Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog
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    If you want to find out whether Christianity fares well in the arenas of science, philosophy, ethics, and history, then you should subscribe to this blog. Our purpose is to show that Christianity is the most intellectually rich worldview that exists. Why is that? Because it is true. Every week, we will post 2-3 articles which should take you no more than 5 minutes to read. We believe that your Christian walk will be greatly enriched or, if you are not a Christian, you will come to see that Christianity is a most reasonable faith.
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  • Robots, Work, and The Future of Mankind

    Posted By on July 30, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    nao01 Robots, Work, and The Future of MankindMark Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and now famous technology venture capitalist, had some very interesting things to say recently about why the rise of robots and artificial intelligence won’t put humans out of work. Andreessen wrote this blog post because of the panic many politicians, academics and technology experts are having over the future of the workplace, given that robots are becoming better and better at doing what only humans used to be able to do.

    Andreessen’s piece, entitled, “This is Probably a Good Time to Say That I Don’t Believe Robots Will Eat All the Jobs …” addresses this panic head on. He denies that there is a fixed supply of work for humans to do, which means that as robots take some forms of work from humans, humans will invent new forms of work to take the place of the old forms. There will be never be a time when human beings simply have no work to do because robots can do everything.

    How can Andreessen be so confident? First of all, this process has already occurred repeatedly throughout human history, where animals or machines have replaced human labor, and yet humans have found new things to do. Why do we think the future would be any different?

    But secondly, Andreessen makes this fascinating comment: “The counterargument to a finite supply of work comes from economist Milton Friedman — Human wants and needs are infinite, which means there is always more to do.” (emphasis added) The argument is simple: human beings have a nature which causes them to have infinite (without limit) desires. Therefore, as technology advances and satisfies our current desires, we will just move on to new wants and needs.

    Andreessen foresees a kind of utopian future where all human physical and material needs are met, so human work will revolve around “culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, and adventure.” To the naysayers, Andreessen asks, “Utopian fantasy you say? OK, so then what’s your preferred long-term state? What else should we be shooting for, if not this?”

    I agree with Andreessen that the worries about robots taking human jobs is overblown. There will always be new things for humans to do. But I don’t think Andreessen gets it right when he predicts a utopian future where we all get to focus on “culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, and adventure.”

    The one thing he doesn’t take into consideration is human sin. Even though humans have been able to replace old jobs with new jobs as technology has advanced, humans have miserably failed at being able to control the evil in their nature. Rape, murder, torture, theft, adultery – these evils are all alive and well. Technology will not fix human nature.

    That is why the Christian looks at Andreessen’s utopian future and responds, “Yes, that sounds like a wonderful future for humanity, but we call that Heaven.” It is only when the stain of human sin is quarantined and removed that humankind can truly reach the utopia that Andreessen is predicting. The Bible predicts this will occur when Jesus Christ returns.

    Christians agree that human work is a beautiful thing, that God created mankind to love culture, beauty, art, science, exploration, and adventure. All of these things will occur in Heaven. But best of all, we will be able to see the source of all that we love, God Himself. God is the only Being that can finally satisfy our infinite wants and desires.

    Why Is the Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo So Important?

    Posted By on July 28, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    ex nihilo Why Is the Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo So Important?Creation ex nihilo is the Christian doctrine that God created the universe and everything in it out of nothing. He spoke all that exists, besides himself, into existence. Why does this doctrine matter?

    Francis Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen, editors of the The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement Why Is the Doctrine of Creation Ex Nihilo So Important?, write:

    At the heart of every world-view is its understanding of God and the universe. From this understanding flow most of the other key components of a worldview. For nearly two millennia Christians have confessed in all their creeds that God is the “Maker of heaven and earth.” The Nicene Creed specifies that this includes “all things visible and invisible.”

    At the heart of the Christian worldview is the idea that God is the creator of all other reality; there is a fundamental distinction between Creator and creation. . . .  The creedal affirmations of Christians are but reaffirmations of the first verse of the Bible, which majestically proclaims: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

    The relationship of God to the universe that humans inhabit is a foundational truth claim of every worldview. They continue:

    Thomas V. Morris points out that the biblical doctrine of creation is the key to a distinctively theistic perspective on reality. He writes, “This one statement captures the heart of a theistic world-view. We live in a created universe. For centuries, theists have held that the single most important truth about our world is that it is a created world. And it is no exaggeration to add that it is one of the most important truths about God that he is the creator of this world.”

    Creation ex nihilo distinguishes theism from other worldviews that dominated the ancient world.

