Discussion of public health and health care policy, from a public health perspective. The U.S. spends more on medical services than any other country, but we get less for it. Major reasons include lack of universal access, unequal treatment, and underinvestment in public health and social welfare. We will critically examine the economics, politics and sociology of health and illness in the..
While it is true that fossil fuel interests have been the most important force behind climate change denial and effective policy responses, they aren't the only one. The meat industry, as far as I know, hasn't invested a lot in denialism but they are scared that people will stop eating their product. Obviously plant based foods are also produced by farmers but the overall demand for agricultural products is several times as high in a carnivorous dietary regime than it would be if people mostly ate a plant based diet.
The result is some really ridiculous state laws. Yes, state legislatures are trying to ban labeling vegetarian foods with labels historically associated with meat and dairy. Arkansas wants to ban labels such as "veggie burger" and "soy milk." This is downright silly because, obviously, nobody is going to actually buy veggie burgers thinking they are hamburgers, and if people want to eat veggie burgers they'll probably do so no matter what you call them. But I imagine it could slow down marketing of these items if it's harder for the manufacturers to explain what they are to consumers. At least that's what the meat purveyors must be thinking. Anyway, as the Vox article explains, these laws probably won't pass constitutional muster.
As lapsed economist Duncan Black explains, there is also just the foible of human nature that people don't like their habits disrupted. It's actually not a problem to take reusable shopping bags to the supermarket -- in fact it makes your life easier. And the vast majority of us don't need to drink through a straw. Giving up single use plastic items is actually a matter of extreme urgency. Not that they're a major contributor to the climate crisis (although there is fossil fuel used for energy in their manufacture as well as feedstock) but they are creating a terrifying environmental crisis. Plastic litter is devastating marine life around the world. Is it really so important to you to suck your sugar water through a plastic straw that it's worth exterminating whales and turtles?
There are many other vested interests that resist needed change, from automobiles to construction to beverages (Can we please put an end to bottled water?) to yes, the lawn care industry. No, you don't need a perfect carpet of emerald green rye grass surrounding your house in Phoenix, or anywhere else for that matter, which means you don't need to irrigate your lawn or soak it with pesticides and fertilizer. The whole lawn thing is nothing but an inane cultural fetish, but in some towns it's required by law.
Now, changing your individual habits is not going to solve the problem. We need massive changes in public policy. But it won't hurt to give up stupid stuff that you'd probably be better off without anyway.
Update:This Kos diarist points out that plastic recycling is mostly a scam. The recycling bin makes you feel okay about single use plastic but in fact the vast majority of what you toss in is not recycled. It's landfilled, burned, or winds up in the ocean. Also: When you're banned, you're banned.
This is one of the more famous events in the Bible, but it's also like one of those "Can you spot the errors?" cartoons.
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3
We still don't know in what physical manner God is speaking to Moses, but in any case, God seems to be mighty confused. These are not the actual names of any places in Egypt. Migdol means a tower in Hebrew, so conceivably it's a reference to some tower or other. Pi Hahiroth is not the name of a place either. Some people have speculated about how it might refer to some geographic feature based on it similarity to Egyptian or Hebrew words. We do know where Baal Zephon, is however. It's a mountain associated with the Canaanite storm God Baal, and it is located on what is today the border between Syria and Turkey near the Mediterranean. It's maybe 700 miles away from the nearest point on the west bank of the Red Sea and, of course, on the opposite side. It's also 300 miles or so north of Canaan. WTF?
Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.
Again, God makes Pharaoh pursue the Israelites in order to give himself an opportunity to demonstrate his power.
5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen[a] and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon.
No. ALL THE HORSES IN EGYPT ARE DEAD. They were all killed in the sixth plague, then they were killed again in the hailstorm, then their first born were killed, then there first born were killed again. All of them are dead at least twice, and some of them are dead four times. Also, too, the specified location is on the coast of the Mediterranean sea 700 miles from where this is purportedly happening.
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. 17 I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. 18 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.”
Again, sometimes God just does the miracle himself, sometimes he needs Moses and/or Aaron to use a staff or wave their hands or whatever. This seems to be the latter case.
