Sunday, January 31, 2010

Exodus, Chapters 7-12

The plagues. Which, if you will recall, god has called down on Pharaoh for refusing to release the Israelites. Which god caused him to do.

Chapter 7

God comes back and tells Moses that he and Aaron are going to speak to Pharaoh again, and eventually Pharaoh is going to give in. He promises again to harden Pharaoh's heart and rain down plagues as punishment. After that, they Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD (v. 5). Somehow, I think Pharaoh isn't the only crazy boss in this book.

Moses is now 80, and Aaron 83, which isn't particularly helpful, as we don't know how old they were when this started. God comes to them again and says that Pharaoh is going to ask them for a miracle. They're to do the trick with the rod-as-serpent. They do, and Pharaoh calls up his magicians, who do the same trick, but luckily Aaron's serpent eats all the others.

God hardens Pharaoh's heart again, and then points it out to Moses. He tells him to go down to the river when Pharaoh is bathing and to smite the river so the water turns to blood, which will kill the fish and it will smell and nobody will want to drink it. He tells him to stretch out his hand and this will happen to all the water in Egypt.

Everything goes as predicted, and then for some reason, the Egyptian magicians also turn the waters to blood and nobody can drink. Pharaoh's response is to go into his room and sulk. The Egyptians dig wells all over, but can't find water. This goes on for a week.

So that's the first plague, the plague of blood.

Chapter 8


Jerry does have one useful thing to say about all of these plagues, that they are directed against specific Egyptian deities. If only all of his commentary could be that informative, rather than trying to justify his worldview. This particular plague is against the fertility goddess Heket, who was depicted as a woman with a frog's head. She breathed life into the bodies that her husband fashioned out of clay. So these frogs, normally a sign of fertility, were transformed by the Israelite god into a blight. See, now that's the kind of interesting historical fact that I want to get out of reading this book!

God tells Moses to go again to Pharaoh and threaten him with frogs, frogs everywhere. The magicians do the same thing. Why, exactly? Anyway, Pharaoh calls them to him and says that if god takes the frogs away, he'll let them go make their sacrifices. Moses, stupid fool, doesn't get it in writing, and asks when Pharaoh wants the critters gone. Uh, tomorrow? Moses goes and tells god about the agreement. Of course, Pharaoh forgot to say where the frogs should go, so they all just kind of die where they are, which stinks. Pharaoh renegs on his agreement, possibly of his own accord here.

His punishment is that Moses and Aaron are now to smite the dust of the land so it becomes lice. Gross! The magicians try this one, but aren't able to, so they admit to Pharaoh that it's the finger of god. Pharaoh's heart was hardened (v. 19), so it would seem god is acting upon him again. He just loves the punishment, doesn't he?

God tells Moses that he's to go to Pharaoh and threaten him again, or the next punishment will be flies, but only for the Egyptians. Goshen will be left alone. It happens, and the land is corrupted (v. 24). Pharaoh relents a little and says they can go sacrifice some sheep. Now it isn't good enough, because the Egyptians think sacrifices are an abomination (and really, who disagrees?) and they'll stone them. They have to go into the wilderness for three days. Pharaoh agrees, as long as they don't go too far. He even asks them to make a sacrifice for them. So Moses agrees to call off the flies the next day, but he's smarter now and Makes Pharaoh promise to hold to his promise, but still doesn't get it on paper. God does as asked, and Pharaoh again goes back on his word, this time of his own volition.

Chapter 9

God tells Moses again to go to Pharaoh, this time to threaten him with murrain (v. 3), which is an unspecified livestock disease. The Israelites will again be spared. Apparently, this was an insult to several Egyptian gods, and the Egyptian practice of animal worship, which of course most cat owners are familiar with. Pharaoh has his heart hardened for him, and all the livestock die.

God tells Moses and Aaron to go gather some ashes, then throw it in the air in Pharaoh's sight. The ashes will turn to dust which will raise boils on all the men and remaining animals (presumably the ones that didn't die). The magicians have no response to this, they can't even get up the boils are so painful. God hardens Pharaoh's heart again.

God tells Moses to go again and threaten Pharaoh with even more plagues, so the Egyptians will know there is none like me in all the earth (v. 13). This time he'll sent pestilence against the people. He says he has done this to Pharaoh as a demonstration of his own power, and to make himself more famous but Pharaoh has only exulted himself and refused to let the Israelites go. Prima donnas, these two.

So God says tomorrow he's going to send hail, so he'd better put the cattle (which he just killed, mind) in the barns and harvest the crops today. Some of the Egyptians have learned by now, and they do as they're told, but not all. And Moses stretches out his hands and brings forth the hail.

Is everyone out there familiar with the Milgram experiments, in which people in lab coats told participants to electrocute another 'participant' (who was really a collaborator), whenever they got a wrong answer, and they did, even when the other person complained about his heart condition, screamed, and ceased to respond? 26 out of 40 continued to the very end, administering 450-volt shocks, though all expressed discomfort at doing so. Moses has no compunctions here about unleashing all of these plagues on his fellow human beings. Just pointing this out.

