A Question About the Book of Exodus

 

PlaguesI’m listening to the Book of Exodus and I have a question. Okay, so God pops off these plagues. Then Pharaoh is ready to cry uncle a couple of times, but God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. The part I don’t get is: Why?  

It seems really counterproductive to the overall plan.

Can anybody shed some light on this for me?

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  1. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    I’ve wondered about that myself.  I wonder if there are alternate translations that make more sense?

    • #1
  2. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    Best comprehensive and intellectually responsible approach is as follows:

    1) Go to the website of WebYeshiva (webyeshiva.org)

    2) Register

    3) Under “Staff,” look up “Rabbi Yedidya Rausman”

    4) Under Rav Rausman’s profile, there is a list of archived online courses he’s taught — click on “Sefer Shmot: The Ten Plagues” (“Sefer Shmot,” literally “The Book of Names,” is Exodus)

    5) On this course-archive page, there’s an orange-y “Add This Shiur” button (“shiur” can mean “lesson” and also “course”) — click on this to be registered specifically for accessing the archive files for this course

    6) When you registered for WebYeshiva (at Step 2), a page was created for you (probably called “My WebYeshiva”), listing the various current and/or archived courses you’ve specifically signed up/registered for — the Rav Rausman course on the Plagues in Exodus should be visible on your list, which is confirmation that you can indeed access the archive files for the course

    (comment continues)

    • #2
  3. user_891102 Member
    user_891102
    @DannyAlexander

    (comment continuation)

    7) As you can see, you are able now to  download and use the course/lecture archive files in 3 formats, “Video” (generic Mp4), “Webex” (.arf), and Mp3 audio-only

    8) If you’re willing to deal with a bit of additional bother downloading, etc. (i.e., you have to get a piece of web-conference archive-file-playback freeware from Cisco), I would say as a personal-preference matter that the Webex format is the “cleanest” in terms of display

    9) If you already have some kind of Mp4 player installed (e.g., RealPlayer or somesuch), the generic “Video” format should suffice for downloading/playback

    10) Either way, again this is of course a personal-preference thing, but going with either video type is IMHO superior over the Mp3 audio-only archive files, inasmuch as you see simultaneously the instructor, the Exodus text (English and Hebrew original), plus discussion comments from those who were online for the lectures at their original/live time

    11) All of the above is gratis

    12) It’s vital to grasp the original Hebrew text, plus what the insights are from the ancient rabbinical commentators (Rashi and others), since they were closest to the original tradition-transmitters

    • #3
  4. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    anonymous:

    From the commentary in The Schocken Bible: The Five Books of Moses (p. 254):

    The Plague Narrative is a recounting of God’s power, and Pharaoh’s stubbornness, which starts out as a matter of will, eventually becomes impossible to revoke.

     Reading Job chapters 38-41 is a pretty good set of further reading on the moral importance of God’s power in Old Testament theodicy.
    For me, the plagues are one of many places where I look at the issue, furrow my brows, and then accept that God’s ways are not my ways, his thoughts not my thoughts, and that I should come to him as a small child, and accept that where I don’t understand what’s happening, it will often be the case that this is because I’m too dumb to understand. 

    • #4
  5. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Fred,

    My retired-military-chaplain/Scripture-major-in-seminary pastor describes the plagues as proofs of the dominance of the God of Israel over the various (represented by the instrument of each plague) gods of Egypt…Israel’s existential choice periodically involves freedom vs. slavery – as in a “return to Egypt”.  Thanks for asking!

    • #5
  6. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    My Bible’s notes (Reformation Study Bible, ESV translation, so Calivinistic) is that Pharaoh hardens his heart in the first 5 plagues, and is willfully obstinate.  In plague 6, Pharaoh hardens his heart again, and God also hardens Pharaoh’s heart.  This is a transition from God chastising Pharaoh to God making a point.  The first 3 plagues God was just demonstrating that he was more powerful than Egypt, and that Pharaoh should therefore listen.  Pharaoh doesn’t.  In the second three plagues, God was demonstrating that he could destroy Egypt and leave Israel alone, and so Pharaoh should listen.  Pharaoh doesn’t.  So in Plagues 7, 8, and 9 God smashes Egypt to make the point that He is God, Pharaoh is not, and therefore Pharaoh should obey, but since he has not he will be punished.  This culminates in the Passover, where only the spilling of blood in repentance and obedience is enough to stop God’s judgment.

    The escalation, then, is like parking a carrier off Egypt’s coast.  Followed by a blockade.  Followed by buzzing the capital with fighters.  Finally followed by airstrikes.  By the latter stages, it’s no longer about the slaves.

    • #6
  7. user_23747 Member
    user_23747
    @

    The plagues showed God’s power over the false gods of the Egyptians.
    The Passover foreshadows eternal salvation.  The final plague would kill all the firstborn sons in Egypt. For the people who trust in God, redemption was offered with the sacrifice of a perfect lamb.

