God doesn’t pull any punches in Exodus 9. If anything, between the livestock-slaying pestilence, the flesh sores, and the hailstorm, he ups the ante. And as I read about God wrecking shop on the Egyptians’ animals, skin, and crops, I couldn’t help thinking, “This is not going to go over well with some people.” The Shortpacked comic in which David Willis, by way of The Prince of Egypt, goes for the throat of the God of the Exodus narrative springs readily to mind. I can’t hope to resolve every difficulty with Exodus in a single post, but perhaps I can shed light on a few issues and offer answers to some questions. You know what? This one’s for the skeptics. This one’s for the skeptic in you and the skeptic in me. Let’s do it.
Here’s a passage that used to agitate me. To set the stage, Jacob and his twelve sons have long since died, and the current Pharaoh is struggling to control the numerous Hebrews in his kingdom. He forces them into hard labor, but they still prosper. So he tries to enlist the Hebrew midwives to kill all the Hebrew sons as they’re born. The Hebrew midwives don’t comply. But they lie in order to save the newborns, and therein lies the complication.
Joseph lets the cat out of the bag in today’s chapter. And it’s this chapter that gave me those impressions of his increased maturity, because he has a lot to say about God.
Here it is: the Second Big Grift. We already saw the First Big Grift back in Genesis 25:27-34, in which Jacob takes advantage of his brother Esau’s hunger to trade a bowl of stew for the right of primogeniture. The Second Big Grift also involves food: as Isaac’s eyesight fails in his old age, Rebecca convinces Jacob to pose as Esau and deliver a savory meal to his father in order to secure the firstborn’s blessing as well. Living up to his name, Jacob once again plays the heel by grabbing the heel. And here’s the big question for today: is God getting behind all this chicanery?
In today’s chapter, Abraham and Sarah finally have their son. A year from the three men’s visit, just as he said he would, God visits Sarah and enables her to conceive. An omnipotent creator of the universe is never late, nor is he early; he arrives precisely when he means to.
Meet Abraham. He’s known as Abram right now. He’s the son of Terah, descended from Noah’s son Shem, whose name means “name.” In the last chapter, Abraham’s dad died, and in this chapter, God calls Abraham to go to a place where God will bless Abraham, his descendants, and finally all the families of the earth. Abraham follows God’s leading to the land of Canaan, which is named for the son of Noah’s youngest son Ham. Abraham builds an altar to God there, and he later moves on to Bethel, where he also builds an altar. But more importantly for today’s post, he goes down to Egypt to avoid the effects of a famine, and while he’s there, problematic stuff happens.
Do you have regrets? Do you ever wish you could just blow it all away and start over? Do you delete your save file and start replaying that RPG from the beginning, just to get that feeling of a new world replete with possibility, a world that isn’t locked in on the muddled calamities and missed opportunities that its characters have sown? If so, you’re in good company: my company, for starters. And also God’s.