To paraphrase the Grinch this book is all the law, law, law. Its a bit of a slog because of that but lucky for you I’ll try to sum it up briefly.


The first seven chapters of this book are about different types of offerings, when they should be used and how they should be presented. Lets just say for most of them its not a good day for bulls and goats. Most of the offerings are ways of making things right with God. The main idea being humans will mess up and we needed a way of making right. Because the people presented with this law were most shepherds it stands to reason that animals are precious to them.

Using animals as burnt offerings to deter sins and keep them vigilant is all in all a good idea. Being inspired by God or simply a man-made incarnation I see the logic and find it sound. I see parallels with how we use fines today.

Aaron and his sons

Once the different types of offerings are established Moses uses this to consecrate Aaron and his sons as the first priests. This set them apart and made them holy in a way to be able to lead and direct the flow of events at the Tabernacle.

Aaron’s sons though did not perform the rituals correctly. The wrong incense was used in the censer and were consumed by God’s fire. Aaron was upset at this, but Moses told him that he should not grieve. He also banned Aaron and his sons from drinking fermented beverages in the performance of their duties. Its not explicitly stated, but the implication does seem to be there that Nadab and Abihu’s error may have been because they were drunk. Seems a bit harsh to me.

More law

The next bunch of chapters are more law. A lot of it revolves around when a person is “clean” and when they are “unclean”. Also if they are “unclean” what process they can use to become “clean” again. Cleanliness in this area is truly next to godliness since you are not able to perform holy duties or take part in holy practices unless you are clean.

At a high level here are some of the topics discussed in this section.

  • What animals you can and cannot eat
  • Establishment of circumcision and restitution of a woman’s cleanliness after giving birth
  • Dealing with skin disease
  • Becoming clean after ejaculating or having your period (yep women on their period are considered unclean)
  • Establishment of The Day of Atonement
  • Forbidding eating of blood
  • Outlaw of incest
  • Keep the sabbath
  • Dont curse your parents
  • Ways a priest may marry

Violation of these laws largely result in either being “cut off” (exile) or death depending. Some of the lesser forms require one of the burnt offerings detailed at the beginning of the book.

Celebrations and Feasts

The following festivals and feasts are established in Chapter 23.

  • Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread
  • Offering of the Firstfruits
  • The Festival of Weeks
  • The Festival of Trumpets
  • The Day of Atonement
  • The Festival of Tabernacles

They go into details of how, when and what but I’ll leave that for you to read if you wish.

Blasphemer put to death

After this a story is told of the son of an Israelite mother and Egyptian father that blasphemed the lord during a fight. The response was arrest and to be brought before Moses. Upon council with God the judgement is passed that he should be taken out of the camp and stoned to death. The ones that are responsible for enacting this punishment are those that witnessed the crime

In the same breath this is where passage about eye or an eye and tooth for a tooth comes from which is a bit of a non sequitur but I think is added to enforce that justice should be uniform, swift and equitable in a very ruthless way.

Wrapping up

After this there are some final pieces put together and rules established. The importance of the number seven is increased to the point where it will effect farming as well. Every seven years no planting should be done and every 50 years (why its not 49 so it matches up with 7 I dont know) a year of Jubilee is established.

Jubilee is an interesting concept. It reults in the returning of property, freeing of slaves and charity of those less fortunate. Again it also means that no planning should be done and it be a focus time of celebration.

The book ends basically saying if they keep the covenant with God they will be rewarded and reach the promised land. If however they do not God will consider them “hostile” to him and that they have turned against him. He will remove his favors and likely they will be crushed by outsiders.


  • Offerings established
  • Aaron and his son established and priests
  • Sons were killed for not performing duties correctly
  • Laws established. A lot of them
  • Festivals and Feasts established
  • Blasphemer stoned
  • Jubilee established
  • Rewards and punishments for keeping the covenant


I mean what can I say? I would hope that most people see Mosaic law as outdated and barbaric today. Leviticus details how and when to keep slaves, how to use and in some cases abuse women, and kills a guy for picking up sticks on the sabbath.

I understand from a societal perspective why this law existed and why it was so strict, but it’s another one of those situations where you have to ask yourself why is God beholden to the mores of the time? Could he not have established a more just law from the start if he truly is all powerful and loving?

