Bible in a Year – Day 20: God’s Pawn?
The interactions between Pharaoh and Moses make up one of the most famous stories in the Bible. This story has been depicted in movies, satirized in comic strips and used by Sunday School teachers around the world as a warning for what happens when you mess with God. But a closer examination of the story suggests that there’s something deeper happening here – something more complex and nuanced that is taking place.
There are two things that jump out to me in these verses. First, God tells Moses exactly what’s going to happen. Now, admittedly, that’s not a huge feat for the all-knowing God. But there’s something about the way he says it that sounds a little less like “I’ve looked into my crystal ball and here’s what I’ve seen” and a little more like “Here’s the plan I drew up.” In fact, God tells Moses that he (meaning God) will harden Pharaoh’s heart. In other words, God doesn’t say, “but Pharaoh is a fool and a wicked man and won’t listen.” Instead, God says that he will play an active role in making sure that Pharaoh doesn’t listen. So, does that mean that Pharaoh is just a pawn in God’s little game?
Perhaps, but Pharaoh’s not exactly an innocent bystander either. In fact, it’s Pharaoh’s own ego and illusions of grandeur that cause him the most trouble. Moses and Aaron come to him with their staff-into-a-snake routine and he shows them that his hired guns can do the same. (It was a strange and different world back then!) OK, no harm, no foul. Aaron’s snake swallowed up the others and then, presumably re-formed itself into a staff. (I wonder if the re-formed staff had grown in size after eating all those snakes.)
Then, Pharoah’s ego starts to get the best of him. When Aaron succeeds in turning the waters of Egypt into blood, Pharaoh again calls in his minions and we’re told that they “did the same things.” Now, I’m not sure what water they turned to blood, since Aaron seemed to have already taken care of it all. Maybe it was just water in a jug or something. At any rate, here is Aaron performing a miracle which is destructive to the Egyptian people – contaminating their water supply – and in his egomania, Pharaoh asks his men to perform the same destructive act. A sensible ruler would have, perhaps, asked his magicians to turn the blood back to water. But Pharaoh is anything but sensible.
He has a God-complex and more money and pride than he has sense. He has surrounded himself with people who have convinced him that he is essentially a deity – that he is all-powerful. And so, when someone comes to him with a claim that there is this God who is more powerful than he, Pharaoh has no choice (in his mind) but to prove that he is up to the challenge. Here is a man who would rather kill his own people than to admit defeat, not unlike many of the tyrannical dictators in the world today.
And so, did God use him as a pawn in a story that would be told and retold as a prophetic and legendary symbol of both the past and the future? Sure! Did Pharaoh make any attempt to buck against the role he was asked to play? Not a chance. God, I guess, allows us to be who we are, for better or worse, and makes it all work for his plan.
- Bible in a Year – Day 319: Make the Most of It
- Bible in a Year – Day 282: Divorce Realities
- Bible in a Year – Day 132: Fiery Flashback
- Bible in a Year – Day 79: A Little Clarification
- Bible in a Year – Day 77: Be Inspired
- Bible in a Year – Day 70: Parting, Part 2
- Bible in a Year – Day 69: A Dying Leader
- Bible in a Year – Day 68: Big Shoes
- Bible in a Year – Day 67: God’s Got a Secret
- Bible in a Year – Day 65: Watch Your Step