Beating *the fuck* out of dead horses

This chapter provides one of the most famous Old Testament stories, the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of the Egyptian army. I have to admit, the imagery is pretty impressive: Moses stretching out his hand to part the sea, walls of water on either side. I remember the illustration of the moment from my picture Bible I had as a kid. Moses’ perfect hair badassedly blowing in the wind while he lifts the staff, showing off his jacked guns like a Semitic Ed Hochuli.

Moses parting the Red Sea

Moses parting the Red Sea

Unsurprisingly, I have some issues with the message underlying the badass story, though. Namely, that it seems like Jehovah engineered the whole situation to satisfy his own vanity. We find in verse 4 that just like Pharoah’s stubbornness during the plagues, his directive that the Egyptians pursue the Israelites comes straight from Jehovah, who “hardened” his heart. For some reason, Jehovah has chosen the Israelites to lavish his attention upon while the Egyptians are merely hapless foils whose only utility is to die in order to make Jehovah seem awesome. Apparently god created all people, but likes some better than others. Like Americans, he likes them too. Brown people? Not so much. It aaaaalmost makes you think that god is just a figment of whatever culture conjures him up in order to justify their atrocities and satisfy their egocentricity. Almost.

Well, God decides that he engineering the near-destruction of Egypt through the genocide of babies and baby animals did not sufficiently demonstrate his super-fucking-awesomeness, so he needs to make a further demonstration with….more genocide! He hardens Pharaoh’s heart again, inciting him to give chase to the Israelites, then wipes them out with a wall of water. The texts makes sure to point out that they are all dead:

28 and the waters turn back, and cover the chariots and the horsemen, even all the force of Pharaoh, who are coming in after them into the sea — there hath not been left of them even one.

I would think that an Almighty being wouldn’t be so needy. If five minutes go by without someone being terrified of him, he starts killing people to try to get them to adore him again. He just can’t stop himself from creating the need for himself. People start to get along OK, so he gets bored and resentful and sends an army after them so he has an excuse to kill a bunch of people to wow them. It reminds me of the shitty sitcom gag where a guy wants to win a woman’s heart, so he gets one of his friends to fake-mug her so he can jump in to the rescue and sweep her off her feet. Except in Jehovah’s version of the grift, he kills his friend and drowns his friend’s puppy, then murders all of his family and friends too.

The story has a happy ending–for Jehovah not for the thousands of newly-fatherless Egyptian children:

31 and Israel seeth the great hand with which Jehovah hath wrought against the Egyptians, and the people fear Jehovah, and remain stedfast in Jehovah, and in Moses His servant.

The TLDR from this chapter: God wants to be feared, not loved. And heaven help you if you look self-sufficient, you’re in for a shitstorm. Oh, and at any moment, your life may be taken from you in order to satisfy God’s vanity.

Amen.

Stopppp. Can't you see they're already dead?

Stopppp. Can’t you see they’re already dead?

Exodus 14

1 And Jehovah speaketh unto Moses, saying,

`Speak unto the sons of Israel, and they turn back and encamp before Pi-Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, before Baal-Zephon; over-against it ye do encamp by the sea,

and Pharaoh hath said of the sons of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut upon them;

and I have strengthened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hath pursued after them, and I am honoured on Pharaoh, and on all his force, and the Egyptians have known that I [am] Jehovah;’ and they do so.

And it is declared to the king of Egypt that the people hath fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants is turned against the people, and they say, `What [is] this we have done? that we have sent Israel away from our service.’

And he harnesseth his chariot, and his people he hath taken with him,

and he taketh six hundred chosen chariots, even all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over them all;

and Jehovah strengtheneth the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursueth after the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel are going out with a high hand,

and the Egyptians pursue after them, and all the chariot horses of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his force, overtake them, encamping by the sea, by Pi-Hahiroth, before Baal-Zephon.

10 And Pharaoh hath drawn near, and the sons of Israel lift up their eyes, and lo, the Egyptians are journeying after them, and they fear exceedingly, and the sons of Israel cry unto Jehovah.

11 And they say unto Moses, `Because there are no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in a wilderness? what is this thou hast done to us — to bring us out from Egypt?

12 Is not this the word which we spake unto thee in Egypt, saying, Cease from us, and we serve the Egyptians; for better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in a wilderness?’

