Sunday, January 23, 2011

Exodus 15-18 The Saga Continues

I'm caught up at work today (can't even watch the Bears-Packers game).
Just keep reading the next few chapters and I'll start posting as soon as I can.


  1. God finally moves past his obsession with reproduction and gets interested in morality. Something that caught my eye was that even though he's the lawgiver, he completely leaves it up to man (specifically Moses's father-in-law) to figure out how to adjudicate those laws. Kind of mirrors the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" while also not really caring *how* man goes about multiplying.

  2. Actually, to correct myself, I just reread the beginning of Genesis, and I think Genesis 2:24 might be construed as God giving directions on how to "multiply": "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

    But I do like the idea that God doesn't care how man multiplies since he never mentions this again, so I'll put forth the argument that this command doesn't stand after the flood. God says "hold fast to his wife"--wife, singular. When God gets involved with Abraham, he doesn't care that Abe has wives--plural--or that Abe boffs his wife's slave, giving us Ishmael.

  3. And do recall that Jacob had two wives and fathered sons from their handmaids. I just don't think that was as important to him as the worshipping business.
    These chapters do mention the forty years of wandering and living on manna. Now, I am sure that I read that they were taking cattle, and presumably they have to have the Passover celebration while in the desert because those instruction were quite detailed, so theyhave to have sheep, too. It must be a very large party.

  4. Oooh so much Bibley goodness.

    14- Song O' the Sea/Miriam

    This is one of the Bible's several jewels of super-old Israelite poetry. Its description of the Red Sea event perfectly matches the JE narrative. But its placement here is rather anachronistic: it refers to the exodus event in the past-tense ("thou hast guided them by thy strength / to thy holy dwelling-place") and describes how Israel's new neighbours (Moab, Edom, etc) were scared and trembling. None of this has happened yet!

    16: Story of manna and quail. This is P's version; we'll see E's take in Numbers 11. (Main difference: here the manna and quail are concurrent; in E's story, the Israelites aren't satisfied with the manna so the quail comes later.

    16:4-5 is J's more primitive take on the episode- it's simply bread raining from the skies.

    Note the P story combines elements of both J (the rules and sixth-day reward) and E (the description as coriander-seed, measuring in omers.)


    Oh now they're THIRSTY. Didn't Moses just drop a log into water and make it potable? Well, yeah, but that was J. In E, Moses likes to use his magic stick, so he gets water that way. The J story was about a place named Marah; E's is about Massah and Meribah.

    17:9- is this the first mention of Joshua? Quite a comical image this story provides.

    If you haven't noticed by now, there is a major contradiction: sometimes Moses's father-in-law is Jethro, and sometimes it's Reuel. The etymology for Gershom repeats Exodus 2:22 (J), but Eliezer only exists here in E.

    Unfortunately, we have arrived at Mt. Sinai. We will not leave until Numbers 9!

  5. @betterthanesdras

    Thanks for the insights! I missed the name change for Moses' father-in-law.

    I'm hoping Mt. Sinai has nice accommodations. Sounds like we are going to be here for awhile! ;)

  6. Oh boy, when do we get some tabernacle blueprints?

  7. @David

    Not it's not a name change of Moses Father-in-law. Reuel is the grandfather of Moses wife. Jethro is the father.

  8. @Edward:

    Exodus 2:18 "And when they (including his daughter Zipporah) came to Reuel their father..."

    Exodus 18:1 "When Jethro, the priest of Midian, Moses' father in law..."

    Reads like a name change to me.

  9. I had a serious case of deja vu when I was reading about the manna. I can't think of any reason why I would have ever read that passage, yet somehow I knew all the details, like going bad overnight except the Sabbath, and being left after the dew. And this certainly isn't a topic that is common in children's Bible stories, at least not that detail. Now it will drive me nuts until I can remember why/where I first read about it.

  10. Also, Numbers 10:29 "And Moses said to Hobab, the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law."

    Reuel is the father-in-law in J's story, Jethro is the father-in-law in E's story.

