Old Testament thoughts is a weekly post where we’ll be looking at some interesting aspects of some Scripture from the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament). Right now, we are looking at the first two chapters of Exodus
Today I just want to point out how Pharaoh is depicted here in the first chapter of Exodus. And, well, it’s not looking good. Basically, he is shown to be two things: a sort of “anti-God” who acts against God’s creation mandate and secondly, as a sort of “royal boob” (to quote an old He-Man movie) who is naive and foolish in light of God (see I Corinthians 1:19, alluding to Isaiah 29:14), despite his prominence and power among people.
1. Pharaoh as Anti-God: The picture of Pharaoh as the “anti-God” is painted most explicitly in 1:10 where Pharaoh tells his people, “Come, let us deal wisely with these Israelites or else they will multiply…” So Pharaoh is against the very thing God had told the Israelites to do in the creation narrative (“be fruitful and multiply,” same word used here). But as we’ll see, Pharaoh is no match for God and his purposes.
2. Pharaoh as Foolish: We see here in the first chapter of Exodus 3 failures on the part of Pharaoh in his futile attempt to keep Israel from fulfilling their mandate to be fruitful and multiply.
The first failure comes in verse 12: “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied.” Shouldn’t the opposite be true? God’s wisdom confounds the wise. Pharaoh’s first attempt fails.
The second failure comes in 17: “But the midwives feared God and didn’t do what Pharaoh had commanded them.” Since Pharaoh’s first attempt fails he gets a little more desperate: let’s get the midwives to kill all the boys. But he gets outsmarted…By women! Of course, this could be read in a feminist way (which I am not averse to when it’s warranted) but I think here the sense is this: “Pharaoh’s plan has no hope, even the women outsmart him!” Also remember that a theme throughout the Hebrew Bible (OT) is that God is so powerful he often uses the weakest to defeat the powerful to show that it is His power and not ours. God’s wisdom confounds the wise. Pharaoh’s second attempt fails.
The third failure comes in the birth of Moses (Ex 2:2): After the two failed attempts by Pharaoh he gets frantic and outraged. Now, every son (possibly even the Egyptian?) is to be thrown into the Nile to die! Instead, a son comes out of the Nile to live! This is the climax of Pharaoh’s failed attempts. God’s wisdom confounds the wise. Pharaoh’s third and final attempt fails, a savior is born.