Exodus

Exodus 6:28-7:24

Aaron to Speak for Moses

28 Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, 29 he said to him, “I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.”

30 But Moses said to the Lord, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

6 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

Aaron’s Staff Becomes a Snake

8 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”

10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

The Plague of Blood

14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”

19 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels[a] of wood and stone.”

20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He 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. 21 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.

22 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. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.


Reflection

Without doubt, one of the more problematic topics for readers of the Bible is the issue of God hardening hearts. On the one hand Pharoah is representative of all earthly power and evil that stands against God, but he is also a human, created with free-will to respond to God, yet we are told that his heart is hardened by the God who gave him free will... Tricky.

It could seem as though God is a puppeteer and humanity his puppets.

While this may sound unduly harsh, it is worth bearing in mind that hardening hearts is understood to be a form of judgment in the Old Testament. God doesn't take otherwise nice people and harden them into objects of his wrath. Pharaoh hardened his own heart progressively (Exodus 7:13, 14, 22; 8:11, 15, 28; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15) He rejects God and continues his campaign of injustice for his own ends. Eventually, God hardens his heart as an act of judgment for injustice (in his case, the killing of the Hebrew boys) ( Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17.).

Today, we may think of the heart being about emotion and passion, whereas the mind is to do with intellect and reason. In the Old Testament, however, the heart represented the centrality of one's being and incorporated all; intellect, morality, emotion and spirituality. Pharoah rejected God with his entire being.

Psalm 95 warns God's people of their own hardening of hearts.

7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 "Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness..."

It's possible the emphasis of Pharaoh's hardness of heart is supposed to act as a warning of Israel, who also are to capable of hardening themselves to God.

Do I need to worry that God will harden my heart?
I think a little bit like the unforgivable sin (Mark 3:28-30) if you are worried about it, you really don't need to worry about it.

But we should be concerned about us hardening our hearts to God.

Are there areas of your life that you actively don't pray about? Things that you'd prefer not confronted or challenged? Patterns of behaviour, ways of treating others where you have felt the prod of the Holy Spirit and ignored? Have you closed off emotionally or intellectually to God?

Lord - help us maintain soft hearts to you. Gently uncover the areas of our lives that we have tried to hide from you. Help us to respond to your alternative, and live according to your will. Amen.

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