Moses and the Israelites Build That Ark Thing from the Indiana Jones Movie

Exodus 21:1

Ok, sharing time. I thought we were pretty much done with the part of Exodus that the movie covered. I was wrong. So. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Turns out the movie wasn’t completely accurate and left a bunch of stuff out, which once again not surprised. But still. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

So Moses is still up on that damn mountain. He’s gotten the ten commandments, but buckle up, because we’re nowhere near done with the rules portion of this game. Allow me to list these fuckers without trying to make them funny, because I just don’t have it in me. The Israelites are supposed to burn livestock to God as offerings. They have to do it on an alter of stones, but they can’t defile the stones with tools. They also can’t have steps leading up to the alter, because God is afraid that going up the steps will show their nakedness. Odd time for God to suddenly be opposed to all things wieners.

If you buy a Hebrew servant, you have to let the dude go after six years of service. If he has a wife, she gets to go too, but if they have children you get to keep the wife and the kids. If the dude wants to stay, you can pierce his ear with an awl and keep him. Women don’t get to go free on their own. Ever. If she’s not very good in the sack, you can’t sell her to a foreigner. You can, however, give her to your son. You can also marry as often as you wish, as long as you still take care of all your baby mamas. Baby mama is actually the correct term, because there is no reason to have a lady if she isn’t shooting out babies full time. (You might notice that you tends to mean male.)

Anyone who kills another man will be put to death. Unless it’s an oopsy. Then he can flee from his people. If one guy beats up another guy, he needs to pay the hurt dude for his time spent in bed. Unless it’s a slave. No harm, no foul as long as the slave doesn’t die. It is after all, just property. Beat away.

God says that the bottom line is: “You are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” Except not really, because there are all kinds of exceptions and shit. Like servants. You can poke their eye out, but they don’t get to poke your eye out back. You only have to free them and compensate them for the eye. Or for instance, if your bull gores someone it has to be stoned to death but not eaten. But if your bull has a history of goring, both you and the bull get the death penalty. Or if you are super rich, you can just pay a lot of money and get out of it, scot-free. If your bull gores a slave though, you just have to pay the owner the price of the slave. Just pretend like women and slaves are less than people, and this whole system makes a lot of sense. Also pretend that people with money mean more than people without money. See? It isn’t that different from our current system. Easy.

This list of laws goes on forever. FOREVER. We go over stealing livestock and thieving. (You can kill an intruder. Unless it’s after sunrise. You’re in deep shit if you kill an intruder after sunrise. Sensical stuff like that.) Borrowing animals is especially tricky, because if it dies in your possession, you’re responsible. Because what if you killed it on purpose just to spite the guy from whom you borrowed the animal? Not to worry. You can just super, double-pinky swear to God that you didn’t kill the animal on purpose and get out of it. If you seduce a virgin, you have to pay the bride price and marry her. Interesting how it doesn’t say, “If you seduce a virgin, she’s a nasty slut who should be shamed.” Not even close. Do not allow a sorceress to live. Sorcerers are cool though, sorcerers have dicks. Kill anyone who sacrifices to another god. If someones sleeps with an animal, kill them. I wonder where that “Thou shalt not murder” stuff went? Animal Farm, anyone? Here’s a good one: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.” Interesting. Americans fail so hard at that one. Do not fuck with widows or orphans, or God will kill you even if it means creating more widows and orphans. He ain’t scurred. If you loan money to someone, do not add interest. It’s a dick move. If you borrow a cloak, return it by nightfall, nobody sleeps nakey. “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.” I wonder if a president counts as a ruler? Do not hold back offerings from your granaries. It doesn’t specify if that means offerings to God or just people who need it in general. You must give God your first born of both your children and your livestock. Like Rumplestiltskin. Do not eat the meat of an animal killed by other animals. Kill your own shit.

