Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Exodus 9

Exodus 9: the plague on livestock; the plague of boils; the plague of hail

Synopsis

Finally, we’re back to a passage that’s contained within one chapter, instead of having a couple of verses in the previous or next chapter.

This chapter continues outlining the plagues which were brought against the Egyptians. First, God sends a plague against the livestock of the Egyptians; all of the Egyptians’ livestock dies, while the livestock of the Hebrews is untouched. (Verse 6 says that “all” of the Egyptians’ livestock dies, but in verse 20, when the LORD is about to send hail, the Egyptians bring their livestock indoors. I’m not sure if the Bible is using figurative language in verse 6, when it says “all”, or if the Egyptians simply went and got more livestock. Unfortunately, no indication is given as to how much time passes between most of the plagues.)

As usual, Pharaoh’s heart remains hard, so the next plague is a plague of boils. Moses takes a handful of soot from a furnace and throws it into the air, where it becomes “a fine dust over the whole land of Egypt” (verse 11). It causes festering boils to break out on men and animals, to the point that Pharaoh’s magicians can’t even stand before him, because of their boils. (It is not indicated, for this plague, if it affected the Hebrews as well, or just the Egyptians. I’m assuming it’s just the Egyptians, since that seems to have been the trend, but it might have affected the Hebrews as well.) But Pharaoh’s heart remains hard.

So God is going to make things even harder for the Egyptians:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’” (verses 13–19)

So it happens. Moses stretches out his hand toward the sky, and the LORD sends thunder and hail. And this time, it’s made explicit: The hail only affects the Egyptians, not the Hebrews in the land of Goshen.

This time, Pharaoh seems to have a change of heart:

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” (verses 27–28)

Moses, however, is not convinced:

Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.” (verses 29–30)

And Moses is right to be cynical. As soon as the Pharaoh sees that the hail has stopped, he—and his officials—harden their hearts.

Thoughts

Probably—or maybe I should say “arguably”—the most important verse in this passage is verse 16:

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

In the last entry, I briefly discussed who was really responsible for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, but the issue goes even deeper than that: Who put Pharaoh in control of Egypt in the first place? The LORD did. God put him in charge of the country, and part of the reason that He did that was so that He could show his power, through these plagues (and other miracles), and so that His name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

Verse 16, and other verses like it, should always be in the back of our minds, as we read the book of Exodus, because it’s the reason that God orchestrated all of these events the way that He did.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Exodus 7:25–8:32

Exodus 7:25–8:32: the plague of frogs; the plague of gnats; the plague of flies

Synopsis

In the last passage, we saw the first of the plagues that the LORD brought against Egypt, the plague of blood. We see a few more in this passage.

Seven days after the plague of blood, God sends Moses back before the Pharaoh:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.’” (verses 8:1–4)

Of course the Pharaoh refuses, so God has Aaron perform the miracle, and Egypt is overtaken by frogs. Again, the Pharaoh’s magicians do the same things “by their secret arts” (verse 8:7), but they must not be able to get rid of the frogs, because Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron, and asks them to pray to the LORD to take the frogs away. Not only does Moses agree to do this, but he even allows Pharaoh to set the time when the frogs will leave. That will hopefully prove to the Pharaoh that God is really in control, and it’s not just a coincidence that the frogs happen to leave. Right? RIGHT?!?

So Pharaoh sets a time, and at the time that he set, the LORD causes all of the frogs that had been plaguing the Egyptians to die. (Verse 8:14 says that the Egyptians piled the dead frogs in heaps, and the land reeked of them, because there had been so many.) But as soon as Pharaoh sees that there is relief, he hardens his heart again, and won’t listen to Moses anymore.

So God sends another plague. This time, Aaron stretches out his staff and all of the dust in Egypt turns into gnats. And it’s even worse, this time: When the Egyptian magicians try to reproduce the miracle, they’re not able to! “This is the finger of God”, they tell Pharaoh (in verse 8:19), but his heart remains hard and he won’t listen.

So, once again, the LORD sends Moses to see the Pharaoh. This time, the plague Pharaoh is threatened with is flies: If the Pharaoh doesn’t let God’s people go, God will send swarms of flies which will overrun Egypt. But this time, the plague will have a twist: The LORD will only send the flies to the Egyptians; in the part of the land where the Hebrews live, there will be no flies.

