Moses worries about his tongue when he encounters a fiery bush: Exodus 3

Well, this is a Bible story that even people unfamiliar with the Bible probably know about. It’s the burning bush story, in which God enlists a reluctant Moses to rescue the Hebrews from their mistreatment in Egypt. It’s pretty much how I remember it, kind of repetitive and awkward. When God appears (his first appearance in the Bible since the middle of Genesis), he has to identify himself to Moses, as “God of thy father, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob,” which I still find peculiar. Are there other gods around speaking from burning bushes whom Moses may confuse with the Hebrew god? Has Jehovah been so absent and negligent that nobody even knows he exists anymore? It’s notable that it only took a few generations for the idea of a single god who is active in human affairs to become a watered-down, pathetic deity only mentioned abstractly at births and funerals, and whose appearances must be accompanied by an introduction.

Anyway, God tells Moses that he has heard the cries of the Hebrews and has resolved to do something about it. Well shit, it’s about fucking time. Actually, technically HE is not going to do anything about it, but he wants Moses to do it. To lead them out of Egypt to the “land of Milk and Honey.” What would have been a clever move for the wise God would have been to use Moses’ pedigree as a Prince of Egypt, Pharaoh’s adopted son, to install him in a position where he could enact a more favorable policy toward Hebrews. Or, you know, he could come up with a convoluted plan to visit plagues on thousands of innocents, kill a bunch of babies, wander in the desert for 80 years, and then have to fight a variety of tribes for the promised land that was so shitty that they were forced to leave or starve to death. Oh yeah, that’s a better plan.

Continuing the story, God decides to confuse the fuck out of the situation by giving cheeky responses to Moses’ very reasonable questions, like “who the fuck are you?” God’s answer:

14 “I Am That Which I Am.”

Cool, thanks asshole. I’m sure the Hebrews will be very responsive when an exiled murdering race-traitor conveys that message. There’s tons of credibility in vaguery and riddles.

Let’s pause here to talk again about WHAT THE FUCK constitutes “god” at this point. We’re supposed to believe that there is a consistent, unique, all-powerful entity somewhere in this fucking book. A singular entity. What we actually have are a collection of beings that are sometimes humanoid and sometimes ethereal, sometimes present and involved and sometimes seemingly nonexistent, sometimes wise and sometimes foolish and temperamental, who has been identified by at least four different names (YHWH, Yahweh, I AM, and Jehovah), and who resembles a compilation of about a dozen pagan deities.

Back to the story, I Am cracks an idiotic plan based on horribly incorrect assumptions to “free” the Hebrews. I put “free” in quotations because that’s mien of the narrative, but the historicity is highly questionable. There’s really no mention outside of the Bible of Hebrews being held by force in a country in which they did not want to remain.  There’s also absolutely no explanation in the Bible about how the Hebrews went from being wildly successful in Egypt, thriving and multiplying in Goshen, to being an abused untouchable slave caste.

God’s plan also involves some extremely fucked-up manipulations by the big bully. Check this:

18 `And they have hearkened to thy voice, and thou hast entered, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye have said unto him, Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, hath met with us; and now, let us go, we pray thee, a journey of three days into the wilderness, and we sacrifice to Jehovah our God.

19 `And I — I have known that the king of Egypt doth not permit you to go, unless by a strong hand,

20 and I have put forth My hand, and have smitten Egypt with all My wonders, which I do in its midst — and afterwards he doth send you away.

Suddenly God, who took untold decades to realize that his people weren’t doing so well in Egypt, knows what is going to happen in the future, and predicts that he will have to fuck shit up to get Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. Stay tuned, because [spoiler alert] this is going to get progressively fucked up. It will turn out that God’s “prediction” is not so much bona fide presagacity as a disturbingly violent self-fulfilling prophecy.

This chapter ends on a high note. Not only does this on-again/off-again murderous psychopath deity tell his people to lie to the Egyptians and promise to rain down his fury, but they’re also supposed to steal all of their shit on the way out.

22 and [every] woman hath asked from her neighbour, and from her who is sojourning in her house, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and ye have put [them] on your sons and on your daughters, and have spoiled the Egyptians.’

Cool!

EXODUS 3

1 And Moses hath been feeding the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, priest of Midian, and he leadeth the flock behind the wilderness, and cometh in unto the mount of God, to Horeb;

and there appeareth unto him a messenger of Jehovah in a flame of fire, out of the midst of the bush, and he seeth, and lo, the bush is burning with fire, and the bush is not consumed.

And Moses saith, `Let me turn aside, I pray thee, and I see this great appearance; wherefore is the bush not burned?’

and Jehovah seeth that he hath turned aside to see, and God calleth unto him out of the midst of the bush, and saith, `Moses, Moses;’ and he saith, `Here [am] I.’

And He saith, `Come not near hither: cast thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place on which thou art standing is holy ground.’

He saith also, `I [am] the God of thy father, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob;’ and Moses hideth his face, for he is afraid to look towards God.

And Jehovah saith, `I have certainly seen the affliction of My people who [are] in Egypt, and their cry I have heard, because of its exactors, for I have known its pains;

and I go down to deliver it out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to cause it to go up out of the land, unto a land good and broad, unto a land flowing with milk and honey — unto the place of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.

`And now, lo, the cry of the sons of Israel hath come in unto Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them,

10 and now, come, and I send thee unto Pharaoh, and bring thou out My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.’

11 And Moses saith unto God, `Who [am] I, that I go unto Pharaoh, and that I bring out the sons of Israel from Egypt?’

12 and He saith, `Because I am with thee, and this [is] to thee the sign that I have sent thee: in thy bringing out the people from Egypt — ye do serve God on this mount.’

13 And Moses saith unto God, `Lo, I am coming unto the sons of Israel, and have said to them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they have said to me, What [is] His name? what do I say unto them?’

14 And God saith unto Moses, `I Am That Which I Am;’ He saith also, `Thus dost thou say to the sons of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.’

15 And God saith again unto Moses, `Thus dost thou say unto the sons of Israel, Jehovah, God of your fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this [is] My name — to the age, and this My memorial, to generation — generation.

16 `Go, and thou hast gathered the elders of Israel, and hast said unto them: Jehovah, God of your fathers, hath appeareth unto me, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, I have certainly inspected you, and that which is done to you in Egypt;

17 and I say, I bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt, unto the land of the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite, unto a land flowing [with] milk and honey.

18 `And they have hearkened to thy voice, and thou hast entered, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye have said unto him, Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, hath met with us; and now, let us go, we pray thee, a journey of three days into the wilderness, and we sacrifice to Jehovah our God.

19 `And I — I have known that the king of Egypt doth not permit you to go, unless by a strong hand,

20 and I have put forth My hand, and have smitten Egypt with all My wonders, which I do in its midst — and afterwards he doth send you away.

21 `And I have given the grace of this people in the eyes of the Egyptians, and it hath come to pass, when ye go, ye go not empty;

22 and [every] woman hath asked from her neighbour, and from her who is sojourning in her house, vessels of silver, and vessels of gold, and garments, and ye have put [them] on your sons and on your daughters, and have spoiled the Egyptians.’

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