Yesterday, I wrote about the disturbing inclusion of racist and pro-slavery James Hammond in an article to accompanying The Founders’ Bible. Although not as distressing as the Hammond article, there are other problems with articles in the Bible that have come up before. Today, I want to note just one of them – the rewriting of Exodus 18.
If John E. Peterson’s rendering is accurate (this link has been disabled, here is the Google cache), then here is one thing the Founders’ Bible says about Exodus 18 and Israel’s history.
For citizens in that era, a monarchy was the standard for government. And why not? After all, kings were featured prominently throughout the Scriptures: King Saul, King David, King Solomon, King Rehoboam, King Josiah, King Jehoshaphat, etc. So it was easy for citizens to assume that God preferred monarchies, but a closer study of the Bible indicated that this was definitely not God’s preference. In fact, God even sent the prophet Samuel to dissuade His people from monarchies (1 Samuel 8:10-18), but Israel demanded kings anyway.
So what was Israel’s form of government before it degenerated into a monarchy? It was what may be termed a “republic.” In Exodus 18:21, the people were told to choose out from among themselves leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands – that is, to select officials at what we could call the local, county, state, and federal levels. Understanding this original form of governance, the early colonists who arrived in America (and who were students of the Geneva Bible) therefore established representative governments.
It is amazing to me that this commentary will be offered in the same book as the text of Exodus. All one has to do is go read Exodus 18 to see that Barton (or some other writer – apparently publisher Brad Cummings is also involved) altered the narrative.
Here is the relevant portions of Exodus 18:
13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. 19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. 20Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. 21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.
About Exodus 18:21, the Founders Bible says:
In Exodus 18:21, the people were told to choose out from among themselves leaders of tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands – that is, to select officials at what we could call the local, county, state, and federal levels.
However, reading Exodus 18, it is clear that the people were not told to choose, Moses was given that instruction. Exodus 18:25 is clear that Moses chose the leaders and they functioned as judges. Moses was a kind of supreme court with the power and responsibility to decide difficult cases.
This narrative would not be complete without the Founders’ Bible offering some kind of history lesson. The Founders’ Bible then has the colonists establishing representative governments in America because they read it in the commentary on the Geneva Bible.
I checked a reproduction of the Geneva Bible, easily available on Google, and didn’t find any commentary on Exodus 18 that would convince a reader that God meant for people to vote for their leaders or even represent them. The text is the same: Moses chose leaders to help him judge (not represent) the people and their disputes.
While this is only one instance, I think it nicely illustrates the mischief of this publication. Even with the actual text of the Bible in the same volume, the authors of the article changed the biblical narrative. The power of the preferred narrative (colonists were following a biblical example in forming representative governments) was greater than the actual text. This makes me wonder what else has been changed.