Monotheism

Exodus_dneg_itw_06

 

(Excerpt from my up-coming book Messed-up! Enjoy!)

 

Monotheism

Judaism was founded around 3500 years ago, give or take a few centuries. In other words, within a couple of centuries, give or take, of Akhenaten’s rule. There has been quiet speculation, ever since the discovery of Akhenaten’s religious revolution, that the Jews got the idea of a single God in Egypt, where the descendants of Jacob were said to have been slaves. When this question is put to Jewish scholars, they are quick to claim that there were Israelite slaves in Egypt before Akhenaten, and that he probably got his idea of a single God from imperfectly overheard slave gossip. It seems unlikely that the answer will ever be known with any certainty – but, if it turns out to be the latter, it’s a good bet that history will be sued for Libel by a massive coalition of Jewish Law-Firms.

 

Anyway, according to the Scriptures, the Pharaoh of Egypt, during the time of Israelite servitude (he’s never named in scripture, just called ‘Pharaoh’), decided that there were too many of them, and they were beginning to pose a threat. Still, Egypt had always had a need for slave-labor, and he couldn’t afford to kill them all, so he hit upon a solution that he felt was a ‘win-win’:  he ordered the slaughter of all newborn male infants.  This was a ‘win’ for him, because he wouldn’t have to worry about a ton of rebellious, moody, teenagers showing up in a few years – and he considered it a ‘win’ for the Israelites, because some of them would go on living, albeit in miserable bondage. What’s not to like?

Accordingly, as the word of the impending slaughter leaked out, an Israelite woman named Jochebed, who’d just given birth, decided her brand new baby boy stood a better chance floating in a basket on the river with the crocodiles, than he did against Pharaoh’s Newborn Massacre Squad. She took a basket, sealed it up with pitch, put the baby in it, and, completely ignoring his threats of legal action, dropped him in the river to fend for himself – the correct phrasing for which, at the time, was “put him in the hands of the Lord!”

The Lord apparently took the hand-off without a hitch, sprinted downstream, and lateraled to the daughter of Pharaoh, who was out having a refreshing bath.

Like most women, she was all “Oooo, a baby!”  and, despite the objections of her attendants, she filed for adoption, giving the child the name “Moses”, which some have interpreted as “Gift of the River”. (Incidentally, there are no records regarding Pharaoh’s feelings about a child of unknown parentage being raised as a prince of Egypt – but unless he’s the most inattentive parent ever, he had to have known that his daughter hadn’t given birth herself!  In view of this, I wish to register my objections that the scriptures contain no account of what happened when the Pharaoh asked “where the hell did that come from????” )

Scripture pretty much skips everything after that, until young Moses comes across an Egyptian smiting an Israelite, takes exception, and does some smiting of his own. Sadly, he smote rather harder than he intended and the Egyptian croaked. With cunning born of need, Moses dragged the body away and hid it in sand, smugly assuming no one had noticed. Not long after, he came on some Israelites fighting and demanded to know why. One of them sneered at him and asked “What are you going to do? Kill us like you did that Egyptian?”

Oh. Shit.

Since it was apparent that EVERYONE knew about the whole smiting of the suspiciously-missing-Egyptian, Moses decided maybe it might be a really good time to tour the Sinai Desert.

He eventually ended up in a place called Midian, where a dude named Jethro managed the biggest sheep ranch in the region. At dinner, Jethro explained that he had loads of daughters, no sons, and – hey, Moses wouldn’t happen to be into sheep would he???

Moses settled down when Jethro hastily explained that he hadn’t meant it that way. Soon thereafter he married one of Jethro’s daughters, and settled in to learn the sheep-ranching trade.

At some point later, while rounding up some strays, he noticed a bush, high up on the slopes of the nearby haunted, er, Holy mountain.  Ordinarily, he wouldn’t have paid much attention:  there were bushes all over the place. This one, though, he noticed, was on fire – again nothing all that out of the ordinary, since the mountain was prone to Lightning-strikes – except that this burning bush wasn’t being reduced to ashes as had been his experience with other burning bushes, so he decided a closer look was called for.

Upon nearing the bush, he heard a voice come out from it, ordering him to halt, and remove his shoes, for he was standing on Holy Ground. A somewhat protracted conversation ensued, the bush, er, sorry, the Bush, explaining that it was actually the God of the Israelites, and that he had heard the wailing of his people that were in Egypt, and that Moses was to head on back there and convince Pharaoh to let them go.

One would think that, having received the commands of God, Moses would have saluted smartly, replied “Yes, sir!” and gotten right to it.  Moses, however had some … concerns.

According to scripture, Moses asked who he was, that he should approach Pharaoh?  It’s hard to fault him, really:  he WAS, after all, wanted for murder, there.  The Bush crackled in irritation, while most likely the Lord counted to ten Billion, then he assured Moses that he would be with him, and it would all work out. Moses then pointed out that he wasn’t much at public speaking, so maybe God should find someone else. The Bush fumed for a moment in silence, while presumably the Lord counted to ten trillion, then he told Moses that the job was his, he wasn’t getting out of it – but, yeah, ok, he could get his brother, Aaron, to be his mouthpiece.

Moses, having gotten his way – at least partially – may have been getting a little cocky. He had yet another issue:  if he was going to demand that Pharaoh release the Israelites in the name of their God, it was a good bet that Pharaoh would want to know just exactly what that name was. (Moses was assuming ‘Bush’ wouldn’t be very convincing.)

