January 23, 2010

Exo 14-16: The Hard Hearted

Posted in Choice, Foundations, Moses tagged , , , , , , at 7:45 pm by Steve

When God intercedes in the affairs of men, He does so with a unique perspective of time and outcomes. When Exodus states that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” the form of verb suggests a future orientation such that God is viewing a process that is occurring not necessarily a consequence God is causing to happen by divine force. There appears to be an interesting progression in the use of the verbs from one in which Pharaoh’s heart is strengthened and therefore becomes unyielding because of growing pride, to one of burdensome and weariness that reflects the problems associated with positions of power and authority.

The struggle between God’s foreknowledge and Pharaoh’s free will is ultimately at stake in understanding these passages. According to Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, God is long-suffering toward Pharaoh until he showed himself to be intransigent. While others in Egypt responded to the plagues as signs and wonders, Pharaoh remained obstinate and became more of what he already was.

In a larger sense the relationship between God and Pharaoh is best reflected in light of Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart was the consequence of his choices and his stubborn attitude toward any authority other than his own given the life into which he was born. The problem with Pharaoh’s position of absolute power is that it doesn’t allow for a lot of wiggle room when things don’t work out the way they should. Pharaoh is boxed in and his hardness of heart becomes a burden rather than a strength. In the face of God’s authority and sovereignty, Pharaoh goes down the wrong path and each step make his life and heart harder and harder. It’s all about choices.

The verbs that are most commonly used in Exodus to describe the state and or action of Pharaoh’s inner being as growing sense of strength, pride and arrogance that builds in Pharaoh over time bringing about certain events. The debate over whether God interferes with Pharaoh’s ability to freely choose is somewhat alleviated by looking at the form of the verbs, the process of development, and the context in which they are found.

tae: the mark of the accusative, prefixed as a rule only to nouns that are definite.

ble n.m. inner man, mind, will, heart

qzx  [to strengthen, strong, to grow firm]

Exodus 4:21 – action God takes on Pharaoh’s inner being [verb piel imperfect 1st person] future oriented. It suggests what is foreshadowed based on Pharaoh’s past history.

7:13  – describing the state of Pharaoh’s heart

7:22 – remained in its current state

8:19 – Pharaoh’s hardness of heart was resolute and established

9:12 – Action God takes toward Pharaoh [piel waw consec imperfect 3rd person]

9:35 – the state of Pharaoh’s heart such that he took action and would not let the people go.

10:20 — verb piel waw consec imperfect 3rd, seems to be concerned less with the causation of the event than the final state of being

11:10 — verb piel waw consec imperfect 3rd person, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” Consequential action, the logical outcome of the preceeding events

14:4 — piel waw consec perfect 1st person, Consequential, because of the nature of God and the nature of Pharaoh, hardness and stubbornness is the logical result.

14:8 — piel waw consec imperfect, consequential action, because the Israelites were out of Pharaoh’s hand, his heart became stubborn and he pursued them.

 To be hard, severe, fierce, make hard, stiff, stubborn, fig. of obstinacy.

 Exodus 7:23 – action God takes toward Pharaoh’s heart

 To refuse, refusing to obey commands;

Exodus 7:14 – describing the state of Pharaoh’s heart (perfect tense, is unyielding, or stubborn)

dbeK’ vb. be heavy, weighty, burdensome, honored,

Exodus 8:11 – Pharaoh’s heart became burdened and weighted down

8:32 – the action of Pharaoh toward his own situation

9:7 – in response to the death of the animals, pharaoh remains unyielding

9:34 – because of Pharaoh’s sin, his heart is burdened even more and therefore unyielding

10:1 — verb hiphil perfect 1st person, the subject brings about a state of being, in this case heaviness of heart brought about by God.

John Goldingay in Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel provides a helpful discussion of this:

To soften or harden something impersonal such as butter or jelly, we use physical manipulation, heating or cooling it, but to soften or harden a person, we present them with facts or images or stories so that they can do their work in generating a response on the part of the person. Similarly, Yhwh’s softening or hardening need not involve some equivalent to physical manipulation, as if God reaches into the brain and directly changes the way it works. To judge from other aspects of God’s working with human beings, more likely God softens and hardens in the same personal way that human beings adopt in personal relations. God makes things happen by influencing people. To soften people, God presents them with facts or images or stories of divine love or power, or of human possibilities of action or achievement. These do not force them to a positive response, but give them, for example, extra stimulus and opportunity to trust or love or worship. To toughen people, God presents them with other facts or images or stories – for instance, perhaps, reminding the Pharaoh of the loss he will incur through letting the Israelites go. That, too, does not force or manipulate Pharaoh to decide to hold on to Israel. What happens depends on how Pharaoh responds to the facts or images or stories—on whether he himself toughens his resolve. (353).”

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January 11, 2010

Gen 32-34:Jacob Struggles

Posted in Historical, Human Nature tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:01 pm by Steve

Every Warrior of the Light has felt afraid of going into battle.

Every Warrior of the Light has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.

Every Warrior of the Light has trodden a path that was not his.

Every Warrior of the Light has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.

Every Warrior of the Light has, at least once, believed he was not a Warrior of the Light.

Every Warrior of the Light has failed in his spiritual duties.

Every Warrior of the Light has said ‘yes’ when he wanted to say ‘no.’

Every Warrior of the Light has hurt someone he loved.

That is why he is a Warrior of the Light, because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is. ~ Paulo Coelho

Jacob has schemed and manipulated his whole life, but facing his own brother who he betrayed to obtain his birthright he cannot manipulate the past. He tries to appease his brother by sending a series of gifts, but still he cannot find peace. His destiny is set and Esau is coming with over 400 men. A rather ominous sign. What should Jacob do?

In one of the most talked about passages in scripture, Jacob wrestles with God. The exact meaning of this passage is still the subject of much debate, but clearly by morning Jacob is a new man, with a limp. Israel is born in the night of struggles and resolution. Yet Jacob will not let go of God and demands a blessings. Please don’t let me go through all this and not be changed.

I think we’ve all gone through dark nights of the soul when we wrestle with God. Things don’t always turn out like we thought they would and we blame God and try to manipulate events to our advantage. But in the end, God is God and we’re totally dependent upon grace.

Jacob expects the worst when he see Esau, but Esau is not out for vengeance, but to see his brother. Imagine the relief in Jacob heart. He deserves retribution but receive grace. Here is how Jacob responds, For to see your face is like seeing the face of God.”33:10 Israel’s first experience is Grace.

The encounter with Dinah and Shechem has a rather interesting twist. Dinah’s brothers convince Shechem and his clan to be circumcised in order to “purchase” Dinah as a wife. But circumcision was created to establish a covenant between God and His people. Shechem’s father, Hamor, entices Jacob’s family to overlook the indiscretion in order to live in the land and be prosperous. Have you ever been tempted to compromise your values and personal integrity in order to get a raise, a promotion or to look better in the eyes of others?

“You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.” 34:10

This section ends with a question for the reader to ponder. Note that no answer is given which leaves room for the reader to draw his/her own conclusions. How should we respond given the sin of Shechem, the deceit of false circumcision, and the slaughter of the cities by Simeon and Levi?

“Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” 34:31