Monday, May 22, 2006

The LORD thy God, which have brought thee out (Exod 7:1-13)

Sheesh, I've gone so long without posting here, I thought I was still on chapter 6. I was reading Exodus 6 yesterday, and I looked in the study notes of the Bible I was reading, and it had a possible explanation for the "Did Abraham know God's name?" issue. I don't know if I mentioned this fact yet, but often in the Bible, the word "name" is used to mean not so much the proper noun by which one would refer to a person, but rather to mean "reputation". This sort of thing is still in use these days from time to time, actually, such as the time that Paula Jones said that she wanted to "clear her name". At that time, I remember hearing a comedian say, "What, you mean the name that nobody had ever heard of until you brought charges against the President?" Funny, but hopefully people knew what she meant.

But back to the present, er, well, about 4,000 years ago rather. I've decided that I need to power through this chapter even if I can't quite do it justice, just for the sake of moving on and getting back on track before my other blog distracts me full-time again in July, where I'm planning a series on the Founding Fathers, politics, civil rights, and the separation of church and state. We'll see.

So, first issue here. Actually, a number of related issues that all intertwine throughout this chapter, starting in verse 3. Who hardened Pharaoh's heart? Was it God, or Pharaoh? My answer? Both. This is not only the answer that I touched on back in chapter 4, but the reason I added the "Exodus interlude" before attacking this chapter way back when. This is one of God's most important works in the Bible. He keeps referring back to this event time and time again, and it's that name/reputation thing I said above that it's all about. For the nation of Israel, God makes a short description of this event virtually a part of His name as it is a part of His character. How many times in the Old Testament does God refer to Himself not just as "God" or "the LORD" but "the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt", or some variant thereof? In the New Testament, the resurrection may be the most important thing, but this is #1 in the Old without a doubt. Hopefully the two previous posts I have linked to here answer any questions about these larger issues of the book as a whole (whether you agree with my answers or not.)

Now the SAB moves on to label many of the miracles from the next few chapters, be they showy tricks or larger plagues, as absurdities. Okay, sure, these are weird events, odd stuff. But I think as I have implied since the beginning of the blog, these are not at all absurd in context. If God's on Moses' side and God is all-powerful, then turning staffs into snakes is an easy thing, as is turning water into blood. (There's probably some possible New Testament symbolism there, as the first plague is turning water into blood, while Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine, which he later used as a symbol for blood. It's interesting to me once again that turning water into wine is not marked as absurd in that chapter. I'm not sure what the difference is.) In fact, not only can Aaron and Moses do this trick, but Pharaoh's men can do it, too. Aaron's serpent eats the others, which is no doubt symbolic of God's power being stronger than theirs despite their ability to do this trick.

Now Pharaoh's heart is hardened, and the plagues begin. I'm going to close this post, because I think the first nine plagues deserve a post all their own.


Steve Wells said...

Brucker: “It's interesting to me once again that turning water into wine is not marked as absurd in that chapter. I'm not sure what the difference is.”

The difference is this, Brucker: one is nice, famous, and familiar; the other is weird, unknown, and nasty. But then I guess you think both were equally cool since they were done by your awesome god. Water to wine, water to blood, wine to blood. It’s all the same to a bible-believer whose heart has been hardened by the god of Exodus.

But you’re right. I should add John 2:9 to the absurdities. And I have done so. I often miss the ones that have become so familiar that they seem almost believable, even to skeptics. Please let me know if I’ve missed any others. (I need another 8 or so to have 1000 absurdities marked in the Bible.)

Brucker said...

I didn't know you were looking for a good round number! I imagine if you've already found nearly 1,000 it shouldn't be too hard to find the last few to round it off.

You know, it's funny. just yeasterday I was reading a book in which a theologian was talking about scientific theories that seem to contradict the Bible. When addressing one theory in particular, he said that he thought it was silly. He then when on to bolster his silliness case by quoting two or three atheist scientists who agreed it was silly. Then he moved on to the next subject.

I re-read it, and realized that while he had made a strong case for silliness, he had really done nothing to show that the theory was false. Some things are silly, but happen to be true nonetheless.

Brucker said...

I notice that you didn't include my suggested absurdity from Exodus 1. Look for the bit at the end about the midwives.