Saturday, November 16, 2013

Exodus 10: Pharaoh's Free Will is Definitely Taken Away

Today's Podcast


God has been showering the Egyptians with plagues so Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves.

The Eighth Plague: Locusts (v. 1-20)

God tells Moses that he has hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he can show off how powerful he is by plaguing the Egyptians so that the Israelite descendants will tell the tales and they will know that Yahweh is God.

The first 2 verses here are spelled out plain as day, God is keeping Pharaoh from doing what he commands so he can show off by continuing to plague Egypt. How can anybody argue that Pharaoh's free will is not being taken away here? 

Looks like Guzik is going to give it a go:
In hardening Pharaoh's heart, God allowed him to have what he sinfully desired - a hard heart.
Are you fucking kidding me? Why would he desire a hardened heart, and where is it even suggested that he had desired this? On the contrary, Pharaoh is coming around. Why else would it be necessary for God to harden his heart? No, this is simply Guzik trying to justify something horrible that God has done.
God's work was not only for the sake of the generation of Moses and Pharaoh; it was also for your son and your son's son. God does mighty works among us so that we can encourage generations to come.
I suppose that is one way to spin it.
Getting to the heart of the matter, God warns Pharaoh to humble himself or the worst plague of locusts ever seen will come upon Egypt. Pride was at the heart of Pharaoh's problem; he simply didn't want to give into God.
Actually he did want to, but God refused to let him because he wanted to show off his power.

Matthew Henry and Jamieson, Fausset & Brown don't even acknowledge the free will issue. 

Desert locusts feeding.
Desert locusts feeding. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
At God's request, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh again and say that if his people are not allowed to worship God a plague of locusts will come and destroy what food remains in Egypt. Pharaoh asks who of the Israelites will go, and they say they will take everyone. Pharaoh says that only the men have permission to go, so the plague is sent to them.

This is pretty stupid of Pharaoh, although it seems very much like a politician trying to save some face. "You will do this on my terms!", very stupid but sadly believable.

Guzik interprets this as Pharaoh trying to keep the women and children as hostages. That wasn't what occurred to me, but it does seem like a pretty reasonable interpretation.

So Moses brings the plague of locusts and every plant that was not destroyed by the hail was eaten by the locusts.

For those keeping track, all of the fish are dead (plague 1) and all of the livestock are dead (plague 5). Also, much of the crops are dead (plague 7), but that is somewhat immaterial now as the rest have also been destroyed. Seriously, how is every Egyptian not dead at this point in the story? Perhaps they resorted to cannibalism?

Again, from Guzik
Now the LORD God shows Himself greater than the Egyptian god Seth, thought to be the protector of crops.
Ahh yes, the real reason for the plagues, a pissing match between gods.

Then Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron back, says he's sinned again God and wants to make it right. God removes the locusts, but hardens his heart again so he won't let the Israelites go.

How much clearer can this get? Pharaoh is apologizing to God, says he's made a mistake and tries to make things right and God hardens his heart again. How can anyone argue his free will has not been removed? I just don't get it.

Wow, the way this is spun by Guzik is actually impressive in its ridiculousness. First of all, his section title for verses 16-20 is
Another false repentance by Pharaoh
Then his comment on the text is
Pharaoh did the same thing in Exodus 9:27-28. He said the words of repentance but did not follow through with the actions. His heart was only hardened more after God relented and showed mercy.
No, his heart was hardened more after God hardened it. Interestingly enough, Matthew Henry doesn't seem to have an issue with God taking away Pharaoh's free will
Pharaoh's return to his impious resolution again not to let the people go (v. 20), through the righteous hand of God upon him, hardening his heart, and confirming him in his obstinacy
and Jamieson, Fausset & Brown completely ignore the issue.
Seriously though, what's a picture of
darkness supposed to look like?

The Ninth Plague: Darkness (v. 21-29)

God has Moses cast darkness over Egypt. It was so dark they couldn't see each other, and people didn't even leave their "place" for three days. This plague didn't affect the Israelite people.

Presumably this is targeted at another one of the Egyptian Gods, Ra perhaps?

This is the first plague where Guzik hasn't mentioned which Egyptian god it is aimed at, and it if the first one where I even have a guess. Perhaps I'm just easily amused but this made me laugh. He did point out something interesting here though
As was the pattern with the previous plagues, the third in this set of three comes without warning
Some plagues God has told Moses to warn Pharaoh, other times he just has him do the thing. Apparently there is a pattern. I'm not sure I really understand the significance of this pattern, but I suppose it is worth pointing out.

Pharaoh called Moses and said they could go worship and they can take their women and children, but not their livestock. Moses said that they needed their animals because they are going to sacrifice to God.

Same as above, Pharaoh is trying to negotiate. Dude, just let them go. I wonder what it could be that is keeping him from doing just that.

Go hardened Pharaoh's heart and he wouldn't let them go.

I am shocked. Shocked! To think, Pharaoh was acting irrational and it turns out that God was forcing him to act that way. 

Pharaoh tells Moses to leave and never come back. If Pharaoh sees his face he will die.

Moral of the Story:
Same Moral as the last few chapters, worship God or else, nothing to see here.

Verses of note

--Free Will--

Exodus 10:1 Again, God says that He hardened Pharaoh's heart

"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them"

Exodus 10:16,20 After Pharaoh tries to get right with God, God hardens his heart again

"Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, "I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you...But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go"

Exodus 10:27 God is hardening Pharaoh's heart again. It's almost like Pharaoh really wants to relent and God has to continually keep him from doing it.

"But the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let them go."

--God's Ego--

Exodus 10:2 God is making the plagues severe so the word of his power will reach further generations

"that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD."


  1. It is pretty shocking material, huh? Even sickening... at a visceral level. This ain't your average Christian's God, is it?

