Yahweh’s mighty Plagues or Why whacking People with Sticks is the Best Way to Change Their Minds.

The Plague of Locusts

Exodus, chapters 5 -5 10

Here we are at the  plagues of Egypt, the dreaded scourges that God used on the Egyptians to force them to free the Israelites. Terrible plagues they were, hitting guilty and innocent alike, smiting the entirety of Egypt until the Pharaoh relented, or to be more accurate, until God allowed him to relent. Why?  I can’t say, but those who have followed along know that God had nailed the Pharaoh’s decision-making ability to a tree and stretched and pulled both the Egyptians and the Hebrews like taffy until hundreds or thousands had perished. Throughout the plagues, he pulls this double cross on humanity, raining hell on the land and the people while forcing the Pharaoh to be stubborn about letting the Hebrews go.

The plagues themselves are interesting as they alternate between curiously ineffectual and cruelly genocidal. They are worth reading through if only for a solid picture of ancient ideas of morality and power and, of course, revenge. Viewed with a modern lens, however, they aren’t as awesome and righteous as your Sunday School teacher built them up to be. To me, they seem tarnished and sordid, squalid and cruel. What seems righteous to ancient eyes seem less so to my own.  So let’s go through them one by one and see what sense they make in today’s light.

First, Turning the rivers to blood.

Moses and Aaron did as the LORD had commanded. Aaron raised his staff and struck the waters of the river in full view of Pharaoh and his servants, and all the water of the river was changed into blood. The fish in the river died, and the river itself became so polluted that the Egyptians could not drink its water. There was blood throughout the land of Egypt.

All the water of the river was changed to blood.” Can you imagine he ecological devastation that would result from the entire Nile and all other sources of fresh water being turned to real living blood? Rotting clots the size of sandbars would slowly ooze through streams of semi-liquid plasma, rotting fish floating atop mounds of decaying blood cells. Mmm! Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? Think about this. On an average day, the Nile releases 300,000,000 cubic meters of water into the sea. That’s a third of a cubic kilometer of oozing animal fluid rotting rapidly in the sun, and this is only the flow for a single day. The Bible states that this occurred throughout the land of Egypt so one could easily make the case that there was 20 times this amount of transformed blood. That’s around ten trillion tons of bio-waste. If you killed every person on the planet and piled them in a single heap, that heap would only be one-tenth the weight of this bloody Nile. Dispute the numbers if you wish, but if you take the Bible as literal inerrant truth, you will have a hell of a time bringing them down to anything rational or reasonable or right.

Of all the plagues, this is really of the worst. It would result in the nearly complete destruction of the river ecology of Egypt, and remember in Egypt, the Nile is the ecology. Trillions of tons of bio-waste would rapidly decay resulting in a breeding ground of bacteria of unheard of size greatly endangering anyone living in the area.  As the glut decayed, the stench alone would carry for hundreds of miles. A catastrophe like this puts the Exxon Valdez disaster in the same category as knocking over your morning coffee. Exodus makes no mention of God cleaning it up and claims that the Egyptians had to dig new wells to get water, so years would have to pass for the river to run truly clean again. However seven days later, Moses calls forth the plague of frogs… From the very same river and pools… Yeah, I know, WTF!

Second, Plague of frogs.  After annihilating all but microbial life in the Nile with the Great Flood of Blood, Moses/Aaron/Yahweh calls a vast group of toothless amphibians to terrorize the Egyptians. The great phallic staff was held over the rivers and streams and pools and frogs poured forth to get everywhere Egyptians didn’t want frogs to get. Open the bread box for lunch and there are frogs. Pour the breakfast cereal and, yep,  frogs. Reach across the bed at three AM for a little loving and place you hand squarely on a cold fat frog. The horror!  Oh, the humanity!

