The Bible contains a lot of questions, and it doesn’t always provide satisfactory answers. So now I’m answering some of the Bible’s questions myself. I’ve already answered the ones in Genesis. Now for the rest of the Pentateuch…
Pharaoh asks the Hebrew midwives, who he had told to kill all the new baby Hebrew boys: Why have you let the boys live? Answer: They were just scared of what their God would think. Otherwise they would have been happy to murder all their relatives’ baby boys, apparently.
Moses’s sister asks Pharaoh’s daughter: Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you? Answer: I wouldn’t call it “for her”, no. Since it’s going to be the baby’s own mother doing it.
Pharaoh asks: Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? Answer: He’s a lunatic who isn’t going to let you obey him even if you want to.
Pharaoh asks Moses: Why are you taking the people away from their labor? Answer: Because they never agreed to do that labor?
Pharaoh’s officials ask: How long will this man be a snare to us? Answer: Until God gets tired of fighting against himself.
Pharaoh’s officials ask him: Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined? Answer: Yes, he already tried to surrender, but God wouldn’t let him.
Pharaoh asks: What have we done? Answer: You’ve obeyed God and freed his people from slavery… And God is not going to let you get away with obeying him and freeing his people from slavery.
Jethro asks Moses: What’s this you are doing for the people? Answer: Serving as their judge.
Aaron asks: Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today? Answer: Not likely. He’s always punishing people for obeying him.
Aaron and Miriam ask: Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Answer: No.
Then they ask: Hasn’t he also spoken through us? Answer: I don’t think the Bible mentions any specific cases of God speaking through Miriam. But it does say she was a prophet.
Balaam’s donkey asks him: What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times? And an angel also asks Balaam: Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Answer: The donkey tried to prevent him from doing what God told him to do.
Balak asks Balaam: Did I not send you an urgent summons? Answer: Not as far as I know.
Balak asks him: Why didn’t you come to me? Answer: Because God forgot he wanted him to.
Then Balak asks him: Am I really not able to reward you? Answer: No, you are not really not able to reward him.
Balaam asks: How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the Lord has not denounced? Answer: Same way you can teach them to sin and turn God away from them?
Balaam asks: Who can count even a fourth of Israel? Answer: Moses and Aaron and the leaders of the tribes can count (almost) all of them.
Balaam asks: Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth? Answer: That and a lot of other things, apparently.
After Balaam goes to find out what God wants him to say, Balak asks him: What did the Lord say? Answer: He said “Go back to Balak and give him this word.”
Balaam asks: Does God speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Answer: Yes.
Balaam asks Balak: Did I not tell you I must do whatever the Lord says? Answer: No, you told him you had to say whatever the Lord said.
Balaam asks Balak: Did I not tell the messengers you sent me that I can’t do anything of my own accord to go beyond the command of the Lord, and I must say only what the Lord says? Answer: No, you told Balak, but I don’t think you told his messengers that.
Balaam asks: Who can live when God does this? Answer: People who aren’t from Cyprus or Ashur or Eber?
Some unspecified people ask: Who can stand up against the Anakites? Answer: Joshua and Caleb.
The Israelites’ questions
A Hebrew man asks Moses: Who made you ruler and judge over us? Answer: Well, the princess did adopt him, so I guess that makes him your prince…
He also asks: Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian? Answer: It’s possible. Moses doesn’t mind killing Israelites.
The Israelite overseers ask Pharaoh: Why have you given us such unreasonable work requirements? Answer: So you’ll be too busy to listen to Moses.
The Israelites ask Moses: Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? Answer: Letting them die in the desert wasn’t Moses’s intention… But, incidentally, God is going to let them die in the desert. (Because they like the land flowing with milk and honey that they came from better than the one he chose for them.)
The Israelites ask Moses: What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Answer: Tried to rescue you from your hardship. Not that that will do much good, since the real cause of your trouble is still with you…
The Israelites ask Moses: Didn’t we tell you to leave us alone and let us serve the Egyptians? Answer: Not exactly.
The Israelites ask Moses: Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst? Answer: Because God told him to, because God wants you to die in the desert.
The Israelites ask: Is the Lord among us or not? Answer: No, God won’t dwell among the people until after the world ends.
Some Israelites ask: We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time? Answer: Because you have become unclean because of a dead body.
The Israelites ask: Why did we ever leave Egypt? Answer: Because the Egyptians didn’t want you there anymore.
They ask: Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Answer: Could it have something to do with the fact that Moses insisted on God going with them after God made it clear that he couldn’t do that without killing them all?
Then they ask: Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt? Answer: I doubt you’d be welcome there either.
Some Israelites ask Moses: Why do you set yourself above the Lord’s assembly? Answer: Because God refused to admit that such an ineloquent man wasn’t a good choice.
Those Israelites ask Moses: Isn’t it enough that you have brought us out of Egypt to kill us in the wilderness? Do you want to treat these men like slaves? Answer: Do you want to be slaves or not? Make up your minds.
The Israelites ask: Are we all going to die? Answer: Of course. Who isn’t?
The Israelites ask Moses: Why did you bring us into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? Answer: Because God chose not to teleport them straight into the promised land, because he thought that wouldn’t be as impressive.
The Israelites ask him again: Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? Answer: Because God’s plan is flawed.
The daughters of Zelophehad ask: Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Answer: Because he had no son.
The Israelites ask: Why should we die now? Answer: Because no one can see God’s face and live.
They ask: What mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire and survived? Answer: Moses.
Moses imagines the Israelites asking: How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord? Moses’s answer: Wait and see if the prediction comes true. If it doesn’t, then you know it wasn’t from God. Real answer: You can’t, generally, because Moses’s false prophecy test ignores the fact that most prophecies have no deadline, and are therefore unfalsifiable.
God imagines future Israelites asking: Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us? Answer: That doesn’t seem like a very good way to describe disasters that were caused by your God, no.
Continue reading The Bible’s questions, answered—part 2: Answers to questions in “the law”