    The see no basis for the assertion that Reuel is the grandfather. The text says otherwise.

  11. Chapter 17 seems like a little preview of coming attractions (Joshua).

    It's interesting that Yahweh says "the LORD will have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Ex. 17:16) so soon after Ex. 17:14 - "I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven."

    So Yahweh's victory will be an ultimate and decisive one, just not yet. Buckle up for a rough ride in Canaan!

    Ex. 17:11-12: The importance of Moses raising his staff for Yahweh's aid in battle seems a little Hogwarts-ish; more conjuring and enchantment than prayer. I suppose many will interpret this symbolically, but the fact that the problem can be circumvented by propping him up with a rock and two helpers might argue that it was intended literally. I suppose the symbolism would be in the importance of Aaron and Hur.

    Ex. 18:11: Jethro says "Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them." This is one of the many passages that some argue demonstrate a henotheistic (many gods, one worthy of worship) worldview of the OT authors. Henotheism is a proposed intermediate stage in the evolution from Canaanite polytheism to Jewish monotheism. We can watch for other potential indicators of this (such as the first of the ten commandments) as we read on.

  12. Rehuel was the father of Habab or Jethro, and no doubt arises from its saying that he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses for wife; for under his sanction as an elder and a grandfather, the marriage took place. Habab was the identical Jethro, his change of name taking place when he entered the flock of Israel, and became one of that people a custom preserved to the present day by the Hebrews, for the name a person may have borne previous to circumcision, is changed when he becomes a son of the covenant.

  13. @Brian, that "among the gods" line made me think about the evolution we seen so far. In Exodus, God becomes a national god where since Abraham, he seems tribal. This parallels the power structure where before a single person makes the decisions for the family, Moses seems to be a coalition leader, barely able from keeping ousted.

    Exodus also has God associated with mountains. Is that another overlap from a source?

    What Moses certainly needs a resource manager. Why does he keep running out of things without knowing it? I love how he blames the Israelites for complaining merely because they keep starving.

  14. @Chasia

    I take it you can do better with managing over 1.5 million people? This is a daunting task, and it will be resolved with a structure of government that is still used today in parts of the world.

  15. @Edward

    Doing a search, Hobab is named exactly once in the Bible- the verse I quoted. Wherever your explanation comes from, it's not the Bible.

    If you can show me another verse that refers to a tribal elder as a "father-in-law" or similar euphemism, I might demure.

  16. @bananacat1 ...

    Perhaps in a previous life, you were there.

  17. This is one of the many passages that some argue demonstrate a henotheistic (many gods, one worthy of worship) worldview of the OT authors.

    I think this is undeniable. I haven't detected one whiff of monotheism in the Torah or the Deuteronomical Histories. The existence of rival gods is taken for granted. I'm pretty sure monotheism is a post-exilic development... I expect we'll encounter it first in Ezra/Nehemiah. (Haven't read those yet myself.)

  18. @Diomedes Anaxagoras

    If you immediately know the candlelight is fire, the meal has been cooked long ago.

  19. @betterthanesdras
    I have daughter in law? does that count? Genesis 11:31? Terah would be the elder.

  20. @betterthanesdras
    I see i need to take it back one more father. my bad
    So no father in law, but just father
    Genesis 28:13 God talking to Jacob, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father. 32:9

  21. Okay, those verses do have Jacob referring to both his father and his grandfather as "father". That does make the idea of calling a grandfather-in-law "father-in-law" sound more reasonable.

    I demure! But I still doubt Hobab=Jethro. I think Jethro=Reuel is more likely. I mean, Jacob was also Israel, and Gideon was Jerubbaal... could be different names for the same character.

  22. @Tom: If you can't fight, wear a big hat.

  23. @Edward,

    I implied no such claim that I could do better at resources than Moses. How is that relevant to the point that Moses needed help but doesn't identify it?

  24. This reading I think first mentions the 40 years in the desert without giving a reason. I'm assuming it's ahead in the text.