In retrospect, I’m not sure why we wasted all that time and money during World War 2 and the cold war developing nuclear weapons when we would have been further ahead if we had only developed the F-bomb. We could have built them in different capacities from the ten kilo-tadpole for purely tactical considerations all the way up to a monster 100 mega-tadpole missile for Moscow itself. Those god-forsaken commies would have had to contend with the ever widening frog gap. They wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Pointing out the absurdity of using these “weapons” is about all I can do here.  I mean, frogs?  Really?  The third and fourth plagues are too similar to go into much, simply gnats and flies. After turning your vital lifeline into a massive blood clot, sending a few amphibians and biting insects seems rather like a reprieve. Thank you God, may I have another?

The next plagues begin to get a bit more serious. With the fifth, pestilence, Yahweh afflicted every beast with a disease which killed them all, all the Egyptian beasts anyway.

And on the next day the LORD did so. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one beast belonging to the Israelites.

This may sound plausible for ancient warfare, but it’s odd for the very next plague is boils, festering sores on man and beast. Did you catch that “beast” part? If all the beasts of the Egyptians are dead, how do they get boils? Seems to be a direct contradiction. Are they dead or aren’t they? Ah, it gets worse, or better depending on the side you’re rooting for.  The seventh plague is hail, huge pelting balls of ice that kill anything that has not taken shelter. Any man or beast in the fields is hammered to death by Yahweh’s cold, hard retribution. Strange!  If all the Egyptian livestock is dead, then why does the Moses say this to the Egyptians.

Will you still block the way for my people by refusing to let them go? I warn you, then, tomorrow at this hour I will rain down such fierce hail as there has never been in Egypt from the day the nation was founded up to the present. Therefore, order all your livestock and whatever else you have in the open fields to be brought to a place of safety. Whatever man or beast remains in the fields and is not brought to shelter shall die when the hail comes upon them.” Some of Pharaoh’s servants feared the warning of the LORD and hurried their servants and livestock off to shelter. Others, however, did not take the warning of the LORD to heart and left their servants and livestock in the fields.

WTF? What livestock? Did he raise them from the dead? Were zombie cows roaming Egyptian pastures? I must admit that would jack up the cool factor considerably, but how else does one kill something twice? Can anyone explain to me how this is not a direct contradiction of biblical literalism?

The eighth plague is my personal favorite. After killing all the animals by disease and then pestering those same dead animals with boils and then killing them one more time with hail, God gives the Egyptians locusts to contend with. Yep, bugs again. Locusts cover the ground and devour every food plant that wasn’t beaten into a pulp by the hail.  Looks like famine’s lurking in Egypt’s future again.

As the final whacking before bringing out the truly big guns, the Lord of Genocide decides the cover the land in darkness for three days to persuade the Pharaoh to let his people go.  Yeah, that would be the same Pharaoh he will not allow to be convinced.  I understand that this is confusing and I feel your pain.  My own head aches, but not for the foolishness of it all.  I ache for the injustice.

To simplify let’s reiterate here. First came blood clot that ate Egypt. Then came the damned horny toads rapidly followed by a curse of flying insects, gnats then flies. Pestilence followed, killing all the livestock. Then boils formed on the asses the Egyptians and their dead beasties. Next came the hail which killed any Egyptian and their previously deceased livestock who were caught in the open. As a final blow to Egypt’s food production ability, Locusts rapidly devoured any food that survived the other plagues. To top off the “Miracles of the Lord”, darkness covered the land.  That’s it, nine plagues. There are ten but I’m saving the final one for a post all of its own, it being so heinous as to warrant a separate rant.

A pattern runs through these events.  During most of the plagues, Moses warns him, but the Pharaoh doesn’t listen. The plague then strikes.  At first, as with the staff to snakes trick, the Egyptian magicians can imitate God’s magic.  As an aside, one does have to wonder where this other magic comes from.  Other Gods?  More polytheistic roots?  Anyway,  the Pharaoh then relents and says he will let them go only to have God make him stubborn again when it passes. This pattern repeats with only small variations throughout. I strongly urge you to read this entire section for yourselves from Exodus chapter 5 to chapter 10. It is fascinating if disturbing.  Viewed from a rational perspective, one cannot fail to come to the conclusion that Yahweh is a psychopath intent on arranging incidences to rationalize his need for violence and blood. God’s ways aren’t mysterious here. They’re goddamned insane. This God is nothing more than a hyper-inflated Hannibal Lecter. Viewed even more rationally, one easily comes to the conclusion that God simply doesn’t exist.

