Monday, February 4, 2013

The Bible as Instruction Manual

Today, I finished reading Exodus. It was a big adventure for the most part. Moses led his people out of Egypt, where they were being oppressed. He got them across the Red Sea without losing a single one. The Egyptians chased Moses and the Israelites but the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers drowned in the rushing waters.
Unfortunately, escaping from Egypt turned out to be the easy part of the adventure. There were still many difficulties that lay ahead. The Israelites still faced the prospects that they could die of hunger and thirst. God took care of them and provided them with everything that they needed. The Israelites complained incessantly and even waxed nostalgic about their lives in Egypt, where they had plenty of food, which they needed, because they were being worked to death. Like most nostalgic people, they seemed to have forgotten the worked to death part.
Despite getting manna from heaven and quails to eat and despite the fact that Moses was able to get water from a rock, the Israelites were still cranky. Moses was frustrated. If there had been substitute teachers at the time, they would have been treated in much that same way that Moses was.
Moses went to talk to God, who was behind a pillar of cloud. The Israelites could see the cloud but they were afraid and they wouldn't go anywhere near it. So Moses left and spent a long time away. The Israelites thought that Moses had abandoned them and was never coming back. They forced Moses' brother Aaron to make a deity for them out of gold. Aaron made a golden calf. He melted down all of the women's jewelry. For some reason, there is no record of the women complaining about the fact that their jewelry was confiscated for this dubious enterprise.  When Moses finally returned, he discovered that the Israelites were having a wild party in celebration of their golden calf. Moses was carrying the tablets with the Ten Commandments. The spectacle that awaited him made him mad and he threw down the tablets, causing them to break. Then he grabbed the offending idol and pulverized it.
After the golden calf was destroyed, an enormous battle ensued. It quickly turned into a full-scale civil war, with Israelites killing each other. Brother killed brother and friend killed friend. When it was over, three thousand Israelites were dead. It was very gruesome but it made me wonder: how many Israelites were wandering through the desert? It must have been an enormous number of people. Of course, the Pharaoh was panicky because he perceived the Israelites as mating and reproducing like rabbits.
Well, after this whole sorry episode with the golden calf and the destroyed tablets, Moses went back to God, who was behind the pillar of cloud, as mentioned previously. God was behind the pillar of cloud so that Moses would be unable to see his face because no one could see the face of God and live. God gave Moses new tablets. He also gave Moses a lot of rules and regulations. There were rules for maintaining the Sabbath and for altars and for vestments for priests. There were rules for feasts and fasts. Everything is written very clearly, with a great deal of detail. It is an excellent instructional manual. I will readily admit that this part of the Bible is a bit dry and less than exciting.
But I continue reading and learning.
Tomorrow, I start Leviticus.
I am also reading the New Testament, so, the next time I post, I'll probably discuss the Gospels.