Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Humans Bent on Evil while God is Mysterious in Mercy: A Survey of the Book of Exodus

After my survey on the book of Genesis, I decided to read through the book of Exodus and write another survey. A survey of a biblical text is one of the first steps in exegetical practice and biblical scholarship. In the survey process one reads the text and records initial thoughts, reactions, and questions. Now, I shall do so for the book of Exodus.

The Exodus narrative begins the story of Moses and tells the events of how the people of Israel were delivered form the land of Egypt. Unlike the book of Genesis, the book of Exodus focuses primarily on one central figure (Moses) and how he interacts with God, the Israelites, the Egyptians, and the Pharaoh.

The story of Exodus is a battle for the first born son (whether that be Egypt or Israel). One thing is very evident in this text the LORD (the “I AM THAT I AM”) is in control. God has a plan and Moses, a simple man, was chosen to be the face of this plan to the people of Israel. In this narrative, God is seen as so powerful that no one can see the divine face and live. Usually God is veiled behind a cloud when communicating with Moses.

As literature, I found the Genesis story more engaging than the Exodus story, but this might be due to the fact I can’t help but see images of Charlton Heston whenever I read the book of Exodus. However, some very interesting things develop in the book of Exodus. The Israelites wander in the wilderness of Sin (which I suspect has influence on the origins of how we use the word “sin” today, but it had a specific significance to its context). Another striking observation, I saw in this most recent reading of Exodus, was the fact that Moses instructed the people not to offend the Egyptians with their sacrifices to the LORD (8:26).

The book of Exodus (while not my favorite biblical text) establishes at least two major elements of the faith, the Law and tradition (namely Passover). On one hand we have the Law (in the form of the Ten Commandments and their explanations) which illuminates the brokenness of humanity and on the other hand we have the Passover, which celebrates the deliverance of God’s people by the work of the Lord.

Friday, June 1, 2012

R-Rated Beginnings: A Survey of the Book of Genesis

The book of Genesis is like, dysfunctional family story hour. The text is not lacking any form of malice, deceit, debauchery, or violence. I say family dysfunction because the Genesis story is one tale of a broken home after another. It’s fratricide, upon deception, upon some funky familial relations.

When it comes to the Genesis text, I tend to side with scholars who segment it into two forms: metanarrative and historical narrative. Usually, I place the metanarrative around Creation and Fall, but a recent reading of the text has me leaning towards a larger segmentation (Ch. 1-11). This leaves the historical narratives consisting of the Patriarchs and their Jerry Springer like, family stories.

The myth (tradition/legend) of the giants and sons of gods consorting with female humans (Ch. 6) contributes to the metanarrative, which explains the fallen nature of humankind, as does the Flood, as does, Cain and Able. In this metanarrative, we have the makings of two crucial covenants (Noaic and Abrahamic) One where the Lord promises not to destroy people and the other where the Lord promises the growth of a people. In short, through legend and history, the book of Genesis depicts the bonded will of humanity.

The basic gist of the book of Genesis, humans are inclined to do messed up things. There’s everyone’s favorite Sodom and Gomorrah, where the townsmen want to “get to know” the angels a bit. There’s the split of Jacob and Esau (Israel and Edom) who were at odds throughout the Primary History (Genesis-Kings). Not to mention, Lot’s daughters (Ch. 19).

Frankly, the book of Genesis is R-rated for violence and disturbing sexual content. Lot’s daughters and their freaky relations may be the most unsettling to modern readers. But, Abraham (you know, the father of many nations) married his half-sister Sarah (20:12).

As I reread Genesis today, the text brought out some interesting questions. I wondered how any Christian could believe in Free Will (if they’ve read Genesis in its entirety). I wondered how we’ve managed to convey many of the stories as fantastical children’s tales. I wondered how anyone could find it boring (whether they treat it as sacred or not). If you haven’t read the book of Genesis, I encourage you to read it, not so the Lord convicts you (or whatever spiritual motive you may favor), and not in order to disprove its legitimacy. Read it for the story, where copious amounts of human brokenness are met by a divine covenant of grace.

(I listened to this on vinyl today)