Tuesday, August 9, 2011

God of the Old Testament

After reading through Exodus and putting some thought into much of what it said, it seems further confirming that Jehovah or the god of the old testament is not what we today expect the divine source, eternal spirit, the one that is all to be. The being described in Exodus (and other parts of the Bible) seems to have more of the characteristics of one who is more powerful and knowledgeable than humans, but is certainly not omnipotent.

I have selected many excerpts from Exodus to consider, they follow along with my thoughts on each:

Exodus 7:3`And I harden the heart of Pharaoh, and have multiplied My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt,

Jehovah says that he is making Pharaoh more closed to the idea of letting the Hebrews go, in order that Jehovah has more opportunity to prove himself and make the spectacle bigger and more talked about.

Exodus 10:1 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `Go in unto Pharaoh, for I have declared hard his heart, and the heart of his servants, so that I set these My signs in their midst, 10:2 and so that thou recountest in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, that which I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have set among them, and ye have known that I [am] Jehovah.'

Jehovah confirms the above - the Pharaoh's heart was hardened and the signs set against Egypt to make the Hebrews want to tell stories of this for generations to come, and so that everyone reveres Jehovah.

Exodus 10:12 and I have passed over through the land of Egypt during this night, and have smitten every first-born in the land of Egypt, from man even unto beast, and on all the gods of Egypt I do judgments; I [am] Jehovah.

Jehovah is judging the gods of Egypt - is he above them in station or does he just disagree with them? Humans can be judgemental towards each other without actually having a higher place in the world. By contrast a judgement could refer to a legal action - telling the gods of Egypt to stay out of the matter and let Jehovah handle his business.

Exodus 10:35 And the sons of Israel have done according to the word of Moses, and they ask from the Egyptians vessels of silver and vessels of gold, and garments; 10:36 and Jehovah hath given the grace of the people in the eyes of the Egyptians, and they cause them to ask, and they spoil the Egyptians.

It's a good thing Jehovah put on such a show, and made sure that it would be extra spectacular, because now that the Egyptians are terrified of him, the Hebrews can take all of their valuables, food, clothing, anything they want without resistance. It is essentially like armed robbery.

Exodus 13:17 And it cometh to pass in Pharaoh's sending the people away, that God hath not led them the way of the land of the Philistines, for it [is] near; for God said, `Lest the people repent in their seeing war, and have turned back towards Egypt;'

God is concerned that if the people who have come out of Egypt see a war going on where the Philistines are, that they will want to run back to the safety of Egypt.

Exodus 15:1 Then singeth Moses and the sons of Israel this song to Jehovah, and they speak, saying: -- `I sing to Jehovah, For triumphing He hath triumphed; The horse and its rider He hath thrown into the sea. 15:2 My strength and song is JAH, And He is become my salvation: This [is] my God, and I glorify Him; God of my father, and I exalt Him. 15:3 Jehovah [is] a man of battle; Jehovah [is] His name.

Jehovah is a man of battle? From most of our understanding about the biblical God, it is very out of character for him to be referred to as a man - in fact, it seems outright insulting as it would be degrading to refer to a great being as a lesser being.

Exodus 18:10 and Jethro saith, `Blessed [is] Jehovah, who hath delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians, and from the hand of Pharaoh -- who hath delivered this people from under the hand of the Egyptians; 18:11 now I have known that Jehovah [is] greater than all the gods, for in the thing they have acted proudly -- [He is] above them!'

Again the tale of how Jehovah got the Hebrews out of Egypt impresses many and convinces them that he is amazing - and again, it was Jehovah who made it difficult to get them out of Egypt so that the event would be far more impressive.

Exodus 19:9 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `Lo, I am coming unto thee in the thickness of the cloud, so that the people hear in My speaking with thee, and also believe in thee to the age;' and Moses declareth the words of the people unto Jehovah.

Jehovah is coming to the mount - in a huge show with all the people watching - so that Moses is more likely to be believed when he relays the messages Jehovah is giving him.

Exodus 19:21 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `Go down, protest to the people, lest they break through unto Jehovah to see, and many of them have fallen; 19:22 and also the priests who are coming nigh unto Jehovah do sanctify themselves, lest Jehovah break forth on them.' 19:23 And Moses saith unto Jehovah, `The people [is] unable to come up unto mount Sinai, for Thou -- Thou hast protested to us, saying, Make a border [for] the mount, then thou hast sanctified it.'

Jehovah had already told Moses to make a border and make sure no one could get through. Now he is double checking, and Moses reminds him that the border is already set up and he has already told everyone they can't cross it because it would be dangerous.