19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. 21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25
Note that God has a physical location. He needs a vantage point from which to watch all this. The abstract, non-corporeal and ubiquitous entity that is our modern picture of God has yet to emerge. This really is an old guy in the sky.
He jammed[b] the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”
Not clear why the NIV uses "jammed" instead of removed. They give us a footnote saying that this is not the correct translation but they don't explain themselves.
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward[c] it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.
Note that these guys are soldiers who were ordered to pursue the Israelites. They didn't have a choice. God murdered them all in order to prove his power. None of this was necessary at all. They could have gone to Canaan by crossing the Sinai and never gone near the Red Sea or needed to ford even a creek.
29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
Exodus 14:9 Or charioteers; also in verses 17, 18, 23, 26 and 28
Exodus 14:25 See Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint and Syriac; Masoretic Text removed
. . . to Adam Serwer. This is a lengthy essay and I don't think a couple of pull quotes will do it justice. I urge you to read it.
Speaking for myself, I find the accusation that progressives practice a divisive form of "identity politics" excruciatingly obtuse. Conservatism in the United States has become nothing else. It is white Christian nationalism, and attaches to no other consistent ideology.
It has long been the project of the progressives and liberals to build an inclusive national identity, based on shared aspirations for democratic politics and the common welfare. This requires seeing and naming racism, acknowledging privilege, and advocating for equality. We are accused of "playing the race card" and trying to privilege some groups over others. Of course we play the race card because racial inequality is real. But the problem of privilege is that white men don't want to surrender it, and right now a substantial proportion of them don't seem to care about, or even understand, anything else about politics or public policy.
Sadly, and maddeningly, the Democrats in Congress are responding tepidly and fecklessly. Serwer discusses this abdication at length. I'll pull one quote from Serwer -- his conclusion -- to get you interested in reading him. Also, I would not ordinarily mention this but in this case it will probably seem relevant to some potential critics. His father is Jewish and his mother is African-American. (She is actually the curator of the Smithsonian Museum of African-American History.) He practices Judaism.
Omar must be defended, but not because of her views on Israel, gay rights, or progressive taxation. You needn’t agree with her on any of those things; in fact, you needn’t like her at all. But she must be defended, because the nature of the president’s attack on her is a threat to all Americans—black or white, Jew or Gentile—whose citizenship, whose belonging, might similarly be questioned. This is not about Omar anymore, or the other women of color who have been told by this president to “go back” to their supposed countries of origin. It is about defending the idea that America should be a country for all its people. If multiracial democracy cannot be defended in America, it will not be defended elsewhere. What Americans do now, in the face of this, will define us forever.
For those of you who have been avoiding the gossip columns, let's begin with the known True Facts.
1. A boatload of prominent men spent time at his various houses, including the Manhattan and Florida Mansions, and are otherwise known to have associated with him including taking free private jet rides. These include financiers, business executives, politicians, academics. This happened both before and after his conviction and wrist slap sentence for soliciting prostitution in Florida.
2. Dozens of women claim he sexually abused them when they were anywhere from 13 to 16 years old. Some of these claims are the basis for the previous conviction, others for the new indictment, and apparently numerous additional women have come forward to investigators since the new indictment was announced. (At least one has publicly claimed that a certain famous person abused her as a gift from Epstein, but I'll say no more as the claim is of questionable credibility.)
3. Epstein may not be as wealthy as he claims to be but he is unquestionably pretty damn wealthy. The mansions and the private jet and private island are real.
4. Nobody seems to know where his money comes from. His claim to run a "billionaires only" hedge fund is generally regarded as non-credible by people in the financial industry.
5. Former Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who as U.S. Attorney gave Epstein the sweetheart deal which also, inexplicably, immunized any and all co-conspirators, told officials who were vetting him for the cabinet job that he cut the deal because “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone.” That was apparently good enough for the Trump White House but WTF? Who told him that?
So you can probably come up with your own fantastical scenario which is the same one a lot of people have already come up with: that Epstein's real business is blackmail. The questions remain however, if this is true, whether:
1. Investigators from the Southern District of New York have evidence for this including the identities of the individuals he has blackmailed, and
2. If they do, will the evidence ever become public? Somebody or somebodies had enough clout to prevent it from happening in 2008, and I don't know what has changed since then to make justice blind.
