Tag Archives: Israelites

In this week’s Bible readings…

bricksandstraw…I stumbled across Exodus 5, where the Israelites were required, as slaves to the Egyptians, to make bricks without straw.

This was at a time when the Israelites, led by Moses and Aaron, had had it with Pharaoh’s heart, which seemed to harden at the slightest of provocation. (I mean, seriously: If someone turned water into blood, I’d capitulate, right there. It would not take a swarm of locusts and certainly not the death of babies to get me to let the Israelites go, but that’s just me talking.)

(But seriously: I’m Pharaoh! I can capture just about any one to do my dirty work, amirite?)

But back to the story, that phrase, “bricks without straw,” stuck in my head. The Israelites were being asked to do something without the proper resources. Bricks need straw, and the Israelites were doomed to fail.

In the story in Exodus, of course, they faced travails so God could show God’s power.

So we are entering a time that, to me, feels like Bizarro World. Our leader is someone I can barely stomach, and the good work that was promoted by the previous administration looks like it could be disappeared by a few strokes of a pen. We are now entering a time when we will build bricks without straw.

But I promise: We will build them. This is not the time for despair. This is time for some creative building. Onward.

In last week’s reading of the Hebrew scriptures…

AltarofElijah6…I came across one of my favorite passages, the throw-down between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the goddess Asherah — or, more accurately, the throw-down between God, and Baal and Asherah.

Baal is a continual annoyance and worse for the early kingdoms, and the Israelites are continually warned away from the worship of same. Baal may have been one god, or a series of local gods. Tough to say, but we know that the writers of I and II Kings (that’s One and Two Kings, if you’re Donald Trump, and yeah, I should probably let that go) were adamant that the Hebrews stop already. Asherah isn’t mentioned nearly so often as Baal, though the worship of the mother goddess is widespread enough to gain Elijah’s attention.

(Even today, we are still talking about Baal — at least, that’s the case if we’re Glenn Beck, who has spent not nearly enough time in Sunday school or serious study to know what he’s talking about. Anyway. Onward.)

I don’t know what happens to the goddess’ prophets, but asking both sets of seers to assemble, Elijah, a Hebrew prophet of some renown, challenges the 450 prophets of Baal (or baalim, plural) to a throw-down. Elijah asks Baal’s prophets to bring two bulls, and prepare one animal for sacrifice and Elijah will do the same. Then Baal’s prophets and Elijah will pray and see whose god is paying attention.

Team Baal prayed for hours, and danced around the altar, but by noon nothing had happened, so Elijah started to trash-talk. Pray louder! Dance harder! Maybe Baal is sleeping! Maybe Baal is dreaming! Or peeing!

That make the prophets angry so they danced harder and even cut themselves with knives, though how that’s supposed to get a deity’s attention is beyond me.

So Elijah asked three times that water be brought to pour over his bull, and then he said a simple prayer, and fire rained down from heaven, so much so that everything was incinerated — the bull, the altar, everything.

So then the story ends as all these Kings’ stories ends: Elijah leads the prophets down to a brook and slaughters them. That part is tough to read, so I mostly as a kid just focused on the fire raining down, so much so that gallons upon gallons of water couldn’t deter it.

In last week’s reading of the Hebrew scriptures…

Ms768_500_339(As a reminder, I, the fundamentalist with Mad Bible Skills, have started re-reading the Bible, from Gen. 1, using a guide I loaded onto my phone. Obviously, people read the Bible and find different things. Here’s what I found last week:)

Moses was continually being told by God to rein in the Israelites, who couldn’t seem to stay faithful, despite God having brought them out of slavery in Egypt. In fact, God gets so angry at the group that they are told they won’t see the promised land.

Honestly, the Israelites don’t come off as very grown up. I look forward to the Book of Deuteronomy, where at least we make it to the Promised Land. I feel I have earned it.