And the LORD did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials, and throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies. (verse 8:24)


This time, Pharaoh tries a bit of a compromise: He won’t let the Hebrews go to the desert, but he will allow them to sacrifice within Egypt. But Moses says that this isn’t good enough; the sacrifices they want to offer to the LORD would be detestable to the Egyptians, and they would be stoned. So the Pharaoh tells Moses that they can go, as long as they don’t go too far.

So Moses prays to the LORD, and the flies leave, but just as before, as soon as there is relief from the plague, Pharaoh hardens his heart.

Thoughts

I have been told that each of the plagues God sent to the Egyptians was aimed at a specific Egyptian god. The Egyptians have a “fly god”, so God sends a plague of flies; they have a “gnat god”, so God sends a plague of gnats. This may or may not be the case; I’m not able to go into the matter—I’m no Egyptologist (if such a thing exists)—but there is an article here that I found interesting.

In any event, regardless of whether the plagues were directly aimed at specific Egyptian gods or not, the purpose was always clear, from the time that the LORD started talking to Moses: He is performing these miracles so that the Egyptians will know that it was the LORD who did it; it wasn’t a series of coincidences, and natural disasters. There is a God, who is in control of the universe, and He is sending these plagues. As verse 7:5 says:

And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.

Was the plague of blood directly aimed at an Egyptian god? Probably, but maybe not, depending on who you talk to. But was it intended so that the Egyptians—and the Hebrews, for that matter—would know that it was done by God? Yes. This is part of the reason that the plagues are getting more and more specific. At first, the Egyptian magicians are able to reproduce the miracles, but eventually they are no longer able to do so. At first, the plagues affect everyone in Egypt, but then the LORD starts specifically targeting the Egyptians, and leaving the Hebrews alone.

One final note, about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart: In some places, the Bible says that it’s the LORD who is hardening Pharaoh’s heart, such as verse 4:21, and in other places it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, such as in verse 8:15. Why the inconsistency? It’s a difficult question, which is made even more difficult by the fact that God cannot cause anyone to sin. While this is over-simplified, I believe the answer lies in the fact that God is in control of everything; if He allowed Pharaoh to harden his heart, then it’s as if He caused it. So that, although Pharaoh hardened his own heart—and is responsible for his own sin!—God is also, in a sense, responsible, because He allowed it to happen.

However, the language the Bible uses indicates to me that this explanation is not sufficient, because God doesn’t say “I will allow Pharaoh to harden his heart”, He says “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart”. It’s a difficult question, and coincidentally, one that the pastor of my church raised on Sunday, in his sermon. (In case you’re curious, he didn’t have a full answer for it either.)

As an aside, I no longer get excited when the pastor raises something in his sermon that I’ve been looking at in my own devotions, because it happens so regularly. I can’t count the number of times that I raise some point in the devotion for Youth Group, and he raises the same point two days later in his sermon. For some reason, God sometimes wants various people in His church thinking about the same things at the same time.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Exodus 6:28–7:24

Exodus 6:28–7-24: Moses and Aaron go back to Pharaoh; Aaron’s staff becomes a snake; the plague of blood

Synopsis

It seems every passage I’m doing lately is spread across a couple of chapters. Oh well.

This chapter starts with a bit of a repeat; Moses asks God “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” (verse 6:30), and the LORD tells Moses that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and not let the Israelites go, so that He can “multiply [His] miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt” (verse 7:3). Sounds familiar, right?

But, as commanded, Moses and Aaron go back before the Pharaoh. God tells them that, when the Pharaoh demands a sign, Aaron should throw his staff to the ground, to become a snake. So they do so, and Aaron’s staff becomes a snake. However, the Pharaoh brings in “wise men and magicians”, who do the same thing using their “secret arts” (verse 7:11). Aaron’s staff swallows the staffs of the Egyptians, but “Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said” (verse 7:13).

Now begins a series of plagues, which God brings against the Egyptians, to convince them—or, more specifically, to convince the Pharaoh—to let the Hebrews go. He sends Moses and Aaron back to the Pharaoh, and perform another miracle before him: When Aaron stretches his staff over the waters of Egypt, they will all turn to blood. They do this, and, as the LORD said, all of the waters in Egypt turn to blood. Verse 7:21 says:

The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

But that’s still not good enough:

But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river. (verses 7:22–24)

Is this guy hard to convince, or what?

Thoughts

With my pastor’s help, I had previously deduced that the term “Pharaoh” probably referred to the office, rather than the person, like referring to “the White House” when talking about the people who run that section of the American government. However, the Bible keeps using the term “Pharaoh” in a personal way, i.e. saying “he”, so my understanding probably wasn’t 100% correct.

