Sunday, December 8, 2013

Exodus 11: This Plan Seems Excessive

Today's Episode


God has dropped 9 plagues so far on Egypt in an attempt to get Pharaoh to let his people go and show off his power.

A Final Plague Threatened (v. 1-10)

God says he has one more plague to bring to Egypt, after which they will be let go, and driven away completely.

It occurs to me that when I was a Christian, this whole story would have been justified with a "no half measures" narrative. In the past, Pharaoh went back on his word and tried to set terms for their release. You don't send a message with a half measure, God needed to hit the Egyptians hard to make sure the conflict would be over, the Israelites would be driven out completely and without conditions.

picture from fight club
How would I respond to such an argument? I suppose I would argue that an omnipotent God of love should be able to come up with a more elegant solution. But ultimately, it is hard to argue, as you can always say that any other action would not have been effective, that anything less would have not worked as well and had repercussions later on. I find it hard to believe that such death and destruction would really be the best of all possible solutions, but there really is no way to solidly argue that as far as I can see.

The Israelite people are then told to ask their neighbors for silver and gold jewelry. "The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians."

What does that mean exactly? God gave them favor? It doesn't sound like he's forcing them exactly, but he's got to be doing something to get these people to give their valuables to some former slaves. Is the argument supposed to be that it is fair payment for years of slave labor? I suppose there is an argument to be made there, if freed slaves from the south took gold from plantation owners I wouldn't have a problem with it. Is that the kind of thing we're talking about? 

From Guzik
This was how the slaves of Israel received their "back wages" from their time of slavery, and how they did not leave Egypt empty-handed.
So yeah, he's saying that this is their payment for generations as slaves. It is not clear who exactly they are getting these valuables from, but I see no reason not to assume it would be people who have benefited from their work over the years. The more I think about this the more I'm okay with it. 

Moses tells Pharaoh that God will kill every firstborn in Egypt at around midnight, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the cattle. But none of the Israelites will be harmed. Pharaoh's people will then bow down to God and beg for the Israelites and God to leave Egypt.

First of all, last chapter Pharaoh said that if Moses talked to him again he would be killed and Moses responded that Pharaoh would never see his face again. Now in the very next chapter they are talking again.

Anyway, seems like a lot of murdering to do for an all-loving God. Really, it seems like the only explanation I can come up is the "no half measures" mentioned above. It's just hard to imagine this is the only way to free his people.

Then God tells Moses that Pharaoh will not listen to him "that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt"

Not that we really need more evidence, it was pretty explicit in the last chapter that God was manipulating Pharaoh. But here is more evidence that God was messing with his free will. God says that Pharaoh won't listen to Moses and the purpose is that God can show off. If that is the purpose, I think it is a pretty hard sell that it was not God himself forcing Pharaoh to act that way.

Guzik affirms here that God is taking away Pharaoh's free will
If nine plagues had come from the hand of God, one might expect that the warning about a tenth plague would be believed; but Pharaoh's heart remains hard, and God strengthens Pharaoh in his hardness of heart.
Of course I'm sure he would say that he's helping Pharaoh fulfill his own desires or some such nonsense. Same argument we saw before.

Verses of note:

--Free Will--

Exodus 11:9-10 Once again, God points out that he manipulated Pharaoh's free will

"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt. Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORDhardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land."


Exodus 11:4-5 God will kill all firstborn in Egypt

"So Moses said, "Thus says the LORD: About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle."


  1. I wonder where all these cattle first born are coming from. As you pointed out in your last post god already killed all the livestock. What intrigues me about this, that this contradiction does not even fall on the radar of apologists. Then again with free will rearing its head there are not many choices to what must be focused on.

    1. Yeah, it's one more reason that I would argue that this is not even supposed to be taken literally. It says that all the beasts are killed, and yet later there clearly are beasts around. I think it is intended to be an exaggeration.

  2. Intended to be an exaggeration :D, thats a great description.


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