Deserted in the Desert without Dessert: did they Deserve it?

All right, deep breath, people.  This is where the Bible gets a little bit hairy.

*re-reads* what’s that?  Not for another few pages?  I got all psyched out too early and put off writing it for days because I didn’t know how people would take it and I could’ve just written this next part to get the ball rolling?

Those were rhetorical questions.  No need to respond.

So Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Into the desert.  There’s some talk of a… Promised Land… on the other side, which they don’t own, but somehow they’re gonna get it.  There are 600,000 guys, plus the ladies, plus their kids, plus their animals.  And given how little time it took for them for Jacob’s dozen kids to reach those numbers, they probably still had a lot of kids.  Can you imagine keeping them entertained for an interminable trek, mostly on foot, and having to carry them when they get tired?  My God, can you imagine how much childproofing stuff they’d need to bring today?

The Egyptians are taking this surprisingly well.  Their entire lower-class first flipped the entire natural world over, killed every bit of livestock (I fumbled through 4 probably-wrong ways of saying that and I’m still not so sure – is one animal “a livestock?”  “A lifestock”?  Well if God gave up on them so can I), destroyed all the crops and killed all the firstborn, even of the livestock who were all dead (I didn’t ask), and left, leaving the Egyptian people to build their own pyramids.  Naturally, this left the Egyptians ready to put the past behind them and accept th–

–nope, they’re gonna chase ’em with chariots.  I know it keeps saying that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but it didn’t really take the Lord to make him stubborn and bitter.  Really, God could’ve softened, conditioned and moisturized Pharaoh’s heart and he still would’ve been a totalitarian classist fascist racist with a literal God-complex.  But here’s the funny part – it says he came after those 2-million Israelites with a mighty legion of 600 chariots.  Remember how these people outnumbered that several thousand to one?  I dunno, maybe the rest of them were dead or grieving, understandably.  Or were afraid of the, you know, God.

Cairo Chariot

(Side note on MtG: the Enchantment Auras vs Artifact Equipment distinction has always felt a little weird to me.  I get that one’s an object and one’s a trait, but objects are automatically type-neutral and enchantments and everything almost never are?  I guess they’ve got globalization in Magic, but only for selling things.  Magic people don’t migrate.)

Oh speaking of which.  He was there.  Sorry, I started a sentence with Him so you couldn’t see He was capitalized.  There.  God spends the next several years literally visible to everyone, leading them through the desert, as a cloud by day, and as a pillar of smoke and fire by night.  Or it’s an angel doing this, in Exodus 13:20 it’s the Lord, in 14:19 it’s an angel – if I don’t have the answers here, sometimes it’s because no one included them.  Point is, He/it moves to the back and becomes this thick fog that lights up on the Israelites’ side but was dark on the other – and most importantly, the Egyptians may be on horseback but they still can’t catch up.

(The cloud-and-flame presence of God is gonna make a sweet Magic card one day – once I can decide what it would actually DO.  Feel free to comment your suggestions.)

So when the Israelites had made it almost all the way across, the Egyptians are right behind them.  And God lets the ocean go back to being an ocean, and – wait a second, the Pharaoh’s in one of those chariots.  Guys, I never noticed before, God just delivered a coup in Egypt right there.  Their king just died.

Part the Sea


Just kidding, guys, there’s more than 50 books of the Bible left.  We even cheated and skipped everything in Genesis before Abraham, which now I feel like I should backtrack and do someday.  I actually did whip up a bunch of cards for it yesterday – the words on the cards, anyway.  Bing Image Searching for pics is harder than I thought it would be.

So now the slaves are freed.  But they’re in the middle of the desert.  There are no crops.  They can not have packed that much matzo and lembas bread.  (I didn’t mention last week, the night they left they cooked as much unleavened flatbread as they could and left.  That’s when the Israelites invented Passover.  It’s when God / the angel of death passed over them and killed all the Egyptian firstborn.)  So they’re walking, and some of them riding, and it feels like they’re in Phoenix but they can’t hide indoors.

So naturally, people are unhappy.  Yes, they’re being led by the most powerful being in the universe, and his personal emissary on Earth whose wave of his hand can summon millions of vermin.  And there’s a promise of eventually inheriting a paradise somewhere east of here.  But there are no signs and maps, and they literally weren’t allowed to leave Egypt for a day since slavery, so they only sort of know where they’re going.  I can see both sides here.