According to the Sherman article linked at the top, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has a huge trove of documents resulting from discovery in a civil suit by one of Epstein's accusers, which he implies will blow the lid off. I am a bit skeptical. If these exist, the SDNY also has them but they have not, as far as we know, indicted anybody but Epstein. Perhaps they are preparing their case and giving people a chance to talk with them. On the other hand they work for William Barr.
So if the rocket never goes off, lots of people are still going to believe that there's a continuing cover up and public cynicism will just get deeper. If it does, however, this could be a transformative moment in the culture, perhaps salutary, perhaps very dangerous.
It should not be news to anyone that the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW is a vulgar racist, and that his essential appeal to his cult following is that he channels their bigotry. That he became the Republican nominee is the consequence of decades of Republicans playing to racists more subtly, beginning with Richard Nixon's so-called Southern Strategy. The current party standard bearer has been saying the quiet parts out loud since he announced his candidacy, so what is new now?
Well, the blatant crudity of "Go back where you came from" is a real step further. Not that it matters a whole lot, but four of the five women who were the subjects of that moronic taunt were born in the United States. One of them is in fact Native American, so presumably she wouldn't have far to go in any case. Another is African American, and doesn't even know what country her ancestors come from because her heritage was erased by enslavement. The only one who was not born in the U.S. came here as a refugee, was given asylum, and naturalized as a citizen.
What this says to the cultists is that people who are not of European ancestry are not "real Americans." The plan is, obviously, to run the 2020 campaign on this premise, that the Republican party represents those "real Americans," white people, while the Democrats consist of non-Americans and race traitors. We know this because Republican politicians, without as far as I can tell a single exception, have remained silent.
We know where this leads, because we saw what happened in the country of Donald J. Trump's ancestors beginning in 1933. This is real, folks.
Exodus 13 is short enough to handle in one dose. We have seen before how awkwardly contrived this whole plot is, but this is probably the crudest example. In case you don't have a clear picture of the geography of the region, keep in mind that modern day Israel and Egypt share a border. The straight shot from Cairo to Beer Sheba is overland, through the Sinai desert. Joseph was first brought to Egypt along this trade route. You can also follow the Mediterranean coast if you like. Goshen was apparently in the northwest of Egypt so it's even closer.
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.” 3 Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. 4 Today, in the month of Aviv, you are leaving. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month: 6 For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the Lord. 7 Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. 8
Note that the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorite, Hivites and Jebusites already live in that land. Too bad for them, huh? Again, this incessant, eternal harping on not leavening the bread seems bizarre.
On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. 10 You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.
The rabbis later interpreted this passage, in conjunction with some later ones, to produce the tefillin, little boxes containing Torah verses that orthodox Jewish men strap to their hands and foreheads for morning prayer, even though this passage refers to only an annual, not daily observance and is stated metaphorically, not literally.. Oddly, the word tefillin is nowhere in the Torah. The origin of the word is obscure. (The English word phylacteries that you may have encountered is derived from Greek for amulet.)
11 “After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, 12 you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. 13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. 14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
So when you're children ask you why you are killing the lamb or breaking the donkey's neck, tell them it is because God murdered hundreds of thousands of Egyptians. Pharaoh's stubbornness, as we have been told many times, was contrived by God so that he would have an excuse to do this.
17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.[a]
The Philistines were a seafaring people who did not arrive in the Levant until at least 1,500 years after these events took place. In any case check the map. In order to get to the shores of the red sea, the people had to go a good 150 miles out of their way, which in those days was considerable. I see that the pillar of fire enabled them to travel by night but didn't they need to sleep? As I noted previously, Sukkoth and Etham are not the names of real places in Egypt. God actually thinks that if the Israelites face war they're going to chicken out and return to Egypt, but what does he expect to happen when they confront the Canaanites, the Hittites, Amorite, Hivites and Jebusites? In case you are wondering, we will find out soon enough.
The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle. 19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”[b] 20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Samuel Johnson famously said that of patriotism, as reported by his biographer Boswell. We don't know for sure who Johnson was thinking about but the quotation applies to uncountable people since Johnson said it in 1775. I believe it was Ambrose Bierce who objected that in fact, patriotism is the first refuge of a scoundrel. Please note that the logic of the statement does not condemn patriotism in general. Scoundrels might take refuge in many perfectly fine places.
