Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ex 10 for Jan 30

In the story of the conflict between Pharaoh and Moses in Exodus 10 the details are very much contributory, but God's purposes continue to be explained as well.

We had already seen by Ex 8 a new detail, the making of distinctions between Pharaoh's servants and people, and God's (8:21-23). This "division between My people and your people" is reflected in some of the further plagues (9:11; 9:26), but Ex 9:20 stands out as an important detail about a moral aspect of the distinction.

These distinctions made by God (10:23; 11:7) or regarding God (9:21) are understandable also as demonstrations of God's mastery. Pharaoh attempts to mimic this by unsuccessfully trying to make some empty stipulations of his own (10:10; 10:24).

The narrative is very deliberately repetitive in its details about the hardness and hardening of Pharaoh's heart (10:27; 11:10). As a preview, in the original time with Moses, God announces to Moses "I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion ... after that he will let you go." (3:19-20). Very early, before Moses' meeting with the elders and the first meeting with Pharaoh, God tells Moses that he will harden Pharaoh's heart (4:21).

Pharaoh hardens his own heart (8:15; repeatedly, perhaps in each case, 8:32). God holds Pharaoh responsible (7:16; 8:29; 9:2; 9:7; 9:17; 9:30), even though He hardens Pharaoh's heart. And our chapter for today's One Year Bible adds Pharaoh's servants to the puzzle! (10:1-2). Yet they too are responsible: "As for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear before the Lord God." (9:30). God through Moses asks Pharaoh directly, "how long will you refuse ...?" (10:3; cf. 9:2).

Part of the explanation from the text regarding the meaning of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart comes in the two purposes God mentions in today's chapter: "I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, [1] that I may perform these signs of Mine among them." That's the first reason God gives. Then He adds "and [2] that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD." (10:2). Yet it is not all for mockery.

We cannot be anachronistic from the point of view of thousands of years later, knowing the fame of the event and the story here and in the rest of the Bible. We cannot say "well of course God can demonstrate mastery over Egypt. Look at subsequent history!" We can't say in the first or second inning, "of course they won; look at the final score!"

So far, Genesis has been about the activity of God, beginning with Creation itself; it included His providence over the whole world (Gen 9:17), and in Egypt (Gen 50:20). With the patriarchs His activity was providential, but mostly interpersonal. The goal for these events in Exodus would not alone be for His people, nor alone to keep His promises, nor alone to show His making a distinction between His people and others, .... Not only to mock Egypt, but also for Egypt: "so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth" (Ex 9:14).

Why teach Egypt? The saying is that bad news travels fast. God wanted it to also travel far. God's providential care under Joseph, for Egypt, may have been forgotten (Ex 1:8). But in these events God's name may have been more successfully spread: "in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." (9:16).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your emphasis, in the last paragraph, on God broadcasting His glory through His actions in Egypt. As we heard yesterday (in a Spanish service), God is the only Being in the universe whose contemplation of his own glory is perfectly appropriate -- God loves to make known how great He is, and He invites us to join in contemplating His greatness!


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