Verse 7:7 tells us that Moses was 80, and Aaron 83, when they went back to Pharaoh. Previously, for some reason, I had been thinking that Moses was the older brother—and might even have written so, here—but I was mistaken.

I find it very interesting, during these first few miracles performed before the Pharaoh, that everything done by Moses and Aaron is duplicated by the Egyptians’ magicians. Of course, I have to wonder: If all of the water in Egypt was already turned to blood—“even in the wooden buckets and stone jars” (verse 7:19)—then how did the magicians find any water to turn into blood? Is it possible that they just took some blood and showed it to Pharaoh, and said “look we did it too”?

I also find it interesting that it’s Aaron who is performing the miracles, in this passage. In previous passages, God had specified that Moses was to perform the miracles.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Exodus 5:22–6:27

Exodus 5:22–6:27: God reassures His people; genealogy

Synopsis

The last passage was a bit of a disappointment, for the Israelites. God told Moses to tell the Pharaoh to let His people go, but not only did the Pharaoh say no, he decided to work the Hebrews even harder, because he assumed they’d grown lazy.

In this passage, we find out that it’s not just the Israelite leaders who are disappointed. Moses is too:

Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (5:22–23)

The “at all” is the part that gets me; “you haven’t even saved your people—not even a little bit!”

But obviously the LORD was expecting all of this:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”

God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’”

(verses 6:1–8)


So Moses brings this message back to the Israelites, but they don’t listen to him, “because of their discouragement and cruel bondage” (verse 6:9).

However, aside from the Israelites’ disillusionment, it’s still business as usual:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.” (verses 6:10–11)

Unfortunately, it’s not just the Israelite leaders who are disillusioned; Moses is going back to his old excuses, too:

But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” (verse 12)

The LORD already answered that complaint, back in Chapter 4, but it seems that Moses is falling back on what he knows; “please don’t send me.”

The rest of the chapter lists the heads of Israel. This list is here because the LORD is instructing who should be brought out of Egypt, and how, when the time comes. It seems that everyone is down except for the LORD

Thoughts

This feels, to me, like a pretty depressing passage. Everyone is disappointed by Egypt’s response, and, from their perspective, for good reason: They asked Pharaoh for permission to leave, and instead their misery increased.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Exodus 5:1–21

Exodus 5:1–21: Moses makes his first appearance before the Pharaoh

Synopsis

Moses and Aaron have come back to Egypt, talked to the Hebrew leaders, and told them what God has promised: He is going to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt, into the Promised Land. Everyone is happy about this, and feels reassured that God has heard their cries.

In this passage, Moses takes the first step: he goes to the Pharaoh, and asks permission for the Hebrews to go into the desert, to hold a festival. Pharaoh’s answer, however, is less than encouraging:

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” (verse 2)

They tell Pharaoh that God himself has met with them, and asked them to have this festival, but Pharaoh can only think about the fact that Moses and Aaron are taking the people away from their work.

In fact, the Egyptians decide that the Hebrews are making all of this fuss about a festival because they’ve gotten lazy. They don’t have enough work to do, so they’re coming up with this festival nonsense. The solution? Well, the Hebrews have been making bricks, for the Egyptians, so the Egyptians decide that they’ll no longer supply the straw that the Hebrews need to make the bricks. Make them get it themselves! But they have to produce the same number of bricks that they’ve always produced. That’ll learn ’em!

Or course, once the Egyptians stop providing straw, the Hebrews stop meeting their brick quotas. So the slave drivers start beating the Hebrew foremen, and the foremen go to appeal to Pharaoh. And that doesn’t go so well, either:

Then the Israelite foremen went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.”

Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”

(verses 15–18)


At this point, the Israelites are much more concerned about their troubles with Pharaoh than any promises the LORD might have made to them, through Moses.

When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (verses 20–21)

I find it interesting that they say “May the LORD … judge you”, since He is the one they claim sent them in the first place.

Thoughts

When Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh, and asked him to let the Hebrews go, I wonder if they were disappointed with his answer. (“God? Who’s this God person? I don’t know any God.”) True, God had already warned them that Pharaoh would not let them go, but, at the same time, if God comes to you and personally asks you to do something, and you try to do it, and it doesn’t work, I imagine it would mess with your faith a bit.

