Friday, October 11, 2013

Exodus 7: Let the Plagues Begin

Today's Podcast


God sent Moses and Aaron to Egypt to ask Pharaoh to free the slaves, armed with a few neat sounding powers. Pharaoh responded to this request by punishing the slaves harshly. Moses was discouraged and wanted to give up, but God assured Moses that his people would be freed from Egypt.

Moses and Aaron Before Pharaoh (v. 1-13)

God says he has made Moses like God to Pharaoh and Aaron is like a prophet.

I'm not sure what this means, but I have two guesses. The first is that the powers that Moses was given in chapter 4 are what makes him like a God. The problem with this thought is that Moses had those powers in chapter 5 and Pharaoh didn't look at him as a God then (although I guess Moses didn't use those powers then, what's up with that?). The only other thing I can think of is the genealogy thing in chapter 6, since that happened right before this declaration perhaps it is related. My understanding is that genealogy played a big role in their lives back then, perhaps God telling Moses his true family line is supposed to make a difference to him and also to Pharaoh. Hopefully the commentaries will weigh in on this.

Guzik says that this means God will be talking to Pharaoh through Moses. Does that sound wrong to everyone else? It could just mean that I'm completely misunderstanding what is written in the bible (wouldn't be the first time), but shouldn't being like God to someone mean you have power over them, or perhaps that they are in awe of you? Not just that you are a conduit for God to talk to them. 

Guzik goes on to say that if Pharaoh rejects Moses, that Moses shouldn't take it personally, because this will just mean that Pharaoh is rejecting God. He then makes the connection to Christians of today by saying
In the same way, God will make us "as God" to people we encounter who are rejecting God. If they harden their hearts or reject us, we shouldn't take it personally.
And there we go. Christians shouldn't take it personally if they can't convert people, they aren't rejecting you, just your God. I suppose I could put that in the morals of the story section if I didn't think Guzik was so far off base here.

Matthew Henry seems to agree with Guzik here somewhat, although he clarifies that it is not just that Moses is speaking for God, but that he has godly powers. This lines up with my first guess, and it also seems to mess up Guzik's moral of the story. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown have a similar interpretation to Matthew Henry.

God says he will tell Moses and Aaron what to say and ask Pharaoh to release his people, but God will harden Pharaoh's heart so he won't comply. Then God will multiply his signs and wonders throughout Egypt and bring his people out with great judgement.

So basically, God is going to prevent Pharaoh from releasing his people and then punish him for not releasing them. I thought God was supposed to respect free will. And how the hell is this just? It would be like holding a gun to someone's head and forcing them to commit a crime, and then punishing them for that crime.

We see the same nonsense about this from Guzik as in chapter 4
We remember that God will not harden Pharaoh's heart against Pharaoh's own desire. It is not as if Pharaoh wished to have a tender heart towards Israel but God would not allow him. God confirmed Pharaoh in his wicked inclination against Israel.
Instead, Pharaoh revealed his heart when he refused the humble request of Moses back in 5:1-4; now, God will merely strengthen Pharaoh in the evil already chose.
This just makes no sense, if it is already Pharaoh's own desire, then God wouldn't have to harden his heart, his heart would already be hardened against God's people. Guzik then quotes from the text and continues
"So that I may lay My hand on Egypt … and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD": This explains why the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart - essentially, to bring righteous judgment upon Egypt: Pharaoh and the Egyptians said they didn't know who the LORD was; God is going to let them know.
Even if we give Guzik his ridiculous premise, it says that Pharaoh was coming around and God put him back on his original path, for the purpose of punishing him and his people more. Who in their right mind would classify this as "righteous"? Guzik also applies this logic to our lives
God can do the same today. In our rebellion, we may reach the place where God will strengthen us in the evil we desire
Why is this acceptable? Let's say I want to do something evil, (Oh I don't know, let's say my older brother died before he and his wife had a kid and I don't want to have sex with his wife so that he can have an heir). But then after some reflection, I realize that it would be something that God would really want me to do, but just as I am about to make the decision God "hardens my heart" against the idea and I don't wind up doing it. Then later, God punishes me for not changing my mind. Is that fair? God prevented me from doing the "right" thing here, how can he punish me? Even interpreting this in Guzik's way, the way God acted is still reprehensible.

Perhaps Wisely, the other Christian commentaries that I read didn't even address this as a problem. They just mention that God hardened Pharaoh's heart as a matter of fact.
The Rods of Moses and the Magicians Turned int...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When they went to Pharaoh, Aaron proved they were with God by throwing down his staff and having it become a snake. Pharaoh then summoned his wise men and magicians and performed the same trick with secret arts. Aaron's staff/snake swallowed the rest. Pharaoh's heart was hardened and he still didn't listen to them.

