One day, Moses spots "an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren" (now how did he know he was a Hebrew? Would his foster mother really have told him?). He slays the Egyptian & hides the body, but people find out and he has to flee to Midian to avoid Pharaoh's wrath. There, he becomes a guest of a certain Reuel (inexplicably renamed Jethro from the next chapter on), who "gives" Moses his daughter Zipporah. She bears him a son, Gershom, the name possibly meaning "a sojourner there" as he was conceived while Moses was a "stranger in a strange land" (Steve Harris of Iron Maiden might have read the bible as well).
Another day, while herding sheep, Moses comes to Mount Horeb, "god's mountain", the local Mt Olympus (gods seem to like the mountain air). God appears as an angel in a "burning bush" before showing himself. Moses is afraid to look, which is in direct contradiction with Genesis, where god shows himself all the time (maybe people's stomachs were stronger then). Anyway, he instructs Moses to lead "the people of Israel" from bondage to a "land of milk & honey": Canaan (the land of accursed Ham's progeny where Joseph's family came from to begin with, and which they voluntarily left for Egypt because they saw a golden business opportunity, but never mind that). As Moses is afraid of people questioning his divine encounter (not unreasonably), god tells him just to say he is sent by "I AM THAT I AM". There, if that doesn't convince you… (a similar childish justification is used in the quran, where Muhammad silences his critics by mewing "100 men in 100 years could not write a single page as beautiful & true as my quran - ergo, it was dictated by god. QED")
(As an aside: the general tenor of the bible is already changing here, although it's only book 2 from 66, with more emphasis on submission, politics and miracles, and an increasing distance between god and men)
To give him his due, god also feels more proof might be needed to convince the skeptics (well spotted), so he teaches Moses some amazing party tricks he should show his people to make them believe:
- a bush burning without damage to the bush
- Moses' staff changing into a serpent and back again
- Moses' hand becoming leprous, then healing
- water changing into blood
He must show these to Pharaoh as well, although god already warns him he will "harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go". WTF? Moses feels he's not up to the challenge of being a leader, as he is slow, but god reminds him of Aaron, his silver-tongued brother, amply blessed with the gift of gab.
At this point we are presented with one of the bible's weirdest vignettes. It is so fucked up I give it to you in its entirety, see what you can make of it:
(4:24-26) "And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him [Moses], and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So he let him go: then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of the circumcision". And then the story continues with god talking to Aaron... qw$x%*k internal error. Also confusing: Aaron finding his brother "in the mount of god" when they are already back in Egypt (Mt Horeb being in Midian). My brain hurts.
Moses visits Pharaoh & shows his magic tricks. Pharaoh, slightly underwhelmed by his prestidigital skills, forces the Israelites to "gather their own straw to make bricks", but demands they deliver the usual daily quotum of bricks (not sure how this works technically). Moses has a good cry on the shoulder of god, who announces his secret superhero name: JEHOVAH (information withheld so far. Why?). Moses talks to his people, but "they hearkened not… for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage".
(More confusing details: Moses referring to himself as being "of uncircumcised lips" - I might be missing something here - and god telling Moses "see, I have made thee a god unto Pharaoh" - but he still has to be god's puppet and obey his every whim).
Moses returns to Pharaoh, taking Aaron this time (for your delectation: Moses is then 80, Aaron 83); they perform the rod/serpent trick. The court's "wise men & sorcerers" quickly imitate the cheap trick, but "Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods", how cool is that. He then throws it in the river, and behold: all the fish die (nice one, again). But "Pharaoh hardened his heart", so one week later they return. This time, Pharaoh's refusal brings Egypt a plague of frogs, forcing him to give in, but as soon as all the frogs are gone (possibly eaten with a bit of garlic) he "hardens his heart" again. A plague of lice (made from dust!) is his reward. To no avail. A plague of flies follows (with some sort of invisible screen protecting the Israelites; how thoughtful of god). Pharaoh offers a (in my eyes pretty sensible) solution: freedom of religion for the Israelites, but Moses won't hear of it, so god sends a murrain of all cattle (meaning, they all die, except obviously the ones from the Israelites). Next up: ashes thrown in the wind that cause boils & blains with (Egyptian) man & beast (this sounds suspiciously like radiation poisoning). Pharaoh must be really extremely stupid not to realize that every time he denies Mo's request, something horrible happens to his people, but not to the Israelites. But then: it's god that doesn't allow him to change his mind, as he cheerfully admits "for I have hardened his heart, that I might shew these my signs"! The sick bastard. Free will? Pah. Poor Pharaoh doesn't have a chance whatsoever.
God continues "shewing his signs" (attention-seeking twerp), a plague of locusts this time; the little that could be salvaged from former plagues is destroyed now. The Egyptians beseech their Pharaoh: the land is ruined, devastated. But no, god has more "signs" he needs to show us: first, a darkness covers the land for 3 days (one hell of an eclipse, that must have been). The pious Israelites had "lights in their dwellings", but presumably the Egyptians were too stupid to think of that. For the grande finale, god kills all Egyptian firstborns - both men AND beasts - but not before instructing the Israelites to "borrow" all valuables from the Egyptians (such a nice guy, don't you agree. God of love, my ass). It is here we learn the origin of "passover": all Israelites are commanded to slaughter lambs, mark their doorstiles with the blood and eat all night until all food is gone. Meanwhile, god will pass over the land & slaughter all firstborns (the blood markings on the doorstiles are for god, so he doesn't slaughter an Israelite firstborn by accident... a clever neighbor would only have to duplicate the trick; god would never notice. Such a complete tosser). Further rules state this should be turned into a yearly feast, lasting 7 days (obviously, with the 7th a sabbath), during which they can only eat unleavened bread (one wrong sandwich and you're dead. Seriously).
Joy and bliss: Pharaoh finally consents and orders the Israelites to leave Egypt a.s.a.p. (god probably ran out of tricks and let go of Pharaoh's heart). 600.000 people, completely unprepared despite the fact that they've been trying to get away for months. I prophesy disaster.