  25. @Chasia

    That was said in jest. I should have added a smiley face or something. Sometimes you get so busy that you don't think of the obvious, it takes a third party to help you see the light as it took Jethro to give Moses some much needed advice. I am sorry if i offended you in any way, it was not meant that way.

    And yes the reason is coming up for the 40 years.

  26. "I'm pretty sure monotheism is a post-exilic development... I expect we'll encounter it first in Ezra/Nehemiah. (Haven't read those yet myself.) "

    We can skip Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. We have Esdras. :p

  27. @betterthanesdras,
    You could very well be correct, i have also read that some think that Hobab is the son of Jethro.

    Some think that Hobab was the same with Jethro, Moses's father-in-law, and that the story, Exodus 18:1-27, should come in here; it seems more probable that Hobab was the son of Jethro, alias Reuel, or Raguel (Exodus 2:18), and that when the father, being aged, went to his own land (Exodus 18:27), he left his son Hobab with Moses, as Barzillai left Chimham with David; and the same word signifies both a father-in-law and a brother-in-law.

    I guess only in death will we get the correct answer.

  28. @henotheism surveyors

    There is an important distinction here that is worth noting. The Song of Moses addresses this issue of gods in Deut 32:16-17

    "They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known..."

    The scripture recognizes the supernatural force of "gods" but links them to the power of fallen angels which would include Satan. This means he shows up way before Job.

    Of course this false gods or demons who are represented by idols are powerless to save. Someone can correct me if I am wrong but I don't think you ever had a god that wasn't represented by some visual idol. But these idols represent just how godlike they really are. "They have mouths but they do not speak, they have eyes but they do not see...those who make them will be like them (Ps 135:15-18).

    These so called gods are readily acknowledged in the New Testament (Rev 9:20) and also

    "No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. (1 Cor 10:20).

    Evil has a supernatural force that was manifested among the Gentile nations (i.e. Egyptians could make their staff's into snakes, make frogs, etc.)

    The real question is not whether you believe in God(theism) or you don't believe in God(atheism). The real question is are you following God or do you follow the demons?

  29. @ Faris The real question is not whether you believe in God(theism) or you don't believe in God(atheism). The real question is are you following God or do you follow the demons?

    Well not really since we don't believe in demons either or ghosts (holy or otherwise) or witches or any other supernatural thing.
    Guess we are just leaderless! : )

  30. @mom

    "Guess we are just leaderless"

    I do understand what you are saying. But from a Biblical standpoint, you are deceived and blinded from the truth because you do not want your sin exposed.

    Its easier to believe a lie than to have to answer for our sins.

    Much like the contest between Moses and the Egyptian magicians, Christianity here in this format is a contest with atheism/agnosticism/etc. Christians have an explanation for why good and evil exist, or why the planets follow their orbits and why our perceptions corresponds to reality. At the same time unbelievers shake their heads at the Bible and God, and say we can produce the same results without God.

    So just as those Egyptians magicians worshiped Pharaoh and Ra, so you too worship someone or something. If I were to ask you what is the standard of truth that you live by, you might say something like reason and discernment of the natural mind. In fact, all the arguments against scripture that are presented here, is a declaration for me to give up my worship of God and come and bow down before the wisdom of the natural mind - to submit myself to the authority of men rather than to the authority of God.

    We all worship. Claiming leaderlessness or neutrality is only an illusion.

  31. @Edward, no worries. Since your comments are very thoughtful, I should have caught on that the comment wasn't a jab.

  32. @Everyone, since Bruce is swamped at work, how far are you getting in the reading? I've just finished Ex20, through the Ten Commandments.

    EX19: Wow, another repetitive entry about how close to the mountain can you get and who can come up the mountain. Plus, smoke and fire. These make my eyes cross ;-)

    EX20: So, the Ten Commandments. Why do we know them as "ten"? Seems the list could be cut up several ways.

    Ok, we need to talk about this...

    "for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."