    It was, in fact, the doctrine of creation out of nothing (ex nihilo) that most fundamentally distinguished the Judeo-Christian view of God and the world from the various religions of the ancient Near East and philosophical systems of Classical Greece—all of which assumed that the world had been formed out of eternally preexisting chaotic matter.

    This doctrine has profound implications for the world we live in.

    According to Christian teaching, it is God’s absolute creation and continuing conservation of the universe that accounts for its existence, order, rationality, goodness, and beauty. It is because God created the universe ex nihilo and proclaimed it good that we can be assured that evil is not somehow part of the fabric of the universe but a parasite that will one day be overcome.

    And finally, the scientific method, which has given us the technology that has improved our lives so much, owes its genesis to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.

    Furthermore, according to many historians of science, the Christian doctrine of creation played a significant role in the rise and development of modern science by providing many of its basic presuppositions. It has been shown that the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo was one of the reasons the scientific revolution occurred in Christian Western Europe rather than in the ancient world or some other culture. It could even be argued that, apart from the presuppositions supplied by the Christian doctrine of creation, modern science (realistically understood) would be impossible and that divorcing science from the ground of these presuppositions makes it irrational.

    Steve Jobs and the Problem of Evil

    Posted By on July 23, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    MTE5NDg0MDU0NTIzODQwMDE1 Steve Jobs and the Problem of EvilIn Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs Steve Jobs and the Problem of Evil biography, we get a few paragraphs explaining Jobs’ thoughts about Christianity. Isaacson explains:

    Even though they were not fervent about their faith, Jobs’s parents wanted him to have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to an end when he was thirteen.

    In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?” The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.” Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?” “Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.”

    Jobs announced that he didn’t want to have anything to do with worshipping such a God, and he never went back to church. He did, however, spend years studying and trying to practice the tenets of Zen Buddhism. Reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.”

    From this brief report, it appears that Jobs was flummoxed by the problem of evil at the age of thirteen. He wanted to know how God could know that children were starving to death and not do anything about it.

    Anyone who has read this blog or other Christian blogs knows that not only do Christians have reasonable solutions to the problem of evil, but that every other worldview fares much worse when dealing with this problem.

    Buddhism, Jobs’ chosen religion, lays evil at the feet of human desire. If humans wouldn’t desire anything, then there would be no suffering. The goal of Buddhism is to teach its adherents to suppress all of their desires. That is what the Buddha attempted to do.

    Jobs, like most Buddhists, doesn’t really get this. You could hardly imagine a person who had more desires than Jobs. His desires to change the world through technology, to perfect computer and phone designs, to control the user experience, are all what he’s known for.

    It seems that for Jobs, Buddhism was a way for him to justify dropping acid and pursuing spiritual experiences. All of the more fundamental teachings of Buddhism were ignored by Jobs, as far as I can tell, and he certainly never came to grips with Buddhism’s answer to the problem of evil.

    Sadly, it seems clear that Jobs never really gave Christianity a chance. That’s unfortunate.

    Steve Jobs on Abortion and Adoption

    Posted By on July 21, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    MTE5NDg0MDU0NTIzODQwMDE1 Steve Jobs on Abortion and AdoptionI’ve been reading the Steve Jobs Steve Jobs on Abortion and Adoption biography by Walter Isaacson and came across one of the saddest cases of moral confusion I’ve seen in a long time.

    Jobs is in his mid-twenties and is sleeping with a girl named Chrisann Brennan. They aren’t married, of course, because Jobs wasn’t interested. As long as he could have sex with her whenever he wanted, why would he marry her?

    At some point, she gets pregnant and announces it to Steve. What is his reaction? Below is a quote from the biography:

    There was no discussion of marriage . “I knew that she was not the person I wanted to marry, and we would never be happy, and it wouldn’t last long,” Jobs later said. “I was all in favor of her getting an abortion, but she didn’t know what to do. She thought about it repeatedly and decided not to, or I don’t know that she ever really decided— I think time just decided for her.”

    Not only was he sleeping with a woman not his wife, but when he got her pregnant, his solution was to kill the baby because it might inconvenience him. But listen to what Brennan says next:

    Brennan told me that it was her choice to have the baby: “He said he was fine with an abortion but never pushed for it.” Interestingly, given his own background, he was adamantly against one option. “He strongly discouraged me putting the child up for adoption,” she said.

    Let me spell this out for you. Jobs was OK with Brennan killing the child, but he was adamantly opposed to Brennan putting the baby up for adoption!! What is especially cruel about this is that Jobs was himself adopted by wonderful parents who basically gave him everything he ever wanted.

