Don’t Harrow the Pharaoh

In the book of Exodus God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and ask him to set his people free. But at the same time scripture tells us that God himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the people go (Exodus 10:1, 11:10, 14:8). And why did God do this? He did it in order that:

“I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” Exodus 10:1-2

So God furthered the suffering of the Hebrews so that he could perform signs in the presence of Pharaoh, and to mock the Egyptians so that everybody will know he is God. What is the result of this decision?

  1. The water of the Nile was turned to blood so that all of the fish life died and as a result many people starved. Other water resources used by the Egyptians were also turned to blood as well. As a result the workload of the Hebrews was doubled.
  2. A plague of frogs came to the land. Interestingly, however the sorcerers of Pharaoh were able to duplicate this feat, so one has to question the validity of God wanting to bring the curse anyway.
  3. A plague of lice came upon the land, undoubtedly causing them an enormous amount of suffering.
  4. A plague of some kind of animals which could cause harm to people and livestock. After this curse Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go, but that wasn’t enough for God, he had a whole bunch of other crappy things that he wanted to do to people first. So he hardened Pharaoh’s heart preventing him from keeping his promise.
  5. A disease struck down all of the livestock of the land resulting not only in immense suffering for the animals themselves, but undoubtedly starvation and death for people in addition to the potential for the disease to spread among humans also.
  6. A curse of boils which would undoubtedly be extremely painful, and if infection were to spread could potentially result in serious ongoing health conditions or even death.
  7. A massive storm of hail and fire which caused an enormous amount of damage to orchards and crops as well as livestock and people. Again, after this plague Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go, but God hardened his heart and prevented him from keeping his promise.
  8. A plague of locusts came destroying the last of the Egyptian crops and undoubtedly resulting in huge amounts of death from starvation. Again, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
  9. A plague of intense darkness for three days which prevented Egyptians from working, or productively interacting with one another.
  10. The notorious plague of the first born which resulted in the deaths of all firstborn children in Egypt. This would have killed adult and infant children alike, innocent children who were not responsible for Pharaoh’s (or really God’s) decisions.

But he wasn’t finished there, after all of that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart once again causing him to send out his chariots after the Israelites; thousands of Egyptian soldiers died by drowning in the Red Sea. But, it’s all okay because this was all for God’s glory! So it appears that God’s way of letting everybody know that he is boss is by causing enormous amounts of suffering and death, seemingly without any concern for human life, health or well-being. It raises the question, if God was able to harden Pharaoh’s heart (and resultantly take away his free will!), couldn’t he just have softened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would let the people go. When God starts messing around with people’s choices then you can pretty much cancel the notion of free will, and also of sinful human beings, or any sense of responsibility for one’s own actions. God is just a puppet master in this story, not an observer of human behaviour.

Looking at the book of Romans God says the following about the event:

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” Romans 9:17

You might think that if God was going to intervene and take away someone’s free will that he might do it for a good purpose, but apparently not. The fact that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and demonstrated both his willingness and ability to interfere with someone’s free will also poses a number of other interesting questions. Why doesn’t God intervene during rape or child abuse in order to soften someone’s heart so that they don’t want to do it? To me that would be a far better use of such an ability. It appears though that God is not interested in doing such things. Either way that you look at it there are a couple of things which are absolutely apparent from the story: God is not only capable of, but willing to, mess with a person’s free will, therefore meaning that all arguments about the importance of human free will are moot. Secondly, when given the opportunity to interfere and do good, God would rather cause calamity just to show that he is incredibly powerful and to give himself some hype. If you previously had any notion that God was good, I hope that you can see the error of your ways. God is the most abhorrent character in any form of fiction or non-fiction.

2 thoughts on “Don’t Harrow the Pharaoh

  1. Christians often explain that God was fair in hardening Pharoah’s heart as he just worked with the evil that was already there. But if this is so then Paul’s woulf say this in Romans in response to the question he raises ‘how can god still blame us’?. Wheras his actual response is don’t talk back to God he can do what he likes.

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