    (Obvious snarky comment: "...unless their great-grandfathers crossed me.")

    OK, can someone start unpacking this for us? I think I'd even like the idea of Hell over this. At least I'd go to Hell because of my own actions.

  33. To continue with this henotheism thread, Jack Miles makes a note of God's transition from creator of the universe to a more Mesopotamian-style personal god once Abraham tames God and relinquishes his foreskin. These Mesopotamian personal gods weren't creators of the universe but represented personal deities that worked for or against one's self interests. We see this transition first occur in Genesis 24 when Abraham's servant goes looking for a wife for Isaac. Abraham tells the servant, without asking God first, that God "shall send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence." A few verses later, the servant tells "O LORD God of my master Abraham" to "let it come to pass, that the damsel to whom I shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink…." There are more examples of this later with Isaac and especially Jacob. This sort of implicit acknowledgement that there are multiple gods floating around doing folks favors when commanded is one of the hints we have that the israelites didn't go from polytheism straight to monotheism. There was a smoother transition between the two, and we see relics of this transition all over the place in these initial books.

    @Faris: I see the words God and gods repeated multiple times in Deut 32:16-17 and only one instance of demons/devils. Without having read that far ahead and only going on what we've read so far, I would say it's a bit of a stretch right now to say these "gods" are fallen angels or Satan. Also, your question about whether you follow God or devils is a little silly because, as an atheist, I don't believe in either. Actually, not true: I do believe the Duke Blue Devils are evil incarnate. Since I flat out reject them, does that mean I'm cool with the religious crowd?

  34. @Diomedes

    Ha! I'm indifferent toward Duke but I can empathize with you.

    As for henotheism, when David recounts Israel's history in Psalm 106:37 he references false worship as demon worship. He does this without the use of "gods."

    There are four uses of the word "gods" in Deut 32. Two of these uses are glosses indicated through italics in the KJV and therefore not original to the Hebrew. In verse 17, the word demon and gods are used in parallel and a poetical device making them interchangeable. The fourth use of "gods" in verse 37 is used in a mocking fashion. "Where are their gods, their rock whom they trusted?" This use of gods cannot be grounds for the ontological existence of other infinite persons.

    As for the silliness of my previous statement, we are speaking of transcendental truths. If the Bible is God's inspired word, and you do not worship Him, then by default you worship a false God. In the Biblical paradigm, you don't get to opt out of worship.

    So I could say, "since I'm a Christian your statements of unbelief in God and demons are a little silly because as a Christian everyone serves a god." However I'm sure you are aware that calling someones statements silly does not determine their truth or falsehood.

    The foundation of our disagreement over the supernatural stems somewhat from our presuppositions. Correct me if I am wrong but you presuppose the autonomy of man is sufficient to find truth. Christians on the other hand presuppose the insufficiency of man to find truth.

    What say ye?

  35. @Faris: You point out good examples of the different ways non-Yahweh gods are dealt with in the Bible. How we interpret these again depends upon our presuppositions about the text. In the divine inspiration view, there is a unitary and coherent understanding of the nature of these other gods (perhaps fraudulent, perhaps demonic), a framework within which we must interpret any mention of them. A secular approach on the other hand, supposing a diversity of authors with different understandings of God/gods, allows us to appreciate the differences in how non-Yahweh gods are handled, giving us insight into the evolution of the Israelite religion.

    When Jethro says "for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.", Yahweh seems to do the things other gods do, only better, whereas in other passages such as the Psalm you pointed out, other gods are seen as completely powerless. Further development of monotheism might portray these gods as demons, fallen angels, or evil spirits, or in a more liberal theology, simply non-existent or without supernatural character.

    The connection of gods to physical icons or idols is an important one. This is a way the Israelites distinguished their religion from those of their neighbors such as the Canaanites. We will see that the tabernacle includes no statue of the deity unlike Canaanite shrines. Many elements in the law are often interpreted as "don't act like the Canaanites," such as the prohibition against boiling a kid in the mother's milk, a Canaanite ritual.

