The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses told the words of the people to the Lord. The Lord also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.
Ooh! God’s coming! God’s coming! Wash your face. Comb your hair. Our lord who has drug our asses through the stinking desert for three months is at last going to come down and show himself. Wash between your toes! For the love of God, wash between your toes. Goddamn anyone who doesn’t. Think Yahweh will actually descend? Yeah? Well, maybe not as much as you’d think.
As we discussed last time, the Hebrews are at the foot of Mount Sinai waiting to meet their God. Moses, the human e-mail server, carries messages up and down the Mountain for three days telling the Hebrews what is expected of them. First, Moses is to wash and consecrate them, which I still find odd. Apparently, after months of being forced to walk through the desert with little water, the Israelites smell a bit funky. Kind of hard to help that I would think. Why God in his perfection gives a damn, I cannot say. But he does. He doesn’t seem to mind that his chosen people are hungry, tired and filthy when he’s not coming to dinner. I mean, when a worshiper sweats in the desert and there is no God around, does he actually smell? Hmm? But when God comes to the mountain he likes his bedraggled people to spruce themselves up a bit, to consecrate themselves so-to-speak.
On a more serious note though, God designs his people, you know, the ones he loves above all others, so that they have to go through elaborate cleansing rituals just to see him? WTF? Are they going to burst into flame if they are uncleansed? Drop dead? Evaporate? What? Is Yahweh some sort of medusa turning the unwashed to stone if they look upon him. Who the hell designs sentient creatures in this fashion?
What’s even more funny is that little soap behind the ears and armpits and some oil on the forehead are going to prevent all that? I know I use this little acronym too often but… WTF??? C’mon people, what possible scientific basis is there for this? What could the physical mechanism possibly be? If this cleansing so powerful should we be seeing advertisements bragging about various detergent’s divinity nullifying powers? Wisk: powerful enough to stop Yahweh’s killing gaze! Tide: Stops your God from blowing the shit out of you! (and by blowing, I am referring to the explosive variety, you pervs) I’ve heard it said that this ritual washing is prescient regarding the germ theory of disease, but the truth is that soap was unknown then. Washing was more of a rinsing in a ritualistic form thereby negating most of the benefits we know today.
My favorite part, however, is this.
So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments. He said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.”
Why should they not go near a woman? Well, isn’t it obvious? Girls got cooties, Duh! Apparently, the Hebrews learned even this earlier than the boys at my alma mater, Center Elementary. Reading a little more carefully elicits even more moral problems with this passage. Moses goes down to the people and consecrates the people and then tells the people “Don’t go near a woman.” Are women not people? Obviously not here. It’s obvious that the people in this context is to be read as men, and men only. The Bible never says “Don’t go near a man.” This is chauvinism in the same way that the American Declaration of Independence’s famous line “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal,” was not understood to mean either women or blacks. White men only need apply. Like all other documents from the past, terms like “people” and ‘”men” most often refers to only those you want to include, certainly not everyone. And women? Pah! Do they even have souls? Seriously though, how do women ever follow this so proudly patriarchal oppressor?
I also have always loved the religious propensity to blame men’s lustful natures on the victims of their passion, the women. They get all horned up, but insist that desire is dirty and so hold the objects of their lust to be sinful. Why would they blame themselves for their own faults when there are those weaker than themselves who can shoulder the load. Quite a system they have worked out there, I think. By this standard, me, a fat bastard, should blame the food and hence the farming industry for making me eat too much. Damn you John Deere. Damn you to hell!
Actually, in regard to this passage, my study Bible does say that this is “Not because sex is sinful but because it may leave the participants ceremonially unclean.” Yeah, that cleared it all right up. To me this whole idea remains about as sensible as saying that it’s not bad because it’s sinful, it’s just that it’s red.
Even odder than this needing to be clean for God is that before Moses, God just walked around the earth in full sight of everyone. He went and talked to Abraham and Sarah without them spontaneously combusting. He chatted up Noah, Adam and Eve and they did not implode or walk around as eternal imbeciles for the rest of their lives… Well, maybe Noah with all those damned naked drunken binges, but not the rest. Who or what turned God into the ultimate visual badass and why? The answer to this question is, of course, Moses.