13 And Moses saith unto the people, `Fear not, station yourselves, and see the salvation of Jehovah, which He doth for you to-day; for, as ye have seen the Egyptians to-day, ye add no more to see them — to the age;

14 Jehovah doth fight for you, and ye keep silent.’

15 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `What? thou criest unto Me — speak unto the sons of Israel, and they journey;

16 and thou, lift up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand towards the sea, and cleave it, and the sons of Israel go into the midst of the sea on dry land.

17 `And I — lo, I am strengthening the heart of the Egyptians, and they go in after them, and I am honoured on Pharaoh, and on all his force, on his chariots, and on his horsemen;

18 and the Egyptians have known that I [am] Jehovah, in My being honoured on Pharaoh, on his chariots, and on his horsemen.’

19 And the messenger of God, who is going before the camp of Israel, journeyeth and goeth at their rear; and the pillar of the cloud journeyeth from their front, and standeth at their rear,

20 and cometh in between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel, and the cloud and the darkness are, and he enlighteneth the night, and the one hath not drawn near unto the other all the night.

21 And Moses stretcheth out his hand towards the sea, and Jehovah causeth the sea to go on by a strong east wind all the night, and maketh the sea become dry ground, and the waters are cleaved,

22 and the sons of Israel go into the midst of the sea, on dry land, and the waters [are] to them a wall, on their right and on their left.

23 And the Egyptians pursue, and go in after them (all the horses of Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen) unto the midst of the sea,

24 and it cometh to pass, in the morning watch, that Jehovah looketh unto the camp of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubleth the camp of the Egyptians,

25 and turneth aside the wheels of their chariots, and they lead them with difficulty, and the Egyptians say, `Let us flee from the face of Israel, for Jehovah is fighting for them against the Egyptians.’

26 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `Stretch out thy hand toward the sea, and the waters turn back on the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.’

27 And Moses stretcheth out his hand towards the sea, and the sea turneth back, at the turning of the morning, to its perennial flow, and the Egyptians are fleeing at its coming, and Jehovah shaketh off the Egyptians in the midst of the sea,

28 and the waters turn back, and cover the chariots and the horsemen, even all the force of Pharaoh, who are coming in after them into the sea — there hath not been left of them even one.

29 And the sons of Israel have gone on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters [are] to them a wall, on their right and on their left;

30 and Jehovah saveth Israel in that day out of the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel seeth the Egyptians dead on the sea-shore,

31 and Israel seeth the great hand with which Jehovah hath wrought against the Egyptians, and the people fear Jehovah, and remain stedfast in Jehovah, and in Moses His servant.

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5 thoughts on “Beating *the fuck* out of dead horses

  1. Not to justify God’s actions as portrayed in this story, but do you really think that slavery is A-OK? That those Egyptians were just poor, innocent misunderstood little bystanders who only wanted to be loved? (sob! sob!)

    The Egyptians’ intent was to drag the Israelites back into slavery at the point of a sword. Would that have been fine with you? Should God have just let ’em do it?

    • So you think God should have killed every man woman and child in the American south in the 1860’s then? Drowned them all, along with their horses? I wonder where God was when people were in slavery in the United States, or the millions of people in slavery around the world now. He’s such a fantastic advocate for oppressed people, right? That’s why he has such a great track record with that over the last 6,000 years, right?

      Also, by the way, there’s that little thing about God engineering this whole situation. He intervened to “harden Pharaoh’s heart” just so he could make a point. If God made you do something–actually tweaked your brain to make you do something you were not otherwise inclined to do–and then killed you for doing it, you wouldn’t find that a bit problematic?

      • That’s why I started out with, “Not to justify God’s actions as portrayed in this story.” I’m not saying God in the story was acting well by today’s standards.

        But what about those Egyptians? Were they really just innocent bystanders?

        And what about those plantation owners in the old American South? Was it wrong for the North to invade and free the slaves?

        What about the millions in slavery around the world today–including in the United States itself? Is it wrong to use armed force (such as police officers) to free those slaves?

      • Incidentally, God did not kill every man, woman, and child in Egypt. He did kill a lot of them with the plagues. He also killed the entire army that Pharaoh sent out to re-capture the fleeing Israelites. But there were still plenty of Egyptians left alive back in Egypt.

  2. This is good and the analysis of the god in this story is correct in my view. It’s only a small matter that not even Jewish scholars think it really happened. It seems that to tell the story that way made the Jews sound more bad-ass so that’s how they wrote it down.

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