Let’s just assume he’s real and ask ourselves some questions.  If an all powerful God was truly interested in setting the Hebrews free, there must be a nearly infinite number of better ways to do it. I mean, were I an all powerful God who wanted to free my people, I’d just have Archangel Scotty beam them aboard the Good Ship Paradise. No muss. No fuss. Justice is done. But God definitely likes a bit-o-fuss, doesn’t he? In fact, by all the evidence, fuss is what it’s all about.

Let’s stick with the me being God analogy (Truth be told I rather like it.) Let just say I needed to give an object lesson to Egypt so they would know my power and worship me. Why this would acceptable under any circumstances is another matter we will discuss at length in future posts, but for now let us assume this is actually righteous instead of atrocious. We also need to excise all those parts where God makes the Pharaoh stubborn. Face it! That’s just goddamned (pun intended) stupid, not to mention incredibly unfair.  Let’s assume the great God Bundy, that’s me, doesn’t do crap like this. But even with all these moral givens, why in the shit would I think it necessary to torture the entire population instead hitting the person who actually makes the decisions?  With me in charge, this entire affair could have been solved in about six minutes with minimal suffering of the innocent. My Moses would tell the Pharaoh that if he doesn’t let the Hebrews go, I will turn him inside out… slowly. He may actually listen to this warning, but even if he doesn’t, you could be damned sure that Tutankhamun Dumb-Shit-the-SECOND would pay rapt attention to my demands as he stands near the bloody gore of his predecessor. I mean WTF! Let’s use some real power, and, hey, here’s an idea, let’s actually target the guilty.  The genocidal shotguns that Yahweh prefers are so unnecessary.

If there were a perfectly just and merciful god, there would be no horrors in the world. If there were a just yet violent God, rapist’s genitals would burst into flame, child molesters would explode, and murderers would be swallowed by the ground for a slow suffocation. Now if God is  both violent and shit-assed crazy, the world would be pretty much like the Bible says it is. And what a wonderful world it would be, huh?

Ask yourself, which world would you choose?

How about a God-forsaken one?

Yeah Baby! You know what I like!

    • Baconsbud
    • April 25th, 2010

    I have asked many of these same question about the plaques and how the Pharaoh was forced to reject Moses demands. I have more questions about some of the events that happen after the exodus but will wait to see if we have the same questions.

    I always wonder if people who call themselves christians ever really do more then read the bible. If they only read it without trying to understand what it says would explain why they still call themselves christians. I figure most that have questions only go to those within their family or church for answers to them. If they do go outside the church it seems that they go to books that give explanations that is suggested by other christians.

    • You don’t really think they actually read the bible? Do you?

        • Baconsbud
        • April 26th, 2010

        I actually know a few christians that have read the bible but when you start to try and ask questions such as asked in the post, you get this blank stare. Some do read it but they seldom actually think it though.

    • If you\’re looking to buy these artclies make it way easier.

        • Dave
        • December 1st, 2011

        I can’t help myself, I keep coming back and reading this comment over and over. I mean, clearly its complete gibberish. But it just seems to hint vaguely that he may be trying to make a point, if you just study it hard enough you might actually find some meaning to it. Or not.

        I guess the only response would be… Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

    • Z7MYRH ovqdnsikkkyc

    • QEgf1X ebajqyjwspsj

  1. Ahhh but the excuse they so often pull out is that now we have god 2.0 (Jebus) whereas in Egypt Pharaoh was facing god 1.0 (Yahweh) that did not have the compassion upgrade that came with the installation of Jebus. Apparently this nullifies all the horrible things that the Israelites were forced to do to anyone they came across in the desert or the land of Canaan.

