I continue to read “Guide to the Bible” by Saul Levin, my Hebrew teacher from college, 100 years ago, which must make him about 150 years old! Anyway, his take on the exodus, based on his literary and linguistic criticism and knowledge of the background material and cultures of the Egyptians and the Hebrews in those days is that Moses, respected still by some Egyptians, though he’s been away, having slain an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew, and knowing the history and culture of the Hebrews as well, was in a unique position to pull off a guerilla and psychological war against the Egyptians, and trained and convinced the Hebrews to assist him at contriving the plagues to set the Egyptians on edge, and then, on a night when the Egyptians were celebrating some festival or another, a religious ritual of some sort, to strike at the Egyptian homes (all the ones without door lintels spread with blood) and kill all the firstborns, silently and carefully, and steal all their treasures, and while they were mourning and in chaos, trying to come to grips with what had happened, leaving en masse, and crossing the “Reed Lake” safely on foot, while the Egyptians couldn’t pull it off because of heavier equipment and the tides coming in and out, and hence drowned, managed to escape from the Egyptians and start their journey to a new land. He suggests that the Hebreews were untrained in traditional warfare, so stealthily slitting throats and causing mayhem was a brilliant and only way they could fight the oppression they lived under, and this was their revolution. And that the code word for this venture was a phrase about the “Lord God of Israel” and when they heard that code word, each guerilla new it was time to strike and flee.
Now, I admit that I am one to examine “miracles” and find ways that they might be explained in terms of ordinary phenomenon, but this is taking me awhile to deal with. I could more easily accept some sort of influenza outbreak or other sickness, that they turned into a plague with propaganda and on top of the other plagues so that the Egyptians had begun to lose faith in their religious system and gods. To have the Hebrews turned into sneaking murderers who slaughtered first born children and animals (not all first borns are adults) is just too much for me to accept outright, without condemning the Hebrews for slaughtering young children as immoral and out of line, not as heroes but as cowards. To slaughter oppressors is one thing, but to slaughter their children to confound them quite another. I realize we’re talking about primitive peoples here, but that seems outrageous. Then again, look at the story in the Gospels about Herod ordering all male babies under age two killed in a effort to kill off the possible Messiah, or at least the rumor that there is such a Messiah born at that time. Is that story a midrashic commentary based on the Exodus story? Who knows! I just find the whole thing disturbing. If stories like this are universally believed, it is fuel for anti-Semitism. It doesn’t make the Hebrews look like the fine upstanding god fearing oppressed people we have come to believe they were. And I can’t say as I think that’s a great model for rising up under oppression. Go ahead and kill your oppressors, but not their innocent children. And then to make a cover up, rationalization, by saying God did it. Well, that much, at least is typical. Forever, people have been blaming God not only for the good things that happen in their lives but the bad as well, suggesting that these things are punishments for the behaviour of some group or another related to them or just personal vengence. To make God vengeful I guess justifies a human being’s own sense of vengefulness. I’m not buying it.
On a different subject entirely, and one less troubling to contemplate, I am in the midst of a plying marathon, with about 20 skeins of yarn that have been spun and need plying. That is today’s task, probably not ALL of it in one day, but making a big dent. Today is Upper Valley spinning, but the weather looks like it might be a little iffy. It’s currently snowing but wintry mix, the plague of us all, ice and sleet and snow and rain and slippery roads all mixed up together, is being forecast for this afternoon, so it remains to be seen whether I travel 35 miles north or sit and spin at home.