This is also the first time that the term “lord” for God was put in a different perspective for me. I always saw lord as a synonym for God and just another way of saying the same thing, but that’s not the case is it? Lord means just that; a ruler you are supposed to obey unquestionably. Now whether or not he has the right to command that is under question, but dont misunderstand thats what is happening.

I find it interesting the contrast between this vision of God and the one I grew up with. I bought into the relationship aspect of God growing up and saw him as a parent or something akin to a spouse. This is very different. This is king and vassel. This is literally obey me or die.

Feels weird ending there, but I’m not sure what else to say.


Exodus begins the story of the travels in the desert for the Israelites. We all know the story and the “let my people go” so we know this starts in Egypt. The Israelites had it pretty good in the beginning thanks to the legacy of Joseph, but when his generation died and a new pharaoh took over this changed.

It went from them multiplying and doing well to becoming too numerous for this pharaoh’s tastes. Then then there was a point where he ordered they be enslaved and ordered baby boys to be killed. One such child that would have met this fate though was hid then sent down the river in a basket. Pharaoh’s daughter found this basket and baby Moses was spared. Later on Moses had to flee from Egypt because he killed an Egyptian that was being one of the Hebrews. This set in motion a series of events.

The burning bush and plagues

A while later God appears to Moses as a burning bush and informs him he needs to go back into Egypt and free the people. He was understandably fearful so Aaron was enlisted to be his emissary. God gave Moses and Aaron abilities to convince pharaoh that he should let the Israelits leave including turning a staff into a snake, causing and curing leprosy, and turning water into blood. The problem was that pharaoh’s magicians could do the same so this was not terribly convincing to them.

So this is where things start to get odd. At this point the plagues start. The confusing part though is I was always under the impression that pharaoh was completely at fault here. I wont excuse him making the Hebrews slaves in Egypt, but we have to look at the role of God in all of this as well. God tells Moses to go into Egypt and bring the plagues down and if pharaoh let the people go then basically job done. If not though then the plagues would increase. Now take that into perspective with this verse.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

Exodus Chapter 7 verses 1-5

Looking at verse 3 you can see the deck was stacked against pharaoh and Egypt. God did not have the intention of letting Egypt off easy and verse 5 seems to imply that he wanted to make an example out of Egypt. This paints the story of the Jewish exodus in a VERY different light than previously understood at least by me.

Again I am not excusing the previous actions of pharaoh or the Egyptians, but not only is this a different story to that we normally understand, but it seems to also be a suspension of free will on the part of God. Either way through the various plagues and eventually the Passover event where all the firstborn of Egypt died the Hebrews are told to leave and they head out into the desert.

It would seem they were away from Egypt at this point and free of the pharaoh, but then God hardened the pharaoh’s heart again so he would pursue them. This is where Moses parted the red see and they were able to cross, but the Egyptian army was swallowed by the sea.


After heading into the wilderness for a while they run into hardship. When they were hungry manna from heaven was provided and when they were thirst Moses cracked a rock and provided water. They were also attacked by an army known as the Amaleks. God gave them the ability to overcome this as long as Moses’ arms were raised. Fairly strange condition in my mind, but, hey, whatever works I guess.

After this they end up camping at Mount Sinai. Moses went up the mountain and spoke to God and received the original ten commandments. These are not the only laws that are received though. Through the next couple of chapters he receives a large set of rules and regulations including:

  • How to keep and treat Hebrews as slaves (servants in some new translations)
  • How to deal with personal injury and murder
  • How to deal with the injury or loss of an animal by another
  • A lot of notes on social responsibility in a very odd fashion
  • The establishment of the sabbath
  • The establishment of festivals

All of that and more are listed out in detail in the chapters. A couple of things that people tend to key in on when they are being critical is the endorsement of slavery or at least servitude and the idea that if a man seduces a virgin he is not meant to be punished, but in fact he is to marry her and pay the “bride-price” to her father. Her father is able to override this and just accept the money, but she does not seem to have any agency in this.

Yes, I realize this is me putting my morality on the situation, but when the Bible says outright that seduced (raped in some translations) women are essentially the property of the man and that you are able to beat your slaves and as long as they dont die straight away its all good I think I’m justified in doing so.