Do not spread gossip or give false reports. “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” Bring people’s donkeys back to them. Always. Do not deny justice to the poor. “Do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.” Interesting take on the death penalty. God gives no freebies, ya’ll, so it isn’t really up to us to decide who is guilty and who is innocent. Do not accept bribes. Again, do not oppress an alien. Grow food for six years and let the field lie fallow on the seventh year, so that the poor can eat off of your field. All people and animals rest on the Sabbath. Even livestock and slaves need to be refreshed. Do not invoke the names of other gods. You will have 3 festivals a year. No yeast! Don’t cook a goat in its mother’s milk. Because that’s just not right. Sweet goodness, we’re done with the list of rules. Fuck yeah!


Let’s talk about the promised land. God promised to drive out the people already living in the promised land. He had sent an angel ahead of the Israelites to shoo out anyone already occupying the “land of milk and honey.” (It sounds a lot less creepy when Heston isn’t saying that.) The Israelites were not to bow down to the people already living on the land. They were to demolish their practices and destroy their places of worship. Do this, God said, and I will provide food, cure sickness, and stop fucking with your women’s wombs. The Israelites were not to let the foreigners live in their land, because they would cause them to sin. They were to have all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, from the desert to the Euphrates. Wtf happened to the don’t mess with aliens stuff? God was very specific on the don’t mess with aliens stuff.

Moses went back down the mountain to join the Israelites for a little sacrificing and partying, and everybody promised to obey God’s new rules. Probably, I’m hoping, in a drunken stupor, because imagining Moses drunk makes me happy. Then Moses goes back up the mountain and stays in God’s cloud for forty days and forty nights. Remember all of the gold God helped the Israelites smuggle out of Egypt? Did you think that was for the Islraelites? Apparently no, it was for all the cool stuff God wanted the Israelites to build for His temple. God was very specific about everything that He wanted built. First off, the ark. A gold box that would house the tablets that the commandments were written on. Thank you, thank you, thank you God, for demanding this one. This helped make my all-time favorite movie possible. Thank you. Then there’s the Tabernacle, the menorah, and all kinds of other shit that God wants built. And don’t forget, God expects the best in everything. Wrap that shit in gold, God loves gold. Any left over rich stuff would be for offerings to God. God also likes swag.  Look, I found a picture for you, because I’m not explaining all of this crap.Tabernacle

Fun fact for the kiddies, in Quebec “tabernak” is a bad word. Pretty much their equivalent of fuck. I don’t speak French, so I was sitting and watching two Quebecois talk to each other, and I couldn’t figure out why they were talking about church so much. They weren’t. They were cussing. That made me more happy than I can explain to anyone. Anyway. Then God decides that Aaron and his descendants will all be priests, and He gives some directions for the outfits that they should wear. I found another picture:


So much easier. It’s a little hard to tell, but Aaron is pimped out. He got a cool turban and everything is gold and gems and shit. Aaron and his sons had to wear this stuff to go into the tabernacle and minister to God, otherwise God might forget why they’re there and kill them. Obvi. Also, there’s a sacred diadem. Neat, huh? Then God goes into a lot of detail about how Aaron and his sons are to be consecrated, which involves a lot of dead animals and blood. Because God likes the smell of dead, burnt animal flesh. Don’t ask questions. And everybody has to pay a half shekel as a ransom to God for their lives. A ransom. Poor, you pay a half shekel. Rich, you pay a half shekel. God gives zero shits about your financial hardship. All of this cool stuff may sound and look like it would have been difficult for a bunch of ex-Egyptian slaves to make. I mean in the movie, they just made bricks and shit, but don’t worry. God gave two random guys all of the skills they would need to do His bidding. Then God goes back over the Sabbath, and how the Israelites really, really need to keep it holy. Anyone who works on the Sabbath dies. Any work. No excuses, you die.


