Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Exodus 1 - 5:

On with my reading of the Bible, and now I'm into the beginning of Exodus. Not a lot to say here, although the story is much more mundane compared to most of Genesis. My major experience with Exodus until now has been the DreamWorks animated film Prince of Egypt, a fine film but, it turns out, not entirely biblically accurate:

  • Unlike Prince of Egypt, Moses' murder of an Egyptian is entirely premeditated in the Bible. "[Moses] saw an Egyptian beaing a Hebrew, one of his kinsfolk. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." (Exodus 2:11-12)
  • After Moses flees Egypt he settles in the land of Midian, where he meets a priest of Midian with 7 daughters, one of whom (Zipporah) he marries. However, when we're introduced to the priest of Midian his name is Reuel (Exodus 2:18) but shortly thereafter he is referred to as Jethro (Exodus 3:1).
  • When encountering the burning bush, Moses continually tries to get out of his mandate to go back and bring the Israelites out of bondage. He's taught some magic tricks to prove to the Israelites that he's for real - he can turn a stick into a snake and back into a stick (this was in Prince of Egypt) and he can turn his hand leperous and non-leperous at will (this was not).
  • One of his most interesting protests is the declaration that he's not a good speaker, at which point God says that he'll let his brother, Aaron, speak for him. I've actually heard about Moses not being a good speaker, but I heard that he was a stutterer, is probably from his statement that "I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."
  • Exodus 5 ends with things not going well, and the Israelites are not pleased with Moses and Aaron. After asking for time in the wilderness to worship their God, Pharoah makes things even harder on them, and the Israelites blame Moses for it - "The Lord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us." (Exodus 5: 21). This "don't rock the boat, because you're making things worse" mentality reminds me a bit of people who protested against slavery or against early activities in the civil rights movement. This must have been the sort of mentality that Martin Luther King Jr. had in mind when he railed against white moderate ministers who believed in the cause of equality but didn't act on it:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

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