Are You Serious Right Now and Many Hands Make Israelite Work
ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?
Hello! Thanks for picking up this book. It seems likely that you’re aware that this is the second in a series, following my colloquial retelling of Genesis. If so, then you already know much of what follows in this explanation. But on the off chance that you skipped straight to Exodus, or just happened across this book in a strange bookstore that you would swear wasn’t there the day before or something, I’m going to explain myself here again.
I like the Bible. I have a genuine enjoyment of its stories and its lessons. It’s shaped human history for thousands of years in ways both good and bad, and I think that to disregard or ignore it is at best a shame and at worst dangerous. Whether or not you think the Bible is relevant to your life, there are certainly people around you who live by it—or by what they think it says—and so it definitely impacts you indirectly, if nothing else.
Many people regard the Bible as a holy book and therefore as something untouchable and beyond reproach. These people are probably going to be very offended by what they find in the following pages. I’m sort of sorry for that, but mainly because I’m sorry that they can’t see the humor in their religion. I’m very willing to laugh at myself, and I feel it greatly improves my life.
Many other people think of the Bible as boring and unreadable, and that’s a real shame. Parts of it absolutely are boring, but I promise you that we already got through the worst of those with the endless lists of begats in Genesis. Part of what this book is designed to do is to communicate the Biblical stories in a way that’s conversational. This whole thing started because I kept holding forth about these stories at parties. I kept getting invited back to the parties, so I take that to mean that it was at least passably amusing.
Do I expect you to learn anything from this book? Not anything religious, no. I have no agenda except to entertain. I’m Jewish, and as a Jew I was taught two things from a very early age: ask questions, and make people laugh. This book uses the former to do the latter. That’s my sincere hope, anyway.
I’m also an aberrant Discordian, which compels me to iconoclasm of my own sacred cows. I wouldn’t feel the need to nitpick and break apart the Bible if it wasn’t my book. So if you feel overly targeted by anything here, just know that that means you’re very close to me. And I’m great, so congratulations! It’s a good place to be.
Read on! Be amused! Be annoyed! Be enlightened! Stop treating discussion of religion like a taboo topic. Invite missionaries into your house and find out what drives them to go door-to-door. Dare to look at the discrepancies in the Bible, to laugh at them, and to still admit that it’s maybe the most influential book ever written. Various parts of that sentence may be hard for you depending on where you’re starting from, but I promise you, it’s worth it.
MANY HANDS MAKE ISRAELITE WORK
Welcome to the sequel! Just like Hollywood, once the first one does well, everyone’s clamoring for more, so the Bible dives right back into it with Exodus (rejected title: Jew Fast Jew Furious). Also like in a standard movie sequel, the authors start off with a quick recap just in case you’ve forgotten what happened in the first one.
In this case, it’s a fairly simple recap: Israel has seventy sons and grandsons—and Dinah, who they’ve forgotten about again—and they’re all living in Egypt. Take note, Hollywood: that’s how you do a recap. Five lines and we’re done! Let’s get on to the new story.
So Bible II: Electric Jewgaloo starts off by skipping ahead about three hundred years, during which time the Israelites grow fruitful and multiply all throughout Egypt. Everything’s fine until a villain enters the scene: Pharaoh. This is not the pharaoh everyone knows about, the one featured in the upcoming ten plagues, but he’s close enough. Also, we obviously haven’t gotten to the plagues yet, but they’re like that one really cool scene in the trailer: everyone knows they’re coming before they ever start the story. If I’ve just spoiled the plagues for you, I apologize, but Exodus is at least a couple of millennia old, so I think you had time to read it.
This pharaoh starts out by establishing his evil credentials early on. He looks around the land, sees that the Jews outnumber the Egyptians, and decides to enslave all of the Jews. His rationale for this is that if they don’t enslave the Jews, then if a war broke out, the Jews might side with their enemies and escape. This is what you might call a self-fulfilling prophecy, since presumably if the Egyptians hadn’t enslaved the Jews, the Jews wouldn’t side against them, and they definitely wouldn’t have escaped, since there wouldn’t have been anything to escape from.
Generally speaking, though, it’s not a life-prolonging move to nitpick the logic of a pharaoh, and so the Egyptians enslave the Israelites. The Israelites, despite being described as “more powerful and more numerous” than the Egyptians, put up with this for some reason, which is very nice of them. It doesn’t seem to work out for them too badly at first, actually. In fact, they have even more kids, presumably to help them with all of the city building that they’re doing for the Egyptians.
This freaks out the Egyptians—and in particular Pharaoh, who is starting to realize that his brilliant plan to enslave over half of his population is really just setting the stage for a slave revolt. So, how can he fix this? Murder!
Pharaoh tells the Hebrew midwives, of which there are apparently only two, that when they’re delivering babies for the Jews, they should kill all of the boys as soon as they’re born. The midwives are not on board with this plan, so they tell Pharaoh that they can’t, because Jews give birth so easily that they’re done before the midwife can ever get there. This might sound a bit ridiculous, but the fact that there are only two midwives for an entire nation lends credence to their claim.
So instead of saying, “Well, just hit the babies on the head when you get there,” Pharaoh decides that this problem is insoluble and gives up for a while; Exodus 1:20 says “and the people multiplied and became very strong.” Now, they started out this chapter as more numerous and powerful than the Egyptians. They’ve twice been described as multiplying and spreading or becoming stronger, while the Egyptians have been described as fearful and weak in childbirth. And I know that this book is written from the Jewish perspective, so they want to make themselves sound cool, but at this point it’s really becoming difficult to see how they’re enslaved at all.
In fairness, so far all we know about their enslavement is that they’re getting stronger, the Egyptians dread them, and Pharaoh is ordering them killed but no one is listening to him. You’ve got to wonder how much the Israelites are really paying attention to their overseers, either.
“Yeah, no, tiny man, we are definitely working this field for you. You’ll totally get the harvest after we take it to the storage city we’ve built and will certainly allow you access to. Oh, you’re so ruthless! Oh, the suffering!”
I’m not trying to make light of slavery! I’m just really not sure that that’s actually what was going on here, no matter what the text says.
This is an excerpt from Here’s the Deal: A Humorous Retelling of the Book of Exodus by Micah Edwards.