This section finds an end with an extremely detailed description of the tabernacle, alter, robes and everything else the Hebrews are meant to create for God including what to make it out of, how big they should be and how they should be used.

The golden calf

While Moses was up on the mountain the people started to stray and build golden idols to worship. This enraged God and Moses. Moses went down and admonished the people saying they had lost their way and in his rage broke the tablets on which he had inscribed the law. He also had to turn and plead with the lord to spare the people and even though he was successful a full 3000 people were killed because of the idol worship.

Because he broke the tablets he had to go back up the mountain and reenscribe them. The rules in this chapter are slightly different, but the intent seems to be the same so i dont think the intent was to ret con the rule so much as rewrite them.

The rest of the book is basically the building of the tabernacle, alter, lampstand, etc. Upon completion God filled the room and seemed pleased with it construction.


  • Hebrews enslaved in Egypt
  • Plagues of Egypt and Passover
  • Crossing the Red Sea
  • Establishment of law and construction plans
  • Golden calf and the wrath of God
  • Building of the Tabernacle


This one has eye opening for me. I had heard all of these stories before but filtered through the veil of nicety and positivity.

I expected to read about the plagues and come away with the standard “pharaoh was a dick” thought process I always did. While he was I cant help but feel a little bad for them since God seems to have suspended their free will to prove a point. I’m not sure that was necessary. It shows God as petty if anything and vengeful at worse which I know modern Christians would rather shy away from.

Other than that we have the lawgiving. Traditional Hebrew law is now archaic and outdated in most people’s mind so a lot of the issues can be forgiven as a relic of a bygone era. There are some that stand out though.

The first of those being the endorsement of slavery. While Hebrews are meant to be treated nicely and released anyone else is not subject to these can be beaten without consequence unless they die. The thought process here is why allow it at all? If God is just then should he have not just said no to slavery? Should that not have been in his power as he is establishing laws for his people? Its an odd question to ponder when he spends an entire chapter on the punishments for accidentally killing a donkey or bull.

The second is the treatment of women. Again the same thought process of could he have not said that men and women are equal? Could he have given women agency in their own life and marrage that he seemly chose not to?

These make you wonder at the Jewish and Christian conception of the divine. I know a lot of Christians would say these laws were superseded by Jesus and thus are not relevant anymore and time will tell on the reading of those passages, but the fact remains why did they have to be superseded at all? If God is all knowing, just and benevolent why didnt he get this right out of the gate?

I dont say this to poke hole and prove that the divine is not real. I believe it is, but I do wonder at this interpretation and why there would be such a focus on the menial and no focus on what would truly be just and right… at least by modern conception.


The bible starts with a bang (cosmological pun intended). A lot happens in the first book and very quickly. As almost everyone knows Genesis starts with “Let their be light” and the classic biblical creation story. Scientifically this is a mess, but honestly thats not really any different from any other religious creation story so I have a pretty easy time letting that slide. Honestly as far as impressions go this is largely inconsequential. What comes next is more so.

After creation and the establishment of man and woman we find an idyllic paradise known as Eden, but we also find humanity in a state of ignorance. Perhaps I am looking at this from the perspective of knowledge, but for me more or less force ignorance is no different from that of slavery. This is where the serpent comes in. While not explicitly stated as Satan it is heavily interpreted to be so. Some say he deceives humanity, but honestly my reading of it paints a different picture.

He tells the woman that she will not die if she eats from the tree. People have said that this is the deception since after eating from the tree death was introduced to humanity, but honestly it did not have to be. God introduces death for his own reasons after the fact and was not required to do so. The fruit itself had no control over life or death. All it was able to do was introduce knowledge to humanity. After this these were cast out of Eden again by will of God and for no other reason.

First Murder and The Flood

I’m not going to go through every chapter and verse, but this is important to the rest of the book. This is the first truly punishable act of humanity. Cain, through basically jealously kills his brother Abel then denies it. Perhaps owing to a limited supply of humans, although a as yet unknown “land of Nod” exists, but Cain is not killed and is instead exiled. This shows restraint which is commendable not two chapters later he changes his tone and unleashes a worldwide flood that only spares a handful of people and animals. I find this change of tone so drastically to be a bit disconcerting.

