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Exodus - Week 4

April 29th, 2020: Chapters 11-15

Image Credit: Crossing of the Red Sea (Sistine Chapel - 1482)

Read and Discuss Chapter 14:1-31

  1. Historicity of the Exodus. What might be the logistics (and mathematics) of moving 600,000 men plus women, children and livestock? Is this miracle or myth? Both? Neither?
  2. Why does Moses need to use his staff in order for God to work? Why does God need to use the wind to part the sea? Are there "naturalistic" explanations for this miracle? Are they satisfactory? Are they necessary?
  3. Scholarly debate about the existence of chariots at the time of the Exodus.
  4. 14:12 -- Which is the greater value, freedom or life?

Other Things to Discuss, time permitting.

  • Free will and the "hardening of Pharaoh's heart."
  • Passover feast and the origins of ritual/ceremony. Ritual as education for children. Coronavirus connections?
  • Immigration law and Verse 12:49 - "There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you."
  • The songs of Moses/Miriam and the God of war/peace. Edomites, Moabites and Canaanites (oh, my!)
  • The complaints of the people against God/Moses and the questioning of authority.

Questions to consider for Week 5 (chapters 16-20)

  1. In Chapter 16, we find the Israelites complaining again right out the gate, just weeks after witnessing the power of God through the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. What, then, is the value of miracles? Do miracles really lead to faith? Woody Allen once said that he would believe in God, "if only God would give me a clear sign, like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank." Would you? For how long?
  2. In 16:17, God takes care of the people's most basic needs through the provision of bread (manna) and meat, and that no matter how much or little they gathered, they had just enough. What does this imply about God's economics? Also, the Israelites "fail the test" when it comes to hoarding/gathering. Question: Do you have enough toilet paper? How much do you need? Are we passing or failing the test today?
  3. Consider again the complaints of the people in the wilderness: Which do people prefer more: Liberty (from Egpyt, etc.) or to be taken care of?
  4. In Chapter 17, we read about two places: Masah (which, in Hebrew, means "test") and Meribah (quarrel). Which came first: The chicken (name of the places) or the egg (explanation for the origin/etiology of the names)?
  5. Chapter 17 and 18 make a point about leadership. Consider the lifting and lowering of Moses' arms in the battle against Amalek and the advice of Moses' father-in-law, Jethro. Can a leader really do it all alone? In what ways do you need support from others? In what ways do you give support to the leaders in your life?
  6. In chapter 19, the people prepare for three days in order to meet God (washing of clothes, absitnence, etc.) Why is this important? What do we do in order to prepare ourselves to encounter God in worship?
  7. From the footnotes of the NRSV study Bible on 19:21-22: "The absence of a temple to contain and to regulate the holiness of God creates a dangerous situation." Is that still the case today? Is there any danger to encountering the divine without the mediation of communities, institutions and offices (i.e. pastors, priests, mentors, gurus)?
  8. Chapter 20: How many commandments are there? Count them carefully (look at verbs) This is not as obvious as it seems.
  9. The Ten Commandments follow a patter common in the Ancient Middle-East. Bonus: Google search the "Code of Hammurabi, and ancient Treaties of Suzerainty. In what ways is this covenant between God and the Israelites similar/different?