The plague is more than hail, it's also fire, and it kills every man, beast, plant and tree, except in Goshen. Pharaoh calls them to him again and says he has sinned, the lord is righteous and his people are wicked. He asks them to ask god to end the plagues, and they can go. Moses still doesn't get it in writing and promises to go ask God to end the hailstorms. He also says he knows Pharaoh still isn't a true believer, and that even though the flax and barley have been destroyed, the wheat and rye weren't. Moses leaves and the storms end, and god hardens Pharaoh's heart yet again, and the people of Israel still aren't free.

Chapter 10

God sends Moses to Pharaoh once again. He tells Moses that he's mostly doing this to be remembered. As what, a mass murderer? It just occurred to me that Pharaoh is a lot like the movie Being John Malkovitch here. He's never in control of his own brain.

So Moses and Aaron go yet again and ask him how much longer he's going to refuse to humble himself in front of the lord, and to let the Israelites go. If he doesn't do it by tomorrow, the next plague will be locusts, which will eat everything the hail didn't kill. Pharaoh's servants are convinced, and Pharaoh calls them to him and tells them they can go but also wants to know who's going with them. Moses says they all need to be there. Pharaoh says only the men.

God tells Moses to call forth the locusts, and they eat everything. Then a powerful wind comes up and brings the locusts, which darken the land (an insult to the sun god, Ra), which eat everything green. Pharaoh calls them and admits that he has sinned against all of them. He asks them to get god to lift the plague. He does, and the locusts are swept into the sea. But god hardens Pharaoh's heart again.

God makes the darkness explicit and snuffs out the sun for three days. Only the Israelites have light. Pharaoh lets them all go, men, women, children, but no animals. Moses says they need the animals to sacrifice. God hardens Pharaoh's heart again. Pharaoh kicks him out, saying if he sees him again, he'll kill him. Moses says buh-bye.

Chapter 11

God isn't finished yet. He tells Moses that he's got one more plague, and this one will finally convince Pharaoh, and he'll not only let the Israelites go, he'll kick them out. He tells Moses to go to his people and tell them to borrow their neighbour's silver and gold. We are told that the lord favours the Israelites and especially Moses.

Moses says that god has told him he intends to go out at midnight and all the first-born sons in Egypt, from Pharaoh's kid to the maidservant. He's also going to kill the firstborn animals. The people of Egypt will cry, but not the Israelites, because they'll be spared. This will finally convince the people to bow down to him and send them away. He tells Moses and Aaron to threaten Pharaoh with even more monstrous deeds if he doesn't listen. And of course god hardens Pharaoh's heart. What do they tell Christians about this in Sunday school? Guess what, kids? Our god is a mass murderer of children! Just so he can be more famous! Of course Jerry has nothing to say on this except that it's a disaster for the Egyptians.

Chapter 12

God tells Moses and Aaron that he is resetting the calendar from today. In 10 days' time all the families of Egypt are to take a lamb, borrowing one if necessary. It's to be a pretty lamb, male, under a year, either a sheep or a goat. They'll fatten it for 4 days, then kill it on the last evening. They're to take the blood and paint the doors, then eat the meat. They can roast it, and spice it and eat it with unleavened bread. They may not eat it raw, or boil it. They have to leave it intact, and if they don't finish it, they have to burn the remains. They have to eat it in haste, dressed and ready to go. The reason: that night he's going to go through Egypt, killing all the first-born sons in the houses with unpainted doors. That's why Jews eat lamb at Passover! What a heartening story to tell your children!

He tells them to keep this day as a sacred feast. Afterwards, they're to eat unleavened bread for seven days, and to kick out anyone who eats the leavened kind. They have to have sermons on the first and last days, and no work except cooking can be done. He's very strong on the leavening part, going on for 4 verses about it before Moses cuts him off. Moses gives these instructions to the Israelite leaders.

God then does as he said he would, and all Jerry has to say about this mass slaughter of children is that the Pharaoh he has chosen as best fitting his biblical time frame, Amenhotep II, was succeeded by Thutmose IV, who was not his firstborn son, so it must be true, even though we don't know what happened to the firstborn, and he doesn't cite any other references to any of the other plagues.

The Egyptians cry, as anyone would, and Pharaoh calls Moses and Aaron to him. He tells them to leave with their children and herds. They go taking their unleavened dough, and they 'borrow' their neighbours' silver and gold, and they also plunder. Then they leave.

Six hundred thousand people go, and they bake the unleavened bread. They had been there for 430 years, and people still celebrate that night.

God tells Moses and Aaron that no strangers can eat at the Passover feast unless they are circumcised. They have to eat everything themselves, no giving food to neighbours.

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