Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. 2: Exodus Excerpt – Chapter 6!

VI

Foolin’ with Pharaoh

(Exodus 10)

God is a nasty, small-minded jerk.

This is not a difficult claim to prove. One need only to turn to the 10th chapter of Exodus and read the first two verses. God straight up admits he’s a petty asshole playing power games.

Recall all of the suffering and death dealt to the Egyptian people so far – people whose only crime, mind you, was to be born in a country ruled by the Pharaoh. Recall the countless animals he’s tortured and killed just to show off his power. Recall that God keeps demanding Pharaoh release the Israelites, then laying a disproportionate smackdown on innocent people when he doesn’t.

And now, God tells Moses why all this is happening:

Hey, Mo, go in and see Pharaoh again. I’ve completely hardened that bastard’s heart – oh, and his officials’ hearts, too. You know why? It’s because I wanted to throw all these signs in his face. And now – ” Picture God snickering like a twelve year-old troublemaker who’s hidden a garter snake in the teacher’s desk – “you’ll be able to tell your son and your grandson that I totally made fools out of everybody in Egypt!1 And you tell ’em about all these signs I’ve done, you know, so everybody knows that I am the LORD!” (Ex. 10:1-2)

God only wishes he was as cool as Samuel L. Jackson. But he’s just coming off as a casually homicidal Pauley Shore.

Moses and Aaron mosey off to deliver God’s message to Pharaoh. They tell him God wants to know how long he’ll continue refusing to humble himself before him, which is pretty rich, considering God’s the one who keeps preventing Pharaoh from doing so. Rather like your obnoxious older brother grabbing your wrists and making you hit yourself, while demanding to know when you’re going to stop hitting yourself. (Ex. 10:3)

They let Pharaoh know he’s got an appointment with the locusts of God if he doesn’t let their people go. Moses paints dire word-pictures of the various miseries that will ensue. He sounds like he may be drooling in anticipation a bit, there at the end. Then he makes a grand exit. Pharaoh’s officials are all like, “Fuck it! Let that asshole and his asshole friends go worship their asshole god. Don’t you think they’ve ruined enough already?” (Ex. 10:4-)

Pharaoh’s all, “Word,” and sends for Moses and Aaron. “Yeah, sure, I’ll let you go serve your god,” he tells them. “Who are you taking, then?” (Ex. 10:8)

Moses tells Pharaoh the whole gang’s going, from the oldest old fart to the youngest babies, plus all the women, even. They’re also taking their flocks and their herds, because they’re supposed to be having a big feast for God, and we all know how God likes his burnt animals. (Ex. 10:9)

This is just too much for Pharaoh. “What?! Your God better be with you if you think I’ll ever let you take your kids! You’re up to something. No, you menfolk can go – that’s what you’ve been asking for. But that’s it.” He has them shooed out, and probably sits there seething over the nerve of some slaves. (Ex. 10:10)

God’s all over this. He’s loving it. It’s exactly what he wanted. So he has Moses do the handwave thingy with his magic rod so he can unleash all the locusts he’s got ready. He makes an east wind blow for the rest of the day and all night long. In the morning, the locusts blow in, a ginormous swarm of them, so big that God swears it’s one-of-a-kind. They turn the land black, there are so many of them. Anything the plague of hail hasn’t destroyed, they eat. By the time they’re done, there isn’t a single green growing thing left in Egypt. (Ex. 10:12-15)

Image shows Moses and Aaron standing with their backs to the viewer, arms raised, summoning the locusts. The city is spread out below them. In the distance, three pyramids are visible, and the sky is dark with locusts.
The Plague of Locusts, c. 1896-1902, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot.

I’m sure God thoroughly enjoys watching the minuscule bit of food left to the Egyptians become locust shit. What’s being a god worth if you can’t cause the occasional wholesale famine?

