Exodus is where reading plans come to die.
If you’ve made this far into your New Year’s resolution to read the Bible cover to cover, powered by the enthusiasm of a champagne filled night singing Auld Lang Syne with your best friends, let me save you some trouble. Go ahead and quit now. You’re not going to make it through Exodus.
You may make it through the Dr. Jekyll first eighteen chapters on pure plague power alone but finishing the Mr. Hyde second half is about as likely as one of Pharaoh’s chariots crossing the Red Sea. This review is for those as ambitious or foolish as those charioteers.
The book opens 400 years after Genesis ends and any good relations between Egypt and Israel that ever existed by this point were buried in a pyramid somewhere. Between yesterday’s post and this one the Hebrews went from the Nile to the pile. They’d been enslaved.
But even slavery wasn’t enough for Pharaoh. To become a real arch nemesis he’d have to go lower. What’s lower than slavery you ask? Hold my sippy cup.
Of course, every Lex Luthor needs a Superman.
Enter the protagonist of the story, Moses. He was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. But his mother and sister, the real heroes of the story weren’t having it. Mom placed Moses in a basket and sent him down the river without a paddle.
Moses grew up a Hebrew in the Egyptian palace, a pretty cool gig until he got a conscious. So after killing an Egyptian soldier he left his home just like Abraham, Sarah, and basically every hero in every story where (pause for dramatic effect) he had his burning bush moment.
So Mo went to the wilderness to find a wife, a god and a purpose: to free his people.
From this point the story is a roller coaster of ups and downs recording the multiple interactions between Moses, Pharaoh, and a host of side characters. Each time Moses insisted on freedom. Each time Pharaoh refused. And each time God ratcheted up the level of punishment in the form of plagues: gnats, boils, frogs, hail, locusts, middle school boys… it got pretty bad.
Then God, and this is in the Bible mind you, God killed all the first born sons and livestock. All, of course, except the Hebrews who’d painted no trespassing signs on their doorposts in blood. And that was the straw that broke Pharaoh’s camel’s back. That was the moment he let them go.
Predictably, he changed his mind.
After the initial shock wore off Pharaoh sent his army to herd the Israelites back into their pens. From here you know the story. Kind of… no one wants to see Charlton Heston raise his staff over a sea of reeds. Details. Caught between a Ra and a wet place Moses, stretched his hand over the water and God sent an breeze strong enough to push back the water and the Israelites crossed on dry land. Then, spoiler alert, just as the Egyptian army filled the void, the wind stopped and they all drowned.
Let me pause here to offer a short praise. As the soldiers were checking in to Davy Jone’s Locker, Moses and his sister, Miriam, sang the most savage psalm perhaps ever taunted: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”
For the rest of the book I suggest you keep an espresso and a puppy in your chair just to stay awake.
The last half of the book takes place at Mt. Sinai with Moses going up and down to speak with God so many times its’ hard to keep track. Every time he went up Israel lost their minds. Every time he came down and caught them acting like the folks from whom they’d just escaped, someone died or drank gold powder. Israel spent the whole first half of the book trying to leave Egypt and the whole second half wishing they were back.
On the mountain God set all the expectations one might expect for a newly freed nation that didn’t know how to be a nation; that folks shouldn’t kill each other or steal from each other or date girls that dip snuff. The usual.
But the lion’s share of end of Exodus, roughly a third of the book, are instructions for how to build God’s glamping tent. Imagine looking at a set of blueprints and trying to describe it without pictures.
Now imagine trying to read it.
That’s Exodus. The book that starts so hard and ends so hard to read. Truly where reading plans come to die. Of. Absolute. Boredom.
Now you can go on to quitting your other resolutions.