    On the idea that everybody worships something: This is quite familiar to me and a view I held as a believer. I can easily accept that in the Christian worldview, I worship false gods. This however has no meaning to me as this is not a worldview I share. Likewise, though I may be a god in my cat's worldview, I do not see myself as such.

  36. @Chasia: "Exodus also has God associated with mountains."

    Good catch. I agree that Exodus is quite physical in its depiction of Yahweh. This god of the mountain or "El-Shaddai" is a parallel with the Canaanite god El.

    Some see Yahweh as a meshing of El and Baal, the storm god. A common biblical epithet for Yahweh is "the cloud-rider" identical to one for Baal. We see many Baal-Yahweh parallels in Exodus, such as the winds he produces in the plagues and the parting of the sea of reeds. We will also see storm-god imagery in many of the Psalms, some of which may be adaptations of Psalms about Baal.

  37. @Chasia

    "for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."

    Christina Hughes talks about this in the Yale lectures. She posits that the idea of intergenerational punishment was earlier seen as a mercy of god. He was spreading out the punishment over time. This idea, however, is later firmly rejected by Israelite society and later in Numbers and Ezekiel the idea is wholly abandoned. It sounds like an evolution of law to me - in the marketplace of ideas, the notion of intergenerational punishment lost.

  38. @Brian H
    though I may be a god in my cat's worldview,
    Good luck with that! Your cat thinks you worship it!!

  39. @Chasia: That's a great conversation in chapter 19 about not coming up the mountain:

    21 God: Go down and tell the people not to come up! I don't want them to see me!

    22 Moses: Dude, they can't come up! You made sure of that in verse 12.

    23 God: Whatever. Just. . . just don't let them come up. I mean it.

    In Chapter 20 we get the beginning of the Mosaic covenant. This one is distinct from the other two covenants we have seen in being a bilateral conditional covenant - the Northern prophets will make much of this. The covenant is apparently modeled on the suzerainty treaties used by the Hittites and Assyrians. The "thou shalt not"s of the ten commandments fit well into this model and are distinct from laws that will follow that take the form "If a man does x then y," which is closer to the model of the law code of Hammurabi (Which should really be the ancient relic hanging on courtroom walls to represent the history of jurisprudence).

  40. You know keeping up with you guys and doing research could be a full time job for someone. :-D
    I am going to try and answer your question.
    "EX19: Wow, another repetitive entry about how close to the mountain can you get and who can come up the mountain. Plus, smoke and fire. These make my eyes cross ;-)"
    I read this and think of my son. God tells Moses, Moses pass the word on to the people. The day now comes three days later?(19:15)? and God tells Moses to remind the people. Because like my son, they have a short attention span. I feel God telling Moses again the third time was to stress the fact. Many things in scripture that have great emphasis or needs to have the attention of the reader drawn to it is repeated 2 or more times. I can see a bunch of kids thinking that Moses has some sound system setup and they are going to sneak up and see how the system works. I think Brian Hitt and i would be planning something like that. :-D

    "EX20: So, the Ten Commandments. Why do we know them as "ten"? Seems the list could be cut up several ways."
    Wow this one could be long
    1. The first commandment concerns the object of our worship, Jehovah, and him only.
    2. The Second commandment concerns the ordinances of worship, or the way in which God will be worshipped, which it is fit that he himself should have the appointing of.
    3. The third commandment concerns the manner of our worship, that it be done with all possible reverence and seriousness. (It is supposed that, having taken Jehovah for their God, they would make mention of his name ( for thus all people will walk every one in the name of his god); this command gives a needful caution not to mention it in vain, and it is sill as needful as ever.
    4. The forth commandment concerns the time of worship. God is to be served and honoured daily, but one day in seven is to be particularly dedicated to his honour and spent in his service. Did you notice that wife was not mentioned? But son and daughter. Remember back in Genesis 2:24. They are considered one flesh to God, and is taken for granted that the wife would join the husband in his worship to God.
    5. The fifth commandment concerns the duties we owe to our relations; those of children to their parents are alone specified; Honour they father and thy mother...
    6. The sixth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour's life
    7. The seventh commandment concerns our own and our neighbour's chastity;
    8. The eighth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour's wealth, estate, and goods.
    9. The ninth commandment concerns our own and our neighbour's good name.
    10. The tenth commandment strikes at the rot: Thou shalt not covet, 20:17. The foregoing commands implicitly forbid all desire of doing that which will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all inordinate desire of having that which will be a gratification to ourselves. "O that such a man's house were mine! Such a man's wife mine! Such a man's estate mine!" This is certainly the language of discontent at our own lot, and envy at our neighbour's; and these are the sins principally forbidden here.