    And explains the inconsistent plagues etc…

      • Dave
      • April 27th, 2010

      Unfortunately, that negates the “absolute moral authority” of god. If he can change so drastically, how would someone obey both halves of god’s personality? Or is it thirds, there is a holy ghost (god 3.0?) around somewhere, not sure where he falls on the loving savior/lord genocide scale.

  2. I’ve always assumed God was taking way more credit than he deserved for this. I mean, if you turn a whole river to blood, what’s likely to happen pretty soon after? All sorts of insect will appear and all sorts of diseases. It’d be like living in a a huge sewage farm. So what does God do? Says “oh all them insects, all that disease, that was me too”. Cheatin’ sod!

      • dartigen
      • April 27th, 2010

      This actually makes a ton of sense. It saves effort – maybe not time, but effort! Though the frogs one doesn’t make sense.If he wanted the Egyptians to starve, why let them have frogs? (Yes, I know how some people feel about eating frog, but hey, when you’re starving you’ll eat some pretty weird stuff.)

      • I agree it makes sense, but for god to actually take credit for follow-on plagues is sort of cheating. The cheatin’ old git is taking credit for something that would have happened anyway.

      • Maupin,I too struggled with this when I first began lonikog at Calvinism as they call it. But then I read A.W. Pink’s book The Sovereignty Of God and it was like it all of a sudden it just became clear. That was an excellent read for someone who had been on a 6 year journey trying to find what I truly believed about God, His sovereignty and Myself. I’m not saying I have Arrived with all this, Still struggle with some of it, but I just try to remember that He is sovereign, in control, and perfect, therefore I need not worry about anything ..

  3. Excellent post KK. It’s only recently that I realised there were a) any inconsistencies in that story and b) anything wrong with it morally. Deaing with (b) first, thing is, I was taught it in school in such a matter-of-fact way that I didn’t even think to question if it was right to kill innocents (ditto the flood).

    But as for the inconsistencies: wouldn’t the cattle be dead even before the fifth plague of pestilence? They haven’t had any water to drink! Surely they’d die. And I don’t believe the story about them digging the wells – hard to do manual labour when you’re literally dying of thirst. They had only three days to drill wells, and I don’t see how thirsting (and therefore weak) men could find water sources and manually dig a well in three days. So the cattle would be dead from thirst. The pestilence would be killing them twice. The hailstones three times. And (SPOILER ALERT) the firstborn beasts later, that’s them killed four times! Pretty good going.

    Another point of order: if the Hewbrews’ cattle survived the pestilence, but the Egyptians’ didn’t, then wouldn’t the Egyptians steal the Hewbrews’ cattle? They have superior power, after all, that’s how they got to oppress the Hewbrews (and what are slaves doing owning cattle anyway. Betcha they didn’t)

    And ANOTHER point of order: Moses told the servants of Pharoah to bring the beasts into shelter to save them from the hailstones. a) pretty piss poor plague if you’re given a way to avoid it, and b) nobody told the peasants or anybody not in Pharoah’s immediate circle. Where’s the fairness in that?

    All in all a totally ridiculous, immoral and disgusting story. Just as well it’s only a story!

    • impaktdevices
    • April 27th, 2010

    Baconsbud :
    I actually know a few christians that have read the bible but when you start to try and ask questions such as asked in the post, you get this blank stare. Some do read it but they seldom actually think it though.

    Worse, some think it through pseudo-rationally and come up with all sorts of mind-bending explanations to justify their belief. If you start with a core belief about what is true (ie: that God is, that the Bible is his word) then you will shape and interpret all evidence to the contrary until it supports your view. It’s actually easy to do if you are indoctrinated to think this way from birth.

    This is why it is so difficult to rationalize with many religious people. They are either (a) ignorant of the source material for their beliefs (never read the Bible, just follow the heard), (b) unable to process what they read (what Baconsbud said), or (c) willfully obtuse in their beliefs.

