Thursday, January 20, 2011

Exodus 8-9 Quoth the Pharaoh "Bring It On"

Exodus 8-9

God and Moses try to be reasonable with Pharaoh but he won't budge.

Fun Question: "At what plague would you have broken?"


  1. In several places it is mentioned that god hardened Pharoah's heart, so he obviously wasn't allowed to break. I actually lived through a frog plague
    (Big Bear, 1978) so I am pretty sure that I could have held out until the locusts.
    BTW: thanks, Dave, for being a peacemaker.

  2. As I read the plague of frogs all I could think about is how happy my husband would be having instant access to frog legs.

  3. I think the lice would've been it for me. (Interestingly, the English Standard Version says gnats, not lice). That would be horrific. If the lice didn't do it, then the boils definitely would have.

  4. quoth YHWH, "boom, roasted."

    (actually that is a michael scott quote superimposed on a paraphrase of what Moses's is communicating....this god, the LORD (YHWH) is sovereign, sovereign over the Egyptian king and sovereign over the Egyptian gods.

  5. well, i guess i am getting ahead of myself in the narrative.

  6. last comment of the night: your question, though i'm guessing you are asking a hypothetical question for fun, is very insightful into our human curiosities. we like to ask for signs, wonders...for proof. sometimes such requests are narrowly defined by our own criteria that justifies our belief or unbelief.

    one repeating theme throughout is God saying things like––"I will be your God and you will be my people." but our wish for signs and quest for certainty actually places God in the hot seat under our judgment; and we all prefer (some enjoy) to find God guilty by saying, "you are not my God and I am not your people."

    the book of exodus, the Bible for that matter, is the unfolding drama of God making himself known to his people, and our relationship to him being restored.

    good night everyone. happy blog-menting.

  7. @Barbara
    Would you read this and this if that does not explain it let me know.


  8. I guess the magicians gave out at the lice (8:18,19). So seeing that i have no power to do anything (talk to the wife), and i have no enchantments, coupled with i am not to fond of snakes, round one would have knocked me out.

    I know i am a wussy.

  9. I know in 7:24 i would have foreclosed on the house and moved in with the Israelites.

    I am going to bed folks. Have a great time reading.

    This is a great project, thanks Bruce for starting this.

  10. The plague account is E vs P. Here's the breakdown, per Friedman:

    E: Threat of Blood
    P: Blood
    E: Blood; threat of frogs
    P: Frogs
    E: Frogs
    P: Lice
    E: Maggots/Insects; plague on livestock
    P: Boils
    E: Hail; Locusts; Darkness; Threat on firstborns
    P: Passover instructions
    E: Passover instructions; Firstborns

    That makes 8 plagues by E and just four by P!

    Strangely, the E text contains a glaring contradiction:

    At 9:6 all of Egypt's livestock die (of some vague malady). In the very next E plague, the livestock again all die... of hail. (There is also a weirdly unnecessary explanation, 9:31-32, for why there are still crops to be destroyed by the insects after the hail.)

    Not sure what to make of this. Maybe there is some J mixed in- but there aren't any obvious repetitions, just a big contradiction. It could be the fault of E's original source (I'm sure this pivotal event had been told and retold.)

    Lets break this down further:

    E plagues:
    Vague Plague

    P plagues:

    The four P plagues correlate quite nicely with the first four E plagues. We can associate maggots with lice, and the vague livestock malady could be boils (although the latter affected livestock AND people.) Did P follow E halfway and then get bored and move on to expanding on the Passover information? Who knows.

  11. @ Bruce

    Many posts have been very civil...and I love that many non-believers are reading the Bible (I love Mustard Seeds) but many many jabs have also been out there and I think many of the non-believers don't even know it. I don't take offense to these at all since many are reading the Bible for the first time all the way through and/or mean no harm.

    I do have a list of bloggers (lets face it we're in this room for a year together so we should get to know each other) who slam so I can better understand where they are coming from and they mean no harm so why call them out. But I am willing to only call out on one...for now...general sweeps of any groups of people I have to comment on...I believe stereotypes lead to hate.

    Written on 12/29:
    I love the Bible! I grew up Catholic as well and, as most Catholics, didn't have much of a relationship with the Bible. I became a devout Evangelical Christian as a teenager. I did a lot of Bible study and knew the Bible was supposed to be the guide for my life but it took a lot of mental gymnastics to square the words with what I knew as Christianity. It was mostly a producer of cognitive dissonance.

    -Hitt slams Catholics with a sweeping generalization in the first sentence. If you are talking about yourself please...just mention you. And I am sorry for your bad experience with the Catholic Church.

  12. I can honestly say this sounds like my Sophomore OT class...This is great!!! It's amazing how many non-believers agree with Jesus Christ when posting comments about the laws. about the Cardinal for a guest Blogger? If you decide to do it of course..Give me a few months on getting the Pope.

