Thursday, March 19, 2009

EXODUS: Chapters 9 & 10

Chapter 9
Summary:God commands Moses to once again demand to the Pharaoh to release the Israelis, this time under the threat of a plague that will destroy the cattle, horses, donkeys, camels, flocks, and herds of Egypt - while sparing the Israeli herds and flocks.

The next day God sends the plague and the Egyptian cattle began to die, while none of the Israeli cattle became even sick. The Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelis go.

God then commands Moses and Aaron to take ashes and throw them up in the sky, which in turn caused boils and sores to break out on man and animal alike. God hardens the Pharaoh in his stubbornness so that he still refused to listen to Moses and Aaron.

God now has Moses and Aaron tell the Pharaoh that if the people will not be allowed to go, God will send another plague - and that this will certainly prove that there is no other God in all the earth. They relay God's message explaining that he could have easily killed the Pharaoh and his people by now, but has spared them so that he could demonstrate his power for the whole word to see. God now threatens Egypt with a severe hailstorm if the Pharaoh doesn't let the Israelis go.

Some of the Egyptian people took the threat seriously and brought their cattle and slaves indoors. God tells Moses to point his hand to the sky, and the hailstorm began, killing all forms of life that was left in the fields - crops were ruined, men and animal alike were killed, and the trees were shattered. The only spot without hail that day was the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.

The Pharaoh then sent for Moses and Aaron and tells them God was right. He admits that he's sinned against God and that his people are wicked, so if Moses can get God to stop the hailstorm, that he will let the people go at once.

Moses tells the Pharaoh that as soon as he leaves the city, he'll have God stop the storm and that this will prove that the earth is controlled by God. He adds however, that he doesn't believe that the Pharaoh's going to keep his word, due to the fact that although some of the crops that were in bloom were killed by the storm that there were still crops growing that hadn't yet emerged from the ground and were untouched by the storm.

Sure enough, after Moses leaves the city and raises his hands to heaven, stopping the storm, the Pharaoh once again refuses to let the people of Israel go.
Thoughts:The interesting thing I find with this chapter is God's blatant admission that he needs to flex his muscles and show off his bravado, as often this is clear contrast to what a lot of the faithful use to explain away horrific catastrophes of the modern world. When tragedies such as the Holocaust; the massacres of the Stalin regime; to more modern horrors of the tragedies in Jonestown, Waco, and even Colombine, people often question to why God chooses not to intervene, and quite often the response goes along that God has nothing to prove by averting these tragedies.

Yet here, he not only feels the need to flex his Godly muscles, he eggs the situation on by ensuring that the Pharaoh will make things worse for the people of Egypt by constantly allowing, and then later denying, the people of Israel to make their pilgrimage. It's hard to believe that after the frogs, lice, flies, cattle plague, and the devastating hailstorm that the Pharaoh would be that stupid to tempt fate - regardless of his belief in Yahweh, unless God is simply using him like some sort of divine voodoo doll to keep reneging on his promises to let the Israelis go.

Even that aside, it's downright deplorable the way God is manipulating the situation and is not an example of the "merciful" and "loving" God that believers tend to describe today.

For extra emphasis at the end of the chapter, not only does the author(s) have the Pharaoh admit to being wrong, but to explicitly admit to "sinning" against God and to implicate the entire nation of Egypt to be wicked people, perhaps in hopes that the reader will not afford the Egyptians any sympathy and to imply that the entire nation Egypt is at fault for their destruction. It's always easier to justify the deaths of innocent civilians when you dehumanize your enemies as an entire nation of evil.
Chapter 10
Summary:God tells Moses to yet again makes his demands to the Pharaoh, stating that he has yet again hardened the Pharaoh, so that God has an excuse to do more miracles to demonstrate his power. He continues on suggesting to Moses that this will be a great story to tell the children and grandchildren.

Moses and Aaron now tell the Pharaoh that the next trick up God's sleeve will be sending a swarm of locusts to finish destroying whatever survived the hailstorm. The court officials now plead with the Pharaoh to not risk destroying the land of Egypt completely and to let the men of Israel go. The Pharaoh now asks Moses and Aaron who exactly is it that they want to go on this pilgrimage, to which Moses tells him that the pilgrimage will include the sons and daughters of Israel. The Pharaoh tells Moses that the men of Israel may go, but that he will not allow them to take the children with them.

