Monday, January 28, 2008

A tough customer -- or a dumb one

You probably know the story: Moses and Aaron go to Pharoah king of Egypt. "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: Let my people go," they say, and Pharoah is unimpressed.

"Who is the Lord?" he says. "I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go." (Exodus 5:1-2).

That was dumb but understandable. Today's reading makes me think Pharoah was more than dumb:
He (Aaron) raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh's heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.
from Exodus 7:20-22
I found this astonishing. Moses and Aaron created an ecological catastrophe, and what did Pharoah do to prove his superiority? Did he reverse it? Oddly, he has his staff do more of the same.

Now why was this a Good Idea?
  • God says, "Let my people go."
  • Pharoah says, "I won't and you can't make me."
  • God says, "If you don't, I will ruin your country"
  • Pharoah says, "Ha! I can do that too!"
then the country is ruined (but I'm getting ahead of myself).

Here's my take on it: Pharoah is locked into his position. He's trying to show how tough he is -- that is, testosterone, rather than his brain, is doing his thinking. Put differently, he's in a power struggle. This struggle makes him stupid.

Have you done that? I certainly have -- arguing with somebody about something and at some point realizing the other person is right, but continuing to argue anyway because that was my position. Dumb? Yeah. Unique? Nope; it's been going on for over 3000 years.

May God help us to have soft hearts, so that we can turn toward him in repentance where needed, rather than running from him in denial!

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