    • #7
  8. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Additionally, the repetition of “Pharaoh hardened his heart” and “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” is taken as symbolic that the sinful nature is both willful and innate, and that Pharaoh was incapable of obedience without Divine assistance -which he would not accept (since he rejected Moses 5 times).  The substitution of the lamb for the first born is symbolic of the substitution of Christ for our own sins, but only those chosen by God will do it.  General lamb sacrifice doesn’t protect everyone, only those who accept the sacrifice by marking their doors with the blood.  Pharaoh could not accept the substitution, and also chose not to -and therefore was punished.  But in this case the punishment was to show God’s glory and justice after 2 centuries of slavery that others might learn the lesson.  I think Prince of Egypt got the sense right: “I will stretch out My hand and smite Egypt with all My wonders.”

    • #8
  9. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    There is a deep question of free will: How could God make Pharaoh do something he was not otherwise inclined to do?

    Note that in the ancient and medieval world, the heart — not the brain — was generally considered the seat of thought. What God did by “hardening his heart” was to remove the emotion — the residual terror of the recently-experienced plagues — so that Pharaoh would be left to make a rational calculation based on his values. Then it became Pharaoh’s decisionmaking, and his alone, that led him to reject God’s word and bring disaster on Egypt.

    • #9
  10. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    The Pharaoh didn’t “know” the Hebrew G-d, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had to be made aware that the invisible G-d of the Hebrews was more powerful than all the false gods of the Egyptians and other gods of other countries the Pharaoh knew about. He had to be absolutely convinced of G-d’s power. It took some convincing. Remember that Pharaoh believed he was a God-King, and deemed his power along with his magicians were as powerful as the Hebrew G-d. And even after he let the Hebrews go, he gathered an army to get them back. Even to the very last, unable to succumb to the power of G-d.

    • #10
  11. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    There are several reasons why G-d hardens Pharoah’s heart.

    One of them is referred to above: G-d shows His supremacy over all the Egyptian deities, and that requires all ten plagues.

    Another reason is that Pharoah limits the Free Will of the Jews six times, and so he is punished by having his Free Will constrained six times as well.  

    The purpose of the Exodus was not merely for the Jews to leave.  Had they merely snuck out under cover of night, G-d would not have achieved His purposes  vis a vis the Egyptians, the Jews, and for posterity.

    • #11
  12. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    As to why Egypt had to be utterly destroyed through the plagues: The Children of Israel (and the rest of the world) had to see that God had brought them out of Egypt, and that they owed nothing whatsoever to the generosity of Pharaoh. For the Children of Israel, any lingering indebtedness to Pharaoh for releasing them would have resulted in a lingering psychological reliance on him, which would have prevented them from ever becoming a free people.

    • #12
  13. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    If God was omniscient, he would have known that many of the things he tried with humans would fail and yet did them anyway. 

    I guess if we really understood God and his motivations and thinking we would be on his level.

    • #13
  14. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Interpreting the Bible metaphysically, Fred, each “character” represents something within each of us: a state of consciousness, an emotional state, etc.  So, my first suggestion would be to start here: Metaphysical Bible Dictionary: Pharaoh.

    • #14
  15. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    EJHill

    If God was omniscient, he would have known that many of the things he tried with humans would fail and yet did them anyway.

    I guess if we really understood God and his motivations and thinking we would be on his level.

    EJ – The Torah does not say that G-d is omniscient. And Genesis says that we ARE on His level – except that we are limited by our mortality. I take this asn explanation for why we can explain and understand every part of divine creation (the natural world).

    • #15
  16. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Fred,

    Gd does not harden Pharaoh’s heart for the first five plagues.  If Pharaoh had relented during this time everything would have been acceptable.  However, after the first five Gd has had enough of Pharaoh and has decided to use him as an example to show the power of faith over secular power.

    You know let’s say after Obama’s first five major scandals and Obama does not change.  Gd decides that for the next five he is going to make Obama double down on his policy of avoiding responsibility.  This sets Obama up for the fall.  He can not help but appear to be engaging in Faithless Execution.

    Sort of like that.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #16
  17. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Matt White:

    The plagues showed God’s power over the false gods of the Egyptians. The Passover foreshadows eternal salvation. The final plague would kill all the firstborn sons in Egypt. For the people who trust in God, redemption was offered with the sacrifice of a perfect lamb.

     Right.  I totally got that.

    It just seems that God has already made his point by then.  He’s more powerful than the false Egyptian gods and Pharoah’s magicians.  So P cries uncle.  But God hardens his heart anyway so he can pop off the big one.  I don’t know.  It just seems like an excessive use of force.

    • #17
  18. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    EJHill:

    If God was omniscient, he would have known that many of the things he tried with humans would fail and yet did them anyway.

    I guess if we really understood God and his motivations and thinking we would be on his level.

     That’s reasoning I can understand.  However, that sounds like a special pleading to me.  

