(Exodus 4 and 5)
Poor Moses. He’s just this regular old dude fleeing a murder rap, and now God’s selected him to be his champion sorcerer in a magic-off with some of Egypt’s most talented high priests. Of course, Mo don’t know about the magic battle part yet. He thinks he’s giving a speech and inciting the Israelites to grand larceny. He’s afraid he’ll be lousy at it, and get shouted down by a bunch of skeptics. Who’s going to believe the Lord appeared to him? (Ex. 4:1)
So the Lord begins training him for his Vegas Thebes* act, beginning with a corny but classic line: “What’s that in your hand?”
“A staff,” Moses replies, probably mystified.
“Toss it on the ground,” God says.
Moses does as he’s told, and then runs away in terror when his nice wooden staff becomes a great big snake. That Lord, always playing the nasty tricks on unsuspecting people. Then, because he’s a sadistic fuck, he makes Moses grab the “snake” by the tail. Moses does, and it’s suddenly a staff again. (Ex. 4:2-5)
“Now they’ll believe ya,” God says, all smug. “Now, for your next trick: put your hand in your coat.”
Moses obeys, and when he removes his hand, he probably screams a little bit, because now it’s all white, like he’s got leprosy. But God has him do it again, and turns his hand back to normal. (Ex. 4:6-7)
“Those are some first-class tricks,” God says. “Those heathen Egyptians should be convinced after the first or second one. But if the audience still isn’t buying your act, then what you gotta do is take some river water, and you pour it out on the ground, like so, and it’ll turn to blood. Hey presto!” (Ex. 4:8-9)
Moses is still pretty worried, because he knows a good stage act needs a great patter, and he hasn’t got the mad verbal skillz. “Oh, Lord,” he groans. “I’m not an ellie… ello… I mean, I’m not a fancy word guy. I got slow speech, and so’s my tongue. I’m no good at this!” (Ex. 4:10)
God goes into the whole hey-who’d-you-think-gave-mortals-speech-to-begin-with-eh? spiel, but Moses is still all “Just please send somebody else!” God gets pissed, but he agrees to send Moses’s brother Aaron along to do the talking while Moses does the magic tricks. (Ex. 4:11-17)
Moses goes home, collects his wife and kid, and heads to Egypt with God’s assurance that all of the people who’d punish him for that unfortunate little murder incident are dead. On the way, God tells him all about his awesome plans to harden Pharaoh’s heart so he’s got an excuse to murder all of the firstborn sons of Egypt. All this talk of murder seems to whet God’s appetite for blood: when Moses and family stop for the night, the Lord shows up and tries to kill him. (Ex. 4:18-24)
Let’s just pause here a moment to appreciate the situation. This is God, supposed ruler and creator of the universe. He’s all-knowing and all-powerful, I’m told. Some people even try to get me to buy that he’s omnibenevolent, too. Then you come to situations like this, where he picks some dude on the run for homicide, and tells him to perform a bunch of signs and wonders in order to free the Israelites. Great! Except he’s gonna harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he won’t, in fact, let the people go, all so God can show off his mighty powers, and finish by slaughtering thousands of innocent kids. This is a god who can perform signs and wonders and change a dude’s heart, but he can’t or won’t do something really beautiful and majestic and kind to prove his power. He won’t soften Pharaoh’s heart and inspire him to let the Israelites go because their god is just that magnificent. Nope. God likes blood way too much to do any of that soft and fluffy miraculous stuff.
And then, after all that planning, after spending all day arguing a very reluctant Moses into doing this thing, and arranging for Aaron to be a part of it, God gets a wild hair up his ass and tries to murder Moses. This, folks, does not sound omnibenevolent. It also doesn’t sound all-wise. It sounds like someone who needs to be locked up permanently for the safety of others.
Fortunately for Moses, his wife Zipporah is a quick-thinking lady who understands his god’s personal quirks. She snatches up a sharp stone, slices off the bit of her baby son’s penis that the Lord loves best, and throws it on her hubby’s feet. “You’re definitely my bloody husband,” she says, and this gets the Lord to abandon his murder attempt. “Bloody because of the circumcision!” she adds, probably to rub it in God’s face that she’s just had to mutilate her infant son’s wee-wee because of her bloody husband’s bloody awful god. (Ex. 4:25-26)
God goes off and tells Aaron to meet up with Moses and his freshly mutilated son. (For some reason, the writers don’t mention the fact that the poor kid, in pain and not understanding why Mommy attacked his wiener with a sharp rock, probably screamed all night.) The brothers share a kiss, Moses tells Aaron the plan, and they go off to try out their new act for the hometown crowd. Aaron does the narration, Moses does the signs (presumably not including murdering everyone’s firstborn sons), and the poor slave folk eat it up. Of course, even though Moses and Aaron do all the hard work, God gets all the credit. (Ex. 4:27-31)
Moses and Aaron then take their act to Pharaoh, who’s not impressed by their introductory patter. “Who’s this Lord guy? Why should I listen to him and let you slackers slack? Get back to work! Lazy immigrants.” (Ex. 5:1-5)
Now, here’s why anti-slavery laws and strong unions are so important: Pharaoh’s so peeved by this request for a few days off that he tells the Israelites’ taskmasters and supervisors to punish those slackers by making them get their own damned straw for their bricks from now on. “But they’ll still have to make the same amount of bricks,” he says. “Keep the lazy bums too busy to listen to these miscreants!” (Ex. 5:6-9)
Of course, the Israelites can’t keep up with production, so they get beaten. They complain to Pharaoh, but they have no fair labor laws or unions to protect them, so he just calls them lazy again and kicks them out without reducing their quota. They slink out and scold Moses and Aaron for making their lives worse. (Ex. 5:15=-21)
Poor Moses. He feels bad, and complains to the Lord for making him get Pharaoh in a snit without lifting a single divine digit to help out. (Ex. 5:22-21)
Get used to it, buddy: that’s pretty much how God rolls. But don’t worry: he’s a sadistic fuck, and will soon get down to the serious smiting. Shame he’s gonna make all your lives exponentially worse before he makes them so horrible that your people will be longing for the days they were being gently crushed under Pharaoh’s heel.
*Or Memphis, or Pi-Ramesses, depending on when all this supposedly happened.
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