Now comes an odd part of the tale. We are at the part where Moses and Aaron try to persuade the Pharaoh into letting the Isrealites go and they are on their way to Egypt. My concern is with a theme prevalent throughout the rest of this section. Time after time, God does increasingly lethal “miracles” to force the Pharaoh into setting free the Israelites, but immediately after, he makes the Pharaoh stubborn so that they are not freed.
I know we covered this briefly last time, but I feel this is too egregious of an ethical error to pass by with so little said, so say something I will. As if anyone who has read this blog had any doubt. Let me summarize here. God performs miracles and wonders and plagues in order to persuade the Pharaoh to free the Hebrews, but at the same time, he gets into the Pharaoh’s head and stops him from actually doing it. This is one of the most serious problems the believers in a good, kind and merciful Yahweh must ignore. Maybe they can, but I certainly can’t. Good and kind are not part of the God who acts like this.
By my count,the Bible lists eight different instances where God, while trying to free the Hebrews, made the Pharaoh so obstinate that he wouldn’t let them go. Now please understand that this is not some oddball interpretation of a difficult passage. This is very bluntly stated eight separate times. In all those eight instances, God worked against his own stated aims and certainly counter to the Israelites best interests let alone any consideration for the common Egyptian. For some reason he insisted on playing both sides against the middle and everyone suffered. Suffering is a very common thread in this book.
So you can look for yourself here are the references: Exodus 4/21,7/3, 9/12 ,10/1, 10/20, 10/27, 14/4, and finally, 14/8. All of them state it differently but very directly.
To give you more of the flavor of these discrepancies and to spare you the tedium of looking them up, I’ll quote three of the most obvious. I still urge you to read the entire section for yourself, but here are the quotes that pull the hardest on my frontal lobes.
Exodus 7/3, just before the beginning of the plagues of Egypt, Yahweh says, “Yet I will make the Pharaoh so obstinate that, despite the many signs and wonders that I will work in the land of Egypt, he will not listen to you.”
Like I said, this is not subtle stuff. Here he is pushing the Egyptians to do one thing but holding them back from doing it. Ask yourself, why would this be? If you read my last post, you’ll know that I am quite certain that Yahweh was just halfheartedly trying to justify his desire to kick a little Egyptian ass. He needs the Egyptians to refuse his commands so he has an excuse to wreck some shit. He forces his will on the Pharaoh in order to merely ratchet up the stakes of the game he plays with mankind. As any reader of this blog must be quite sure of by now, there’s nothing the Lord Genocide likes better that a good game of whoop ass on anyone not listening to him, even if he has to force them not to listen. Think I’m pushing it, maybe that I’ve carried this too far? Oh, you’ll see, my pretty; you’ll see!
Exodus 10/1 is just before the eighth plague, my favorite by the way — locusts. “Go to the Pharaoh, for I have made him and his servants obdurate in order that I may perform these signs among them and that you may recount to your son and grandson how ruthlessly I dealt with the Egyptians and what signs I wrought among them, so that you may know that I am the lord.”
Hard to be more blunt about your aims, don’t you think? God has hardened the Pharaoh’s heart in order that he may have an excuse to break the Egyptians and prove he is God. Would this not fit securely into the very idea of “might equals right”? Remember, this only one plague before the slaying of the hundred thousand or so Egyptian firstborn. These are the stakes of the game he’s playing. Does he steal the Pharaoh’s free will so he can rationalize the killing of Egyptian children? Is this the god of love? Can anyone please tell me how?
Could there be a better way to prove that he is “Lord”? Absolutely! Any way, in fact. Is dealing ruthlessly with a people so far below your level of power really a virtue for an omnipotent and perfectly just being? I have to say no! Like so many other misconstrued passages in the Bible, justice has little to do with the actions of this God. For centuries, Christians have dressed Yahweh in yet another version of the emperor’s new clothes, arranging and rearranging gossamer and weightless arguments trying to convince themselves that their god is really good and just and right when their own literature proves otherwise. It’s going to take us, the skeptics, to bluntly state the truth. Dude! That bitch is naked! When looked at with any degree of skepticism, the entire system must eventually collapse. This isn’t brain surgery people. Although, now that I think of it, that may actually help.
But I digress. Further proving my case is Exodus 14/7. This is immediately before the Egyptian armies pursue the Israelites to their fateful end. God says:”This I will make the Pharaoh so obstinate that he will pursue them. Then I will receive the glory through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
So he forces the Egyptians into a rage to follow the Hebrews in order to do more of his amazing wonders. These are the wonders in which he kills the entire Egyptian army. The Egyptians are forced by God to make decisions that doom them, then God gathers in the glory for this act of, dare I say, genocide. Was this necessary? Now I’m not saying the Egyptians didn’t deserve a little slapping around, slavery is horrid after all, but the Pharaoh had already let the Hebrews go. Isn’t that what God wanted? But he still makes them pursue the Israelites just so he has a reason to slaughter them. WTF?
I’m not saying that war is always avoidable. There are times when the sides are close to equal that a case could be made for a justified war, but when the sides are as uneven as complete omnipotence against mere mortal, justification becomes impossible. With humanity, sometimes a fight needs to be fought, there is no other choice, but we do not have divine powers. We are only human after all, flawed imperfect and weak. I simply cannot perceive of an omnipotent divinity forcing a people to behave badly in order to crush them just as an example to the rest of the world. This is a moral atrocity. This is evil!
By any modern and rational standard, this type of behavior is abhorrent. Is it not reminiscent of Hitler or Stalin or the forces of the Empire of Japan creating little “incidents” in neighboring countries in order to have a rationale for war? This sounds human for sure, but do these actions sound like those done by a perfect being made of pure love, as I just heard it stated at a recent funeral? Not to me. I’m quite sure love is the wrong word. Lust, maybe. A lust for power and domination and destruction fits well here, not love. Never confuse the two.
Is God playing tug of war with himself, stretching the Hebrews and the Pharaoh until one of them breaks? Is he having fun? This may have seemed like justice back when a great form of public entertainment was watching some poor bastard get impaled on the mere whim of a king, but morality has moved on in the intervening centuries. Our moral zeitgeist has shifted to a point far beyond this one. Why do we accept a god who still carries this mindset so proudly? He’s not God. He’s the Godfather. “I’ll show him an offer he can’t refuse… But then I’ll make him refuse it anyway!”
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. Why does people worship beings that do so little for us? The truth is that we deserve a better god. Why must we always accept less? As a species, we need to learn that when someone hands us shit, we have the option of just throwing it away. We are not required to wallow in it for all eternity.