The Bush blazed ominously for several seconds, while presumably the Lord counted to ten quadrillion, then explained, loftily, “I AM.”

Moses’ brow furrowed, “Excuse me?”

“I AM WHO I AM.”

Moses stared at the bush for a bit, “er, yes, well …”

“YOU SHALL SAY THAT I AM HAS SENT YOU.”

“Ah. Yes, well, that should do it, I expect.”

Scripture doesn’t say, but it seems likely, at this point, that the Lord may have thought “This is going to be a LONG exodus!”

In any case, Moses returned to Egypt, found the Pharaoh not particularly interested in releasing his slave-labor force, coerced him with a variety of nasty plagues, and even after all that drama still couldn’t make any headway – whereupon God sent the Angel of Death to join the negotiations. The people of Egypt woke up and discovered all their first-born had croaked.

That did the trick.

The Israelites departed from Egypt – taking a short-cut across the Red Sea – and began wandering Sinai, Jordan, and northern Arabia.  The Talmud claims they were being punished for refusing to attack Jericho the first time they got there. It’s hard to blame them, really:  slaves aren’t taught to use weaponry, nor are they versed in storming a heavily fortified city.  Nevertheless, it would appear that God was miffed at them for their lack of faith, and sent them to wander the Sinai till that entire generation had died out.

Perhaps coincidentally, the Jews began to build an army during those 40 years.  They learned the craft of making weapons and armor, learned how to attack fortifications, and, when they got back to Jericho, they had a badass army, a terrific general, and the Ark of the Covenant – also known as the Big Golden Box of Whoop-Ass.

God had ordered the construction of the Ark while the Hebrews were encamped at mount Sinai.  The two tablets of the Ten Commandments (written by God’s own finger) were stored within it, along with Aaron’s Rod, and a pot of Mana. The latter was the special divine bread with which God showered the Israelites, who were starving because, let’s face it, you can’t really grow food in Sinai, and certainly not while wandering in penance.

The story goes that a couple of months after leaving Egypt, the provisions they’d taken with them ran out, and the people began to bitch that they ought to have stayed in Egypt, where at least they had enough to eat!

God heard about it, counted to thirty-gazillion, then told Moses that he’d feed the people himself.  Every evening, the camp would be covered with quail, which could be caught and killed without skill. Every morning there would be a dew of Mana, which could be gathered and eaten like bread. Moses instructed the people they were to gather as many quail as they needed, and one pot of mana for each person, and that they weren’t to save ANY of it till the next day.

Naturally some tried to – only to find it rancid and crawling with maggots.

This supposedly went on for 40 years.

Anyway, at the end of all that time, they had an army, weapons, armor, Joshua, and the aforementioned Big Golden Box of Whoop-Ass, and they were at last ready to take the promised land.

Everywhere they went, the Ark went first:  carried by Levites, some 800 yards in advance of the Jewish host, carefully veiled by skins and blue cloth, because the Ark was not for the eyes of ordinary Joes, or even ordinary Jews. When they came to the Jordan River, the river went dry as soon as the feet of the priests with the Ark touched the water.  Since they were pretty sure the water would be back as soon as the Ark left the river-bed, the priests hung out where they were while the host crossed, over. When the last of the people were across, the priests carried the Ark over, and, sure enough, as soon as they left the river-bed, it became a river again.

For their next trick, the Levites bore the Ark around the City of Jericho once a day for seven days, preceded by seven priests honking on ram’s horns . On the seventh day, they made seven laps around Jericho, then the whole army shouted, and the walls fell flat, much to the consternation of the Jerichans … Jerichites? Who knows – it doesn’t matter much, because none of them were left alive afterward anyway, since the Lord, in his mercy, had ordered heren – the ritual slaughter of every man, woman, and child in the city.  Scripture says they spared only one person: a prostitute who had sheltered the spies Joshua sent to check the place out. Joshua’s spies had apparently endorsed her as “really good!”

And so it went. Wherever the Big Box of Whoop-Ass went, bad things happened to the enemies of Israel – right up to the point where the Philistines (likely descendants of those Bastards from Nineveh) captured the thing, and began to experience SERIOUS bad things, themselves.

Of course, some fairly bad things happened in the Israeli camp when they got the news:  the Priest, Eli, dropped dead upon hearing of it, and his daughter who was in the throes of delivering a child when the news got there, made up her mind to call the kid ‘Ichabod’ – meaning The Glory Has Departed Israel – despite the fact that A) the kid had done not a damned thing to deserve it, and B) it would doom him to a lifetime of explaining how one brief word could contain that whole dolorous phrase!

Anyway, as I said, the Philistines, having carried off the Ark, were having problems.

They had originally born it to Ashdod, where it was placed in the temple of Dagon. The next morning, the statue of Dagon was found prostrate before it.  They somehow put the statue back in it’s place, only to find, the next morning, the statue had been prostrated and broken before the Ark. There was more to come. Ever creative, the Lord smote the people of Ashdod with inoperable hemorrhoids. Then there was a plague of mice, over all the land. It’s likely that at this point, the Philistine leaders were approached  by the city fathers of Ashdod, who asked that they take the freaking thing out on tour!

They took the Ark to Gath, where the people were smitten with boils. The same thing happened when it arrived at Ekron.

After seven months of this, the Philistines, on the advice of their seers, decided maybe it’d be a good idea to give the damned thing back – accompanied by a peace-offering in the form of golden images of the mice, tumors, boils, and hemorrhoids.

Word got around that it was a really bad idea to mess with the God of the Israelites.

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~ by dourscot on August 4, 2016.

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