Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exodus: Chapters 10-16

Number of times Pharaoh hardens his heart: 3
Number of times God hardens Pharaoh's heart: 8

I guess once upon a time free will was not the philosophical and moral sticky widget it is nowadays? By modern standards, this part of Exodus is super sketchy! Also it is super formulaic, it is just plague, repentant Pharaoh, end of plague, hardened hearted Pharaoh, repeat.

You really think for a second that after God kills all those firstborns it'll be over, or at least that Pharaoh will be hardening his own heart from now on, but no! Imagine being Moses, you're a very nervous public speaker but you keep going head to head with Pharaoh as the people you grew up with become more and more beset by plagues because the disembodied voice of a burning bush keeps bossing you around and occasionally trying to kill you, and it's very clear this disembodied voice could just make Pharaoh DECIDE to let everyone go immediately but instead goes through this whole rigmarole of intentionally making Pharaoh LESS compliant, just so he can torture Egyptians and murder their children, but finally, FINALLY, Pharaoh is letting you all go. The bags are packed, the cattle rounded up, the bread unleavened, the goats sacrificed, the penises circumcised, everything is SET, you are OUT of Egypt and in the desert, and after all that God says to you, "Hey, Moses, I've got this great idea: I'm gonna harden Pharaoh's heart again! It'll be great!"

I guess on some level I always knew this, but I am really getting now that the point of God was not always to have an all-loving all-powerful being who would care about you and listen to all your problems and forgive you no matter what and be like the nicest Dad ever. The point used to be to be fucking TERRIFIED.

On that note, I don't think the Israelites are terrified enough. Seriously, whenever anything goes wrong they are all, "Ugh, why did you even BOTHER freeing us? If we'd known food would be hard to find in the DESERT we just would have stayed HOME." To be fair, God always lets things get to the point just before everyone is about to die, and then he steps in and fixes everything while yelling at Moses for the people not having faith. I'm not a business student, but I bet there is a part in Managing 101 about not doing exactly that. Anyway, soon they are eating delicious quail and bread that tastes like honey wafers. But it appears on "the desert floor" which I think means SAND. Honestly, was I the only child who wondered if the manna got covered in sand? Have you ever dropped food on the beach? That shit is DONE FOR.

If you are interested, the amount of manna each person requires is one omer. If you don't know how much an omer is, don't worry! Chapter 16 ends with a delightful clarifying conversion:

Exodus 16:36: Now an omer is the tenth part of an ephah.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why is God only slightly better than an Egyptian magician?

Real Analysis and Set Theory homework keeps piling up, I've got a midterm on Friday about imaginary numbers and darn it all, but those Heroic dungeons in WoW aren't going to run themselves. So, delays! However, I have been reading Exodus, and even though updates will be more sparse and probably less witty, I would be remiss if I didn't record my current thoughts.

Probably everyone reading this has seen either The Ten Commandments or The Prince of Egypt, so I'll assume we all know the basic plot. The main problem with the story, which is left out of most movie versions but with which most people are still familiar, is that God deliberately hardens Pharaoh's heart so that Pharaoh will be unwilling to grant God's and Moses' requests. This is mentioned repeatedly, and mostly it comes off like God really REALLY wants to visit all manner of plagues and unpleasantnesses upon the Egyptians, and is just itching for an excuse. Really, God? The generations of slavery(that you twiddled your thumbs during, presumably) aren't enough justification? And who is God worried about justifying himself to, anyways? Maybe that older, more rational brother he has who I'm now sure exists. Still, the whole thing feels like very heavy-handed puppeteering on God's part.

One problem which has troubled me since I was a child, and to which I've never gotten a satisfactory answer, is why can Pharaoh's magicians pull off the same tricks Moses does? It's not like Moses does miracles nobody can replicate, it's that he does miracles which ARE replicated, but not quite as well. Both Moses and the Pharaoh's magicians can turn rods into snakes, but Moses' snake is a little more badass and eats the magicians' snakes. Both can turn water into blood, but the magicians can't turn it back into water (can Moses do this? Probably not). Where is this magic coming from? Is there a source of magic OTHER than God? Can you somehow go over God's head and turn your staff into a snake without his approval? I guess Satan might be doing it, though he hasn't been mentioned at all yet and you'd think for a power display God would step in and put a stop do it. So what gives?

My favorite passage:

[9:24]So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous
Grievous, but impressive! I would think those two things would cancel out; nice show, God!