    In his twisted mind, it would be better for a person to be dead than be adopted. Make sense to you? I hope not.

    Were the Ten Plagues Natural Occurrences or Miracles?

    Posted By on July 18, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt

    Many scholars have noted that many, if not all, of the ten plagues in Exodus 7-12 can be explained by natural causes.

    According to Robert Bergen in the Apologetics Study Bible Were the Ten Plagues Natural Occurrences or Miracles?,

    Some have suggested that bacteria turned the waters red, and the poisoned waters killed the fish and forced the frogs to seek cool, moist places away from the Nile. When the frogs died their corpses were a breeding ground for two types of small insects. These, in turn, spread communicable diseases among both animals and humans, resulting in death to the livestock and boils upon the people. A well-timed locust plague followed by a spring hailstorm devastated Egypt’s crops. Shortly thereafter a desert sandstorm or dust cloud darkened most of Egypt. Finally a devastating plague, perhaps one caused by the insects, killed both humans and beasts among the non-Israelites.

    If some or all of the plagues can be explained by natural causes, does it follow that these were not miracles? No. God may use natural or supernatural causes to perform a miracle. In cases where God uses natural causes, the timing, intensity, and redemptive purpose behind these events are indicative of God’s intervention.

    The greatest skeptic in Egypt, Pharaoh, eventually became convinced that God was behind the plagues, and that they were not just natural occurrences. The people of Egypt came to the same conclusion.

    Why? Moses and Aaron, prophets of God, were predicting the plagues in advance (timing) and describing their intensity and reach. They were also explaining that the plagues were meant to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, and this is exactly what happened. There was simply no doubt that the ten plagues were directed by God.

    Commentary on Exodus 7-11 (The 10 Plagues)

    Posted By on July 16, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt

    10 Plagues Commentary on Exodus 7 11 (The 10 Plagues)In chapters 7-12, the power of God would be demonstrated to Pharaoh and all the people of Egypt. Recall that Pharaoh told Moses and Aaron that he did not know their God, and God promised that he soon would. Ten plagues would be visited upon the Egyptians, with each successive plague bringing yet more devastation on top of the previous.

    The ten plagues may have occurred over a period of about nine months, with the first beginning in the months of July or August, when the Nile typically floods. The first plague is described in verses 14-25 of chapter 7. These are the words Moses is to speak to Pharaoh: “With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.”

    In verses 19-21, Aaron held out his staff over the waters of the Nile and the waters did become blood (or red like blood, as it could be translated). As a result, “The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.”

    Pharaoh’s magicians were able to use trickery to partially duplicate this first plague, and so Pharaoh pays no mind and leaves Moses and Aaron to return to his palace.

    Why make the waters of the Nile turn into blood, or into blood-colored water? The Egyptians worshiped many different gods that were associated with natural objects. The Nile River, in particular, was associated with at least 3 major gods and goddesses (Hapi, Isis, and Khnum). Therefore, when the God of Israel turned the water into blood, rendering the water undrinkable, it was a clear demonstration of God’s superiority over the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Each of the subsequent plagues would also “defeat” other Egyptian gods.

    It is also worth noting the reactions of both Pharaoh and his magicians. The magicians clearly believed that through their own trickery they could duplicate, at least partially, this sign from God. They see no reason to believe that the God of Israel is anything special at this point.

    Pharaoh, likewise, does not seem to be overly impressed, given that his own magicians can duplicate the sign. As the plagues progress, it is interesting to see the attitudes of Pharaoh and his magicians transform from smug contempt for Moses and his alleged God, to fear and open acknowledgment of his power.

    If we skip ahead to the time period just before the seventh plague, the hailstorm, God reminds us in clear language what his purposes are in bringing the devastation of the plagues on the people of Egypt. In chapter 9, verses 13-16, we read the following:

    Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

    God’s purposes are the following: 1) to force Pharaoh to release the Israelites from captivity so that they may worship him, 2) to teach Pharaoh that there is no one like God, 3) to demonstrate his power so that his name would be proclaimed over the earth.

    After nine plagues have taken place, over a period of nine or ten months, Pharaoh is still not willing to let the Israelites go. Up to this point Pharaoh’s responses to each plague have been the following: 1) Nile turned to blood – ignored the request of Moses; 2) Frogs – agreed to let Israelites leave for worship, then reneged; 3) Gnats – ignored his magicians’ suggestion that the Hebrew God’s power was real; 4) Flies – suggested the Israelites worship in Egypt instead of leaving; 5) Death of livestock – refused Moses’ request; 6) Boils – refused Moses’ request; 7) Hail – agreed to let Israelites leave for worship, then reneged; 8) Locusts – offered to let only the men go; 9) Darkness – agreed that people could go, but not their animals.