Exodus 19:24 And Jehovah saith unto him, `Go, descend, then thou hast come up, thou, and Aaron with thee; and the priests and the people do not break through, to come up unto Jehovah, lest He break forth upon them.' 19:25 And Moses goeth down unto the people, and saith unto them: -- 20:1 `And God speaketh all these words, saying, 20:2 I [am] Jehovah thy God, who hath brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of servants. 20:3 `Thou hast no other Gods before Me.

Clearly, there are other Gods. Jehovah wants to make sure that Israel - who he preserved - focuses only on him, in repayment for his preservation and selection of them.

Exodus 20:4 `Thou dost not make to thyself a graven image, or any likeness which [is] in the heavens above, or which [is] in the earth beneath, or which [is] in the waters under the earth.

This almost sounds as if art itself is unacceptable, that the people are not to recreate anything they see, no matter what it is. Could this be a reference more so to likenesses of the ethereal, the supernatural, the holy, the awe inspiring? Maybe it isn't a concern if they paint a sunset but it is a concern if they paint a recreation of Jehovah leading them through the desert - perhaps he didn't want there to be a record of what that pillar of smoke and pillar of fire really looked like.

It seems like this decree could have two goals - 1. (shown below) Jehovah doesn't want them worshiping any other gods or phenomenon, so he doesn't want the people making and worshiping an image of any other god or phenomenon. 2. Jehovah does not want a visual record of his presence, appearance, or technology.

This is interesting because within the Nag Hammadi library, there is reference to Yaldoboath having the appearance of a beast and making man look like heavenly man (Adama/Christ) and seeming unhappy about looking like a beast himself. If that's the case, it's a good reason why he wouldn't want any images made of him.

Exodus 20:5 Thou dost not bow thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, Jehovah thy God, [am] a zealous God, charging iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third [generation], and on the fourth, of those hating Me, 20:6 and doing kindness to thousands, of those loving Me and keeping My commands. 20:7 `Thou dost not take up the name of Jehovah thy God for a vain thing, for Jehovah acquitteth not him who taketh up His name for a vain thing.

This commandment is often misconstrued to be saying that you shouldn't speak the name of Jehovah in a cursing, swearing manner.

What it really means is that you should not do anything that is vain (pointless) while telling people you do it under the command of Jehovah, for Jehovah, or with his name or signs anywhere on your flags, clothing or vehicles. In other words, don't go fight a war you can't possibly win with Jehovah's name on your banner.

To do so is to soil the name of Jehovah, to make it less mighty - to make Jehovah look bad or weak.

Exodus 20:12 `Honour thy father and thy mother, so that thy days are prolonged on the ground which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee.

Here it is said that the honoring of the father and the mother increases the number of generations which will survive in the land - what action is described by honoring the parents? How is it that this honoring will lengthen how long the Hebrews stay in the land? Is it in some way related to preventing interbreeding that is too close, keeping in mind who your family line is so that when you take a mate they are not so closely related to you as to cause problems?

Or perhaps it is the opposite - be sure to only breed within this group, do not go outside as it will cause the genetic line to lose it's purity.

Exodus 20:13 `Thou dost not murder. 20:14 `Thou dost not commit adultery. 20:15 `Thou dost not steal. 20:16 `Thou dost not answer against thy neighbour a false testimony. 20:17 `Thou dost not desire the house of thy neighbour, thou dost not desire the wife of thy neighbour, or his man-servant, or his handmaid, or his ox, or his ass, or anything which [is] thy neighbour's.'

All of these commandments relate to interpersonal relations, and if followed should keep the entire population fairly harmonious and peaceful. If they stick to these guidelines, it will prevent most of the negative interactions that people have with each other.

Exodus 20:18 And all the people are seeing the voices, and the flames, and the sound of the trumpet, and the mount smoking; and the people see, and move, and stand afar off, 20:19 and say unto Moses, `Speak thou with us, and we hear, and let not God speak with us, lest we die.' 20:20 And Moses saith unto the people, `Fear not, for to try you hath God come, and in order that His fear may be before your faces -- that ye sin not.'

The people are afraid, and Moses reassures them that their fear of the situation is necessary, god has come to cause it, so that it is a remind to them not to sin or cause problems. Jehovah wants to be feared.