    It is the later type (c) that is especially toxic to society, since this is often where fundamentalism and sectarianism has it’s roots.

    • impaktdevices
    • April 27th, 2010

    Daz :
    I’ve always assumed God was taking way more credit than he deserved for this. I mean, if you turn a whole river to blood, what’s likely to happen pretty soon after? All sorts of insect will appear and all sorts of diseases. It’d be like living in a a huge sewage farm. So what does God do? Says “oh all them insects, all that disease, that was me too”. Cheatin’ sod!

    My brother (a Biologist) has a theory about this. There are algae blooms that are red in color that can suck all of the dissolved oxygen from the water. Such a simple thing would would be a catastrophe for the entire ecosystem. It would kill the fish. It would drive away other forms of life (frogs), who would eventually perish in the hot desert (I doubt the Egyptians were any more hospitable to them). Insects would surge in population as they fed on the carcasses of their only natural predators. With all this death and disease vectors around, humans and animals alike would suffer all manner of ailments, likely culminating in the death of a significant chunk of the population.

    His theory is that a simple red tide kicked off the plagues, and with the food chain in ruins, the Egyptians would be unable to feed any slaves they had and would likely be too weak to keep them by force. It might have even been considered an act of kindness to let them go, since the alternative would have been to starve them to death.

    I asked him: “What about the three days of darkness. Got a theory for that?”

    He replied: “No. But then none of the other shit really happened, either.”

    • impaktdevices :

      I asked him: “What about the three days of darkness. Got a theory for that?”

      They were all blind drunk maybe? After all, they had to drink *something* while the water was bad. :-)

  4. As far as reading it as a story goes, I find myself kind of drawn to the Plague of Darkness. For one thing, it really shows God’s awesome power to the Egyptians in a relatively non-controversial way. No red algae blooms on the Nile, no coincidental locust attack. It also has the benefit of not killing the Egyptians who are supposed to be getting the message. They actually have a chance to respond to the plague without suffering irreversible harm. I might have started out with that one, and then if needed followed up with Three Days of Darkness after an appropriate Booming Voice of Warning. Or something like that.

    • mikekoz68
    • April 27th, 2010

    Wow! This book is so much worse than I thought, wish more people would read it, ALL of it, not just the same parts you hear in weddings and funerals. ( It was nice to see a summation of the nonsense of Genesis at the end) thank-you again for doing this blog as it is much appreciated by myself and I’m sure others out there who, like me, just can’t get through the bible

    • anti_supernaturalist
    • May 1st, 2010

    How to be an anti-supernaturalist: tell xians to stop confusing language with reality
    There are no supernatural phenomena, only supernatural interpretations of phenomena.

    a thought experiment in freedom of conscience you can try at home

    Dare to exercise your Constitutional rights to disbelief and to be free from religion. Welcome from the Anti_Supernaturalist. See what happens when you reject “spiritual discourse,” that is, stop indulging in the linguistic fallacy that every noun (name) is the name of something real. Some useful results:

    First, there exist no supernatural agents, locations, states, or events:

    1. No supernatural agents: minds, souls, spirits, ghosts, godlings, gods, God (Allah, YHVH), cosmic soul, the absolute.
    2. No supernatural locations: hell, purgatory, heaven, buddha realms, moral world order, Platonic world of forms
    3. No supernatural states: the numinous, sin, grace, revelation, life after death, illumination, nirvana, buddha mind.
    4. No supernatural events: mysterium tremendum, redemption, resurrection, rapture, mystical union, karma, or reincarnation.

    Second, nothing alters in nature: not the Universe, the Solar system, the Earth, physical events, biological events, psychological events. Humanity’s supernatural claims say nothing about nature — unless they are treated as testable hypotheses, each falsifiable. The appropriate testing procedures belong to contemporary science — not 17th century Puritan theology, not 13th century RC theology, and not 11th century Muslim religious philosophy.