Aside from Moses’ and Aaron’s faith, the Israelite leaders immediately lose any faith they might have had, and get angry with Moses and Aaron. They were happy, when they thought they would get out of Egypt, but now they’re not so sure; ever since this Moses guy showed up, it’s been trouble. I’m not sure, though, if it’s God they’ve lost faith in, or just Moses and Aaron. Since they’re calling on the LORD to judge Moses and Aaron, I’m thinking that they’ve decided that God didn’t really send Moses and Aaron; they probably consider them to be false prophets, or just plain crazy. (I guess the miracles Moses and Aaron performed have lost their lustre.)

So I’m not being too hard on the Israelites, at this point. Later on I might be harder on them, because as we continue through Exodus, they’ll definitely lose faith in God Himself to help them—but that’s for later on. (Of course, even then, I won’t be blaming them any more than I blame myself for my occasional lacks of faith.)

Exodus 5:1–21

Exodus 5:1–21: Moses makes his first appearance before the Pharaoh

Synopsis

Moses and Aaron have come back to Egypt, talked to the Hebrew leaders, and told them what God has promised: He is going to deliver them from their slavery in Egypt, into the Promised Land. Everyone is happy about this, and feels reassured that God has heard their cries.

In this passage, Moses takes the first step: he goes to the Pharaoh, and asks permission for the Hebrews to go into the desert, to hold a festival. Pharaoh’s answer, however, is less than encouraging:

Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” (verse 2)

They tell Pharaoh that God himself has met with them, and asked them to have this festival, but Pharaoh can only think about the fact that Moses and Aaron are taking the people away from their work.

In fact, the Egyptians decide that the Hebrews are making all of this fuss about a festival because they’ve gotten lazy. They don’t have enough work to do, so they’re coming up with this festival nonsense. The solution? Well, the Hebrews have been making bricks, for the Egyptians, so the Egyptians decide that they’ll no longer supply the straw that the Hebrews need to make the bricks. Make them get it themselves! But they have to produce the same number of bricks that they’ve always produced. That’ll learn ’em!

Or course, once the Egyptians stop providing straw, the Hebrews stop meeting their brick quotas. So the slave drivers start beating the Hebrew foremen, and the foremen go to appeal to Pharaoh. And that doesn’t go so well, either:

Then the Israelite foremen went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.”

Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”

(verses 15–18)


At this point, the Israelites are much more concerned about their troubles with Pharaoh than any promises the LORD might have made to them, through Moses.

When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.” (verses 20–21)

I find it interesting that they say “May the LORD … judge you”, since He is the one they claim sent them in the first place.

Thoughts

When Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh, and asked him to let the Hebrews go, I wonder if they were disappointed with his answer. (“God? Who’s this God person? I don’t know any God.”) True, God had already warned them that Pharaoh would not let them go, but, at the same time, if God comes to you and personally asks you to do something, and you try to do it, and it doesn’t work, I imagine it would mess with your faith a bit.

Aside from Moses’ and Aaron’s faith, the Israelite leaders immediately lose any faith they might have had, and get angry with Moses and Aaron. They were happy, when they thought they would get out of Egypt, but now they’re not so sure; ever since this Moses guy showed up, it’s been trouble. I’m not sure, though, if it’s God they’ve lost faith in, or just Moses and Aaron. Since they’re calling on the LORD to judge Moses and Aaron, I’m thinking that they’ve decided that God didn’t really send Moses and Aaron; they probably consider them to be false prophets, or just plain crazy. (I guess the miracles Moses and Aaron performed have lost their lustre.)

So I’m not being too hard on the Israelites, at this point. Later on I might be harder on them, because as we continue through Exodus, they’ll definitely lose faith in God Himself to help them—but that’s for later on. (Of course, even then, I won’t be blaming them any more than I blame myself for my occasional lacks of faith.)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Exodus 4

Exodus 4: Moses gives more excuses, relents, and returns to Egypt

Synopsis

You may recall, from the last chapter, that the LORD has appeared to Moses, to command him to return to Egypt, and bring the Israelites to the promised land. Moses, however, isn’t so sure that it’s a good idea, and gives some reasons/excuses why the LORD should not send him.

In this chapter, he continues to push back, a bit, hoping that the LORD will change His mind, and not send Moses to Egypt.

