Saturday, October 19, 2013

Exodus 8: The Entire Egyptian Population is Collateral Damage

Today's Podcast


God sent Moses and Aaron to ask Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves, but God wanted to punish Pharaoh and the Egyptians, so he hardened Pharaoh's heart to keep him from releasing his slaves and then sent plagues into Egypt.

The Second Plague: Frogs (v. 1-15)
Handful of Frogs
Handful of Frogs (Photo credit: deanj)

God had Aaron use his staff to bring about a plague of frogs that would get into everything everywhere all over Egypt. Pharaoh's magicians were able to also being about frogs with their "secret arts". But Pharaoh pleaded with Moses and Aaron to beg God to take away the plague and he would let the Israelites go sacrifice to God. They talked to God about it and all of the frogs died and the land stank. Pharaoh's heart hardened and he didn't follow through on his promise.

Interesting that he's not asking for the slaves to be let free, he's still asking that they be allowed to go sacrifice to God. Also, is dead stinking frogs everywhere really better than live frogs?Perhaps he didn't keep his word because the from plague was taken away in a terrible way.

From Guzik
In His good mercy God gives Pharaoh another chance at repentance, but Pharaoh will not take it.
But not really, because as we saw before, God hardened his heart and prevented him from repenting. I think I will keep having this same disagreement with Guzik because he has tried to explain away God hardening Pharaoh's heart (which is central to this story) and I don't accept his explanation.
God threatened a plague of frogs for a specific reason. The Egyptian goddess Heqt was always pictured with the head of a frog. For this reason frogs were considered sacred and could not be killed.
Again, this is quite interesting, just as in the first plague, it seems that God is targeting the Egyptians gods more so than the actual Egyptian people. I think this really highlights the polytheistic roots of this book. If God was real, and the Egyptian gods were imaginary, why would God care that they are worshiping them? On the other hand, if the early Jews thought that multiple gods were real, then it makes sense for Yahweh to attack the other gods in their stories.

The Third Plague: Gnats (v. 16-19)
Gnats (Photo credit: Andrew Coulter Enright)

Note: it seems that in some other versions it is lice instead of gnats.

Aaron then used his staff to turn all of the dust in the land to gnats, gnats were on everything. Pharaoh's magicians tried to replicate the trick but couldn't, and declared that this must be the work of God, but Pharaoh's heart was hardened and he refused to listen to them.

They really seem to be jumping to the conclusion that it is God really quickly. "That other guy has a magic trick that I can't do, it must be God!"

Again, from Guzik
The hardness of Pharaoh's heart is shown when he will not even heed the analysis of his own advisers. There is no rational reason why he insists on resisting the LORD God.
Why would there be a rational reason? God hardened Pharaoh's heart! Pharaoh isn't just refusing to listen to God because he's a dick, God has prevented him from doing so. 
The Egyptian priesthood was extremely scrupulous about hygiene and ritual cleansing and an infestation of lice made them unable to worship their gods. 
The plague of lice was also upon every beast. The gods of Egypt would not receive the sacrifice of lice-infested animals, so this stopped their sacrificial system.
Again, we see that the real purpose of the plagues seems to attack the Egyptian gods rather than the Egyptian people.

The Fourth Plague: Flies (v. 20-32)
English: A bug zapper
They needed a few of these (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then God sent swarms of flies into the land of Egypt so they would be covering everything. But he would set aside the land of Goshen where the Israelites lived so that it would be obvious that they are set apart and not being hit with the plague.

It seems like a good idea to set apart God's people from the plagues and therefore God's wrath. Why is this starting at plague 4?

Pharaoh said that Moses and his people could go sacrifice to their God as long as he took away the flies first. Moses said they needed to go 3 days away, otherwise the guards would be upset at them sacrificing to a God they don't believe in. Pharaoh said fine, so God took away the flies, but then Pharaoh changed his mind and didn't let them go worship.

Again, we have this ambiguous language about Pharaoh changing his mind. It says his heart was hardened, but the way it is written it seems as if he just changed his mind and he's an asshole. But, as we saw previously, God is the one hardening his heart. Given that we know Pharaoh's mind is being manipulated, it's pretty hard to blame him for the bad things he's doing right now.
the point of this plague was probably the same as the plague of lice. The Egyptian gods could not be worshipped amidst this uncleanness.
Again, the real purpose is to attack the Egyptian gods.

Moral of the story:
Unfortunately, this doesn't seem like it's terribly interesting yet, it is the same moral as last time as far as I can tell, worship God or else. So I guess it all boils down to obedience, Moses and Aaron are obeying God and doing horrible things to the people of Egypt, they will be rewarded. Pharaoh is not obeying God (although he's not being allowed to) and him and his people are being severely punished.
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  1. I'm debating this JoHo right now who thinks that god didn't actually harden the pharoah's heart and that this is a mistranslation.

    1. I suppose that is a possibility, I would ask what reason they have for thinking that. Is it based on some sound reason, or do they just not like the idea that God has broken free will? I did a lot of that over the years that I was losing my faith "well this verse must be a mistranslation", "that verse must be a metaphor" etc. Eventually this led me to question all of it and I wound up ditching the whole thing.

  2. What I don’t get is that clearly Pharaohs free will is pre-determined, so why does God send plague after plague. Would it not be better to send them all at once? This makes me think your reasoning behind attacking the Egyptian Gods could be the correct one, as in this way God can select them one by one.

    1. I guess it depends on his goals. I could imagine it being much more effective to kick someone's ass, then let them recover a bit before you knock them down again, rather than hitting them twice as hard the first time. If you just want to show off, simply killing them isn't as good as repeatedly humiliating them.

    2. LOL, true I guess humiliation plays a big role in religion. That is evident in many religions when we look at the simple question of being gay.


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