Book of Exodus

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Light iron-age reading
The Bible
Icon bible.svg
Gabbin' with God
Not to be confused with our article on the Evidence for the Exodus.
The truth is that virtually every modern archaeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.
—Rabbi David Wolpe, Passover sermon

Exodus is the second book of the Bible, which chronicles Moses' negotiations with Pharaoh to "Let my people go", the handing down of the official club rules by the man upstairs, the ten really nice plagues upon Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea and so on. Just a real dog and pony show,Wikipedia the whole book.

Adventures of Moses[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Moses

Moses was about eighty years old when he began his quest to free the Hebrews from the pharaoh. Moses might have lost his teeth by this time since he tried to tell the Lord via the "burning bush" that he wasn't a good public speaker; the Lord was ready for this one: Appoint your brother Aaron to do the talking. Moses and Aaron then went forth to confront Pharaoh.

The Ten Commandments[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Ten Commandments

This book also contains the presentation to Moses of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 21:2-17), and a whole bunch of other funny laws, such as:

  • The altar to God should not have steps; otherwise, people might look up the clothes of the person ahead of them. (Exodus 20:26) Apparently short skirts were in at the time.
  • Priests must wear special undergarments when they approach the altar. Otherwise, they die of guilt. (Exodus 28:42-43)

Based on taking a reading of Exodus at face value (fiery plumes of smoke on a mountain), God might not have actually been a volcano, and Moses might have just been a member of a tribe mad enough to climb it — so when he came back down spouting lunacy, it seems less surprising. This is why taking the story literally is absurd.[1] Sadly, it still doesn't tell us how long a damn cubit is.[note 1]

Parting the Red Sea[edit]

For a discussion of the evidence, see Evidence for the Exodus#Parting the Red Sea

This is also the book where Moses stuck out his hand and made the Red Sea separate so he and the Hebrews could walk to the promised land (Exodus 13:17-Exodus 15:12).

The Red Sea crossing is described in the book of Exodus, but there's absolutely no extra-biblical support for the story of the Israelites' flight from Egypt or even their presence there under the circumstances of the Bible in the first place. Somehow the entire nation of Israel managed to amble around the area for forty years, leaving behind no evidence of their travels. The Egyptians, famed for their pedantic record keeping, failed to notice the disappearance of around two million slaves and the death by drowning of some large number of their soldiers.[note 2] And of their pharaoh.

Or was it the Reed Sea?[edit]

For a discussion of the evidence, see Evidence for the Exodus#Or was it the Reed Sea?

The location in question is assumed to be the "Reed Sea", based on a slight mistranslation.

It might have been the Ballah Lake, which was part of Lake Menzaleh before the building of the Suez Canal.[2] The name "Reed Sea" was also applied to the Gulf of Suez (Numbers 33:10-11) and the Gulf of Aqaba (Numbers 21:4, 1 Kings 9:26). The Great Bitter Lake may also be identified with the "Reed Sea", but it can also be identified with the Marah ("Bitter") of Exodus 15:23, for it is the first location with noticeably bitter waters before Elim (Ayun Musa).[3]

The interesting fact about this is that people often cite it when trying to prove the Bible — and specifically the events described therein — as a verified fact. As parting the Red Sea is a miracle and most certainly impossible by all known science, crossing a slightly damp marsh is far more credible.

The Ten Plagues[edit]

For a discussion of the evidence, see Evidence for the Exodus#No sign of plagues in Egypt
See the main article on this topic: G'Tach

Penn & Teller's take (as spoken by Penn in an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!) on the plagues and the allegedly literal nature of the story is as follows;[4]

Thousands of Jews are supposedly enslaved by the Egyptian pharaoh. I don't wanna sound like Mel Gibson's dad here, but we can't find any evidence for that. None. Really, none. Floods we find, but enslaved Jews in Egypt? Nowhere outside of the damn Bible.

So Moses — we have no evidence of Moses outside of the damn Bible either, none — comes to pharaoh and says "Let my people go!" No note from God, nothing. Pharaoh says "No!" Now, why wouldn't just God appear to pharaoh and say it himself? Because God works in mysterious, inefficient, and breathtakingly cruel ways.

Pharaoh says "No!" So God releases a set of ten plagues upon Egypt.

  • Plague #1: All waters in Egypt turn to blood. And all of the fish die. See? So the fish that got a free pass in Noah's story get fucked in the blood water. Maybe the fish were gloating, and God hates gloaters.
  • Plague #2: Frogs infest Egypt. Yuck, I've been to Egypt — this isn't good for the frogs either.
  • Plague #3: Lice cover every man and beast. Normal for that period, so — not that big a deal.
  • Plague #4: A cloud of insects attack the people. Yuck again — yeah God, get the insects to fight your fucking battles for you.
  • Plague #5: A severe pestilence strikes the livestock. Well, they're already covered in lice, and frogs, and bugs — they wanna die. God, as Kevorkian,Wikipedia finally shows some mercy.
  • Plague #6: All Egyptians are covered in boils. Again — who can tell the fucking difference at this point?
  • Plague #7: Thunder, hail and fire. Hail, and frogs… just a fucking mess.
  • Plague #8: Locusts. Yeah, whatever God — bring it on. This is just food for the frogs not smushed by the hail.
  • Plague #9: Darkness for three days. At least you can't see the gross-out.
  • Plague #10: First born Egyptian child dies. There's a kind God.