Exodus 20:21 And the people stand afar off, and Moses hath drawn nigh unto the thick darkness where God [is]. 20:22 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `Thus dost thou say unto the sons of Israel: Ye -- ye have seen that from the heavens I have spoken with you; 20:23 ye do not make with Me gods of silver, even gods of gold ye do not make to yourselves. 20:24 `An altar of earth thou dost make for Me, and thou hast sacrificed on it thy burnt-offerings and thy peace-offerings, thy flock and thy herd; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered I come in unto thee, and have blessed thee. 20:25 `And if an altar of stones thou dost make to Me, thou dost not build them of hewn work; when thy tool thou hast waved over it, then thou dost pollute it;

Jehovah does not want silver or gold idols made of himself - these are the two metals which are least likely to degrade over time, gold would stay pristine so long as it isn't exposed to corrosive forces, silver would also last a long time but would tarnish and oxidize. If idols had been made of Jehovah in these materials, they would have stood a far better chance of surviving through to today and being discovered - making evidence of Jehovah available. The altars too were to be made of the least sturdy materials, things that would easily be blasted away by natural forces and would not last more long at all.

Exodus 20:31 `And ye are holy men to Me, and flesh torn in the field ye do not eat, to a dog ye do cast it.

An instruction not to eat something which died in the field, probably at a time that you don't know when it died. Man did not yet understand the concept of spoiled meat, so Jehovah explained to them that they should only eat food if they know exactly when it was killed.

Exodus 31:3 and all the people themselves break off the rings of gold which [are] in their ears, and bring in unto Aaron, 31:4 and he receiveth from their hand, and doth fashion it with a graving tool, and doth make it a molten calf, and they say, `These thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.' 31:5 And Aaron seeth, and buildeth an altar before it, and Aaron calleth, and saith, `A festival to Jehovah -- to-morrow;' 31:6 and they rise early on the morrow, and cause burnt-offerings to ascend, and bring nigh peace-offerings; and the people sit down to eat and to drink, and rise up to play. 31:7 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `Go, descend, for thy people whom thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt hath done corruptly, 31:8 they have turned aside hastily from the way that I have commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and bow themselves to it, and sacrifice to it, and say, These thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.'

They make the golden calf, worship it and seem to associate it with Jehovah. Jehovah did not want any images of himself - or any other gods - so whether or not the calf represents Jehovah it would anger him. However, if it does represent Jehovah, is this a tie to the Hindu belief that Brahman appears as a cow at times? Zeus also has appeared as a bull, there are common themes among the gods of various religions and appearing as bovines.

Exodus 31:9 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `I have seen this people, and lo, it [is] a stiff-necked people; 31:10 and now, let Me alone, and My anger doth burn against them, and I consume them, and I make thee become a great nation.' 31:11 And Moses appeaseth the face of Jehovah his God, and saith, `Why, O Jehovah, doth Thine anger burn against Thy people, whom Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand? 31:12 why do the Egyptians speak, saying, For evil He brought them out to slay them among mountains, and to consume them from off the face of the ground? turn back from the heat of Thine anger, and repent of the evil against Thy people.

The Egyptians were distrustful of Jehovah - they believed him to have evil intent towards the Hebrews, or evil intent in general. This seems reflected in Pharaoh's unwillingness to let the people worship Jehovah, mirrored today in our culture where we do not like or trust religions that perform animal sacrifices. Here, Jehovah has become angry with the people for disobeying what he has decreed and he threatens to consume everyone but Moses, and make Moses the new start of what he was trying to do with the Hebrews.

Most interestingly, Moses asks Jehovah to "repent of the evil against thy people" - at other places in the Bible it is said or insinuated that the eternal God cannot sin - but if Jehovah is feeling evil towards the Hebrews, and Moses recognizes it and asks him to stop, this is a massive contradiction in ideas about what Jehovah is.

Exodus 33:20 He saith also, `Thou art unable to see My face, for man doth not see Me, and live;' 33:21 Jehovah also saith, `Lo, a place [is] by Me, and thou hast stood on the rock, 33:22 and it hath come to pass, in the passing by of Mine honour, that I have set thee in a cleft of the rock, and spread out My hands over thee, until My passing by, 33:23 and I have turned aside My hands, and thou hast seen My back parts, and My face is not seen.'

There is a lot of care taken that no one know what Jehovah's face looks like, but also that his image not be recreated in any way. However, he clearly has a visible body of some type because of the mention of his "back parts" - but had to maneuver so that Moses wouldn't see his face. This again seems to indicate a being of limited power rather than limitless - could he not have simply not appeared, disguised himself, or moved with such speed that Moses would not have seen him, if he were in fact a being of limitless power and ability?

Who was this being? You'll have to decide for yourself. For me, I do not follow this being nor hold it in high regard, as many of it's actions seem to center on deception and control of the people.

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