So he asks God: “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” (verse 1) In response, the LORD shows Moses some miracles that he can perform, which will prove the LORD sent him:
  • If he throws his staff on the ground, it will turn into a snake. (Verse 3 proves that it was a real snake, because when Moses tried this miracle, he got scared and ran away from it!) When he grabbed the snake by the tail, it turned back into a staff in his hands.
  • When Moses put his hand into his cloak, and then brought it back out, it was “leprous, like snow” (verse 6). (Any time the word “leprous” or “leprosy” is used in the Old Testament—at least in the New International Version—there is a footnote indicating that the Hebrew word was actually used for various skin-related diseases, so it doesn’t mean that he necessarily had leprosy. But he had something skin-related.) He then put his hand back into his cloak, and removed it again, and it was healed.
  • God tells Moses that “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second.” But if they still don’t believe, He tells Moses that he can take some water from the Nile, and pour it on the ground, and it will become blood.
So this should be enough to answer Moses’ concern: if people don’t believe him, and don’t believe that the LORD really appeared to him, then these miracles should prove it.

But Moses has another concern: he’s not a very good speaker. The answer to this one is easy:

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” (verses 11–12)

Now, any student of the Bible—or anyone who’s been attending church for any length of time—will be aware that the LORD is patient, and long-suffering, and slow to anger. But it seems to me, reading that passage, that God is demonstrating to Moses that He is about finished hearing Moses’ excuses, and it’s time for Moses to get going. But, finally, Moses gets to what he really wanted to say all along:

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (verse 13)

This makes God angry—verse 14 says that the LORD’s anger “burned against Moses”—but He is still patient with him. He agrees to send Aaron—Moses’ brother—along with Moses; Moses will tell Aaron what to say, and Aaron will relay the messages. Moses, however, is still to perform the miracles.

God sends Aaron, and he comes to meet Moses, at the mountain of God, and he and Moses and Moses’ wife and son return to Egypt. (God warns Moses, before he leaves, that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that the Pharaoh will not let God’s people go.)

Along the way, before they get to Egypt, the LORD meets… someone, and is about to kill him, when Zipporah saves the day by circumcizing Moses’ son, and touching Moses’ feet with the foreskin.

Finally, Moses and Aaron reach Egypt, and explain the situation to the Israelite elders. They also show them the miracles. So the elders believe the story, and they bow down and worship God, because He is concerned about their misery.

Thoughts

Moses’ main problem, in the last chapter and this one, is that he doesn’t have the right perspective. He forgets that it is God who will be responsible for doing what needs to be done, and Moses is just the messenger—the prophet. You will notice that any time Moses raises an objection or a concern, God’s answer is always “Focus on Me”:
  • Q: Why me? I’m a nobody. A: Yes, but I will be with you.
  • Q: What if they want to know Your name? A: I am who I am. I am the God who has always been, and will always be.
  • Q: What if they don’t believe me? A: Show them the miracles—things that you couldn’t possibly be doing on your own, which proves that it’s Me doing it.
  • Q: But I’m not a good speaker. A: Who do you think gave you the power of speech in the first place?!? Just go, and I’ll tell you what to say.
Later on, Moses became a great leader of the Israelites, but he did so because he learned, and never forgot, who was really in control. (Answer: God.) Moses had more direct contact with God than any other human who ever lived—except for Jesus, of course—and what was the result? Numbers 12:3 says that he was “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth”. When Moses realized that it wasn’t his job to do all of these things, but God’s, he became a very effective leader.

Earlier, I said that the LORD met “someone” and was about to kill them. I used the word “someone” because it’s not clear, from the text, if it’s Moses He is about to kill, or Moses’ son. In either event, it seems that the reason He is going to do this is because the boy is not circumcized; either the boy will be killed, because he’s not circumcized, or Moses will, for not having the boy circumcized. I find it interesting that it’s Zipporah—who is not a Hebrew—who saves the day and circumcizes the boy, not Moses.

The terms “King” vs. “Pharaoh”

My pastor was reading this blog, and came across an earlier post in which I mentioned that I’m not sure about the difference between the terms “King” and “Pharaoh”, when referring to the ruler of Egypt. Are the terms interchangeable, or do they have different meanings?

Here is his email. He gives the link to the main Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) site, but the direct link, to the Pharaoh definition, is http://www.biblecentre.net/ot/twot/pe/pe38.html#t30.