    Third, nature itself is neither meaningful nor meaningless. Neither a source of comfort, as in natural theology, nor a source of despair, as in existentialism. Both comfort and despair are psychological errors rooted in the same mistaken presupposition that meaning could be found by searching “the starry heavens” for divine agents or by quarrying human inwardness for moral certainties or cosmic “laws”.

    Finally, the existence (or non-existence) of gods is irrelevant to my right to be a member of a secular, open society. Even if the immoral, vicious, paternalistic 1-god of the Big-3 monster theisms could be proven to exist, even if old Tom Paine’s white-washed deistic divinity could be established by Reason — I have the sovereign right to reject any claim that it must be acknowledged, accepted, or worshiped.

    Nouns purporting to refer to supernatural phenomena belong to fiction

    The proper name ‘Sherlock Holmes’ refers to no one. He is not dead; he never was alive. Everything we “know” about Holmes comes from works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His writings are the “sacred” text for all questions concerning the great detective. Of course, adoring fans and authors cannot limit themselves to the “received” text. They want more. Fan fiction, including TV and move scripts, attempts to reimagine him without doing violence to the “real” Holmes. Now, simply substitute ‘Jesus Christ’ for ’Sherlock Holmes’. With minor changes, the truth emerges — Jesus belongs solely to fiction.

    You can no more have a “personal relationship” with Jesus than you can with Mr. Holmes. All of the abstract nouns which purport to refer to supernatural phenomena follow the same script. They refer to nothing. They belong to fiction, often enough dangerous fiction which encourages “true believers” to act out their hatred and violent impulses.

    Have I been understood? There are no supernatural phenomena, only (meaningless) supernatural interpretations of phenomena.

    Faith, the trusting suspension of disbelief, has always been theater of the absurd. As a skeptic, belief in the xian 1-god is beneath me. The de-deification of western culture is our task for the next 100 years.

    the anti_supernaturalist

  5. check out my page on myspace, oh yeah the comment on article,ahhaha ok,yeah yeah yeah,heard it so many times,both sides,get a life,Jews already done said it was all FAKE,they already acknowledged they made up fantastical stories to tell their children,same way the United States schools teach about how they deliver the Indians of American soil and saved them,lol,poor Indians didn’t even know they were lost back then,how dare all of you not fall for the lies,oops I mean not believe in your local parish,HAHAHAHA how can anyone believe in a organization that says,THOU shalt not kill,and turn around and tell all of the people,now go kill them people,God gave you their lands,go kill and receive your rewards from God,,would be a lot less bloody and easier,if the Hebrew God would have just told the other guys,hey I given your land to the Hebrews,you have 30 days to vacate,,you have been served ,lol,na,easier to just kill em all off,plus someone has to feed the buzzrds

    • dewsim
    • April 2nd, 2011

    The frog plague had three things it was suppose to do. (1) By refusing God and allowing more plagues to happen it would have lowered Pharoh’s public image (remember they thought he was a God). (2) After the Isrealites had left Pharoh sent his army to retrieve them or kill them all (after his wife basically called him a wuss) and (3) As the army crossed the Red Sea they were destroyed (It was time for a power change). Wheather you believe the Bible or not isn’t my problem, but look at it this way. If you are right and I’m wrong I’ve lived a good life not harming anyone by following the Bible. BUT if I’m right and you are wrong YOU are in a lot of trouble. End of sermon. Dewsim1

    • Your last point first:

      Dear oh dear. Pascal’s wager again. Do you people not get tired of seeing that debunked?

      1: What if you’re wrong about which god or gods, amongst the thousands worshipped at varying times or places, is the one you should be worshipping?

      2: Can your god not tell whether my belief is a sham, an appeasement? And if not, then he’s not much of a god, is he?

      3: Pascal’s wager offers no new evidence in support of the existence of god(s). Hardly the first tool to reach for if the immediate ‘problem’ is that someone bases their non-belief on the fact of insufficient or no evidence.