The entire consecration idea is nothing more than another recipe or ritual or spell to make a vengeful God love them, much like sacrifices, libations or prayers, and it is nearly as useful. Here’s yet another cultish leadership tip for the aspiring demagogue. Use nonsensical rituals and use it wisely, my young Sith.
I’m also faintly curious as to where three million people find wash water in the desert for all their garments, but we’ve discussed the absurdity of the literal number of Hebrews to the point of nausea. Let’s just move on, for there is some cool stuff ahead. Like this.
The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that people will hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.”
If anyone retains any hesitation on Moses being a cult leader, this should put many of their doubts to rest. God does these things so the people will believe in Moses forever. Not God, Moses. Moses claims that Yahweh so says. Again there are no witnesses because Moses goes to the mountain alone, and God tells him, alone, that he does this so people will believe in Moses forever. Wow! If that isn’t typical cult leadership, I don’t know what is. “I speak for God and he says you’re an asshole, and I’m not!” Ah yes! That settles everything.
Moses has set himself up as the sole interpreter of the Holy, the one person God will speak to. Moses has forced himself into the most powerful position in the Hebrew nation on his word and his word alone and possibly a few manufactured miracles, and now he claims that God wants him to be believed in forever. Jim Jones, that psychopathic son of a bitch, had nothing on old Moses. This good-old-boy knew how to get shit done! Worship me! I mean God. Oops.
In the words of Homer Simpson, “Damn, I said the loud part quiet and the quiet part loud.” Sheeit!
God then tells Moses
“You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, ‘Beware that you do not go up on the mountain or touch the border of it; whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. ‘No hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot through; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the ram’s horn sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”
Now, if this isn’t a curiosity inhibiting action, I don’t know what is. Do not question! Do not investigate! Anyone who even touches the mountain must be put to death, and whatever you do don’t touch him or her who sins. After all, that curiosity may be contagious and nothing kills a growing cult like curiosity, and we all know what inoculates against too many questions… Fear! Anyone who may be a little inquisitive as to what Moses has been preparing on the mountain for three days is too damned dangerous to allow to survive. Kill them. Kill them quickly! And their Dogs!
What is hilarious here is that when God does come to the mountain, he instructs Moses to go down and warn the people not to come near, again! Here, read for yourselves. I’m just going to give you the whole shebang. It’s too fascinating to miss out on. Exodus 19/18-25.
Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. “Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, or else the Lord will break out against them.” Moses said to the Lord , “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for You warned us, saying, ‘Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.’” Then the Lord said to him, “Go down and come up again,you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord , or He will break forth upon them.” So Moses went down to the people and told them.
Read this carefully. Neither people nor the priests are to come near the mountain or the Lord will break out upon them. They are repeatedly told this and threatened. Even when they are allowed to approach the mountain they are never permitted to get too close or God will kick their asses. Damn, just for coming up the mountain? What the hell is Moses hiding up there? Hmmm… You do have to wonder. In the next chapter, after the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20/ 18-20 says:
All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.
One begins to suspect that Moses is up to something up on that mountain. He has got the people so wound up into a religious fervor that they will believe anything he says.
Now, remember that old Yahweh is not going to come down in human form, but why not. The biblical literalists are always harping on how we were created in God’s image and therefore God has a penis. Ok. Ok. I harp on that absurdity of that last bit, but if God has a human-like form, what is the reason that he will not show it? Why come in a cloud of smoke and fire on a distant mountaintop with loud booming noises and trumpets instead of his humanoid form and a real voice? I know why. Can you guess?
Simple. It’s because special effects weren’t nearly so elaborate then as they are now. Pretty damned difficult to make some giant lordly humanoid stroll off the mountain and hand out plaster replicas of the Ten Commandments. But Moses and a few select henchman could easily wreathe a mountain in smoke on a calm morning, lighting fires that they had carefully prepared for three days. Blowing on horns and hammering on drums easily adds the aural effects to the visual spectacle creating an illusion that would very likely fool a group of primitive desert herders into believing their God was upon them, especially if you have them worked into a fervor ahead of time. You give David Copperfield the same materials and three days and he could likely make the damned mountain disappear entirely. I’ll bet the people would have actually shit themselves during that. He’d have had a hard time just controlling the mass suicides after that show. Whew!
Moses has the people completely under his control now. They are terrified of both him and his God. He has them in the very same mindset that every cult leader throughout history has tried to instill in it’s followers. Blind obedience!
Look out! Here comes the Koolaid!