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Week Two: A Disturbing Exodus

Travis Griffith

I enjoy a challenge. I get off on challenging other people's existing perceptions and smile when my personal views and ideas are questioned.

And so I smiled while reading a comment from reader Marcia on my last post. Part of what she said was,

you must remember as much as you would like to believe that you are coming at this reading with an open mind, none of us is capable of completely being open to ideas that challenge our current views.

While that's a powerful statement, I respectfully disagree. Regular readers know how passionately I once conformed to atheism. Part of me (a lot of me, sometimes) still wants to cling to an atheistic view because it's easier and more convenient and somehow rebellious and cool. However, because my mind was open to entering a new spiritual paradigm, I reject atheism yet still strongly respect those who embrace it.

An open mind led to a new way of thinking.

That is how I am approaching my Bible read. I may not want to believe it, I may point out parts that seem contradictory, but my mind is open to the possibility that the Bible means much more than I've ever given it credit for.

That wasn't easy while reading through Exodus. Frankly, I'm severely disturbed by it. I naturally have more questions, some of which I'll pose here, and hope for a discussion on possible answers in the comments.

Before the last two weeks, there was one section of the Bible that I read: the Burning Bush. Something similar happened to me, which I can pinpoint as the moment I left atheism. That's a long story but it ultimately put me on the path I'm on now. Reading that story with fresh eyes was inspiring and resonated as truth from the loving God who introduced himself to me.

From there, though, something changes in the book. God seems to go from lovingly proving his existence and bestowing hope on humanity to killing them. Why?

Why torture the Egyptians with plagues? Why kill all their first-born babies? If the only answer is simply, "Because they didn't accept the Lord God," then I can only shake my head in disbelief and sadness.

The theme continues through the explanation of Passover, when God passes over the people he likes to go "slaughter" the ones he doesn't. It just makes me cringe.

The Red Sea is another example. The Israelites pass through the waters safely, but God drowns the Egyptians, causing the Israelites to celebrate.

Recent events have shown me that celebrating the death of our enemies makes us no better and I was under the impression that God supported that view. So I'm left confused by the words and events in Exodus.

As horrible as I find the killing of perceived enemies, I'm simply flabbergasted at the timing of the reveal of the Ten Commandments. Number six: Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Is there a difference between human sin and that of the divine?

My disgust went into overdrive when Moses was at Mount Sinai speaking with the Lord and the people below committed a sin: creating a golden calf and worshipping it. God and Moses entered an absolute rage, followed by these words:

Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, Put your sword on your hip, every one of you! Now go up and down the camp, from gate to gate, and slay your own kinsmen, your friends and neighbors!

Are you kidding me? The punishment for one sin is to commit another? Now we're not killing enemies, but our own people! This troubles me.

Then irony presented itself again a page or two later when God says, "The Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity..."

As troubled as I am so far by the content, I am impressed by the depth of characters so far and the continuity between generations of people, and how each contributes to the consequences of the next. The incredible depth of the Bible is beginning to show through.

Exodus: who else is troubled?


Travis Griffith, Relief’s Blog Manager, is a former atheist now exploring what a spiritual life really means. His children’s book, Your Father Forever, was published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. Travis works from his home in Spokane, WA as a professional writer.