On the impossibility of describing God: the weird of Ezekiel

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

Ezekiel may be one of the longer books of the bible, but there are comparatively few readings from his prophecies which occur in the lectionary. Those that do tend to reflect the most straightforward aspects of his message. Right from the beginning, however, Ezekiel draws his listeners in to bizarre descriptions of his visions. Perhaps fortunately for readers and preachers, these are omitted from the Sunday cycle of readings.

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Exodus: Plagues and prohibitions

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

The second book of the bible launches into the story of Moses. It very quickly bridges the gap between the story as we left it at the end of Genesis, (with the favoured Israelites living in the nicest part of Egypt) and the point where the story of Moses begins (with the descendants of those Israelites all fully enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaoh).

We begin with Moses’ birth. The story of the midwives is a masterpiece of subversive humour as the slave-race outwits the master-race (a similar sly humour pervades the story of the plagues). From there the text skips through his upbringing in Pharaoh’s household, to the story of his first attempt to take action in favour of his birth nation. Attempting to defend a fellow-Israelite, he kills an Egyptian, then flees in fear for his life. In the desert he encounters God in a burning bush1 and receives the commission to lead Israel out of slavery from Egypt to a distant promised land.

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