Apologies for delay and double post. Though I’m endeavoring to blog daily, life sometimes gets in the way and it isn’t possible. We also went dark a day for the SOPA/PIPA protests, so that didn’t help. But I’m back and catching up at least to yesterday’s readings!
So the Lord gives Moses powers to perform some small acts of miracle or magic, but Moses gets cold feet. Which I can understand. Being the spokesman for God has got to be a pretty intimidating job description. So God enlists Moses’ brother Aaron, to help out. And Moses asks for his people go be allowed to go and perform a sacrifice to God and the Pharaoh says no.
Now we get into some interesting bits here, as Moses and the Pharaoh go back and forth before the signs and wonders. I always heard of the 10 plagues (which are neither plagues nor do they number ten, technically, apparently but I digress) and it had always been — the Pharaoh hardened his heart towards the people.
But it specifically notes here that God hardened the Pharaoh’s heart. Wait, what? So the idea I had in my head was always that the Pharaoh’s problem was that he was not following God’s plan, he was not believing in the power of God.
But if God is the one hardening his heart, then the Pharaoh is doing exactly as God wishes for him to do. So how, then, is he a sinner and one to be reviled or punished? How then is God bringing calamity on Egypt, when he is the one also causing the Pharaoh to be resistant?
I can think of reasons, perhaps. Perhaps it was that Israel needed to see that it was a divine hand that delivered them out of Egypt, not the goodwill of the Pharaoh. Perhaps it was that Egypt needed to see (and share) the news of the awesome and powerful God of the Hebrews. Perhaps it was that there needed to be made a clear distinction between Israel and other peoples.
But it still leaves the nagging doubt — that people suffered because God caused the Pharaoh’s heart to harden.
Suffer they did, with the signs given by the Lord. First of course, Aaron turns his staff to a snake, but the Egyptian priests can do this too. It’s magic, or at least a more common miracle, and they are not impressed.
Then the waters of the Nile are turned to blood. Then there are frogs, and I have to say, this is pretty much the worst one in my book. I shudder even reading it. I have frog-phobia, and this is pretty much a nightmare scenario for me. Frogs..everywhere…ugh.
Right. Moving on. Gnats seem like more of an annoyance than an actual plague, but they are pretty obnoxious so okay. I’ve also seen this translated as lice or fleas, which is a bit more interesting. Then flies and pestilence and boils and hail.
What stood out to me was how much all the signs (at least so far) connect to death. Blood, obviously, when spilled connects to death. Frogs have been mythologically connected to life/death/rebirth cycles, lice and fleas (going with that here over gnats for the moment) carry disease, pestilence kills the livestock, boils are yet another disease and hail kills the crops.
They’re not just things to awe with their existing — it isn’t just that they are made to happen. It seems to me they also carry the shadow of death, leading up to what we know is coming.