Nation states are essentially imaginary communities. For them to function properly their inhabitants must have some form of shared identity and loyalty to the concept of the state. This is most urgently true of representative republics, which depend on public engagement and legitimacy. But many people make damaging errors in their understanding of patriotism.
The most egregious is in conflating loyalty to the nation with loyalty or obeisance to its current leaders. The latter is the definition of patriotism in North Korea. It also seems to be the definition adopted by the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, who has repeatedly labeled disrespect for his own person as treason. And that seems to be the definition adopted by many of his cultists, the so-called "base" which now constitutes the self-identified Republicans among the electorate.
A similarly egregious error is to think that patriotism means approving of whatever actions the national leadership takes in the international sphere, particularly military action. Dissenting from warmaking seems to many the most egregious violation of patriotism. Mark Twain has something to say about this. Do read The War Prayer if you haven't already, but the idea is that his protagonist translates prayers for victory into this:
Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
Another error, which can be nearly as egregious in its application, is conflating patriotism with symbolic enactments. This includes treating the nation's flag and other symbolic paraphernalia as sacred objects, and enacting rituals such as reciting a pledge, or adopting a particular pose and singing as the national anthem is played. Adherents of this vacuous ideology may even invent new symbols, such as requiring politicians to wear a flag lapel pin.
People may intend all sorts of messages by violating these ritual norms. For example, Colin Kapernick, who knelt rather than stand during the playing of the national anthem to draw attention to police violence. His point was that the nation's ideals were being violated. By kneeling, he was praying that they be upheld. That is true patriotism. But the NFL owners are so scared that NFL fans are shallow-minded idiots that he he's been unemployed ever since. (They're probably right.)
I did notice during the, I guess, anthem, she didn't have her hand here, and we know that she kneels sometimes during the anthem. She said she's not going to go to the f-ing White House, which to me, was like, "Wow." And that's her prerogative, but I do think it's damaging U.S. Women's Soccer. . . . I think people won't watch if they see the team that's representing our country be unpatriotic, and I've spoken to people who over the weekend weren't watching, refused to watch, and I think that's going to have an impact on ratings.
She is in fact a much greater patriot than you, sir. There cannot be any more urgent duty of a patriot than to resist the current regime and bring it to an end.
Scumbag Jeffrey Epstein hobnobbed with various famous and powerful people, so tummies are aflutter with the prospect that some of them will be implicated in the course of his upcoming prosecution and associated investigations. The specific figures about whom the speculators choose to speculate of course depend on who specifically they would like to see disgraced.
We already know one individual who is well and truly disgraced, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. But of course we knew that already. The new indictment of Epstein doesn't provide any new information about Acosta, but now we're hearing renewed calls for his resignation. The disgrace is that the Resident appointed him and the Senate confirmed him in the first place. Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig tells the tale: (Emphasis added)
When he first faced sex trafficking charges in Florida in 2007, Epstein skated. His powerhouse team of attorneys somehow worked with Acosta to craft an agreement that was staggeringly unjust. Epstein faced decades behind bars but Acosta let him go with a plea to two minor state-level charges (for which he was sentenced to 13 months behind bars but served most of it on work release). The deal also inexplicably immunized Epstein's co-conspirators. In 14-plus years as a prosecutor, I've never even heard of the concept of giving a free pass to a defendant's co-conspirators. Worse, as a federal judge ruled recently, Acosta violated the rights of Epstein's victims by entering into the sweetheart plea deal without notifying them first, as the law requires.
Right now, the only people who know who may have personally availed himself of the gift of a 14 year old girl from Epstein are the scumbag himself, any beneficiaries, any victims, and perhaps other enablers and accomplices. As many Rorschach readers are obsessively communicating and re-communicating, in the past self-identified victims have made allegations against the individual who appointed Acosta to the cabinet, and a lawyer who has suffered the horrible and unjust fate of not being invited to Martha's Vineyard dinner parties because he has allied himself with said appointer. Individuals 1 and 2 deny all allegations. An equally obsessive group of communicators is eager for us to know that the principal of a big international foundation and former blowjob recipient took several flights on Epstein's private jet.