    1. Yeah, these plagues are pretty insane. The God in these stories is trying to prove a point to his people, and doesn't care who he hurts in the process. It is certainly not the loving God that Christians typically describe. I can really see why so many Christians try to dismiss the old testament.

  2. It is amazing like you say that anyone is still alive after all these plagues. Somehow you would also expect this to be recorded by the Egyptians who were pretty good at things like that. Just shows that God is an evil imaginary friend.

    1. Yeah, I've heard that the stuff that goes down in Exodus isn't recorded anywhere apart from the bible. I'm no historian so I can't really verify that, but it certainly does seem suspicious :)

  3. Come on, you can do better than this. Cheap stuff, I'm dissappointed.

    First, as I'm sure you know. the Bible teaches that all people have expressed their free will in rebelling against God. So no one, by themselves, will seek God and His ways. So Pharoah did indeed express his will in fighting against God. Second, as you know if you've read the passage, it is indisputable that Pharoah repeatedly promised somthing then changed his mind and punished Israel. So we cannot go by what he says over what he does, which is express his will to fight against God. Third, the word for harden is the Hebrew word chazaq (Strongs 2388), which according to the standard Hebrew lexicon (Brown, Driver, Briggs) means to strengthen, to grow firm, to grow stout, to be fast. In fact, "harden" is the minority translation of the term throughtout the OT. Nowhere does the passage say, nor do the words mean, that God forced Pharoah to do something he didn't want to do, or to force him to change his mind. You did not build the case for this in your post, because you cannot get to that conclusion from the text. Only by reading your pre-determined meaning into the passage can you conclude that God forced Pharoah to do something against his will. Rather, God merely strengthened Pharoah to bring the issue to a head, which was because 4), God had given Egypt over 400 years to get the message, yet they had continued to deny God and abuse His people. It seems that when God is merciful and patient, skeptics accuse Him of allowing evil without punishing it, and when He does deal with evil, He is accused of not allowing people to do as they wish. You place God and the Bible in an unwinnable paradox. Fifth, the passages clearly say that Pharoah did indeed express his will and harden (strengthened) his heart by his own will first, before God acted. Several passages show acts of the will by Pharoah: 7:13, "he would not listen", 7:14: "he refuses", 7:22: "he would not listen" 8:15: he (Pharoah) hardened his heart and would not listen" 8:32: "he (Pharoah) hardened his heart". All of this before 9:12, which is the first act of God doing any hardening. Sixth, all this is rather silly, since neither God nor Christians make excuses for God doing what He wills with His creation. The Bible plainly teaches this in multiple passages. Your real issue appears to be that God will not bend to our puny human sense of what ought to be.

    All that aside, please at least correctly present what the passages say.

    1. "it is indisputable that Pharoah repeatedly promised somthing then changed his mind and punished Israel. So we cannot go by what he says over what he does, which is express his will to fight against God."

      Agreed, Pharaoh is a pretty bad guy, he makes promises and doesn't follow through. He goes back on his word, and he doesn't seem terribly concerned about his own people as they are getting hit with plagues because of his own actions.

      As far as strengthen versus harden, I'm honestly not sure I see a difference. He strengthened his heart against Israel, he hardened his heart against Israel. Seems to have the same meaning to me.

      "Nowhere does the passage say, nor do the words mean, that God forced Pharoah to do something he didn't want to do, or to force him to change his mind."

      Isn't that what "God hardened his heart" means? The fact that God had to harden his heart for him suggests that, left to his own devices, his heart would have softened. If Pharaoh wanted to have a hard heart why did God have to intervene?

      "the passages clearly say that Pharoah did indeed express his will and harden (strengthened) his heart by his own will first, before God acted"

      Agreed, early on Pharaoh did it all on his own. Those are on him. But here, in this chapter, God hardens (or strengthens) his heart 3 separate times? It reads to me that God is removing his ability to change his mind. In the past, Pharaoh was bad and disobeyed God. Now, he apparently wants to change his mind and God is preventing him from doing it.

      I'm not just trying to be difficult here, it's just how I read it. It says plain as day in the text that God hardened his heart. I don't see how Pharaoh hardening his own heart previously makes this okay. I'd love to hear another way to interpret this, but it just seems that God is keeping him from changing his mind and coming around to God's command.

      BTW, I don't mind being wrong. I've been wrong many times in the past and will happily admit it. [well, maybe not happily, but you get my meaning ;)]. Give me an alternate way to interpret "God strengthened Pharaoh's heart" other than God preventing Pharaoh from changing his mind. What else could that mean?

    2. BTW, sorry I haven't followed up on the infinity thing yet, last night was my first chance to really sit down and write in days and my power went out.

    3. I've had several long debates with theists over the translation of the word "harden" in these passages. I think I've heard it all by now. Some say that the original Hebrew doesn't say that god hardened the Pharaoh's heart and instead let it "wax bold" whatever the hell that means. Christians are all over the place on this one, and you'll never get a consensus. The Orthodox Jewish translation uses the word "harden," but I'm not a scholar. So either every English translation is wrong, or Christians just don't want to admit that god violates people's free will.

    4. I have no idea what wax bold means. Did they give any explanation as to what the passage means with that translation?

      But let's suppose for the moment they are right. With a proper translation this doesn't seem so bad, and God hasn't taken away Pharaoh's free will. It would seem to me that at the very least, the Christians making this argument should be willing to concede that this translation suggests that God is taking away his free will. I suppose they are implicitly making that concession when they argue so hard that the translation is bad.

  4. Come on, humblesmith. You're not usually this defensive. Either this struck a nerve or you are becoming a jerk.

    Haus, the bible uses hardening of hearts as a phrase a lot. I wonder if the original text is open to any other translations that make your point even stronger or clarifies theist objections.


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