God Hardened Pharaoh's Heart

In the Exodus story there are a series of plagues and after the first five plagues scripture says that Pharaoh hardened his heart. However, the next several plagues scripture says that God hardened Pharaoh'‘s heart. It has always bothered me that God do such a thing. Part of the reason there are plagues to begin with is because of Pharaoh’s hard heart and here it seems God is participating in an act that not only leads to a harder heart but more plagues.

Origen of Alexandria wrote the following in the third book of De Principiis "...the sun, by one and the same power of its heat, melts wax indeed, but dries up and hardens mud not that its power operates one way upon mud, and in another way upon wax; but that the qualities of mud and wax are different, although according to nature they are one thing, both being from the earth" 

All hearts are made from the earth and through out actions that earthen heart is changed. It is changed to be more like mud or more like wax. Pharaoh acted in such a way that his earthen heart became more mud than wax.

Photo by  Samantha Lynch  on  Unsplash

Photo by Samantha Lynch on Unsplash

When the grace of God shines down on the earth, some hearts melt. Others harden. It is not because the grace of God is different for one heart to the next, but that each heart responds to this amazing grace differently. Some, like Moses, experience the Grace of God and their heart melts. These hearts can hear the people cry out for liberation and salvation. These hearts are moved to action to work on behalf of the oppressed and forgotten.

Some, like Pharaoh, experience the Grace of God and their heart hardens. These hearts can hear the cry of the people and then justify why the status quo should remain. These hearts are moved, more often than not, to inaction toward the oppressed and forgotten.

God does not harden or melt hearts. Hearts and both harden and melt when the God’s grace shines over them.

Easter Echos Genesis? Sure. But, Don't Overlook Exodus Echos.

It is a common (and frankly very good) on Easter Sunday to explore the echos of a new creation being born with the raising of Jesus Christ (here is a great sermon by my co-pastor on this very idea. Here is another sermon by a friend on this idea). The Gospel of John has many callbacks to the book of Genesis found in the Resurrection story. Here are a few of the more obvious: 

  • It was the first day of the week (in the beginning)
  • It was still dark (the light had not come yet)
  • Jesus and Mary (man and woman) are in a garden
  • Jesus is seen as a gardener (God as creator)

All of this, and much more in the story, points to the resurrection of Jesus marking the beginning of a new creation. If we are in a place where we long for a fresh start, a new beginning and a rebirth or renewal, then Easter as a new creation is Good News. 

I would take a moment to point out that Genesis is not the only book that the Resurrection story in the Gospel of John echos. Looking at the same story, but through the eyes of Exodus, we can see Easter as a new liberation. Here are some (possible) overt connections:

  • The whole story begins with the Passover feast (perhaps the most obvious connection)
  • At the tomb, there are two angels, one at the head and one at the foot, of where Jesus was laid (similar to the arc of the covenant with two angels forming the seat of God)
  • People bow down to enter the tomb (the High Priest would bow prior to entering the Holy of Holies)
  • There was a thick curtain that marked off the Holy of Holies from the rest of the sanctuary space (not unlike a tome with a rock placed in front of it)

Of course there are the other connections of Jesus to Moses in other parts of the Gospel, but none more world changing than the connection that, like Moses, Jesus liberates us. While the story of Moses highlights the liberation from slavery, the story of Jesus highlights the liberation from slavery to sin and death.

Yes, the echos of Genesis are present and strong in the Easter story, but don't overlook the Exodus echos. Don't overlook the Good News that God is not only doing a "new thing" but is also working to liberate us from the "old thing". It is very difficult to live in the new when we hold onto the old (thus Jesus tells Mary not to hold onto him in the Easter story). 

God: The Grudge Bearer

"Why does God hold a grudge?" She asked after the class read a portion of Exodus 34. 

"What do you mean?" Asked another in the class. 

She replied, "We just read in Exodus 34, ‘the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’" 

The class was silent. Everyone wondering how it could be that Jesus commands us to forgive seventy time seven but God is allowed to hold a grudge for a few generations. 

"I guess that is the difference between God of the Old Testament and God of the New Testament. There is more grudge holding by God before Jesus." One of the voices stated with confidence while overlooking the supersessionism that often clouds our Christian responses. 

We often forget that the Bible is a product of the human experience and a response to evolving Hanuka consciousness. The Bible is a text in tension with itself because human consciousness is less like a light switch and more like a dimmer switch

I would submit that God is not holding a grudge but in fact this is a new understanding of God that is very good news to the people of the time. 

In the time of Moses, time was thought to be a circle. What happened in this life happened before and will happen again. History repeats itself and so if you messed up, then is was in part because your parents messed up, and your children will mess up because of your mistake. Therefore mistakes live forever.

It is in this world that understanding of God shifts and the consequences of a mistake are limited to a few generations. Perhaps not the most forgiving news to our ears, in the days of this original insight, this was liberating. There was end in sight for your mistakes and you were not haunted forever by your family's past. Understanding time shifts from a "circle" that repeats to a "line" that moves forward and progresses. 

As human consciousness has continued to move forward and our understanding of God has grown, it seems crazy today that God would hold a grudge for a few generations. But as dramatic as it is for us to move from holding a grudge for a few generations to forgiving seventy times seven, so too is it dramatic for us to move from mistakes haunting us forever to  only a few generations.

If you cannot forgive seventy times seven, then can you at least put a time limit your grudge or will you hold it forever? 

Source: http://www.bricktestament.com/exodus/the_f...

Moses kills a bunch of people in the name of God?

Participating in a Bible study this week and these verses came into the conversation:

25 When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, ‘Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me!’ And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 He said to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor.” 28 The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. 29 Moses said, ‘Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.’ 30 On the next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.’ 33 But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.’ 35 Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf—the one that Aaron made.

Kinda messed up. 

First off, it is worth noting in previous verses God wanted to destroy the people but then Moses talks God into changing God's mind. And so in verse 14 God changes God's mind and does not consume the people. 

But then you get Moses coming down the mountain and seeing all this "running wild" and gets those who are on "God's side" to kill those who are not on "God's side". Of course Moses commands all this under the declaration of "Thus says the Lord." Again, God just changed God's mind, God will not destroy the people. 

Could it be that this action, is the sin of Moses? Moses calls for a killing of people in order to purify the ranks and then tells the now 'pure' people, "Hey the sin we saw happen was rather big and we destroyed the people who were the problem. I will go up and talk with God to make an atonement and set all this right again. Just wait here." 

Moses goes up and says to God - please forgive us as we sat by and allowed this golden calf to be created. If you would not forgive us, then kill me as a way to appease your anger. 

God says - Moses, I will take care of those who sin against me in my own way (whatever it means to be blotted from the book), I will punish them through a plague. In case you forgot I said I did not want to destroy the people then you go down and kill all these people! What the heck are you doing?! This is not what I said and here you go putting my seal on your actions. I do not desire these people to die, but it seems you did.  


I know I am taking some artistic licence here, but I struggle with the idea that God says God will not destroy then Moses goes down and kills 3000 people in the name of God. Did Moses sin and kill a bunch of people in the name of God?