Watching The Life of Pi yesterday sapped a lot of my emotional strength to write this. I highly recommend the film, but have tissues prepared.
This was a long chapter, and most of it was about how to observe Passover. The actual slaying of the firstborn takes all of 4 verses. And there are all sorts of odd little things to ponder.
There’s verse 11, where God says “on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements.” What does that mean? Is this one of those contexts where “gods” are a stand-in for rulers-who-esteem-themselves-to-high? Or is it saying that because they cannot protect the Egyptians from the LORD, he has passed judgment on their incompetence?
There’s the response of the Egyptians to the slaughter of the firstborn. Pharaoh, whose own child dies (v 29), lets the Israelites go to worship God with their families and animals – not, notably, to let them leave permanently, though he has to know that’s what they plan by then. But he also asks that as they worship for them to “bring a blessing on me too” (v 32). Or perhaps he really means “don’t curse me for dragging my feet”?
And with the other Egyptians, Exodus reports that “the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians” (v 36), which is an odd way of putting it. They seem more like they’re terrified of the Israelites, convinced that if they stay, it’ll only mean more disasters, and just give them anything to make them go faster. If that’s “favor,” then it’s not the kind of favor I want to be in with anyone.
Also, the strict prohibitions on non-Jewish participation in Passover makes me look back at the one Maundy Thursday faux-seder I attended with a certain amount of awkwardness.
So the Israelites are on their way out of Egypt, still under false pretenses, hastily sent off by terrified masters. Not necessarily the most auspicious of beginnings, but it’s better than an eleventh or twelfth plague. Also, supposedly there are more than 600,000 of them, but I’ll save my skepticism on census data until Numbers.
The Japanese: hoburu “to slaughter, to butcher” (v 6), kamoi “threshold” (v 7), koubo “yeast,” nigana “bitter herb (ixeris dentata, specifically),” soeru “to season” (v 8), niru “to boil,” shishi “limbs” (v 9), shoukyaku “incineration” (v 10), koshiobi “girdle,” sugikoshi “passover” (v 11), fuhen “unchanging” (v 14), tatareru “to be severed,” jokou-sai “feast of unleavened bread” (v 17), hitotaba “a bundle,” hachi “basin, bowl,” hitasu “to soak, to dip” (v 22), neriko “dough,” gaitou “overcoat, cloak” (v 34), sounen “mature, adult” (v 37), shujuzatta “all sorts, motley” (v 38), itoma “spare time” (v 39), nezuban “sleepless vigil, night watch” (v 42), hodokosu “to perform, to conduct” (v 44), douyou “identical to” (v 48), kitei “regulations, provisions” (49).
As I noted, nigana is actually a word that’s used for a native Japanese plant with bitter sap, but it literally means “bitter herb.” Shujuzatta sounds awesome and I intend to use it when I can.