Now free, Moses leads the Jews to the Red Sea, and he parts the water as neatly as George W. Bush parts his hair, and they dance through the sea corridor.

Literal. Story. You people crack me up.

Moses: The Anti-Adam[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Adam
  • Adam: Lived in paradise,
  • Moses: Wandered for a generation in a desert hell.
  • Adam: Created by God's own hands.
  • Moses: Buried by God's own hands.
  • Adam: Ejected from Eden by God.
  • Moses: Led from Egypt by God.
  • Adam: Made the sweet soil bitter and unyielding by eating from a tree whose real effects were hidden from Adam by God.
  • Moses: Made the bitter waters of Mara sweet by throwing a tree revealed by Yahweh into it.
  • Adam: Name means "red earth"
  • Moses: Led people across the "Red Sea"
  • Adam: First-born son committed the earliest murder, which has plagued mankind ever since.
  • Moses: Last plague was the murder of all Egyptian first-born sons.


Discussions of Exodus and Passover tend towards extreme seriousness, whereas Purim, which also celebrates liberation from oppression, is a joke. Yet Exodus is an extension of the Trickster theme that begins in Genesis, and surely tricksters tell jokes. The potentials for humor can be seen, e.g. in videos of the speakers at a scholarly conference on the Exodus held at UCSD in 2013.[5] Many of them tell jokes, others exhibit body language that suggests a comic attitude, and the lecture by Baruch Halpern is entirely devoted to providing an inventory of potentials for humor. [note 3]

  • it seems that the Israelites were very careful with their garbage as they crossed the Sinai
  • dating the Exodus is a question of ... [quantifying] how much garbage you can carry across the Sinai without dropping any
  • this is not the God particle - it's string theory, 19 dimensions, and dark energy: we are way beyond our capacity to do analysis on this subject
  • what P [the Priestly source of the Pentateuch] is, is a geek, designing dungeons and dragons
  • the Israelite sense of humor deserves study here

The lecture by Richard Friedman, who holds the view that there is evidence for an Exodus of the tribe of Levi, but no one else,[6] begins with a joke requiring knowledge of Hebrew.[7] Humor is never far from the surface as William Propp reviews the facts most often cited to authenticate Exodus as history, which begin in the 17th century BCE (explosion of SantoriniWikipedia, arrival of HyksosWikipedia in Egypt) and extend to the 12th century (Song of the SeaWikipedia) [8]. Perhaps the reason that the "historical Exodus" cannot be reconstructed is that, prior to the Priestly writer, it consists of thousands of jokes told by hundreds of clans who came and went from Egypt over a period of centuries.[9] Hierarchical Egyptians, they would not have appeared funny to the egalitarian Hebrews? Has any scholar given us a date for the Death of the Trickster in the Tanakh? Hey, where's the afikomanWikipedia?

See also[edit]


  1. A cubit was the distance from the elbow to the middle fingertip — in practice this varied a lot, of course. It was about forty to fifty centimetres, depending whose forearm was measured.
  2. The figure of two million is based on extrapolation of figures provided in Exodus and Numbers.
  3. The screen title, "Omerta: The Fractured Exodus, as told by Edward Everett Horton," is never explained, but refers to the Fractured Fairy TalesWikipedia feature of the Rocky and Bullwinkle show, narrated by HortonWikipedia, entirely subsumed under OmertàWikipedia, the Southern Italian underworld covenantWikipedia of silence and honor (i.e., the first historical references to the Apiru/HabiruWikipedia are to an outlaw group in Palestine). Full half-hour lecture at:


  1. Thunderf00t — Was God A Volcano? (YouTube)
  4. Penn & Teller: Bullshit! - "The Bible - Fact or Fiction?" (S02E06)
  5. Exodus, Out of Egypt: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Archaeology, Text, and Memory <>, published as: Thomas E. Levy; Thomas Schneider; William H.C. Propp (eds.). Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. Springer.
  6. Richard Elliot Friedman, _The Exodus: How It Happened And Why It Matters_, (2017, HarperOne).
  7. "Moses walks into a psychiatrists office..." Richard Friedman - The Exodus Based on the Sources Themselves.
  8. William Propp - What Was The Exodus?
  9. Recorded as "grumblings" or "murmurings" (...the children of Israel murmured against Moses...; Exodus 16:2, and elsewhere).