Desert Wanderer

Naturally, they start grumbling (that’s literally the word the Bible uses for it) that it would’ve been better to have stayed and died in Egypt than to be out here.  At least they had bread and meat there.  So what does God say?  “Challenge Accepted.” (Paraphrased.)  So God tells Moses, who tells Aaron, who tells Everyone, that they will get their meat and their bread – but how they get it will be a test for them.  He sends in a wind that blows quails into the camp and they all die.  The quails, not the Israelites.  There’s the meat.  Get it while it’s fresh.

And the next one – all right, the next one’s a Magic the Gathering joke.  He feeds them mana.  You know, ’cause it’s – all right I gotta explain this to everyone else.  Mana is the word for the all-purpose energy source in the game.  You’ve got a couple land cards, and those are the energy you use for every other card you play.  The longer you play, the more of your cards you draw are land cards, the more energy you have to work with… there you go.  But they picked a word for a supernatural stuff that auto-generates on any landscape, and which has to be used that way or it goes bad.  I used to think it was a weird word to choose for it, but now it all makes sense…

Mana in the Barrens

Mana is describes as these thin, frosty flakes (they’re more than good) that appear on the ground after the morning dew dries.  I go between picturing it as snow and as fungus. My environmental science degree is looking for an explanation, even if it only worked on this scale by divine intervention.  There just isn’t enough info for me to work with here.  Whatever it was, they make it into bread, and that’s how two million people and their animals don’t starve to death in a desert.

Now here’s the test – just gather enough for one day at a time, says God (or God says, if you’re OCD about word order).  Didja grow up with the “Our Father” prayer?  “Give us this day, our daily bread”?  It wasn’t always a metaphor.  This is a trust exercise.  Keep in mind these people had the most literal, tangible evidence of God’s power to make things work out for them than anyone else in human history.  They could not have possibly been atheists.  (No offense to atheists; I was one for a good decade, and it’s a logical enough viewpoint, so I’ve got no bitter rant of straw-man arguments prepared to spew at them.)  So here, God’s seeing if doing absolutely everything is enough for people to trust He’ll do it again if He tells them He will.

And some people gather extra anyway and try to save it up.  It seems practical, if this were free money on the ground that would disappear by morning anyway, and if the one who left it there wasn’t… all-knowing.  That bread became wormy and foul.  (Where did the worms come from?  This is a desert, I figure worms wouldn’t do well there.  Maybe it was a God-thing, sticking them in there for illustrative purposes.)  Moses got angry at them.  Then for those who *did* want more-than-daily bread, on Friday people find and gather double the mana.  Moses tells them, this time the leftovers will stay good til tomorrow, and no mana will show up tomorrow so you’re gonna need it.  He even tells them, don’t bother going out to gather – this is the 20th-or-so thing Moses has prophesied so you’d think they’d believe him by now.  So God lets people save up, just like they wanted.  But again, some people go out looking anyway!  *sigh*… people.

Mana Sabbath

Then these people show up called the Amalekites, and just immediately declare war on them.  Or vice versa.  The Bible doesn’t point fingers here.  Granted, they probably had this territory staked out, and then a wave of two million people comes through, and even if they came through saying “we come in peace” it’s hard to take them at their word.  I did some digging to see if the Israelites had any beef with them traditionally.  As it turns out, when Jacob’s brother Esau had a kid with a hooker 500 years prior, she’d named him Amalek.  These were the angry rejected bastard stepchildren of the Israelites.  ‘course, the Amalekites could’ve seen it the other way around.

The Bible may have realized it explained things redundantly so far, so the explanation is quick – Moses sends out his soldiers and tells them he’ll be on top of a hill holding his hands up.  No backstory locker-room talk with God included this time.  As long as Moses held his hands up, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  No pressure, Moses.  I’ve seen some guys in stadiums who do this like their shouting is gonna decide the game.  Moses ends up having Aaron and another guy hold his hands up for him so they can win.  This had some serious card material.

Man at Arms

Now, normally, when two countries have a feud going, it’s just people hating other people.  Here we see God takes a side.  Yes, He took a side in Egypt, but you’ll see Him encourage them to welcome Egyptians into the tribe a few decades from now.  But He officially – eternally – declares war on the Amalekites.  This isn’t human racism, or nationalism, in the traditional sense.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
“Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, “Because hands were lifted up against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”” (Exodus 17:14-16)

Yep.  Making this a card.

Enemy Immemorial

But the chapters I’m writing about next week – well that’s one doozy of a read.  When people get into arguments about Christianity, when it’s not science or sex, it’s usually this next part.  On your marks, get upset, go!


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