Moses’ Neat Tricks
As you will remember, we left Moses shoeless and terrified at the burning bush. Finally, after 430 years of the Hebrews increasing servitude, God has finally noticed his people’s plight and has decided to help them. Where was he before? We don’t know, maybe getting hammered on Mount Olympus or passing the reefer at Asgaard. Who knows, but we all know how time can get away from us in such circumstances so we’ll just let this go. Where ever Yahweh was, he announces his return with one average sized flaming shrub. Yep, one burning bush and, of course, the obligatory deep booming voice, the better to scare the naive sheep herders. Here’s what he has to say.
I am the God of your father,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But the LORD said, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the country of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.
The question that immediately pops into my head is why did God wait so damned long to save his chosen people? I mean 430 years is a long time to watch your favorites suffer under oppression. Let’s do what we always do and assume this story is an absolutely literal and inerrant truth. I know! I know! Just beat your head against the table for a bit. It definitely helps. Baby Moses was nearly killed and countless other children were murdered by the Pharaoh’s orders, and Moses is eighty years old when he returns to Egypt to save the people. So at the very least, that amount of time passed under oppression. Why did the Israelites have to wait that long for rescue with an omnipotent God who has chosen them above all others? Fascinating question. One has to ask how many Israelites died waiting for their divine savior to free them? Too damn many is the only answer which comes to mind.
And how does the great and mighty Yahweh propose to save these people and bring them out of Egypt? Awing the Pharaoh with his divine presence?? A vast flock of magic carpets? Teleportation? Phasers? Jedi knights? No, he sends an octogenarian sheep herder with a couple of magic tricks. Yeah, that’ll do the job. Bend over Pharaoh; the Lord is a coming!
One further thing, God is going to save them and give them the land of Canaan, a place already belonging to five other groups of people? Don’t those people deserve some measure of respect? Are they not God’s creation too? Do the Canaanites and others really have to be killed or pushed off in order for the Hebrews to be saved? I am quite certain you and I are not going to like the answer to that question, yet it’s a valid one. It’s a pretty damned limited divinity that has to play everything as a zero sum game. When you’re omnipotent does someone always have to lose for someone else to win?
So God asks Moses to go and he demurs. Oh please, why me? Don’t you know I’m a terrible speaker. Oh God, they’ll never listen. On and on, Moses continues until God finally manages to reassure him that he’s The Man in spite of all his misgivings. Besides if he needs help speaking there will always be Brother Aaron, a great speaker by all accounts.
Moses then wonders what he is to tell the Hebrews when they ask which God it is who tells them to flee.
“If they ask me ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them? God replied, “I am who I am.” Then he added, “This is what you should tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.”
Apparently, this is the root of Yahweh, I am who I am. Do you notice the similarity to Popeye’s mantra, “I yam what I yam.” You know the one he recites just before he’s about to bust some heads. Hmmm… Popeye = Yahweh… The mystery deepens. Though Popeye always used it in a “I’m only human” kind of limiting way. Yahweh? Not so much.
God is really saying that he is so important he doesn’t even require a name. Which is also interesting because he does have other names here and there, El and in earliest times Baal, names that later versions and in our English translations seem to be shortened into “Lord”. Is this more evidence, however slight of Yahweh’s polytheistic origins?
God then further encourages Moses on what to say to the Hebrews.
“Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. “This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations.
I have a hard time seeing how this odd and overly grandiose statement is going to impress anyone. By Darwin, we have idiots on the street corners of every major city in the United States spouting equally impressive and nonsensical verbiage, and yet they remain homeless. Apparently, it didn’t put Moses’ mind at ease either, for he still hesitated.
“But God,” Moses said with tears in his eyes, “what if they don’t believe me?” I admit I paraphrased, but it’s not far off. Moses is eager to show all the signs of the reluctant hero. In answer, God then gives him three amazing miracles to stun the people into belief and obedience. A word to the wise, my fine readers, don’t try these dangerous feats of magic at home. You’d put your very soul in jeopardy attempting spells of such mighty power. Yeah… That’s the ticket…
First is the old turn your stick to snakes trick. If that doesn’t convince them, Moses can always put his hand into his shirt and pull it out and it will be snow-white like he has leprosy. Really! If all else fails Moses can certainly woo them by taking a cup of river water and turning it to blood. Holy sheep shit Batman! The power! Ooh! My nipples just stiffened.
Has it ever occurred to anyone else that these are pretty paltry miracles. This is a being who, judged by the claims of his followers, can do literally anything he chooses, grinding the pyramids to dust and rebuilding them out of diamond, creating a massive pillar of gold reaching into orbit, or maybe writing “Zeus sucks” on the surface of the moon. But what magic does he choose to convince the Hebrews and the Pharaoh? Tricks any side-show magician could imitate. C’mon. Use your damned imagination for Darwin’s sake! Turning sticks into snakes? Why not re-grow some limbs on war veterans? Turning Moses’ hand white? Like he couldn’t do that with nothing more sophisticated that some bronze age talc. Turning a cup full of river-water into a blood looking substance? This is the final miracle he offers to show the world his power, Water and #8 food coloring? Is his power really that limited? Divinity on a shoestring!
