The Rational Bible: Exodus (ISBN 978-1-62157-772-0) is the first book in a series authored by religious scholar and talk show host Dennis Prager. Rather than starting with the first book of the Torah (Old Testament or the first five books of the Bible) he begins with Exodus.
Why Begin with the Book of Exodus?
Why not begin at the beginning? Good question. Genesis is the first book and it would seem to be the place for Prager to start. But Exodus really gets to the meat of the matter. It encapsulates the essence of the message. As Prager says, “the Torah: because its central message–that God is good and demands that we be good–is the only belief that will enable us to make a good world.”
It sounds simple and that is exactly what it is; it’s not rocket science. But, up until this point in human history religion had never embraced this simple concept. But this is what Exodus is all about. Monotheism and the system of commandments that are the foundation of a moral existence. Prager says the Ten Commandments are, “the most important moral code in world history, and the central moral code of the Torah.”
Face It; Reading the Bible is Hard
Most modern people have attempted to read the Bible and failed. The translations are ambiguous and the phrasing is cryptic. In this book, however, Prager does the hard work for us. He puts the actual passages in bold and then goes into excruciating detail to explain the meaning. He does so with reason, logic, and the experience of a life-long study of the material. It could be said that he takes a scientific approach to explain the mystical.
Since he works from the Torah rather than one of the many Christian translations, and the fact that he is fluent in Hebrew (where words and phrases can have multiple meanings) his observations are likely the closest thing to reality that a layperson can hope to attain. After all, he has been teaching the Torah verse-by-verse for eighteen years.
The Deeper Meaning of the Plagues Visited Upon Egypt
Exodus of course means the departure of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses. This was quite a process since the Pharaoh was reluctant to let all this free labor go. One might wonder why God did not just “make it happen” rather to instruct Moses to visit the Ten Plagues upon the Pharaoh and Egypt.
God had to convince not only the Egyptians but also the Israelites that he was the one and only God. The Egyptians worshiped many nature Gods and each plague was directly connected with destroying the belief in one of them.
The first plague turned the Nile water into blood; so much for the Nile Gods. The second plague, that of the frog infestation, destroyed belief if the frog God and Goddess. So on and so forth.
Moral Absolutes and Moral Relativism in Modern Society
Sam Malone coined the phrase “the Godless Alt-Left” and while it might be primarily click-bait, it’s not far off the mark. The modern left has not only become an anything-goes cult but in a contradictory way has become the intolerant that trumpets the virtue of all-tolerant.
Prager points out that moral truths by definition require God. Scientific truths can be proven or disproved but moral ones can’t. Why is murder wrong? Because it is right there in the Commandments. Keep in mind that there is a distinction between murder and killing which is where the opposition to capital punishment using a religious justification falls apart.
A Book that Warrants Re-Reading
While reading The Rational Bible: Exodus is revealing, instructive, and entertaining, there is so much food for thought in it that it is hard to digest it all in one setting. Like one of those favorite movies, you will find yourself asking, “How did I miss that the first time around?”
This book contains important lessons on politics, morality, religion, history, philosophy, and the direction society is heading.
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