The Bible – On The Waterfront
Isn’t this exciting? We’re out of the tedium of Genesis (world created, man falls, many people live and die. Oh, and attempted forced buggery and a spot of incest). We’re into Exodus now; the Bible has got going, that tricky first chapter is out of the way and the real action can start!
When the chapter begins, both Joseph and the Israelite-friendly Pharaoh are both dead. The new Pharaoh didn’t know Joseph and so has no idea that he has to be nice to the Israelites. Which is a really odd bit of continuity, did the previous guy not leave any notes? Did all his advisers die (silly question, if this is in the time of the pyramids, the answer is probably yes), but still. He tells the midwives that when they attend a birth they should kill the baby if it’s a boy. The midwives don’t do this (they fear God, apparently) and say that the women are too lively and give birth before the midwife gets there. And the Pharaoh believes this! New Pharaoh master plan: cast the boys into the river. Genius.
The hero of this chapter is Moses and the story of him being put into the river by his mother is a well-known one. Or so I thought. I had always been told that he was set adrift in his “ark of bulrushes” and that the Pharaoh’s daughter happened to find him. However, lets look at the text, shall we? (Exodus 2:3-5)
?3And when she could not longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the river’s brink.
4And his sister stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him.
5And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it.
Right, Moses is in fact next to the river, not in it, and it seems that instead of being providential that he should drift by a particular bit of river just as the Pharaoh’s daughter is there, it’s likely that the daughter bathed in the area regularly at a particular time and so it is easy to plan the time to drop the baby off. It’s not explained why, when the Pharaoh’s daughter realises that the baby is Jewish that she still decides to keep the baby. Was she married and childless? Was she bored? Did she like the idea of adopting a child? Was she a decent human being (even though the Egyptians are rarely cast in a good light in the Bible)? Was it a power play against her father and she thought that this was a good way to start? The Bible glosses over motives and simply sees any person’s actions as pro-God or anti-God. Far too simplistic. Anyway, the daughter asks for a Hebrew nursemaid and Moses’ mother gets the job.
Just when you think the Bible is a bit logical, it gets silly again. Moses is now grown and sees an Egyptian smiting a Jew. So Moses kills the Egyptian and buries him in the sand. Stupidly. The next day Moses is confronted by two of his countrymen who ask:
13And when he went out the second day, behold, two men of the Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?
14And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely this thing is known.
Because when you see a stranger kill a man and bury him in the desert, you immediately think “serial killer“, rather than “friend”. Actually, Moses (for all his Egyptian upbringing) is a moron. When an oppressor is killed, the oppressee is the first person you look at. So Moses, by his stupid actions, has probably just made life infinitely more difficult for the rest of the Israelites.
The Pharoah finds out, but Moses escapes the country. And another thing: what status does Moses hold in Egypt? Is he a slave, an employee of the court, the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter, what? Regardless, he disappears off to Midian to allow the Pharaoh to punish the Jews without Moses having to take responsibility. While he is there, he sees 7 young women trying to get water for their sheep. Some shepherds won’t let them, so Moses helps and is welcomed into the family. He marries and sires a child. By the end of Exodus chapter 2, we can guess that Moses has been out of Egypt for around a year. Question: these young women are the daughters of the local priest. Why are they getting no respect from their fellow shepherds? Surely it’s a bad idea to annoy a priest, especially when you live in a theocracy? Seriously, the Bible makes very little sense.
Good news though:
23And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage.
24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.
God’s job is to look after the Israelites. He only has one people and they aren’t that numerous, but he “remembered his covenant” after the Israelites have spent a long time in bondage and He only recalls that he made an agreement eventually. This is a God with a handful of followers and people want Him to look after them when there are billions of people in the world. It’s not likely that prayers will ever get answered as he seems a little forgetful and we’re only into Chapter 2.
The cast has been assembled, so we’ll see what Exodus 3 has in store for us next time!
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- Bruce Feiler: Moses vs. Jesus: Who is America’s Prophet? (atomiurl.com)
- Egypt 101 (thehill.com)
- Bible Challenge “Fire and Water” (pjsprayerline.blogspot.com)
- Joseph and his Slaves (dc-agape.com)
- Homosexuality: Not a Biblical Abomination (gayrights.change.org)