Or maybe, just maybe he is not that interested in convincing the Pharaoh in one swoop. Looking at what comes, it’s hard to not suspect a desire to see the Pharaoh unconvinced. In fact, later he even says, “I will make the Pharaoh obstinate.” First, isn’t changing someone’s mental state a violation of free will. But even stranger is the idea that God violates the Pharaoh’s free will counter to God’s own plans. So he wants the Pharaoh to release the Hebrews but causes him to be stubborn about it. Why?
How else can a rational person interpret this, except to believe God wants Egypt to refuse his people’s request for freedom because that allows him an excuse to do what this book proves he does best. And what would that be? To wreck shit, of course. One thing the biblical authors liked for their gods to do was to just destroy shit, to pull shit out by the roots, to blow shit up. Reading this book leaves me with the impression that you could track Yahweh around the planet simply by the wake of destruction he leaves. Massive explosions and people screaming in the distance? Yahweh’s a calling. Oh, Hooray! Put on the coffee and kiss your ass goodbye.
Why with this benevolent and loving God is there so little healing or help? To this point, there has been inconsequential assistance for God’s chosen people! No one has been healed, and only if you count making an infertile wife fertile is there any help at all, but if you buy into the whole omnipotent god bit then he made them infertile in the first place so the point becomes moot. You cannot injure someone and later heal them of that injury and still come out ahead on any moral or ethical scale. These are hardly actions worthy of respect. All he does according to the Israelites own legends is to promise the promised land, a highly suspect prophecy since both the prophecy and its partial fulfillment were both written after events. Hell, even a lowly atheistic boilermaker like myself can accurately predict what happened last year.
As I’ve said before, I’m not mocking the ancient Hebrews. They were a tough adaptable people who knew no different. They were products of their time and very similar to their contemporaries. I just don’t see the point of following a god who does so little and expects so much. If I’m going to worship a deity, it’s damn well going to be one that helps me. At the very least, the little bastard had better be housebroken for I have little need of divine shit on my life’s carpet. And once he starts making unreasonable demands like say, oh… no spilling of seed or I gotta cut the tip of my dick off with a sharp rock, I am outta there! It seems I’m just not built to please people… or gods.
OK. Sorry for the rant. Now, where in the hell was I? Ah yes! We’re still at the burning bush. Seems like we’ve been here forever!
After much whining, Moses is convinced. He has Aaron for his spokesman and his “miracles” to convince the Pharaoh. God has cajoled and encouraged him. He’s psyched up and ready to go, so he gathers his wife and son and sets off for Egypt.
Guess what happens then. Oh, c’mon and try! Yes of course, God tries to kill him. What! You couldn’t see that coming? You just don’t have the hang of his book do you! Look:
On the journey, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord came upon Moses and would have killed him. But Zipporah took a piece of flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and, touching his person, she said, “You are a spouse of blood to me.” Then God let Moses go. At that time she said, “A spouse of blood,” in regard to the circumcision.
Yeah, I completely agree. WTF! What the hell does that actually mean? And please don’t give me that God works in mysterious ways crap. That would, of course, be true if we could substitute shit-assed crazy for mysterious and this is only possible depending on the depth of your head up your ass. I mean what kind of psychotic son of a bitch acts like this?
To clarify my own understanding, let me paraphrase the situation here. After a bit of an absence in which his chosen people have been completely enslaved and oppressed, God decides he will save them. How? By taking a banished sheep herder with a speech impediment, giving him a few dime store miracles, and sending him to bargain with the most powerful man in the known world. After persuading this herder to accept the task, he then sets on him in the desert and tries to kill him. As much as it makes your head hurt, we just have to ask why. My Bible says that apparently God was angry at Moses for not circumcising his son. Boy does that help! Did God really not know this before? Did he just happen to be looking over Zipporah’s shoulder as she changed the diaper? Then to protect Moses, Zipporah performs some kind of twisted Harry Potter spell of warding by taking an actual sharp rock and whacking off the baby’s foreskin and rubbing Moses with the blood dripping from the severed tip, all the while reciting the magic make-God-happy-spell, “A spouse of blood.” “A spouse of Blood”. Oooh, damn, just feel the power! I’d love to try it, but wouldn’t you know, we are fresh out of foreskins. Hmmm… wait… Here kitty kitty!
Truly, I don’t know what to say here. Taking a strictly literal interpretation leaves so little wiggle room. Either the Bible is a book chock full of metaphor and myth, or Yahweh is a sick psychotic bastard fit only for some kind of divine asylum. Twist and turn all you like, you can never rectify this account with rational behavior? You can ignore it or throw up the standard smoke screens of “free will” and “mysterious ways,” but this is a grievous self deception. The theist’s own manuscript shows the arbitrary nature of the being they worship. With actions like this, how is this any different than worshiping storms or earthquakes or volcanos. Arbitrary and random is exactly that, arbitrary and random, possibly worthy of grudging respect, but hardly worship.
The God of the ancient Hebrews is emotion not intellect, rage not thought, might not right. Personally, I just have to demand better from anything I could worship or even admire, don’t you? Do we not deserve a better God than the one pictured here? Most Christians confuse this issue. They turn this around and infer that we could not possibly deserve such a magnificent divinity. My question would be rather does he deserve us. By his actions to date, the answer would have to be an unqualified no. Hell no, may be more appropriate.
I hesitate to use even stronger epithets.
But I’m thinking them!