15 February 2013

Strange stories in Exodus

I've now come to the book of Exodus, and I've bumped into some strange stories.

The first was the end of Exodus 4. Moses is finally underway to Egypt. And then the LORD comes to him and is about to kill him (verse 24). And this simply doesn't make sense to me. I'm not saying that Moses' irritating excuses not to go to Egypt (culminating with his claim not to be able to speak well) would not have been displeasing to God, but God answered all of his excuses, even providing his brother Aaron to help him. After all this effort, Moses was finally doing what God asked, so it seems strange to me that God would then come to kill him. The story only gets more strange. Zipporah, Moses' wife (and thus not Moses himself), circumcises their son to appease God. And she throws the foreskin on Moses' feet. (as an aside: feet are not the part of the body I immediately think of when I hear about circumciscion, and the NIV Study Bible even notes that feet is most likely an euphemism). Zipporah seems not too pleased about the whole event, but Moses is not killed. And Zipporah disappears from the story without a further word, only being mentioned again in chapter 18 when her father brings her back to Moses in the desert.
When I read this story, I feel like I'm so far removed from the cultural context that I simply can't fully understand it. And perhaps that is enough - to acknowledge that this story reminds me of how the Bible and its culture isn't entirely understandable.

And yet, at the same time, there's also some great stories where I have to smile at how obvious they are.
At the beginning of Exodus 5, Moses and Aaron let Pharoah know that the LORD wanted him to let His people go to worship Him. Pharoah responds by saying that he knew nothing of this Lord. And Moses and Aaron pretty much repeat their request, as if they hadn't really heard what Pharoah had said. It seems that the Bible clearly is pointing out that Pharoah's knowing God was irrelevant. The LORD still wanted them to go. As the story continues, we see both that the LORD will make sure his people go, and Pharoah will also come to know Him.

But my favourite story is still that of Aaron's staff (Exodus 7:8-13). To show God's power, Aaron's staff becomes a snake. But the magicians of Pharoah also make their staffs into snakes. As reader, I can't help but thinking, "oh, I guess that miracle wasn't all that special and doesn't really prove that much." And then Aaron's snake eats up all of their snakes. And I can't help but laugh. Translated into language of today, it's like God said to the magicians: "You think you're so good, but yeah, whatever."

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