Thursday, January 28, 2010


Exodus 5-8

Chapter five begins with Moses and Aaron addressing Pharoah. They tell him that the God of Israel says to "let my people go," so that they can hold a festival in the desert. When Pharaoah claims ignorance of the God of the Israelites, they tell him that the people want to take a three-day journey into the desert to make sacrifices and offerings, otherwise he will bring plagues upon them. But Pharoah just berates them for taking the people away from their labor. After Moses and Aaron have left, he tells the slavemasters not to give any more straw to the Hebrews making bricks, to make them find it themselves, but not to reduce the quota. When this happens, they cannot meet the quota, and are punished. The people complain to Moses and Aaron that they have brought this increased punishment upon them. And Moses "returned to the LORD," echoing the complaint.

Chapter six reveals, for the first time, the name of GOD, as he once more reminds Moses that he is listening and will deliver the Israelites. He tells Moses that he will make his power known and that "because of my mighty hand he [Pharoah] will drive them out of his country." He instructs Moses to tell the Israelites that he (GOD) will bring them out of bondage in Egypt. Moses delivers this message, but the Israelites didn't listen because they were discouraged. The Lord then told Moses to go back to Pharoah but Moses, again, resisted. "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" The rest of chapter six is taken up with the genealogy of the house of Levi down to Moses and Aaron and Aaron's sons, and then, again, Moses question for God about "faltering lips."

In chapter seven, God tells Moses that he has been made "like God to Pharaoh," and that Aaron is like his prophet. Moses is to say everything that God tells him, and Aaron will tell Pharoah to let the Israelites go. They tell Pharoah, and when he demands a miracle, Aaron throws his staff to the ground where it became a snake. Pharoah's priests threw their staffs to the ground where they also became snakes, but Aaron's snake swallowed the others. Pharoah still would not listen. Next, God tells Moses and Aaron to meet Pharoah at the banks of the Nile in the morning. They do so, and when Aaron holds out his staff and strikes the water with it, the Nile turns to blood. But Pharoah still would not listen.

Chapter eight continues the now-established pattern. Moses and Aaron demand that Pharoah let God's people go, Pharoah refuses, and a plague ensues. First is a plague of frogs, followed by gnats and then flies. After the plague of flies, Pharoah allows them to go to the desert to pray, and implores Moses to pray for him. But when they left his presence, and God removed the flies in response to Moses' prayer, "Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • One of the things that is difficult, conceptually, in dealing with passages like Ex 5:2 is understanding exactly what the phrase "God of Israel" would mean to an Egyptian at the time. He was certainly a pagan, polytheist of sorts, but, while I've read and heard many things about Egyptian religious belief and the trappings thereof, that's different from actually thinking that way. Would Pharoah think of the "God of Israel" as a real being with real power? As an icon or symbol? As a mistaken belief? Certainly, he doesn't, by any of his responses, indicate that he has any fear of this entity.
  • In chapter six, we see, for the first time, the name of God. Prior to that, in dealings with Abraham and Isaac, the terms have been "adonai" or "elohim," but now the tetragrammaton יְהֹוִה ("Yahweh" or "Jehovah") makes its first appearance, as God tells Moses who he is, and tells him that Abraham and Isaac and Jacob did not know him by this name.
  • The geneaology of Moses and Aaron (Ex 6:13-26): Israel->Levi->Kohath->Amram (father of Moses), Israel->Levi->Jochebed (mother of Moses.) So Levi was the paternal great-grandfather, and maternal grandfather, of Moses and Aaron.
  • The Hebrew word which the NIV translates as "faltering," עָרֵל means, literally, "uncircumcised." The KJV uses that.
  • I have to confess that there are parts of this story that I don't believe. I can believe that God turned Aaron's staff into a snake, but not that Pharoah's priests could do the same thing with theirs. I can believe that God turned the Nile to blood, but not that "the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts."
  • There's a big question, of course, about all of the trials and plagues in Egypt. I'm going to save it for later (but is starts with "why").

Proverbs 16:17-33

A couple of verses from this section is echoed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount:

Pv 16:25 "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death."

Mt 7:13 "For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."

Pv 16:17 "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."

Mt 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

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