Chapter 7- God commands Moses and Aaron to tell Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go. God also says he will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that Moses and Aaron will have to perform signs that prove to the Egyptians that their god is the real God. Aaron turns his rod into a snake, but Pharaoh’s magicians are able to duplicate the trick, so Pharaoh doesn’t believe. The same happens when Aaron turns all the water in the land into blood.
A couple of things stand out to me here. First, there is a lot of “God told Moses to tell Aaron to tell Pharaoh” or “God told Moses to tell Aaron to do…” Why didn’t God just speak to Aaron directly? And why is Moses the guy who we give all the credit to here? If it weren’t for his role as messenger between God and Aaron, Moses wouldn’t be useful at all, so why is he the biblical name everyone remembers? He must become more important later.
Again we see God purposefully making things harder than necessary by hardening Pharaoh’s heart to prove a point. Couldn’t he have just revealed himself to the Egyptians to prove he was God? Were plagues really necessary?
Also, this means that we may not get to make the choice to follow or not follow God. I think I’m an atheist because I’ve researched a lot about religion and not found compelling evidence that any of it is true. But, maybe I’m just an atheist because God is forcing me to be one in order to prove a point. (Occam’s razor would suggest the first…)
It’s also interesting that the Egyptian magicians are able to replicate the supposed miracles that Aaron is performing in the name of God. That means one of two things- 1) magic was real back in those days, and people really were using enchantments to do God-like things. Or 2) if we assume that the laws of physics have always been constant, and therefore magic has never really worked, that means that these “miracles” just had natural, repeatable causes. My money is on the laws of physics.
It brings to mind that quote by Arthur C Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” If you were to give an iPhone to someone from the Middle Ages, they would think you’re a god, and apparently if you perform good slight of hand back in the days of Moses, people thousands of years later will think you were God’s prophet.
Verse 25 says that the water-as-blood thing continues for 7 days. After 7 days without water, there wouldn’t be any Egyptians left to hold the Hebrews hostage. Supposedly even the water in people’s jars and pitchers had turned to blood- they would have died from dehydration.
Chapter 8- God tells Moses to tell Aaron to Pharaoh to let the people go, or they will bring a plague of frogs to infest the water, land and people’s homes. Aaron and the magicians make frogs appear. Pharaoh agrees to let the Hebrews go sacrifice to their god if the frogs will go away. Moses prays, the frogs die and stink, Pharaoh changes his mind. God tells Moses to tell Aaron to turn the dust into lice. The magicians can not replicate this trick, and tell Pharaoh it must be God doing it. Pharaoh’s heart remains hard. Next comes a plague of flies. God makes a point to only afflict the Egyptians with the flies, so that they will see that the Hebrews are God’s special people. Pharaoh agrees again to let them go sacrifice to God if the flies go away. Moses prays, the flies leave, Pharaoh changed his mind again.
So, I previously had the idea that the Hebrews were exempt from all the plagues, but apparently they suffered the bloody water, frogs and lice before God started sparing them. With friends like God, who needs enemies? If, in at attempt to set me free, someone made me endure dehydration and swarms of frogs and lice, I’d tell them that I didn’t want their help anymore!
From my childhood, I remember “LET MY PEOPLE GO” as this powerful command to set free the slaves. Turns out, it’s still just “Let my people go into the desert for 3 days to sacrifice to God.” Not as inspiring.
Also, Pharaoh is an idiot. If you think all your slaves want is 3 days in the desert, and they’re capable of causing so damn much misery over and over, well… is free labor really worth it?
Chapter 9- God kills all the livestock of the Egyptians, but the Hebrew livestock survives. Pharaoh’s heart is still hard. Moses and Aaron scatter ashes from a furnace which causes boils to erupt on the Egyptians. The magicians are so miserable by this point that they don’t even bother to show up. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart again. A plague of hail-fire that kills servants, livestock, and plants comes next. This plague does not affect the Hebrews. Pharaoh apologizes for his sins just long enough to get Moses to stop the hail, then his heart is hardened once more.
So, with this livestock-death plague– the Hebrews owned livestock? Interesting that slaves had property of their own.
Also interesting is that all the livestock of the land of Egypt are killed in verse six, yet more Egyptian livestock somehow exist to be killed by hail in verse 25. The Bible can’t even maintain consistency for one measly chapter.
I’m also curious about Pharaoh’s hard heart. Sometimes it simply says that Pharaoh hardened his heart. Sometimes it says that Pharaoh hardened his heart just like God said he would. Sometimes it says that God actively did the hardening. I wonder if it even matters who chose to do the hardening, since it was all part of God’s plan to show off to the Egyptians anyway.