Magical rod-swallowing and other plausible happenings: Exodus 7

Here is confirmation of what I suspected during Chapter 6:

1 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `See, I have given thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother is thy prophet;

Jehovah has essentially made Moses co-God. This seems to conflict with everything I have ever learned about the sacrosanct monotheistic religions. There is supposed to be one God, and he is supposed to be very, very serious about maintaining his monopoly on god-ness. Almost a third of the ten commandments stress the gravity of this principle. Yet here, God lets Moses hold himself out as God, with his very own prophet. It’s a strange divergence from one of Judeo-Christianity’s central beliefs.

Jehovah-God continues explaining his grand plan to Moses-God, telling him that he is hardening Pharaoh’s heart–making him stubbornly refuse to release the Israelites–so he can show off his supercool magic tricks.

`And I harden the heart of Pharaoh, and have multiplied My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt,

So much for free-will.  Pharaoh and the Egyptians are just victims of a showboating dick of a deity, who needs an anthill at which to direct his magnifying glass. God continues:

I have put My hand on Egypt, and have brought out My hosts, My people, the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments;

and the Egyptians have known that I [am] Jehovah, in My stretching out My hand against Egypt; and I have brought out the sons of Israel from their midst.’

Here’s an interesting question. If Jehovah is God, can’t he figure out some way to show his God-ness that doesn’t involve genocide? All it took to convince Moses was a burning bush, why does he have to engineer a mass killing to show the rest of the Israelites and the Egyptians? Why would he want to do it that way? How about an eclipse? A comet? A personal appearance instead of hiding in the shadows murdering people through a proxy?

Moses and Aaron return to Pharaoh (who has been rendered a stubborn automaton by God) and show off some fucking idiotic magic tricks. There is some really, truly, stupid shit in the Bible, but this interaction is among the worst:

`When Pharaoh speaketh unto you, saying, Give for yourselves a wonder; then thou hast said unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast before Pharaoh — it becometh a monster.’

10 And Moses goeth in — Aaron also — unto Pharaoh, and they do so as Jehovah hath commanded; and Aaron casteth his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it becometh a monster.

11 And Pharaoh also calleth for wise men, and for sorcerers; and the scribes of Egypt, they also, with their flashings, do so,

12 and they cast down each his rod, and they become monsters, and the rod of Aaron swalloweth their rods.

Really God? Really? Turning a stick into a snake-monster (what is translated as “monster” in the literal translation is “snake” in the NIV and most other translations)? God is supposed to be the creator of the fucking universe: breathing into life planets and comets and fucking galaxies and quasars and life itself and his opening gambit is turning a stick into a fucking snake? That is colossally stupid. Secondly, shit, who are these magicians of Pharaoh? If they are not working with the same magic as Moses, then what other force is out there that allowed them to animate a stick? I’m intrigued.

*Also: hehe “Aaron swalloweth their rods.” Hehe.

What follows is an escalating series of magic tricks, which Pharaoh’s magicians are able to replicate for the most part. The last one in this chapter is turning the Nile rier and all the drinking vessels in Egypt into blood, killing all the fish, and bringing Egypt to its knees with dehydration. I’m not sure how anyone made it out alive, Egyptian or Israelite, since it says in verse 25 that it lasted for seven days. But that’s just science, and we all know how the Bible and religion feels about that.

Regardless, Pharaoh’s magicians are able to replicate this trick as well. Unimpressed, and because God took away his freedom to choose otherwise, Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites leave.

EXODUS 7

1 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `See, I have given thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother is thy prophet;

thou — thou dost speak all that I command thee, and Aaron thy brother doth speak unto Pharaoh, and he hath sent the sons of Israel out of his land.

`And I harden the heart of Pharaoh, and have multiplied My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt,

and Pharaoh doth not hearken, and I have put My hand on Egypt, and have brought out My hosts, My people, the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments;

and the Egyptians have known that I [am] Jehovah, in My stretching out My hand against Egypt; and I have brought out the sons of Israel from their midst.’

And Moses doth — Aaron also — as Jehovah commanded them; so have they done;

and Moses [is] a son of eighty years, and Aaron [is] a son of eighty and three years, in their speaking unto Pharaoh.

And Jehovah speaketh unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,

`When Pharaoh speaketh unto you, saying, Give for yourselves a wonder; then thou hast said unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast before Pharaoh — it becometh a monster.’

10 And Moses goeth in — Aaron also — unto Pharaoh, and they do so as Jehovah hath commanded; and Aaron casteth his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it becometh a monster.

11 And Pharaoh also calleth for wise men, and for sorcerers; and the scribes of Egypt, they also, with their flashings, do so,

12 and they cast down each his rod, and they become monsters, and the rod of Aaron swalloweth their rods;

13 and the heart of Pharaoh is strong, and he hath not hearkened unto them, as Jehovah hath spoken.

14 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `The heart of Pharaoh hath been hard, he hath refused to send the people away;

15 go unto Pharaoh in the morning, lo, he is going out to the water, and thou hast stood to meet him by the edge of the River, and the rod which was turned to a serpent thou dost take in thy hand,

16 and thou hast said unto him: Jehovah, God of the Hebrews, hath sent me unto thee, saying, Send My people away, and they serve Me in the wilderness; and lo, thou hast not hearkened hitherto.

17 `Thus said Jehovah: By this thou knowest that I [am] Jehovah; lo, I am smiting with the rod which [is] in my hand, on the waters which [are] in the River, and they have been turned to blood,

18 and the fish that [are] in the River die, and the River hath stank, and the Egyptians have been wearied of drinking waters from the River.’

19 And Jehovah saith unto Moses, `Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thy hand against the waters of Egypt, against their streams, against their rivers, and against their ponds, and against all their collections of waters; and they are blood — and there hath been blood in all the land of Egypt, both in [vessels of] wood, and in [those of] stone.’

20 And Moses and Aaron do so, as Jehovah hath commanded, and he lifteth up [his hand] with the rod, and smiteth the waters which [are] in the River, before the eyes of Pharaoh, and before the eyes of his servants, and all the waters which [are] in the River are turned to blood,

21 and the fish which [is] in the River hath died, and the River stinketh, and the Egyptians have not been able to drink water from the River; and the blood is in all the land of Egypt.

22 And the scribes of Egypt do so with their flashings, and the heart of Pharaoh is strong, and he hath not hearkened unto them, as Jehovah hath spoken,

23 and Pharaoh turneth and goeth in unto his house, and hath not set his heart even to this;

24 and all the Egyptians seek water round about the river to drink, for they have not been able to drink of the waters of the River.

25 And seven days are completed after Jehovah’s smiting the River.

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3 thoughts on “Magical rod-swallowing and other plausible happenings: Exodus 7

  1. Just a quick comment:

    The primary Hebrew word for “God” (elohim) comes from a root meaning “mighty ones, heroes.” It is sometimes used poetically in this root meaning as a person who is very powerful–very much like someone today saying of a person s/he greatly admires, “He’s like a god to me!” In certain contexts (such as Psalm 8:5), it has been interpreted as referring to angels (powerful beings) rather than to God (see Hebrews 2:7, which quotes Psalm 8:5 and translates the Hebrew elohim as the Greek aggelou-“angels”).

  2. God does magic, and someone else does the same magic. That part always struck me as the epitomy of fail. As you have described, but to me it was one of the very few times that YHWH showed his hand without genocide or mass killing. He chose magic that the Egyptians could muster as well. Creator of the universe can only manage party tricks? Well, that and genocide. Why, that’s fucking awesome. You’d think he could show himself by healing the sick, removing evil, or feeding everyone… but no, all he ever does is kill people.

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