      Right, your other points, re the plagues, the drowning of the army etc. Again we come up against the problem that there’s no archaeological evidence, and no other written or oral tradition in support of the Israelites having even been in Egypt, let alone for what would have been a huge ecological disaster, and a massive military setback, to one of the largest and most powerful political entities of the time and place.

      Sorry one more thing. only the Egyptians were affected by the plagues. Any one but them could drink the water.

      Care to enlighten us as to how this is biologically possible, other than for the Egyptians to be genetically isolated to an extremity whose probability would seem … dubious, at best; or an actual separate species?

    • dewsim
    • April 2nd, 2011

    Sorry one more thing. only the Egyptians were affected by the plagues. Any one but them could drink the water.

    • sam
    • November 28th, 2011

    Hello i would like to answer this question in another way

    Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
    Reference: Exodus (Various Verses)http://metrobibleblog.wordpress.com/category/exodus/

    In Exodus 4-14 there are 20 occurrences in which Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. That wouldn’t seem like such a big deal except for the fact that in half of those occurrences it says that the LORD is the one who hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Why would God do that? Doesn’t that seem like the God is manipulating Pharaoh’s will? Doesn’t it seem like he is forcing Pharaoh to do evil, when perhaps he otherwise would have done good? And in the end does God hold Pharaoh responsible for the actions that God himself forced him to do?

    First of all, we need to remember who the bad guy is here. This Pharaoh and his forefathers had subjected the Israelites to cruel slavery for generations. The Egyptians had become one of the richest and most powerful empires of the ancient world. The economic benefit of free labor is not something that Pharaoh would have given up easily (just look at our own country’s history, the emancipation of the Slaves led to the bloodiest war in American History and it was all about economics). So it is safe to say that Pharaoh’s heart is already about as hard as it can get. Furthermore, half of the instances of Pharaoh’s heart being hardened occurred with no mention of God doing the hardening. In other words, this is a guy who had it out for Israel and was determined to defy God at every turn.

    Concerning the trouble with the fact that God prophesies that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 14:4,17) we should keep in mind the nature of God’s prophesies, namely, that they are usually conditional. In other words, God is saying, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart IF he does not do what I say” in which case the issue of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart is already a mutt point, because if Pharaoh doesn’t do what Moses asks him to do (i.e. “Let my people go”) then his heart is hardened, not by God’s doing but by Pharaoh’s own greed, pride, and selfishness (see 1 Samuel 6:6).

    In 2 Chronicles 36 there is another similar situation where it seems like God is pulling the strings of a leader who holds the fate of Israel in his hands. Only in this instance the heart is not hardened, the heart is “stirred”. It says in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 that God “Stirred the heart of Cyrus” to let the people return to Israel after their 70-year exile. This is a situation that we don’t usually call into question because it is much easier to swallow the idea that God would move a leader’s heart to do something good rather than the contrary. So does that mean that in Pharaoh’s situation God pulled the evil string and in Cyrus’s situation God pulled the good string? Not at all. One of the tough things that we need to grapple with is that God is fully sovereign (in control) AND his people have complete free will. If that seems like an impossible combination, then welcome to the bigness and complexity of our God. Unfortunately there is no blog-ready answer for that conundrum.

    Lastly, some people say that God made Pharaoh’s heart hard so that he would have more opportunity to show how great he is. Exodus 9:16 makes it clear that God’s glory was definitely put on display because of the actions of Pharaoh. But while it is true that God’s greatness had an opportunity to be put on display every time Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, that does not mean that God was pulling the strings to make the situation go that way. Certainly God was glorified by his great rescue of his enslaved people from Egypt, but he would have been glorified as well if Pharaoh had let the people go right away, just as was the situation when the Exiled people of Israel returned to Jerusalem from Babylon several generations later. This was a very similar situation, but God was still glorified in that situation just as he was glorified during the exodus from Egypt. Pharaoh was making his own decisions, and even then God was glorified.

