Saturday, January 31, 2015

Exodus, then and now

This week will be all about Exodus. The word "exodus" means, according to Google, "a mass departure of people, especially emigrants." When people leave like that, hastily and in large groups, they are generally leaving something intolerable.
Generally, when we talk about an exodus, we think of the Israelites fleeing the Egyptians, who mistreated them and made them suffer for years and years. The story of the Israelites' exodus is very dramatic and it was made into a movie, featuring Charlton Heston as Moses.
There have, however, been other exoduses. Many people have fled intolerable situations in search of safer havens elsewhere. They could have been fleeing political persecution, hunger, or natural disasters. For example, in 1845 and the years following, Ireland suffered a terrible disaster that resulted in exodus. A plant disease called "potato blight" or Phytophthora Infestans. It is actually an airborne fungus that attacks potatoes, with devastating results. The potatoes turn to mush and are rendered inedible. Sounds disgusting to me. It was actually beyond disgusting. The results were disaster. Somewhere around one million people starved and another million fled Ireland, in search of food.
That exodus was caused by an agricultural disaster. One of the main problems was that the same type of potatoes were grown in the same land, year after year after year. The technical term for that type of agriculture is "monoculture." As I learned in my master gardener classes, growing a variety of crops is always preferable to monoculture. The people of Ireland, at that time, ate mostly potatoes and, when their food supply was attacked by the fungus, the result was disaster.
In more recent years, the countries that people have been fleeing en masse include Syria and Libya, where there have been civil wars and extreme violence. The people who flee these countries are looking for a safe haven in which to live, work, and raise their families.
So back to the Bible. Last time, I talked about dreams and about how Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh's dream as indicating seven years of plenty coming, followed by seven years of famine. The Pharaoh was grateful to Joseph and gave him a good job and hospitality for Joseph's family.
Much time passed, and a new Pharaoh saw that the Israelites were reproducing like rabbits! He was not happy about that, so he decided to treat the Israelites badly so that they would not take over Egypt.
Being treated badly didn't stop the Israelites from reproducing like rabbits.
Eventually, however, the Israelites grew tired of the unpleasant treatment, which included orders to kill newborn babies and other draconian measures.
This is where the story gets dramatic. For all of the details, you can watch "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston as Moses and Yul Brynner as the Pharaoh. It's great entertainment, with good special effects, especially considering that it was filmed in 1956. Of course, you could also read your Bible. You'll find that good, too, although you'll have to imagine the special effects. Your imagined special effects may be even more fun than the movie.
Anyway, Yul Brynner or the Pharaoh was one stubborn dude, and his people endured all sorts of unpleasant ordeals or plagues before the Israelites all departed. They endured the environmental nightmare of water turning to blood, too many frogs, lice crawling on their bodies and on the bodies of their animals, dog flies that bite people, diseased cattle, boils, huge and heavy hail, locusts, complete darkness, and the death of the first born. Ugh! The pharaoh said, please go.
Because the pharaoh was known to change his mind abruptly, however, the Israelites had to be prepared to flee at a moment's notice. They ate unleavened bread while standing up because it takes more time to stand up, especially if you are sitting on the floor.
The Israelites did all flee at one time. Thousands of people departed from Egypt. The Egyptian military went after them. Moses parted the red sea in a very cinematic gesture. Charlton Heston did a grand job with that. When the Egyptians with their chariots and charioteers went after them, it was not too good for the Egyptians. The water went back to where it had been, and the chariots and charioteers got stuck in the mud and drowned.
The Israelites ended up on the other side of the river. They had left the land of persecution, but were they happy?
Maybe or maybe not.
Are people forced into exodus currently happy?
Sometimes they are but sometimes, no, because the conditions that they face in refugee camps can be nightmarish.
More next week, as I continue reading Exodus.


  1. Hi Alice,
    Some make an exodus to get away from Winter. It seems like one can remove the body from an undesirable place, but the mind always carries the memories of the good and bad of past places to the new place.

  2. I recently finished Exodus, and yes the people were happy initially after crossing the red sea, but did they stay that way? I won't give it away since you will be writing on it next week, but I do look forward to reading it!

  3. I enjoyed reading about the Exodus and learning about it. I cannot imagine that being forced to leave your home, even if you were unhappy there would be a happy thing. you might be glad to get away from the events that made you unhappy but you would be unhappy about leaving the place you wanted to live in. People place a serious attachment on places. It can kill people.America's own exodus is proof of that.