Listen up folks. There is no point in even thinking about where these titillating facts may lead. It seems unlikely they will lead anywhere in these three cases. However, this very disgusting business does confirm what we already know, which is that justice is not blind and the wealthy, powerful and well-connected are not ordinarily subject to the law as are the rest of us. Regardless of what happens concerning the Big Three, it is noteworthy that the prosecution has been assigned to the SDNY public corruption unit. Evidently they know or suspect something that they want to leverage Epstein to prove. That may just concern Acosta, or it may concern some of the immunized co-conspirators, or it may concern other co-conspirators who were not known to the Florida prosecutors.
So, have patience. We will know what we will know when we will know it. In the meantime, Acosta should certainly resign although as I say, this is not new information about him and he should never have held any position of public trust in the first place.
Here is the rest of Exodus 12. I understand and respect that this is among the most sacred texts of the Jews, and that it underlies the most important ritual tradition of the religion. It is unusual because it happens at home, and does not involve a priest. It is very important to people's identities, and their sense of family and belonging. Nevertheless I'm going to look at with directly and evaluate it without bias, including any pre-supposition of sacrality or allegorical interpretation. I presume most devout Jews believe that this is all literally true and that these events really happened, as do fundamentalist Christians. It is important to confront the implications were that true.
29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.
I shouldn't bother to point out yet again that the livestock are already dead. Anyway, it's important to remember why God does this. It is not to liberate the Hebrews; the story is quite explicit that Pharaoh was prepared to let them go on several occasions, but that God "hardened his heart" to make sure the massacre could happen. God makes several claims about his motives. (Credit to the Skeptics Annotated Bible for the compilation.)
I will ... smite Egypt with all my wonders. 3:20 I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. 7:3 Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him. 10:1 The LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you; that my wonders maye multiplied in the land of Egypt. 11:9
And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD. 7:5
Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh. 6:1 For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. 9:14 That my name may be declared throughout all the earth. 9:16 That thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son's son, what things I have wrought in Egypt. 10:2 That thou mayest know how that the earth is the LORD's. 9:29
In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD. 7:17 That ye may know how that I am the LORD. 10:2
That ye may know how that the LORD doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel. 11:7 Against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. 12:12
The population of Egypt at this time was about 3 million. Can't say how many of them were firstborn sons, but we're talking some hundreds of thousands of murdered Egyptians, for the above-stated motives. Interesting BTW that Pharaoh himself was apparently not a first-born son. Not impossible.
31 During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” 33 The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” 34 So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing. 35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.
This part of the story is repetitious. I have pointed out before how odd it is. It contravenes the upcoming commandment against stealing but perhaps that only applies to fellow Israelites.
37 The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38
There are three places called "Succoth" or "Sukkoth" in the Bible. One is the place where Jacob settled after wrestling with God; another is mentioned in Joshua as inhabited by the tribe of Gad; and this place in Egypt. No town of this name in Egypt is ever known to have existed. Rameses is of course the name of several Pharaoh's, but not of a place in Egypt. The Egyptian captivity is said to have lasted 430 years. At the beginning, the population was 70 (Exodus 1:5). Now it's 600,000 men and therefore something like three million people. Uh-huh.
Many other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. 39 With the dough the Israelites had brought from Egypt, they baked loaves of unleavened bread. The dough was without yeast because they had been driven out of Egypt and did not have time to prepare food for themselves.
As I have pointed out many times, this is nonsense. They had several weeks of warning. They had to be specifically ordered not to leaven the bread.
40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt[b] was 430 years. 41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. 42 Because the Lord kept vigil that night to bring them out of Egypt, on this night all the Israelites are to keep vigil to honor the Lord for the generations to come. 43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal: “No foreigner may eat it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it. 46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it. 48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. 49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”
50 All the Israelites did just what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.
As I mentioned earlier, I shared the Passover meal with some friends in Chicago. I'm circumcised, thought obviously not for religious reasons, so evidently it was okay. I presume however that this means to imply that the foreigners have to convert to Judaism, not merely that they be physically circumcised. But that's unclear. Women are presumed to be appurtenances of men. In order for foreign women to participate, the men in their household need to be circumcised, presumably.
Exodus 12:40 Masoretic Text; Samaritan Pentateuch and Septuagint Egypt and Canaan