  13. Yesterday a couple of people mentioned the King James translations, so I thought it might be worth posting a link to

    The BBC is running a month of 45 minute programmes about the KJV to mark 400 years since it was translated and printed, some of which can be listened to online (and in the future the rest will be available the same way). If you find them interesting, though, don't wait because as a general rule, the BBC will take them off the site after some period. But there are also links to some blogs etc which might be of interest and even if one isn't inclined to listen to the whole thing, the programme summaries are interesting. I haven't heard the programmes myself but the reviews have been good.

  14. It would be hard to say! However if I was as puffed up with pride as Pharaoh was. If I was so deluded to think that I was a 'god' and therefore all powerful! Then I would have to say I would hang on for as long as possible to show my strength and power. I would not want my people losing faith in me and to give up and accept defeat by another's god, would secure that defeat. Therefore perhaps by the time Moses and Aaron told me the first borns would be killed I would accept defeat. By now most people should be able to see through the lie that is my 'god' statue., they should have lost faith and now it is my turn to humble myself before the Almighty God, Yahweh!

  15. @Bruce
    I don't think I'd make it very far. If I made it past the lice, I'm sure the flies would get me!

    It seems to me that you a being a little too sensitive. I've noticed that several(most) of your comments on the board start with complaints of bias or attacks. Honestly, I don't see anything that Brian wrote in the post you quote as "slamming" anyone. He was simply relating his experience.

    The bottom line is that many of us here are atheists. We don't start from the assumption that the bible is true, infallible, and/or sacred. Therefore, we will often be critical of the text (which contains many scenes that are frankly, appalling) and the (to many) circuitous arguments used to defend it. My purpose here is 1)to read and critically review a piece of ancient literature that has had an enormous impact on our culture, 2)to attempt to understand its history, and 3)to share ideas with both atheists and believers.

    It is normal to be frustrated by people who disagree, often strongly, with your position. I know I have been annoyed by some of the none too subtle digs some of the believers have made. But, as you have noted, the posters here have been remarkably civil considering our topic and the lively debate we are engaged in. Let's all try not to get our feeling hurt, keep up the civility, and enjoy this year together.

  16. @Bruce: the combination of lice/gnats and flies would have done me in. I had bedbugs in 2006, and ever since then I've had a horror of swarms of creepy biting insects, especially at night. :P

    Ironically, I'd probably have enjoyed "darkness" very much.

    @Edward: I'm still confused. In several places throughout the plague narrative, we have "Pharaoh hardened his heart," active construction. But we also have "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" (God named or implied), passive construction. So obviously the construction isn't just a quirk of translating from the Hebrew. Ergo, I have to believe it's intentional.

    Add in the bit about God making Moses like a god to Pharaoh, and I'm really confused. I see the sequence like this:

    (a) God (via Moses) warns Pharaoh he's going to get [insert plague here] if he doesn't let the Israelites go.
    (b) Pharaoh says "pfft, whatevs" (or appropriate Hebrew equivalent).
    (c) God sends [aforementioned plague].
    (d) Pharaoh says "whoa, okay, you guys can go."
    (e) God changes Pharaoh's mind for him.

    Point (e) is evident in the passive construction. When the text says "Pharaoh's heart was hardened," it implies, or in some cases states, a "by someone else's agency," and when stated, that someone else is God. Therefore, these heart-hardenings are not the result of Pharaoh's unwillingness or inability to listen to "that still small voice": rather, they are thrust upon him by a separate actor.

    So I guess my question is: Why is God playing "monkey in the middle" with Pharaoh? Because the text is pretty clear that that's what's happening with at least a few of these plagues.

  17. @Dani: One interpretation I remember hearing as a Christian is that the plagues may have been enough to convince Pharaoh, but not to convince everyone, and God wanted to leave no doubt. Therefore he hardened Pharaoh's heart in order to basically bring a shock and awe campaign of plagues that nobody could dismiss or deny.

    @Tom: I think you've read into my introduction something that wasn't there so I'll clarify. I most definitely did not have a negative experience with the Catholic Church or with any church. I simply found that I preferred to worship a different way at some point and then gradually came to see natural rather than supernatural explanations for things. I actually still maintain quite a fondness for Catholicism despite not believing in its doctrines.

    I'll concede that the way I characterized Catholics and the Bible was overly general. I simply meant to say that I found a greater emphasis on a relationship with the Bible at the Protestant (Quaker and Evangelical) churches that I attended. I have priest and deacon friends that have agreed with me on this point and I know it's certainly a stereotype held (perhaps unfairly) by Protestants. Wasn't one of the goals of the Reformation to encourage lay Christians to interact with the Bible without clergy as intermediaries? I certainly didn't mean to hurt any feelings.

    @Bruce: I wouldn't have broken. I would have immediately called in Joe Nickell to figure out how the tricks were done and who was dumping blood everywhere (hello, blood-borne pathogens). Plus, I'd want a DNA test on that blood, or at least a type (hopefully O-negative, universal donor).

