Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pharaoh

And this is the story of the second plague which was sent upon the land of Egypt. And after each of these two plagues, first of blood and then of frogs, Pharaoh hardened his heart because he saw that there was an end to each plague.

There is a difference between determination and obduracy. To determine is to define a terminus, to set boundaries or fix conditions, to find the extent of something in exactitude; to show determination is to be definite about something. However 'obduracy' comes from the Latin root dura- which implies hardness as of solid wood: tough, inflexible and unyielding.

Sometimes, some people can be told that their ways lead to disaster. You can tell them about incremental vs revolutionary progress, you can tell them that attempting to hold the same old ground against the advent of chaos is like whistling in the dark. You can watch them fail, and continue to paper the cracks over; you can watch them suffer from lack of vision and purpose, and pretend to have insight and vitality; you can see them decline from fatigue of the imagination, of the will, of the heart; you can see them age, and replace fallen cohorts and legions with mercenary troops.

'Decline and fall' is an old theme. All kinds of institutions, including the Pax Romana and its greater descendant, the Pax Britannica, fall into ruin once they fail to stem the fissures of chaos, and invite the barbarians into the gates. Sometimes, the barbarians have learnt the lessons well, and might even return as teachers and masters. But the empire will not rise again, and although civilisation is never really lost, the vision of a better age turns into the irritatingly-forgotten dream of a bad night.

There are ten more plagues after the plague of frogs. When does Pharaoh learn? The answer never changes, sadly.

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2 Comments:

Blogger JeNn said...

You know what I never understood completely? Why the Lord said that He would harden Pharaoh's heart (Exo 14:4).. it sounds like it wasn't Pharaoh's fault that his heart was hardened. I've heard explanations for this before but I still don't quite get it..

Thursday, April 05, 2007 7:00:00 am  
Anonymous ~autolycus said...

There are indeed several explanations. Here are some, with my comments.

1. 'Hardened his heart' is equivalent to 'stiffened his resolve'. That is, Pharaoh was already resolved to do something, and the LORD said, "So be it."

2. One version is that Pharaoh was of two minds and would have prolonged the process, so God forced him to make up his mind - that is, his indecision was crystallised.

2. 'Hardened his heart' is equivalent to 'caused him to be obdurate'. Presumably, so that the power of God would be shown. But this doesn't give Pharaoh free will, which seems unfair.

Friday, April 06, 2007 3:42:00 am  

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