For one murder you get simple exile and still taken care of by God, but because “wickedness” later he hits the cosmic reset switch and kills everyone. I had trouble squaring this as a child and even now I’m not able to find a good reasoning beyond simply “God’s will”.

This new tone is continued however throughout the book and honestly a good portion of the Bible from this point which he shows with the destruction of Sodom and turning Lot’s wife to salt.

God’s chosen can do no wrong

So for the next couple chapters God shows extreme tribalism and backs the play of Abraham and others. The deceive the people around them, lie and take advantage of the people. God however does not punish them, but in fact increases their bounty and gives them every advantage he can.

He did test Abraham telling him to sacrifice his son to him. Without batting an eye he takes Isaac to the mountain to do so. God stops him just in time. Growing up this was always portrayed as a story of unerring devotion and loyalty, but i cant help now but read it as more horrible people doing horrible things. Perhaps its because its one of multiple instances of this happening in Genesis.

Honestly the more I read this section the angrier I got seeing truly despicable people getting the favor of God made my blood boil. What didnt help was when I reached out to religious communities about how this can be justified the answer I got was almost uniformly “isnt the grace of God wonderful?”. I can accept that in Christian doctrine that we are all sinners and need the grace of God to be saved, but I wanted evil man after evil man not see any rebuke or punishment, but in fact get encouraged by God to continue in their ways.

It took me a long time to get through this section of Genesis for this reason. I’m dedicated to exploration in this area so I continued.

Joseph and Egypt

The rest of the book centers around Joseph. The first real story of redemption and forgiveness in Genesis. At a high level Joesph is prized by his father and eventually his brothers became jealous of him and sold him to Egypt. After some tribulation Joseph finds himself in a high position in the pharaoh’s kingdom. This is of course again by aid of God who give him prophetic dreams and endears him to the pharaoh.

Joseph encounters his brothers and puts them through a bit of manipulations but eventually forgives them and embraces his family fully. This part I find quite admirable as it shows a virtuous nature that as yet has been missing from the book. This is however undermined later when Joesph effectively sells most of Egypt into servitude to pharaoh during a famine.

The end of the book also sees the end of Joseph, but before he passes on he is told his people will be delivered to the land promised by God to his family.


  • Creation story
  • Fruit of the knowledge of good and evil and exile
  • First murder
  • Multiple instances of God smiting people
    • Sodom
    • Lot’s wife
    • Worldwide flood
  • God’s chosen can do no wrong
  • Jacob and Egypt
  • Promise of deliverance and establishment of the promised land


Overall impressions of Genesis are negative, but let me explain.

The book is basically a detailing of how God sees the world. His chosen people can do no wrong and anyone that would stand in their way will either be pushed aside, warned or straight up punished. Looking at this from a agnostic perspective I think a lot of this was conjecture, a misunderstanding of history and facts and a desire to create a positive narrative.

There are a lot of Christians that say what is in the formative books of the Bible are simply allegory and meant to teach a lesson. If so I wonder what lesson is meant to be taught. You have people lying to get their own way and God praising and rewarding them for it and the list goes on.

It does a good job of aligning the people of Abraham to God which is a theme that carries through the next couple of books (and in a way the rest of the Bible) so this groundwork may have been important for that.

Another impression that is overlooked often is the way this story is told in the Bible versus how it is portrayed in the church. A lot of glossed over when talking about it as simply unimportant window dressing. Joseph ended up in Egypt is what is taught not that he was sold into slavery by his brothers. Abraham was remorseful and conflicted in sacrificing Isaac, but this in place in the bible. I wonder why the church is not more honest about these passages and what they have to gain here.

The cynic in me says its because if they did tell the whole truth it would be much less appealing, but I wonder if its for a different reason. People of a faith dont want there to be fault in that faith. They want it to be pure and to be in the right in believing in it. I think this often results in surface-level analysis and portrayal.

It will be interesting to see if the rest of the book frame this perspective differently for me. Right now I understand why this is not normally people’s first introduction to Christianity. It is a harsh reality and one that would not be appealing without other context.

So far this has not changed my perspective that while I believe the religion to be an honest attempt to understand the divine. I am also reminded that the structure of the Bible is not straightforward and makes for difficult understand and resolution. I have to remember that moving forward.