Jehovah: The Rumplestilstkin of Deities

Like a creepy German fairy tale, Chapter 13 begins with Jehovah laying claim to the first-born children of Israel.

1 And Jehovah speaketh unto Moses, saying,`Sanctify to Me every first-born, opening any womb among the sons of Israel, among man and among beast; it [is] Mine.’

Then, like a commercial break during a Gossip Girls marathon, he goes on another epic rant against yeast. Not only does he want them to avoid eating yeast during the annual commemoration of the slaughter of innocents, but he doesn’t even want that shit in the same country as the Israelites. God must have had a terrible experience with a pH imbalanced woman at some point.

The celebration instructions for future Passovers get odd and violent and specific at this point:

13 `And every firstling of an ass thou dost ransom with a lamb, and if thou dost not ransom [it], then thou hast beheaded it: and every first-born of man among thy sons thou dost ransom.

I’m not quite sure what it means to ransom (or “redeem” as another translation puts it) a donkey with a lamb, but apparently if you don’t take care of that, you’re going to find yourself sawing the head off a baby donkey, so fucking ransom that shit.

Throughout this chapter, God constantly congratulates himself on his slaughter of Egyptian babies, reminding his people to brag to anyone who asks that “by strength of hand hath Jehovah brought us out from Egypt.” Why is the almighty god so concerned with wringing adulation from his creation? Is he that petty that he needs to orchestrate his own praise from humanity? There is something that rubs me wrong about this deity, his utter lack of subtlety and humility, his insecurities and volatility. Do I shout at the red ants in my ant farm to proclaim to their ancestors that it was I that defeated the black ants? Who destroys a supposedly inferior being and then tells other inferior beings to make sure to praise him for it every year at the same time? I think of that sort of sore-winnerness as a purely human emotion, one that would even be embarrassing in humans. I don’t expect that from a perfect being.

God shows some more crippling insecurity just a couple verses later. Although he specifies several times that it was his strong hand brought the people out of Egypt, we find out that upon guiding the people out of  Egypt, he reroutes the cosmic GPS to avoid the land of the Philistines, thinking that if his people encounter another hostile situation, they will turn back into Egypt.

17 And it cometh to pass in Pharaoh’s sending the people away, that God hath not led them the way of the land of the Philistines, for it [is] near; for God said, `Lest the people repent in their seeing war, and have turned back towards Egypt;’

Let’s unpack that. First, how bad was it in Egypt if the very first minor skirmish the Israelites encounter, they want to head back to Egypt? In the United States Civil War, almost 200,000 African Americans fought in the U.S. Army or Navy. Almost 40,000 died. That’s what fighting to escape slavery looks like, not “shit, the Philistines are bothersome, let’s go back to slavery.” So that’s bullshit.

Secondly, if God is powerful enough to single-handedly free the Israelites from Egypt, then why are the Philistines such a bother? If his fucking hand is so fucking strong that their ancestors should brag about it for generations, wouldn’t trouble with the Philistines just be another opportunity for Jehovah to ego-jerk himself off again? It doesn’t make sense. Instead of the direct route, he sends them “the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea” where, spoiler alert, they’ll end up getting boxed in by the angry Egyptians and then wandering for dozens of years in the desert. Seems like the powerful god should be able to handle Philistines instead of doing a thousand-mile end around.

The chapter ends with an interesting, but ultimately unbelievable, visual: God leads the people with a pillar of fire at night and a cloud during the day because, well, fuck physics.

Exodus 13

1 And Jehovah speaketh unto Moses, saying,

`Sanctify to Me every first-born, opening any womb among the sons of Israel, among man and among beast; it [is] Mine.’

And Moses saith unto the people, `Remember this day [in] which ye have gone out from Egypt, from the house of servants, for by strength of hand hath Jehovah brought you out from this, and any thing fermented is not eaten;

To-day ye are going out, in the month of Abib.

`And it hath been, when Jehovah bringeth thee in unto the land of the Canaanite, and of the Hittite, and of the Amorite, and of the Hivite, and of the Jebusite, which He hath sworn to thy fathers to give to thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou hast done this service in this month.

`Seven days thou dost eat unleavened things, and in the seventh day [is] a feast to Jehovah;

unleavened things are eaten the seven days, and any thing fermented is not seen with thee; yea, leaven is not seen with thee in all thy border.

`And thou hast declared to thy son in that day, saying, `[It is] because of what Jehovah did to me, in my going out from Egypt,

and it hath been to thee for a sign on thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, so that the law of Jehovah is in thy mouth, for by a strong hand hath Jehovah brought thee out from Egypt;

10 and thou hast kept this statute at its appointed season from days to days.

11 `And it hath been, when Jehovah bringeth thee in unto the land of the Canaanite, as He hath sworn to thee and to thy fathers, and hath given it to thee,

12 that thou hast caused every one opening a womb to pass over to Jehovah, and every firstling — the increase of beasts which thou hast: the males [are] Jehovah’s.

13 `And every firstling of an ass thou dost ransom with a lamb, and if thou dost not ransom [it], then thou hast beheaded it: and every first-born of man among thy sons thou dost ransom.

14 `And it hath been, when thy son asketh thee hereafter, saying, What [is] this? that thou hast said unto him, By strength of hand hath Jehovah brought us out from Egypt, from a house of servants;

15 yea, it cometh to pass, when Pharaoh hath been pained to send us away, that Jehovah doth slay every first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of man even unto the first-born of beast; therefore I am sacrificing to Jehovah all opening a womb who [are] males, and every first-born of my sons I ransom;

16 and it hath been for a token on thy hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes, for by strength of hand hath Jehovah brought us out of Egypt.’

17 And it cometh to pass in Pharaoh’s sending the people away, that God hath not led them the way of the land of the Philistines, for it [is] near; for God said, `Lest the people repent in their seeing war, and have turned back towards Egypt;’

18 and God turneth round the people the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea, and by fifties have the sons of Israel gone up from the land of Egypt.

19 And Moses taketh the bones of Joseph with him, for he certainly caused the sons of Israel to swear, saying, `God doth certainly inspect you, and ye have brought up my bones from this with you.’

20 And they journey from Succoth, and encamp in Etham at the extremity of the wilderness,

21 and Jehovah is going before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them in the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give light to them, to go by day and by night;

22 He removeth not the pillar of the cloud by day, and the pillar of the fire by night, [from] before the people.

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One thought on “Jehovah: The Rumplestilstkin of Deities

  1. As I’ve said before here, this is a very superficial way of reading the text. It’s really no different from the way fundamentalist Christians read it, except that they believe in it and you don’t.

    The way God is described here is not the way God actually is, but the way God appeared to the people of those times and cultures. They could not understand or accept more advanced and more accurate views of God, so God allowed them to believe all of these things about God that you so roundly reject and condemn. Keep in mind that these people were not all that far from the stone age. They still lived in tents and practiced animal sacrifice.

    As for their not going straight into the Holy Land, after generations of slavery whey weren’t ready to be an autonomous, self-governing nation. The generation of former (adult) slaves had to die off, and a new generation grow up, for them to take that next major step in their evolution as a people.

    It’s easy to do a simple, superficial, literal reading of the Bible without any cultural or historical context and pan it as ridiculous. But it’s a lazy, unintelligent way of reading the Bible. If you don’t want to believe in God, no problem. That’s your right. But at least approach the Bible text from a perspective that’s more intelligent and enlightened than that of your average fundamentalist.

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