Once again, we begin with this sticky business of God setting up the Pharaoh by hardening his heart. Again, this is tough — the Hebrews need to see the signs, and in order for there to be reasons for signs, the Pharaoh must resist. Yet, it’s Egypt that suffers, because God hardens the Pharaoh’s heart.
So then there are locusts, with their wake of destruction and then darkness. Oh, darkness. At first that doesn’t seem like much of a plague. I mean, it’s darkness. It happens every night.
But then I think we forget how dark it can really be. The other night, we had a power outage in my neighborhood. I have a LOT of candles around, so I went around and lit them all. I used my laptop on battery power for a bit, then closed that down and had enough light to still read and knit. But then, I decided to go to bed, before the power came back on. I blew out the candles, took one with me to get to bed, feeling very Jane Austen, and then blew it out. And, y’all, it was DARK. I live in a city; I’m used to the ever-present glow of electronics and security lights seeping in past my curtains. Without those things, the darkness was thick and impenetrable. It felt small and yet vast, the familiar landscape hidden from me. That, for three days? That would be terrifying.
Then of course, we come to the slaying of the first-born. Which is, frankly, horrific when you really think about it. The idea of the death of the firstborn of every single Egyptian, from Pharaoh to slave and prisoner. And of course the instruction to sacrifice a lamb and mark the doorposts with blood for protection. Interesting that the herb hyssop is specified here. It’s an herb with medicinal properties, but it also is associated with the purification of temples and protection. (The protection aspect is, I’m guessing, associated with this particular narrative.
I don’t have a huge familiarity with Passover, but even given that I recognize the elements that continue in ritual here: eating lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, questions asked. ) The offering of the first-born is also interesting; sacrifice for animals and an unspecified setting aside for firstborn sons.
Then out of Egypt they go, God leading them on what appears to be the scenic route. Then there is the miracle of the parting of the seas — I don’t know why it is, but I really love this imagery. It’s just so awe-inspiring and amazing the idea of the parting of the seas, the protection offered by walls of water, I can just imagine them like thick blue glass. Then crashing back down on the Egyptians in pursuit, the sea once-again dangerous and fierce.
It vies here, for me, in pure joy in reading with the brief mention of Miriam (a prophet AND a woman!) singing and dancing with tambourines. There’s an image that springs to mind of pure joy and triumph, the women singing epic poetry and dancing with music, the glory of their success. Singing praises to the Lord for he has delivered them, ecstatic and joyful.;