Pharaoh goes, “Oh, shit,” and summons the Plague Bros. Forthwith. “All right, fine, I admit it, I’m a sinning sinner who’s sinned against your God and yourselves. Please, please forgive me just this once, and make all these damned deadly locusts go away. Pretty-please?” (Ex. 10:16-17)

Moses has the Lord sweep out all the locusts with a brisk west wind and dump them in the Red Sea. The insectivorous fish must have fairly screamed with joy. Good thing God hadn’t killed ’em during the blood plague. (Ex. 10:18-19)

The locusts are now floating dead in the sea. The people should be free to go. But God’s not done making a fool of Pharaoh. He hardens Pharaoh’s heart yet again so that he won’t release the Israelites. (Ex. 10:20)

Folks, time to face an undeniable fact, here. The only person to blame for the Israelites’ continuing slavery and the Egyptian people’s suffering is God his own self. Pharaoh had no choice in the matter. He tried and tried to do the right thing and give the Israelites the freedom they demanded. Every time, he’s been mind-controlled by God into going back on his promise. Let’s put the blame where it belongs.

Now God decides to go all horror-movie on their asses and plunges the Egyptians into total darkness for three days. Not one of them can see a single photon of light. Imagine trying to take care of infants, children, and sick people when you suddenly can’t see. Imagine: having already gone through so much torment, after losing your livestock and your crops, you’re now having to deal with a complete absence of light, and you have no idea when or if the darkness will end. Meanwhile, the Israelites have all the light they could wish for. Dunno about you, but I wouldn’t be thinking that God’s really amazing. I’d be thinking he’s a complete shitstain, and be on the lookout for any and every natural, divine, or other supernatural means to defeat this cruel, petty tyrant. (Ex. 10:21-23)

Pharaoh offers to let all of the people go, including the kids, as long as they leave their flocks and herds behind. Moses says no deal, cuz God demands all the livestock, right down to the last hoof. He’s not just a megalomanical asshole, he’s an exceedingly greedy one. (Ex. 10:24-26)

Pharaoh may have agreed even to these terms, but God’s feeling bloodthirsty, so he hardens the poor sod’s heart again. All this torture, manipulation, and mind control seems to break Pharaoh completely: he screams at Moses to GTFO, and if he ever sees that little shit again, he’ll have him executed. (Ex. 10:28)

I can’t say as I blame him.

Moses is all, “As you say: I’ll never see your face again.” Which, as we’ll see, is more a threat than a promise – and isn’t prophetic in the least. (Ex. 10:29)

This, folks, is why trying to negotiate with terrorists can be such a bloody awful idea. Especially when the terrorist in question escalates miles for every inch you cede them.

 

1The word “fools” is in the NRSV, which is one of the most accurate translations available. In the KJV version , God says Moses is supposed to tell his descendants “what things I have wrought in Egypt,” while in the NRSV, God says to tell them “how I have made fools of the Egyptians.”

Image is the cover for Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. 2: Exodus. The painting is Charles Sprague Pearce's Lamentations over the Death of the First-Born of Egypt, showing an Egyptian man and woman weeping over the coffin of their infant.

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Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. 2: Exodus Excerpt – Chapter 6!
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3 thoughts on “Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. 2: Exodus Excerpt – Chapter 6!

  1. 1

    In a comment about this on another blog a while back, someone brought up the notion that this whole story is about Yahweh proving his control over the gods of Egypt. Each of the plagues is directly related to a god of Egypt, and is supposed to show that Yahweh has a bigger penis than they do.

  2. 2

    Well the other callous, privileged thing is: These are punishments to the “owner”, above all. Just like with Job. What is terrible is some dude-with-power is having his stuff messed up, not that other people are suffering and dying. Even otherwise at least doubly-privileged firstborn sons have their importance subsumed to having a jab at the top dawg. great chain of being and all, what.

  3. rq
    3

    Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t Pharaoh writing this up and adding all this stuff about god being at fault to save his own reputation, but then I think about it for a little bit, and nah… god’s definitely a nasty, evil, small-minded person, exactly the type to do this kind of shit just to prove some ugly mysterious point.

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