Saturday, July 28, 2012

Moses said "Let my people go" and blamed it on God

Hey remember the time Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said "Let my people go"? (link to part of the story, on biblegateway)  What reason did they give him for why he should free all the slaves?

Image source.

Perhaps they made some kind of convincing argument about why slavery is wrong.  Perhaps they gave Pharaoh a history lesson about how the first Israelite to come to Egypt was Joseph, who proceeded to save Egypt from a famine.

Nope.  The first time they came to see Pharaoh, they said “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert’” (Exodus 5:1) and they explain further, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.” (Exodus 5:3)

And again and again and again, that is the only reason given:  "Let my people go, so that they may worship me." (Exodus 7:16, 8:1, 8:20, 9:1, 9:13, 10:3)

And when Pharaoh finally says the people can go but the livestock can't, Moses and Aaron are like "we have to take the livestock- we're supposed to go make sacrifices and we don't know which animals we need yet, so we have to take all of them." (Exodus 10:26- haha, not an exact quote)  Blaming it on God. 

Better to be safe than smitten. Image source.

They don't give some kind of argument trying to convince Pharaoh why it's a good idea for him to free the people.  They just say God told us to go have a festival in the desert, and we might get in trouble if we don't.

This reminds me of learning how to say no to drugs in elementary school- one idea is "blame it on your parents"- when people want you to do drugs, you say "my parents won't let me, I'll get in so much trouble" so your "friends" can't get mad at you.  Make your parents the bad guy.

They make it sound like God's really harsh with them and for some reason this festival is really important to him and he's being really unreasonable about it.

Sheesh.  As if we don't already have enough to do.  You do realize we're in slavery, right God?

But that's not the real reason God wants Pharaoh to free the slaves.  God tells Moses the real reason: "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land..." (Exodus 3:7-8)

Yeah, the real reason is because God cares about them and sees them suffering.  Also, this: God's words to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:13-16, "Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.  For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.  But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

So, 2 reasons: Because God cares about the Israelites, and because God wants to show off his power.

When Moses and Aaron go talk to Pharaoh, they're not trying to explain to him why slavery is morally wrong, etc.  They're not trying to show him logically why he should free the slaves.  They're not trying to have a discussion. If that were the case, then it's Pharaoh arguing against Moses and Moses's ideas about morality and politics.  I really don't think Pharaoh's going to be won over by arguments.  As if he doesn't already know the slaves are suffering.  

The point is that God said to free the slaves, and you know what, it doesn't matter why- God said that and he means it.  No reason to explain any more than that.  If Pharoah has a problem with it, he has a problem with Israel's God, not Moses's debate points.

Because this wasn't about logic and morality.  It was about Israel's God vs Egypt's gods.  I love the part where Aaron's staff becomes a snake, and Pharoah's like "I see your staff-snake, and raise you my magicians' staff-snakes."  (Exodus 7:11, perfectnumber628's paraphrase)  Whereas a normal person would be like "HOLY CRAP!" 

Please. When I create snakes out of inanimate objects, they are WAY scarier than yours. Image source.

So, discussion questions: Does it make sense that Moses/Aaron/God did it this way?  Are there situations in which we should follow their example?  Was it unfair to Pharaoh to not have a "real" reason?  Is it okay for God to "show off his power" at the expense of Egypt?  Other cool insights about this story?

Click here for more posts on the book of Exodus. 


  1. There's a lesson here in God's sovereignty, and His ability to use all things to His glory, including and especially our sin. Remember that Moses heard God speaking directly to him from a burning bush, and yet he still managed to come up with excuses as to why he wasn't the best person for God to use. But God used the sin of Moses' reluctance to only further demonstrate His overwhelming power and how He is more than sufficient to make up for our weaknesses, the very same weaknesses that He created us with so that we would realize how much we need Him. By the same token, Moses and Aaron's bad argument, if anything, made it more likely that Pharaoh wouldn't listen and would refuse their petition, which led to an opportunity for God to once again prove that "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh" (I AM that I AM) in a way that only He could. Did Moses and Aaron sin by not faithfully reporting what God had given them to tell Pharaoh? Yes. Did God execute His plan anyway? Yes. Does that mean we should "help" God by sinning so that He can show His power more often? Nope, see what Paul wrote to the Romans for that one. So yes, it makes sense that God used Moses and Aaron's weakness and sinfulness to exalt His own name. Whether Pharaoh had a "real" reason or not, God had hardened his heart so that He could show Himself to His people. Romans 9 has a very good response to the whole thing.

    1. Hmm, you're bringing up some interesting stuff I hadn't thought of before- thanks! Like the idea that Moses and Aaron sinned by not telling Pharaoh what God had explicitly told them- did they? Also the idea of God being more glorified through human weakness- I feel like that happens a lot in the bible, but I don't normally look for it. Cool.