David,

I was catching up on your Bible Blog this morning and decided to address your inquiry regarding the interchangeability of the words “Pharaoh” and “King” (from your Exodus 1 comments). …

The definition below comes from the “Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament” (TWOT) and I include it below. There is a web site for TWOT but unless you know Hebrew or have copies of Strong’s Concordance AND TWOT it won’t help you much. If you want to check out the website it is: < www.biblecentre.net/ot/twot/main.htm >.

Hope you find this helpful,

PD



1825 h[or]P’ ( par>oμh ) Pharaoh. The Hebrew h[or]P’ ( par>oμh ) (in Akkadian, pircu ) represents the transcription and vocalization from the Egyptian per a>o “the Great House.”

Originally the Egyptian designation did not refer to the king of Egypt, but rather to his palace. Not until the middle of the eighteenth Dynasty (1575–1308 B.C. ) did the expression become the appellative title of the king. As a circumlocution used to specify the king, the phrase per a>o may be analogous to the phrase “the White House,” or to the title “the Sublime Porte,” i.e. the Turkish sultan of the Ottoman Empire. There is no indication that Egyptian texts ever used “Pharaoh” as part of the official titulary of the king.

There are several pharaohs named in the Bible: (1) Necho, II Kgs 23:29, (the twenty-sixth Dynasty) who killed Josiah (609 B.C. ) at Megiddo. II Chronicles 35:22 says that Josiah met his death because he would not listen to God’s word from Necho’s mouth! (2) Hophra, Jer 44:30, who succeeded Necho, is an object of Jeremiah’s prophecy; (3) Shishak, I Kgs 11:40 (twenty-second Dynasty) who harbored Jeroboam when the latter escaped the wrath of Solomon; (4) So, king of Egypt to whom Hoshea sent envoys (II Kgs 17:4). H. Goedicke argued that this is not the name of a king but of a city ( BASOR 171:64–6). K. Kitchen holds that it is Osorkon IV (The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt, Aris & Phillips, 1973, pp. 372–75).

There are also a number of pharaohs in the Bible who are incognito. Some of these are: (1) the Pharaoh visited by Abraham ( Gen 12:10–20 ); (2) the Pharaoh under whom Joseph served, presumably one of the Hyksos kings ( Gen 39ff.): (3) the Pharaoh of the oppression of the Exodus, either Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, (eighteenth Dynasty), or Ramesses II and his son Merenptah (nineteenth Dynasty), depending on whether one dates the Exodus events in the fifteenth or early thirteenth centuries B.C. Concerning the Pharaoh whose heart “God hardened” (reflecting perhaps the monistic way in which the Hebrew put the facts of history), see Rom 9:14–29. To use the unfaithful man providentially as a means of revealing God’s gracious redemption to others so that they may become redeemed is itself an act of mercy; (4) the father-in-law of Solomon ( I Kgs 3:1; 9:16, 24; 11:1). Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter signifies, possibly, Egypt’s inferior status as a political power is-a-is Israel at this time. The Pharaoh’s donation of Gezer is most likely a territorial concession made in the guise of a dowry. This Pharaoh has been identified, tentatively, as Siamun or Psusennes II, the last two kings of the twenty-first Dynasty.

Bibliography: Gardiner, A., Egyptian Grammar, London: Oxford University, 1966, pp. 71–76. Redford, D., “The Pronunciation of Pr in Late Toponyms,” JNES 22:119–22. Wilson, J., “Pharaoh” in IDB , III, pp. 773–74.

V.P.H.


[Note that I added the links to Bible Gateway—they weren’t part of the original text.]

So, if I’m reading this correctly, especially the first paragraph, the person who ruled Egypt was the “King”. When the term “Pharaoh” is used, it seems that the Bible is referring to the office/system, rather than the person. Calling the person who ruled Egypt “the King” would be analogous to calling the person who runs the United States “the President”, whereas using the term “the Pharaoh” would be analogous to using the term “Washington” or “the White House” to refer to the system of people who are running the United States.

P.S. I realize that, as a Canadian, I should probably use Canadian examples, rather than American ones. However, although I’ve heard the term “Ottawa” used to refer to the system of government—as in “‘Ottawa’ decided today to eliminate taxes”—I don’t know that I’ve heard the term “24 Sussex Drive” used in that manner. But I have heard people using “the White House”, to refer to the President and all of his advisors, staff, etc. Of course, it could just be that I don’t follow Canadian politics as closely as I should.

P.P.S. Before you step in to correct me, I realize that the people in the White House (or 24 Sussex Drive) don’t run the country; there are multiple branches of government in American and Canada, blah blah blah. That’s not the point.