    I hope that helps explain why they are split the way they are. Take from (MHC) with some added stuff as well.

  41. I had to break this up into 2 parts. My HTML was to much. :-D

    "for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."

    This is a tough one to answer, so i will give you my view. (ELV) The way i see this is that i as a father raise my kids up to fear God and keep His commandments. We just went over the 10. So by doing this, and keeping to it with a pure heart, the blessing God promises will be given to my family. And when you are around someone that is blessed, even others will be blessed as well. Now i am not talking just of monetary blessing, but character, wisdom, love for others, you know, charity.
    Now contrast this with me living an example of selfishness, lying, stealing, adultery, totally contrary to the way God wants me to live. Seeing that if i had these traits i would not teach my kids anything, because i am selfish remember, what would they grow up to be like? Note: This is not everyone and i will agree if you said there are people that call themselves "Christians" that exhibit one or more of these traits, for i once was such a person. Yet i confined this example to living the commandments of God with a pure heart, and the second person will live contrary to those. For the first, people around them will be blessed, and hopefully those traits are committed to future generations. However with the second, and no this is not everyone, there are people that are good that don't believe in God, the Christian does not have the monopoly on goodness, what kind of curse will be on those around them? Now i will use something we have in our public system today, namely public aid, to hopefully make my example clearer. Now don't get me wrong, there are some people that do need assistance, however, with working with inner-city kids, and other places, there are many that do not. Parents teach the kids how to play and live off the system, and the kids get to the age to be able to have their own kids, and do, then teach their kids the same thing. On and on this goes. Some have more kids just so they can get more money. I see this as breaking commandments 1,8,9,10. 1. If they really served God the next ones would trouble their conscience. 8. Thou shalt not steal. Now you can say they are not stealing, and from one perspective they would not be, however on another, for those that are having more kids to get more money, is stealing. Now that could be argued, i would rather not. :-D 9. Thou shalt not bear false witness: I have heard people in my town complain that there are people on public aid that don't have money for rent, yet their kids have on baby gap cloths, they have their nails done and hair all done up, and the guys are even wearing nice cloths. Granted they could all just be selling drugs, but that is for a different topic. Some i have heard lie about how many kids they have so they can get more money. Now they may just be blowing smoke up my ... 10. Thou shalt not covet. They do this in the action of purchasing things that they don't "really" have the money for. They see what others have and want it for themselves, yet don't want to do a honest days work to get those things. This is a burden on the working people, and something that weakens a community.
    So that burden is being passed down 3-4 generations.

    I hope this makes sense, i need to get going
    And i had one more thing i wanted to post, maybe i can get it in, in the morning.

  42. @Edward, Wow! You've outdone yourself. Wish I didn't check back so late; afraid I won't respond so thoughtfully.

    RE: the Ten C's: I was raised Catholic who, after I looked this up, do slice them up differently. They have graven images as a part of #1, and split #10 into two separate ones. I think the Protestant version breaks them down better.

    I hear you that if you are raised by parents a certain way, you have a greater chance you may turn out similarly. However, there is always variation in children, Jacob's kids in the Bible is a case in point. Even his final blessing indicates that they led different lives. I guess I seen too many apples fall FAR from the tree to give this much credence.

