I only did 4 chapters this week. Not good. Korea threw me out of the habit, and I need to get back to a 6-7 chapters a week pattern.

Reading this chapter, I could practically hear Yul Brynner saying “Let them make bricks without straw!” I said something about making midrash an acceptable Christian custom, but have we maybe done that a little with Hollywood movie adaptations? I can’t help but picture the more famous scenes from Exodus adaptations, even if I know they took gross liberties with the story in the Bible.

The Pharaoh’s initial reaction to Moses’ request (which is a total deception) is relatively reasonable: Um, who’s this Yahweh guy and why should I care about him? But then he immediately switches into Oppressive Boss Mode:

“Oh, what, you’re complaining about your work conditions? You want time off for your religious festival? Well, if you’ve got so much time to complain, why don’t I have you work a little harder! Lazy unwashed masses. I bet 47% of you don’t even pay income taxes!”

Okay, that was low. But I won’t deny that I like that in 3 hours from now, Mitt Romney won’t be giving his inauguration address.

I’ve been a bit of a lefty from childhood on, and I think it came a lot from reading Exodus and watching things like The Ten Commandments. I learned early on that many, many people in the world are poor or enslaved and God is on their side and will eventually topple anyone who mistreats them. And as I got older, I saw that not only be consistent throughout scripture, but a very basic pattern of life – save maybe for the toppling. I could never get into the contradictory inevitablism of predictive Marxism (though I think it works relatively well as a descriptive model, the bass informing the superstructure and all that), it was always too… religious for something that was materialistic. If you want the universe to bend towards an eventual justice, you need something that, in part, transcends the universe. I call that God, specifically Jesus’ God.

Which is another thing I’ve been thinking about, particularly whenever I get to really unpleasant passages. Why do I read the Hebrew Bible? I’m not Jewish, so this isn’t the tale of my people. I disagree with a lot of the ideology, particularly around rape and gender. Why bother with it?

Because it’s Jesus’ Bible. This is what he heard as a child and read as an adult. You can’t divorce Jesus from his Jewishness and from the Hebrew Bible. The Gnostics tried, and I don’t like the religion they came up with.The Exodus in particular is one of the big narrative themes in Judaism, in all its many variations through history. “You were once slaves in Egypt. You were freed by God.” And that has played out in Christian theology as “You were once slaves to sin and death. You were freed by Christ.” But reading the Hebrew Bible can remind you that it’s not just sin and death, some people are slaves to other people, to governments, to spouses, and God sets them free from that as well – that, indeed, those things are very much a part of “sin.”

The Japanese: shitayaku “underling” (v 6), namakemono “lazy person” (v 8), kitsukusuru “to make more intense” (v 9), kirikabu “stump, stubble” (v 12), sekitateru “to get irritated” (v 13), ninmei suru “to appoint, to designate” (v 14), kukyou “crisis, predicament” (v 19), kougi suru “to protest, to object” (v 21).