    • #18
  19. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Son of Spengler:

    There is a deep question of free will: How could God make Pharaoh do something he was not otherwise inclined to do?

    Note that in the ancient and medieval world, the heart — not the brain — was generally considered the seat of thought. What God did by “hardening his heart” was to remove the emotion — the residual terror of the recently-experienced plagues — so that Pharaoh would be left to make a rational calculation based on his values. Then it became Pharaoh’s decisionmaking, and his alone, that led him to reject God’s word and bring disaster on Egypt.

     I took hardening his heart in a different way, I guess.  I took it as removing compassion.  So God does all this stuff, Pharoah sees the light re the Jews, and he’s like Okay, you can bail.  But then God steps in and removed the compassion.

    • #19
  20. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    On the other hand, from Pharoah’s PoV, the rational thing to do, since his opponent (God) has him seriously outclassed and isn’t afraid to drop mass destruction on him, once that is clearly demonstrated, Pharoah is acting rationally by releasing the Jews.

    So what God is doing is not removing emotion, but rationality. He’s hrdening his heat, his resolve, the way one steels one’s self, steels one’s courage, before a battle.

    • #20
  21. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    A little later, God also steps in an hardens the hearts of the Egyptians so they engage in hot persuit of the Jews, setting them up to be wiped out when the Red Sea closes on them.

    Same deal: Why?

    • #21
  22. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Fred, You should really consider engaging this guy with your questions:

    Deep Misunderstandings about the Bible.

    If you watch (~7 minutes), you’ll hear him say he doesn’t recommend just picking up the Bible and reading it. I know, I know. Lot’s of Protestants will protest Barron’s admonition. But, what he’s saying holds true for all kinds of books (libraries of books). If you really want to understand a text, it’s best to read it within an interpretative tradition for a better, more complete exegesis.

    I’m not sure you understand the philosophical/theological underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian God as a fundamentally non-violent Creator (~7 minutes), utterly unique in this way from every other god. You might say, He’s the first (and Best) Libertarian. I recommend you explore that theological theme in the history of Western thinking before you read Exodus again.

    For a shortcut, here’s Catholic Answers on your question.

    • #22
  23. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    Pharoah is also a deity. Gd needed to top him as well, and to do it with witnesses. That is why it happens at Peor and Horus.

    • #23
  24. user_280840 Inactive
    user_280840
    @FredCole

    Western Chauvinist:

    You might say, He’s the first (and Best) Libertarian. 

    That may be the case.  God is certainly unambigiously pro-cannabis.

    • #24
  25. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Western Chauvinist:

    If you watch (~7 minutes), you’ll hear him say he doesn’t recommend just picking up the Bible and reading it. I know, I know. Lot’s of Protestants will protest Barron’s admonition. But, what he’s saying holds true for all kinds of books (libraries of books). If you really want to understand a text, it’s best to read it within an interpretative tradition for a better, more complete exegesis.

    I may not be one of those Protestants, but I basically agreed with Barron with following caveat.  It is entirely possible to read the Bible, just like it is entirely possible to read Hamlet or Moby Dick.  Certainly you will get more out of it, though, if you have some understanding of what you are reading.  I like a line I’ve heard a few times from different pastors: “reading the Bible literally means reading the figurative parts figuratively.”

    Archeology and Classical literature help explain what the ancient writers meant.  For example, that ancients didn’t count ages in years, but expressed years based on significance.  Important events take 10 years, period.  Knowing that, Genesis 47:9 makes a lot more sense.

    • #25
  26. iWc Coolidge
    iWc
    @iWe

    I believe, most strongly, that the Torah can be read absolutely straight. The only filter that needs applying is keeping in mind what the Torah is FOR, because it is not a history or economics or anthropology text.

    The Torah is a guidebook for a relationship with G-d, for giving meaning to our lives. When read that way, and with the presupposition that every word is divine in origin, the text reveals its secrets.

    • #26
  27. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    iWc: The Torah is a guidebook for a relationship with G-d, for giving meaning to our lives. When read that way, and with the presupposition that every word is divine in origin, the text reveals its secrets.

     Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear!

    • #27
  28. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    iWc said:
    “The Torah does not say that G-d is omniscient.”

    Deuteronomy 29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

    How about Job, or Psalms, or the Prophets?   They have a few things to say about the omnicience of G-d.

    • #28
  29. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    iWc said:
    “Genesis says that we ARE on His level – except that we are limited by our mortality.”

    That statement is begging for an explanation.   Is this a common teaching among the various Jewish groups, or it related to a specific school of thought?

    • #29
  30. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    The Bible’s lessons are timeless — as are, for Jews, its commandments — but it is rich with metaphorical language, which is grounded in a time and place. To understand a Shakespearean metaphor sometimes requires understanding a little bit of Shakespearean life and language. In the same way, layering a modern heart metaphor on a pre-Harvey text is unlikely to yield greater understanding.

    • #30
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