Parting the Red Sea, Drowning Free Will

June 14, 2010

3 a.m. Eighth night of insomnia in 14 days. Not the sleep a little, wake a little, sleep a little wake a little insomnia that sets the stage for groggy days. This is the solitary, wide-eyed variety responsible for driving people to insanity. Again, I find myself reading the Bible.

Exodus is a fitting 3 a.m. read for one enslaved by the mind. Exodus begins with Egyptian tyranny and the oppression of the Israelites, who have their spirits crushed by slavery and hard labor. We’re both boxed in, but one of us chooses to exercise free will and the other does not. One of us will be set free and the other will not.

Even though they are slaves, the Israelites outnumber their Egyptian rulers, igniting fear in the Egyptian king who is determined not to let them leave. Rather than taking advantage of their manpower and overcoming the Egyptians, the Israelites do nothing. They accept their lot and hope for someone else to set them free. No uprising, not a peep of malcontent, not a single slitting of a throat. Nothing.

God knows the Israelites are weak and sheep-like in mentality. So when he tells Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he commands Moses to take the long route and avoid the shorter, reason being that if faced with a fight, the shorter route would allow the cowardly Israelites to “change their minds and return to Egypt” where they would once again succumb to servitude.

Moses does as he is told and leads the Israelites to the Red Sea. Despite being protected by Moses and God (or the Lord, yet another identity crisis), the Israelites become fearful of the sea and say “We told you to leave us alone and let us go on being slaves of the Egyptians. It would be better to be slaves there than to die here in the desert.”

After assurances from Moses, the Israelites follow him beyond the bed of the Red Sea toward freedom. However, when they’re freed from the Egyptians, the Israelites settle themselves under the thumb of God, surrendering freedom for protection.

I cannot identify with the Israelites and it’s not because I have never followed a magic man through a parted sea or found loyalty in circumcision. It’s because I cannot stand weakness, particularly as it applies to submission of free will.

In Exodus it’s established that the weak shall be protected, a tenant of American civilization that is, in theory, widely accepted. Weakness encompasses a plethora of flaws, misfortunes and life situations, many of which are legitimate and temporary. My question is, why protect the weak that have no will? I believe it’s because doing so would precipitate the collapse of American civilization. What would the majority do without the lily pad path leading from elementary school to junior high; junior high to high school; high school to college; college to mechanical employment; and mechanical employment to retirement?

God, or the Lord, as his highness prefers to be referenced in Exodus, designates stubbornness as a sin. At this point in the Bible, this leaves us with two sins: Homosexuality and stubbornness. Currently, incest, murder, rape and greed are mere plotlines. Perhaps stubbornness is a sin because when applied properly, it mirrors free will and therefore threatens civilization.

Maybe my test is to survive my sin – stubbornness masked as free will – by conquering insanity bred by insomnia. Or maybe not.

Stopping point: Exodus, The Ten Commandments


5 Responses to “Parting the Red Sea, Drowning Free Will”

  1. I think the question of “why protect the weak that have no will?” is a great question to get out of that passage.

    Part of me wants to say yeah, if someone is too lazy or weak willed to get off their butt and try to fend for them selves then they deserve it! it is a theme all throughout the bible that man is to work his tail off (for family, the church etc.)

    then I think of another theme (the biggest in the Bible) and what I think is the appropriate answer to why we would protect the weak with no will. Love. We should love on those people. Maybe that starts with protecting and taking care of them, but if we really want to be loving we should encourage, teach, impose that they get the will to do it for themselves if they can. if they cannot, then they are those who cannot help themselves, and we should care for them and serve them.

    just my thoughts immediately on reading the post.

    I like the blog! hope you get some sleep. keep reading.

  2. Ryan Knott said

    I LOVE this blog. Love it.

    I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, though I am a fellow non-believer. I tried desperately to make sense of what I was reading, especially in the context of modern society, but failed miserably. Your blog makes me want to make another attempt just so I can follow along.

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  4. […] contrast between these personalities is reflected in my office. I have 10 running to-do lists; a file folder of more than 200 fiction […]

  5. Q. said

    There’s one thing I had wanted to say that might, if you revisit any of these thoughts, help with envisioning the world these words came into.

    The Israelites were not Jews, nor was the Jewish faith even formed. They were a household religion with household gods (yes, polytheistic, as was the rest of their world).

    If you are teaching children, you don’t hand them a physics book and let them figure it out. You have to teach them to read, to count, to think abstractly, to reason, to divide the numbers they’ve counted out and you must foster the curiosity that leads them to go beyond and ask the questions the physics text would answer. Why am I saying this? That’s the position in which God found God’s-self (clumsily worded, but I hate gendered pronouns in reference to a sexless/multisexed deity).

    God found a household already rife with household gods. Into this setting he injected the first bit of Yahwism. It innoculated Abram a bit. Taught him to read, if you will. But it would take a long, long time until the descendants would have the curiosity to go beyond those first words.

    I guess what I’m saying is that don’t retroject on them a morality they don’t have yet or the norms of a society they will never see. A lot of those things that bother you – rape, incest, holocaust offerings, raizing villages and all within them – those things, I think, bother God, too. But the ones in the diorama don’t know how to read yet. They’re not asking “Is it okay to sleep with my daughter?” because to them, there isn’t even a question to be asked; it is their norm.

    I don’t know. Masters level study in old testament has made me less sure of a lot of things I used to take for granted. But it’s widened my faith. I see the patience of God and the stories we tell to try to resolve it within ourselves.

    Teleological stories are just teaching stories that a parent tells when a child asks why. I think you’ll find a lot of those in the old testament. They’re even self-referentially pointed out, sometimes. “And every time you x, you will remember y.”

    Just thoughts. I love you blog and your mind. I hope, deeply hope, that pushing to the Revelation doesn’t end your disection of this book and its people and its God – selfishly, of course. I want to read.

    You ask good questions and you don’t take bullshit answers. I love that.

    Please, keep thinking and asking. Whether you ever decide to believe (and I do honestly think belief is a choice; it’s one I have to make daily, skeptic that I am), you will ask questions that make me and others think and we all, every one of us, need that.

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