The snake trick is pretty cool, what is the deal with Pharaoh having people who are able to do the same thing? I guess that Aaron's snake eating the others shows his is more powerful, but you would think God would be more original. This really just boils down to being a better version of a trick the Pharaoh has already seen.

Of course, it was Satan (again Guzik)
In the midst of an unmistakable miracle, Satan provided Pharaoh with a reason to doubt - and Pharaoh seized on the doubt and hardened his heart.
Notice what he does here with Pharaoh's hardened heart, the way Guzik writes this, it sounds like Pharaoh hardened his own heart. He must have been reading ahead to the next section.

The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood (v. 14-25)

God tells Moses that Pharaoh's heart is hardened, and he refuses to let the slaves go free.

I noticed a bit of a change of tone here, previously God kept talking about how He was going to harden Pharaoh's heart, but now he's just saying that his heart is hardened. Compare these older verses:
  • v3: I will harden Pharaoh's heart
  • ch4 v21: I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go
to these verses
  • v13: Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them
  • v14: the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go
It's like God goes from "I will keep him from releasing your people" to "Hey look, Pharaoh's being a dick and not letting your people go". 
Aaron changes the water of the Nile into blood
Aaron changes the water of the Nile into blood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God had Moses turn the water in the Nile (as well as all water in canals, ponds and pools of water) into blood in the sight of Pharaoh. All of the fish in the river died, and the Nile stank, so the Egyptians couldn't drink the water. They had to dig along side the Nile to find water to drink instead. But Pharaoh's magicians were able to do the same trick so Pharaoh's heart was still hardened.

Where shall I start? I suppose I'll ask why it was necessary for God to ruin all of the other water in the place. Doesn't turning the Nile into blood prove your point? Why ruin water that people had collected the day before? 

Won't tons of people die here? Not only did they lose their water supply, but if all of the fish died I imagine a lot of people lost their food source as well, not to mention the fishermen's livelihoods. 

Pharaoh's magicians could do the same trick? Who the hell are these guys, and why did God do generic tricks that any random magician can do? Also, how did they do the same trick? Moses turned all of the water in Egypt to blood, then the magicians also turned the water to blood? But all of the water is already blood, so that makes no sense. Are we to believe that the magicians had done this previously? Why the hell would they want to do that?

And finally, verse 22 says that Pharaoh's heart was hardened because his magicians could do the same trick, not because God hardened it. So which is it?

A few interesting things from Guzik here
God did not plague Egypt because Pharaoh would not let the children of Israel go; but because Pharaoh refused to recognize and honor God
Why do Christians find this kind of reasoning acceptable? Bring it down a few levels, suppose we have a father who has a couple of kids who are getting beat up in school. What if he was upset at the bullies because he felt disrespected instead of the simple fact that his children are being attacked? What would you think of that father? He's a piece of shit right? But for some reason it's acceptable when it is God.
Specifically, this first plague was directed against the numerous Egyptian river deities. The Nile itself was virtually worshipped as a god by the Egyptians, and the LORD God shows that He has complete power over the Nile, not some river god.
Now that is actually really interesting.

Moral of the Story

Apparently the moral of this story is recognize and honor God or you could face God's wrath. Essentially worship God or else. I'm sure it will come as a surprise to no one that I find this completely unacceptable.

For the Verses of Note post:

--Free Will--

Exodus 7:2-4 God hardens Pharaoh's heart to prevent him from following God's command

", and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you..."


Exodus 7:3-4 God punishes the Egyptians because God prevent Pharaoh from listening to him

"But I will harden Pharaoh's heart...Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment."


Exodus 7:10-11 Aaron and Pharaoh's men all turned their staves into snakes

"Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts."

Exodus 7:20,22 Moses turned all of the water in Egypt into blood, as did Pharaoh's men

"Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood....But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts."
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  1. As for the plagues, it's unjust for God to punish thousands of innocent people over something that he compelled one man -- Pharoah -- to do because God hardened his heart. The Exodus story is neither uplifting nor logical.

    1. That's a really good point, I was so focused on the free will angle that I didn't really talk about this. Even if we assume that Pharaoh deserved it, that doesn't make it okay for God to punish everyone else that lives in Egypt

    2. Worse, when you consider that God hardened Pharaoh's heart and would not allow him to capitulate and he continued to punish the innocent anyhow. That's a complete dick move in anyone's book.

    3. Exactly Cephus, it honestly makes me wonder how Christians justify this stuff. I guess they just see the Egyptians as a whole as evil people. I was pretty young the last time I heard these stories in church, but I think that is how they did it, God was punishing the wicked. But to get that to work every last person in Egypt had to be evil.

  2. Nice post Hausdorff. the moral is pretty much the one that we see in all religions. Praise me or burn.

    1. Yup, the sad thing is that this tactic works really well. I was afraid of hell and God's wrath well past when I even believed in those things any more. When it is ingrained in you it just sticks around.

    2. So true.. "Praise me or burn.. but I love you!"


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