder town after town of innocent Canaanites. This is all part of God's awesome plan.Half the 10 Commandments (the well-known version) are amoral theological mandates, the other half are pretty "duh" and easily skirted. (Thou shall not kill... but war and executions are fine.)It doesn't come from the NT either. Yes, there's a few nuggets of truth in Jesus's ascribed quotes, but it's rather uneven. Paul was a flagrant misogynist, for one thing.And it doesn't come from God, because no religious group is, statistically, more moral than any other.Torturing babies for fun is wrong for rational reasons, not because it was written in some book.
@ betterthanesdrasYou go girl!
@betterThanks for the response. From what you've written above would it be fair to say that morality is relative? If you reject moral absolutism I don't see any other options.
who decides "innocent"?And when they were killed it was not like the angel of the Lord was whacking of heads and arms and stuff. This was not a Quentin Tarantino fight scene. Acts 5:5 would give you an idea of how this went down.
@betterthanesdras "And it doesn't come from God, because no religious group is, statistically, more moral than any other."I really don't think you meant to say that. However i could be wrong
@betterthanesdras"So it's okay for God to slaughter innocent people, because his first model (Adam) screwed up? We all deserve whatever pain God wishes to bestow on us, because somebody ate an apple."If I spend every single bit of my families inheritance in a casino, will my grandchildren enjoy any of that inheritance?If a woman grows up in an oppressive Islamic country, what is the probability that she will be able to reach her potential as a human being?If I teach my children that education and reason are foolishness, will they grow up with a proper view of the world?If a man is kidnapped by heinous men and sold into slavery, will his children be free?I doubt you would answer in the affirmative to any of these questions. We have been created in a way that inextricably ties us to our ancestors.
@cannonball"To do so is beyond unjust, it falls straight into the realm of evil."Would you say that you are against abortion?
@Diomedes AnaxagorasGod did send Abe on a mission. Genesis 12:1."God's eventual buyer's remorse when he realizes how good man is at multiplying"Are we reading the same text? Genesis 6:5 "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." God made man in His image, it repented Him that He had made man with such great potential that this is how man behaves. This has nothing to do with man multiplying, it has to do with the wickedness of man. Genesis 8:21 the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; This was not only true after the flood but before it as well. "So to uphold the covenant *Abe bound Him to* with his circumcision, God has to slip into canaanite-war-god-Baal mode to undo some of the Egyptian fertility gains. Hence the death of the first-born."Again are we reading the same stuff? God told Abe that his children would be afflicted and God would judge that nation Genesis 15:13,14."The only way for him to communicate or even *know himself* is through the actions of Man"No He wants man to know Him and He does know Himself, man has a history of wanting to forget about Him."What is good, right, and perfect has nothing to do with any of this."I take it you decide what is good, right and perfect? God is patient with man, however man thinks he is the god of everything, so ya a fight is going to happen. The one with the true power is going to win. It seems like some don't like who that winner constantly ends up being.