  18. I probably would have broken at the fifth or sixth. For the first few, magicians could replicate them, so I would have had absolutely no reason to believe that Moses's god was doing them and that it wasn't just some human trick. When the magicians could no longer replicate them (starting with the lice/gnats, I would start to wonder. But for at least one, maybe two or three after that, I would assume that either Moses was an especially good magician, or that these were flukes of nature and it was coincidence that Moses predicted them.

  19. @Bethg

    The problem with blogging or even texting is that one can't tell the emotion of the person writing. I did not mean to come across in a sensitive manner. More like relaxed...having a conversation at the beach with a double cheeseburger and a Mikes Hard Lemonade.

    Technically Hitt slammed all Catholics (back in December) by most Catholics...thats all...he did explain himself in the above post. I am just pointing it out since you missed it. No biggie :o)

    @ Bruce

    To finally answer your question...If I were ruler, I would have avoided the whole slave thing so technically the ten plagues would have never happened. but to play along because it is a fun question...

    I would have broke in the desert trying to catch Moses and his crew...forget that!!! let them go...rebuild the empire.

  20. Hate snakes, hate frogs would be gone at the beginning!

  21. I seem to have neglected to answer my question.
    I would have broken when the water turned to blood. I'm a hydro-holic and I can't stand blood.

  22. @Tom
    "It's amazing how many non-believers agree with Jesus Christ when posting comments about the laws."

    Just because we Atheists don't believe that this Jesus character was the incarnation of the creator of the universe doesn't mean that his teachings (or the teachings of the people who made him up) don't have a lot of resonance with us today.

  23. When God took away all the scotch. Wait, wut? He didn't? Oh, in that case with my scotch I'd probably last to the end ;-) (flies really).


    Didn't God tell Moses that he was going to hardened Phaoroah's heart? (on phone, so hard to check right now). I thought it might have been weird overlap of omniscience ( I know pharaohs heart will harden) and preplanning (I need his heart hardened so I'll do it).

    Thanks for the breakdown.

  24. @Dani

    I got your question and will respond. It's 1:26AM and i just got home from work and tried to catch up on all the reading from the posts. So i am going to make this my only one tonight and tell you i will respond to yours in the morning. Sorry about this.

  25. @Dani
    "So I guess my question is: Why is God playing "monkey in the middle" with Pharaoh? Because the text is pretty clear that that's what's happening with at least a few of these plagues."

    So using your outline i will try to fill in to try and explain this. Everything up to d is good, d and e is where i will start. This is my short version. I started on a story version as well.

    "(a) God (via Moses) warns Pharaoh he's going to get [insert plague here] if he doesn't let the Israelites go.
    (b) Pharaoh says "pfft, whatevs" (or appropriate Hebrew equivalent).
    (c) God sends [aforementioned plague].
    (d) Pharaoh says "whoa, okay, you guys can go."
    (e) God changes Pharaoh's mind for him."

    (d) Pharaoh has a moment of repentance, then thinks better of it. Up until 8:19 his magicians can do the same acts although on a smaller scale. At verse 19 the magicians realize they are no match for Moses' God so they tell Pharaoh that much. However now, not only is Pharaoh being challenged, his magicians have been bested. His pride has taken a hit and he refuses to let the children of Israel go.

    (e) By God not accepting the terms of Pharaohs offer, Pharaoh hardens his heart. 8:25,26. Moses knew what God wants and Pharaohs offer was not it. In the passages just mentioned the terms Pharaoh presents are the Children of Israel can go sacrifice in "the land", which would mean Egypt. However God called for a three day journey (3:18) Pharaoh does not want to accept that, but change it to just the local land. Now the lice are getting to Pharaoh and in verse 28 says "you can go, but not very far away: intreat for me". So Moses does. Now Pharaoh has some time to think. And it appears he does not like what he just did, so he hardened his heart, and decided that he would not let them go. You ever make a decision that you regretted later?

    Now the reason this is God hardening his heart is because God would not agree to Pharaohs terms. If God would have agreed to the terms then Pharaoh would be happy. However this has an outcome God will not allow, that is Pharaoh will now see himself as equal with God. And it is Gods intent that the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt. (7:5) it would not have that effect if God accepted Pharaohs terms. Also (9:16) Pharaoh was raised up so "in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth."

    By God not backing down on His demands He is hardening Pharaohs heart. And God knows He will harden his heart because He will not back down.
    When it gets to the point of Pharaohs magicians not being able to ape the miracles of Moses he gets even more upset and hardens his heart. God is the power behind the signs and as such those signs, with Pharaohs agents not able to replicate, help harden Pharaohs heart.

    God knows that Pharaoh will want to negotiate the terms of the release, and the options that he will present won't be acceptable. And as God will not agree to those terms it will harden Pharaohs heart. God is doing the hardening because He will not compromise on the terms. If He would Pharaoh would be just fine, yet then men of power over God's children would think they can call the shots as well. Which is bad for us all.

    I really hope this helps.

  26. @Dani
    I responded yesterday, my post has been deleted or something went wrong. GRRR!!!