    All this to say, Pharaoh had a free will and with that free will he made his heart very hard. The only thing that God did to ‘harden’ Pharaoh’s heart was to say through Moses “Let my people go!” An unwelcome command that made Pharaoh very grumpy. Often times our hearts become hard when God asks us to do things that we don’t want to do, but that doesn’t mean that God is the one making our hearts heard. That’s a bad decision that we make all by ourselves.


      • Mary2
      • November 29th, 2011

      Wow. Those are some amazing contortions you go through there.

      I suggest you read Exodus again. It is God himself who says he will harden Pharaoh’s heart so he can show off his power (pity he had to kill all those innocent babies to do it [again]).

      We have to remember who the bad guy is? God has already committed mass murder and genocide several times up to this
      point. He also has the power to release the Hebrews from
      slavery any time he chooses but refuses to do so. What would you call someone who watches something very nasty happen
      but refuses to help?

      As for the paragraphs in which you attempt to explain how God could harden Pharaoh’s heart while still leaving him free will – lol.

    • Daz
    • November 29th, 2011

    This Pharaoh and his forefathers had subjected the Israelites to cruel slavery for generations.

    What ‘cruel slavery’? If we go by the standards of the time, remembering that all bronze- and iron-aged cultures kept slaves—from the Celts to the Assyrians, to the Egyptians, to the Israelites themselves—would you care to enlighten as to why the Egyptian practice of slave-keeping should be considered any more cruel than, say for instance, the Israelite practice of slave-keeping?

    Furthermore, if your god is all-powerful, then it was he who allowed such practices in the first place.

      • Mary2
      • November 30th, 2011

      Yeah Daz, that is what I dont get. God allows his chosen people to remain slaves for 400 years and then, all of a sudden, decides that it is so imperative they are freed that he intentionally prevents Pharaoh from freeing them – not once, but several times.

      As an aside, the Jehovahs Witnesses bible does not mention this. Where every other edition says God hardened Pharaohs heart, theirs says God allowed Pharaohs heart to harden.

    • sam
    • November 29th, 2011

    1st of all God didn’t kill all the babies in the river Pharaoh did.

    2nd Pharaoh’s heart hardened against the isrealites was also that Pharaoh beleived himself that he was God and if the isrealites “God” was saying he was more powerful then he was.

    3rd the reason that this slavery was worse was because of the story of Joeseph, the reason that the Israelites were in egypt.

    4th we are given a choice what good is a yes if there is no option for no? God gives everyone the choice to do what is good and right and to love him because if you program a robot to love you then does it really love you. It had no choice just as a person hates a dictator so would we hate God if he did not give us a choice.

      • Mary2
      • November 30th, 2011

      But we do not have a choice. If we do not accept god we go to hell. That is like a mugger with a gun giving us a ‘choice’ to hand over our purse.

    • You seem to be missing the point somewhat. God, if we are to believe this dribble, hardened the Pharaoh’s heart. Yahweh caused the Pharaoh’s actions, by not allowing him to pursue the more lenient course he would have taken if Yahweh had left him to his own devices.

      Re the point I mentioned earlier, you still haven’t explained why the Egyptian institution of slavery should be considered any more cruel than that of the Israelites or any other culture of the time. Your allusion to Joseph makes no sense. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, which is pretty cruel (though I’d bet it happened fairly regularly when siblings wanted to get an inconvenient heir out of the way), but that doesn’t seem to point to any unusual cruelty on the Pharaoh’s part.

    • Andrew
    • November 29th, 2011

    The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt”. Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

    This passage tells you why “so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt” He did this so that you may see his power so that none may doubt him.

      • napthaman@yahoo.com
      • November 30th, 2011


      Bible god has self-esteem issues and repeatedly tries to ameliorate his insecurities by setting out to prove that he’s the biggest BAMF on the planet — it’s Yah’s way or the highway.

        • Mary2
        • December 1st, 2011


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