  43. We will also see storm-god imagery in many of the Psalms, some of which may be adaptations of Psalms about Baal.

    Interesting. The storm-god imagery is most obvious in J, which is the earliest major source, and would be closest to the Israelite's canaanite roots.

    There's lots of Baal in Judges... Gideon's other name is Jerubbaal, and in 2nd Samuel we find Saul had a son named Ishbosheth ("man of shame")... who was originally (as preserved in Chronicles!) named Eshbaal ("man of Baal"). Evidence that Baal was being whitewashed out of Israelite history.

  44. @Edward--nice catch, in the 10 Commandments post, about the wives not being mentioned because of the one-flesh nature of marriage. I doubt I would have made that connection.

    @Chasia, about the visiting of iniquity to the third and fourth generation, and showing steadfast love to thousands: this is pretty much repeated in Ex. 34:6-7 but unpacked a bit more. I've always understood the visiting iniquity to refer to the natural consequences of our sin and how it tends to affect our subsequent generations. When you think about it, consequences generally only reach 3 or 4 generations. As an example, I've got a relative whose grandpa cheated on his wife and ran out on his family. It really screwed up his young son (2nd generation), who later became a pretty messed-up dad himself. His son (3rd generation) has pretty much managed to rise above it and is doing really well by his own kids (4th generation), who are not at all affected by the fact that their great-grandpa cheated. Make sense? So I've always thought it was more of a natural consequences kind of statement (though if God intends something else by it, He has the right to operate however He wishes).

    So He may punish, or allow pain resulting from sin, for 3-4 generations, but how many generations does He bless? A thousand. Have there even been a thousand generations of human life? Probably not, and that's the point. It's a kind of hyperbole to show how loving and kind He is ("...a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness...forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin...--Ex. 34). Consequences for 4 gens, blessing for 1000!

    Also, as God progressively reveals His covenants to his people, He goes on to show that He intends each person to be accountable for his own sin, and for the sins of the fathers to rest solely on their own heads. See Jeremiah 31:29-30 (actually, read the whole chapter for some truly beautiful stuff).

    In the Bible, we do see some corporate responsibility for sin, as we've already discussed with the situation with Pharaoh. We'll see it some in the prophets, as the prophets confess and repent of sin on behalf of the entire nation. It may seem unjust to us, but remember that we're reading this from a Western, extremely individualistic culture. Much of the rest of the world, especially through history, would not have had as much difficulty with the concept. Is our perspective necessarily better than theirs?

    We see almost a reversal, in a sense, in the substitutionary atonement of Christ, in that He died as a substitute to bear the punishment for the sins of those who believe in Him. But I'm getting ahead of things. I just get so excited about all this. :) I really, really love this God! :)

  45. @Faris: What say me? I say you, by attempting to completely redefine a word, atheist, to mean the *opposite* of what it means, are attempting to set a highly unsophisticated trap that's nothing more than a shoebox propped open with a stick and string. And you're hiding being a tree, waiting for someone, maybe me, to accidentally kick the stick out, so you can jump out and yell, "A ha! Got your foot!" So, in this case, the foundation of our disagreement isn't about our presuppositions, it's about a silly little rhetorical game you're trying to play.

    Sorry if this sounds a bit punchy: it's 3:30am, and I've been programming for 12 straight hours.

  46. I'm struck by how much the depiction of Mt. Sinai seems reminiscent of an active volcano. The fire, the black clouds at the summit, the lightning, the noise, the admonishments for the people to stay away from the base lest god flow down and kill them (pyroclastically?). Of course Sinai was never a volcano, but there are some in the area.

  47. @Kim

    "Is our perspective necessarily better than theirs?"

    Yes, on this very issue.

    Our modern western culture has decided that the bad (or good) acts that a person does, they alone is responsible for. Another may share the responsibility for the act, but only if they are materially involved with the act.

    No innocent bystander, related or not, is responsible.

    Your father may have done bad things and you may have had a bad time because of it, but you are responsible only for YOUR OWN actions.