Persecution–and severing the chains of living under an oppressive ruler–are strong themes in the Exodus narrative. The unnamed Pharaoh is an oppressive force. He possesses a ‘stubborn’ heart.
The Israelites are enslaved and he does not want to let them go and set them free. Unreasonable, difficult and unthinkable demands are put on the Israelites. No matter how hard they work, it seems that their work is worthless. The odds are stacked against them.
The solution, as carried out in the Book of Exodus, is a mass departure of the Israelites from Egypt.
Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.Exodus 3:10
The mission to guide the Israelites out of Egypt was given to Moses as well as Aaron. When the opportune time arrived, Moses and Aaron went to see the Pharaoh together. While Aaron was given the task of being the prophet and the mouthpiece, the two brothers spoke as one team, united in their cause.
Instead of getting ‘the result’ they hoped for, conditions became even worse for Israelites who had to contend with further oppression under Pharaoh.
This led Moses to voice out and ask God, “Why did You ever send me?”
But Moses and Aaron are sent once more to speak with the Pharaoh. It reminds me of the adage–if at first you don’t succeed, try again…
There is a difference, though, between the first time that Moses and Aaron spoke to the Pharaoh and the second time. The first demand, if you will, was to celebrate a feast in the wilderness; the second demand was to let the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt. The stakes had been increased.
It took many tries, but Pharaoh’s heart never softened. In Exodus 9, we are told that pestilence would come down on Egyptian livestock, but not on the livestock of the Israelites. At the point that this occurs, we are halfway through the ten plagues that would come down on Egypt. After the livestock would come the boils; and after the boils would come the hail.
When the hail comes, Pharaoh finally begs for release; makes a promise and then his heart is hardened once again. When faced with hardship, the Pharaoh temporarily changes his mind, but before you know it, it is business as usual. He has gone back to his same old ways and no lasting and irreversible change is even remotely possible. That does not stop Moses and Aaron from fulfilling the mission that had been given to them.
It was a process–the process of severing the chains of oppression. It did not all happen at once. It took ten plagues before the Israelites were finally able to depart from Egypt. It took negotiations with the Pharaoh. It took ten negotiations to sever the chains of oppression that were obstructing the Israelites from grasping the new destiny that awaited them.
In the end, the chains were severed. There was no looking back. A new destiny awaited. The story would, of course, continue on.
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