The Top Four Most Ridiculous Things in Exodus

Exodus. Although at Holey Books we’ve moved on to Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, we still have one post left on Exodus. This post follows one of the more popular posts on Holey Books: the Top Six Most Ridiculous Things in Genesis. For those of you keeping track at home, we’re (roughly) defining ridiculous as “something that makes the modern reader blanch,” or else something that “patently defies general morals, logic, reason, or common sense.” Again, roughly.*

Anyway, without further adieu, and in an effort to catch up, here’s our list of the Top 4 Most Ridiculous Things in Exodus:

  1. God Killed Every Firstborn in Egypt (Ex. 12:29). Although God specifically manipulating and hardening the heart of Pharaoh was quite hard to stomach, that could plausibly be chalked up to a bit of an overstatement on the behalf of the author. But God sending a plague to kill every firstborn in Egypt? Large scale infanticide? It’s hard to palate a God who mass murders completely innocent infants.
  2. Sorcery—actual, Harry Potter-type sorcery—existed (Ex. 7-8). For you wannabe Hogwarts students out there, look no further than your Sunday Bible school sessions—because according to the Book of Exodus, magic exists. And I don’t mean miracles created by God, I mean honest-to-goodness magic.  During their stand-off with Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron are, for a spell, matched by Pharaoh’s conjurers (see what I did there?). For example: turning their staffs into snakes: Ex. 7:11-12; turning water into blood: Ex. 7:22; and bringing forth some frogs: Ex. 8:7. While Pharaoh’s guys eventually get stumped, the mere fact that Exodus actually acknowledges they are working magic should give us some pause.
  3. The Second Commandment’s Generational Punishment (Ex. 20:4-6). There’s nothing particularly wrong with the Second Commandment, at least as the version in Exodus starts. But then it gets a bit off track as God continues: “…for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Yeah, you read that right. Better hope your parents or your grandparents or your great-grandparents don’t start to bow down to that golden calf in your backyard. Because you’re going to pay. As Ryan put it, “I guess the concept of individual responsibility escapes Yahweh.” Add to that the fact that God is “jealous”–if no other gods existed, of whom would God be jealous?–and you have a very puzzling section, indeed.
  4. Chapters 21 and 22 (Ex. 21-22). Thankfully we’ve already listed all of the ridiculous elements in this section . Of course, not everything in these chapters is ridiculous, but much of it is. Much of God’s proscriptions and commandments in Exodus make sense—such as prohibiting all the major offenses, including stealing, murder, and adultery. But unfortunately, it’s also filled with a lot of other strange prohibitions and punishments, which (should) cause an awful lot of blanching. For example: it’s okay to beat your slaves, as long as they can recover in a day or two (Ex. 21:20). These chapters also establish the death penalty for offenses such as cursing your father and mother (Ex. 21:17) or kidnapping (Ex. 21:16), which no current society would use capital punishment for.


*As a side note, we have taken a deeper look at whether Exodus was even historical at all, concluding it probably wasn’t. So really the whole thing probably fits our definition of “ridiculous” since it purports to be true but ultimately doesn’t have the evidence to back it up.

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