I’m placing this in Great Debates because of the religious nature of the question, but otherwise I don’t think it truly belongs here. I don’t have a thesis to defend, as I personally don’t believe that the Exodus story has any more factual basis than the Labors of Herakles. Also, my primary interest here is in believers’ take on this story. In other words, please try to phrase your answer in terms of the story’s reality.
Even when I was a twelve-year-old kid who believed that the Bible was the literal and inerrant word of God, I had problems with the Exodus narrative. Even if you take “omnipotent” to mean “more powerful than anybody else” rather than “able to do anything, even things that are logically impossible,” it’s clear that Yahweh is pulling punches all through the Plagues–and not out of mercy. If he’d wished to conduct the affair without bloodshed, after all, he could have struck all the Egyptians blind, or sent them all to sleep, so the Hebrews could pack up and walk out without any real opposition. He could have softened Pharoah’s heart (rather than hardening it, as the narrative records) so that he was filled with love for the children of Israel. If Yahweh had a moral problem with interfering with free will, he could have had Moses deliver an ultimatum and, if Pharaoh did not immediately comply, do a mini-Sodom & Gomorrah on the royal residence; repeating as necessary with the successors until Egypt submitted. (I’d bet the number of iterations would be no greater than two.)
Instead we have the drawn-out chain of events in Exodus. What are Yahweh’s motives in acting thus?
Unless s/he/they decide to wander into this thread I think that’s the only answer you’ll get (though admittedly I said it tongue in cheek). Why does God do anything after all? Why flood the world? Seemed kind of stupid and silly to me (impossible too but lets not go there). Why destroy two cities after all that back and forth bargaining and the elaborate testing to see if there are any good men (what, God doesn’t KNOW how many good people are in any given town??)? As you ask, why bother with all this plagues non-sense? Why not just unleash the spirit of death thingy and let it go to town? Hell, for that matter why not just change reality and put the early Hebrew’s in charge of Egypt?
If there were a God, then it’s pretty obvious that S/He/It works not only in mysterious ways but is pretty much unfathomable and illogical by human standards. Them’s the breaks…
Sorry about the going to hell thingy. You will probably be in good company, FWIW.
When I was on the whole religion/God train, I believed God did the things the way He does them for our benefit or lesson. That is to say, God’s trying to make some sort of point, to the individual and the “grander scheme of things.”
You may think this is cruel… but being God, he already knows how it’s going to turn out, He also knows that our trials and tribulations here on earth are oh-so-temporary.
There’s a larger plan somewhere… He’s just keeping the cards close to His robe.
Which is why I’m asking for opinions and interpretations.
For example, one might say that God’s purpose was to establish himself as a deity who would wage war on his people’s behalf, and thus had to create a situation in which he had an opponent to battle over a protracted period.
That thought’s not original to me, by the way. I first read it in God: A Biography, whose author (Jack Miles) avers that the Exodus story is the first instance in the Tanakh of God waging war. (I don’t think the thought is original to Miles either, but I am not at home and haven’t access to my books just now).
Yeah, that’s the usual logic I’ve heard. Unfortunately it’s rather like spanking a puppy with an axe, just because it peed on the carpet. God in the bible is rather like a guy hiding behind a curtain ready to leap out and say ‘Gotcha!’…except with a wood chipper and a willingness to use it.
A serious answer. I have no idea if this is the accepted one, but I can put it together from my years in Hebrew School.
I think it was a demonstration of power. Remember, this was the first time God showed himself to Israel as a people. Before this, he revealed himself only to the patriarchs. (Not counting Noah and before.) Also, at this time they had no doubt that the Egyptian gods (and Egyptian magic) existed.
By taking so long, and forcing Pharaoh to not release them by hardening his heart, God made it impossible for an Egyptian to say that their gods were fooled or sleeping or something, and could have triumphed into a fair fight.
More evidence of the power trip is the rod and the stone. When they needed water, God told Moses to wave the rod over the stone, since when water flowed it would be proof of the miracle. Moses hitting the stone was what kept him from the promised land, since then someone could say he somehow opened it up, and no miracle happened. All of this is in direct opposition to the current contention that God doesn’t show himself to force belief by faith. He wasn’t the slightest bit interest in people believing by faith, he was giving evidence.
It is kind of like a bully taunting someone weaker into a fight, and then trouncing him. Dickish behavior, to be sure, but I guess it was supposed to keep everyone in line for 40 years.
This undermines your point. Moses’s error was akin to stirring the martini, not shaking it. God’s response was akin to spitefully denying a man the fruits of his life’s work just because he mixed a martini wrong.
I don’t know if it undermines it, or makes it scarier.
Yep. It seems there is little tolerance, when the believer is supposed to know better.
Ananais and Saphira gave some of the money, and said they gave it all. They could have given none, and not said anything. Small lie cost them their lives. I have wondered from time to time, if many were too scared to continue what ever they were doing.
It gets scarier.
One is save by faith, through grace, and not by works.
Faith in the amount of a mustard seed (miniscule) allows one to cast a tree into the sea. Not many tree casters around.
It’s a microcosm of how God’s Ultimate Plan works.
A magnification of the Great Farce.
Think about it, humanity sinned - chaos ensued - Jesus saved. And in the future, apparently we’re all going to heaven and it’s going to be awesome and perfect and full of super special songs about and happy rainbow fairies.
Well, what’s the point? Why not just have that as the status quo and cut out all this middle man crap?
Well, the schizophrenic theist inside me quietly proclaims, if we didn’t go through the journey, we wouldn’t learn nuffin’. God don’t want Angel robots worshipping him right? He wants people who have chosen him.
So, in order to accomplish this he needs to set elaborate Mouse Trap-esque situations, I suspect partly for his amusement, and partly so when we get to heaven we have show off our University of Hard Knocks diploma.