Only after explaining all of that does God give Moses those two stone tablet things from the movie. But the Bible calls them the “tablets of the Testimony.” So they might have just the commandments etched into them, or they might have had tons of detailed instructions and rules written on them. Like, pages worth of the shit. In little, tiny letters. Meanwhile at the base of the mountain, the Israelites were up to no good. They had gotten impatient waiting for forty days while Moses was up in God’s cloud. So they decided to make their own god to worship. Never mind that this God had just saved them from their slavery, and drowned their captors in the sea. Not good enough. Nobody puts the Israelites in a corner. Aaron had everyone collect all of the gold that they had, and from the gold Aaron molded a golden calf. The Israelites bowed down to it and made sacrifices to it. God saw and got pretty pissed off about the Israelites doing one of the very things they had just promised not to do. He told Moses that he was pissed off, and that he was going to destroy them.  I like to imagine Him stomping around the mountain, like I told them! Did I not fucking tell them? But Moses pointed out to God that the Egyptians would see all of the dead Israelites, and think that He was a cruel god. Don’t forget God had just completed a major image campaign in Egypt, and probably didn’t want to ruin it. So God changed his mind about killing everybody.

When Moses went down the mountain with his tablets, he saw the shenanigans that his people were engaged in. Pretty enraged, he threw the tablets to the base of the mountain, shattering them. Then Aaron made some excuses for himself, weak ones. I sear, Moses, that golden calf just jumped right out of the fire! I didn’t even touch it! (This is the guy God picked to be His priest.) Moses destroyed the calf, and made the people drink the ashes. Then Moses commanded all who were loyal to God to go back and forth through the camp killing their brothers, friends, and neighbors as punishment. So they did. Around 3,000 were killed in the Israelite camp at the hands of their family and friends. But not the guy who called for everyone’s gold and then created a false god with it. That guy (Aaron) still got to be the priest. Moses went back up the mountain and pleaded with God to to forgive the remaining Israelites. It kind of worked. God didn’t kill everyone, but He did put a plague on the Israelites (on top of the 3,00 already killed for the same sin). Then He refused to travel with them, because God realized he had anger management issues, and would probably end up killing everyone in the camp in a fit of rage.

God then helped Moses rewrite the destroyed tablets, so that they could be placed in the ark. When Moses came down from the mountain again, his face was radiant. It doesn’t really explain what that means, but the Israelites definitely noticed it. Maybe it’s that pregnant glow thing that people talk about? Maybe he was dressed in drag and just looked fantastic? Not sure. Just “radiant.” Then Moses and the Israelites got to work making all of that stuff that had God asked for earlier. The Bible says that the people brought together whatever gold, gems, etc. that they had in order to create all the swag God wanted. They supposedly already gave all of their gold away for the giant calf that Moses destroyed, but we all know that logic has no place here.

When the Israelites were done hammering all of that gold leaf, Moses saw that they had done a great job and blessed everything. Then Moses set it all up as he had been instructed, and the cloud of God settled over the Tabernacle and inhabited it. Thus concludes the book of Exodus. Death count: higher than even I had expected. Lesson learned: if all else fails, give God swag. None of that fake shit, though. God knows.

Next up, Leviticus, and what looks to be another endless list of rules. Can’t wait!



One thought on “Moses and the Israelites Build That Ark Thing from the Indiana Jones Movie

  1. Another awesome post! And another excellent scathing indictment of the weirdness of the Bible. The rules. So bizarre and weird. It’s passages like these that bewilder so many people and cause so much heartburn among the literalists. it’s almost as if we’re being messed with by ancient smart alecks. Don’t you think? if it’s not funny, it’s just too disturbing, as you’ve pointed out so well (you are my all-time favorite Bible commentator, b.t.w. You should have a show). I prefer funny. I guess the timing is a little off, but that could be a translation thing. “No killing people! And also take people’s donkeys back after your done with them.” That HAS to be funny on purpose. I love this post’s addition of graphics. Also, keep the cultural references coming. It is no small feat of wit to weave Dirty Dancing and Animal Farm into an essay on Moses! Speaking of whom, I think we’ve all been a little puzzled by the love/hate relationship between God and Moses, and I guess between God and the Israelites in general. So many tantrums. So much smiting. I love how you’ve pointed out the absurdities of these interactions, at times without even paraphrasing so the true weirdness can just shine by itself. I love love love what you’re doing!!


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