Wisbit - July 2015
What About Those Drowning Egyptians?
Someone who recently saw the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings asked me how a good God could drown the Egyptian soldiers in the sea. Here are a few thoughts that came to me.
Our rabbis taught, “When the Egyptian armies were drowning in the sea, the Heavenly Hosts broke out in songs of jubilation. God silenced them and said, “My creatures are perishing, and you sing praises?”
(For more ideas and references about this, see my article “A God Who Weeps.” It includes ideas and quotes from the excellent book, The Suffering of God.)
The Talmud quote above points out that giving or even allowing logical consequences for our actions doesn’t seem to be any easier for God than it is for a human parent. God’s will is for humans to act with love and justice, which is echoed in God’s frequent cry throughout the prophets: “Return to me!” Add to that plea the image of God with hands extended as God pleads: “I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’ to a nation that did not call on my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people” (Isaiah 65:1b-2a). Author Thomas Fretheim comments, “God’s hands are extended all day long in invitation, even to a rebellious people; but they would have none of God. Judgment must fall, but again it is accompanied by a heart full of grief.” In the same way, God experiences anguish and misery when we engage in self-destructive behavior. This is a God who desperately wants our best, a God we can trust to be and do good.
Grace and peace,
I highly recommend research on the Ancient Near East culture to see that the brutality was so harsh that the simple “eye for an eye” was a huge improvement. In ANE culture, it was a life for an eye. And the lives of your children for an eye.
© Jan Johnson - For permission to reprint, http://janjohnson.org/reprints.html
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