God tells Moses to hold out his hand over the land of Egypt to bring forth the locusts. God causes an eastern wind to blow across the land, and by morning the wind had brought the locusts, covering the land of Egypt. The locusts covered the face of the earth(!) blotting out the sun and darkening the land, devouring all the crops and trees that the hailstorm had left behind.

The Pharaoh then urgently sent for Moses and Aaron, confessing to them his sins against God and against the people of Israel. He begs to them to make God take away the locusts, promising them the he will let the people of Israel go, and further promises that he will not change his mind again.

God sends a strong westward wind to clear out the locusts, blowing them into the Red Sea. However, God also hardens the Pharaoh's heart again, so that the Pharaoh would again not allow the people of Israel to go.

God now tells Moses to lift his hands toward heaven, and upon doing so, darkness engulfed the land of Egypt for three full days - except for the land of Goshen, which had light as per usual.

The Pharaoh once again calls for Moses and tells him that the people of Israel may go - including the children - but that they have to leave their flocks and herds behind. Moses tells him that they cannot leave the animals behind, as they need them to perform animal sacrifices and burnt offerings to God. He furthers that they will have to take the entire collection of animals, as they cannot be sure as to which animals God wants slaughtered until they get to their destination.

God again hardens the Pharaoh's heart so that he wouldn't allow them to go. The Pharaoh shouts at Moses to leave his presence and to never return, or he shall be executed.

Moses replies to him, "Very well. I will never see you again."
Thoughts:We begin this chapter to find God once again commanding Moses to ask the Pharaoh of Egypt to let the people of Israel go on their pilgrimage to the wilderness. God tells Moses however, that he's going to make the Pharaoh say no again, as an excuse for God to perform some more dazzling miracles. God then begins to boast and brag that all of his mighty miracles - consisting of death and destruction - will make great stories for the grandchildren.

I find this pretty disturbing in contrasting this to more contemporary events. Let's compare the destructive miracles from God that devastate and destroy the land of "badguys" in Egypt to protect the "goodguys" of Israel to World War II, when the "goodguys" in the U.S.A. dropped an atomic bomb onto the "badguys" in Japan. The atomic bomb caused massive amounts of death and destruction on a scale that we could compare to God's locusts and hailstorms, yet nobody proudly tells this story to their grandchildren, as we realize the seriousness of the situation.

We didn't just take out the "badguys" in either scenario, we also took out scores of families, women, children, and devastated entire cities, cultures, and communities. We don't celebrate the dropping of the atomic bomb, as we realize that although we may have felt it necessary to end World War II, we - and more over the citizens and civilians of Japan - paid a heavy burden by our actions. Even in times where we may feel our only choice is mass destruction, we as compassionate people don't look back fondly by what we have done. Here however, we have a God, who at his disposal and his many alleged powers has the ability to take his people out of Egypt without causing senseless death and destruction. We can't even look back and say that the Egyptians had it coming because of the Pharaoh's constant reneging of his word to allow the people of Israel to go on their pilgrimage because God manipulated the Pharaoh into refusing, time and time again.

Here we simply have God controlling the Pharaoh like a voodoo doll, while he destroys the land of Egypt, and the lives of the ordinary people living there, with magic show after magic show and having the arrogance to say that people should be impressed and wowed by his destruction so much so, that they'll gleefully tell these stories to their grandchildren.

Anyways, after the locusts destroy the remaining crops in Egypt, he enshrouds the land in darkness for three straight days, while sparing the land of Goshen from the dark. In my mind, I find it humorous to imagine the C-shaped cloud cover that would have to have hovered over Egypt for three whole days.

The Pharaoh tries bargaining with Moses, by trying to get him to leave the children behind, and then later trying to get him to leave the flocks and herds of livestock behind, but Moses insists that no bargaining can be done. The children have to go with them, and the animals - well, what else are they going to slaughter in animal sacrifice rituals?

The Pharaoh throws Moses out of his court threatening that if he ever sees him again, he will have Moses executed.

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