    So finally, in chapter 11, verses 1-10, God tells Moses that only one more plague will be brought on Pharaoh and Egypt. This plague will be so awful that Pharaoh will drive them completely out of the land. Recall that Moses has been asking for three days of worship, but God is saying that Pharaoh will go beyond that request and ask them to leave forever.

    What is the tenth plague? God, through Moses, explains what will happen:

    About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.

    This final plague, the death of the firstborn, would strike the Egyptians harder than all the others. In particular, the firstborn of Pharaoh was considered to be a god, and for him to be killed would be a clear divine demonstration of superiority by the God of Israel. And, so that there would be no doubt about God’s desire to have Pharaoh release the Hebrew slaves, God assures Pharaoh that no Israelites will be harmed. Death will pass over them.

    How Many Israelites Left Egypt? Part 2

    Posted By on July 11, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    Biblical scholar Douglas Stuart, in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary), identifies 8 possible ways to translate the word ‘eleph from Hebrew to English. Each of these translations could be used in Exodus 12:37, with context being the determinant. The 8 possible translations are: 1) cattle, 2) clans, 3) divisions, 4) families, 5) oxen, 6) tribes, 7) military platoon or squad, and 8) thousand.

    As you can see, this word ‘eleph has a tremendous semantic range. The NIV translators have decided to translate the word as “thousand” but Stuart believes this is a mistake. Since the word  ‘eleph is being used in the context of counting foot soldiers, then Stuart argues that option 7 is the most appropriate translation. Given this translation of platoon or squad, what number of soldiers would that indicate?

    Mendenhall suggests that it was the number of men of fighting age (above age twenty; cf. Num 1:3) that a single tribal subset (extended family) or village or district of a larger town could produce. What we do not know is the actual numbers of these extended families or village districts. In the case of a larger family or district, the number might be as many as twenty. A small village or district might produce just a handful. For general purposes of calculation, it may be assumed that most ʾelephs were not larger than fifteen and perhaps averaged a dozen. . . .

    Accordingly, six hundred ʾelephs, the number mentioned in Exod 12:37, probably would contain not more than 7,200 fighting men, at an average of a dozen fighting men per ʾeleph. If one assumes that many of these were single, but that most may have been married, that most who were married had children, and that there were many men who could not fight because they were either too old or too young or infirm, the total number of Israelites who left Egypt might in fact have been around 28,800–36,000 (assuming three or four nonfighters for every fighter). This is a large and formidable number but by no means the two million or so that a misleading calculation based on taking ʾeleph unjustifiably as “thousand” would yield.

    Stuart concludes with the following:

    Twenty or thirty thousand people is a number that easily can fit into many modern sorts of venues, from small sports stadiums to beaches to public gatherings and rallies, a fact that may help modern readers of the book visualize the entire Israelite contingent, who were often in one place at one time. It is a number that fits the facts of the book of Exodus well. Such a number of Israelites is large enough to require the miraculous provisions of food and water that the book describes; it is small enough for the whole nation to gather encamped around the tabernacle at the various places listed on the Israelite wilderness itinerary. For most occasions of listening to speeches, the men only would have gathered, several thousand or so in number, not too many to hear a speech shouted at them, especially if its words were relayed. Yet several thousand troops were formidable as a fighting force when directed at one place at a time.

    We may never know the exact number of Israelites who traveled from Egypt, but Stuart’s analysis seems plausible to me. Because the word ‘eleph can be translated in so many different ways, we can’t be sure that it should be translated as “thousand” in Exodus 12:37.

    How Many Israelites Left Egypt? Part 1

    Posted By on July 9, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    In Exodus 12:37, the NIV translation of the Bible says, referring to the Israelites leaving Egypt during the Exodus, “There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.” What has puzzled Bible scholars and archaeologists about this number is that it seems far too large. If we add the women and children, we are looking at over 2 million Israelites. Estimates of the total world population at that time are between 25 and 100 million people, and the Israelites are referred to, in the Bible, as small in numbers compared to other people groups in the ancient near east.

    Now, it is not impossible that there were literally 2 million Israelites that left Egypt, but there are other ideas about how to translate Exodus 12:37. Biblical scholar Douglas Stuart offers a persuasive alternative explanation in his Exodus: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary) How Many Israelites Left Egypt? Part 1. According to Stuart,

    The Hebrew of the Exod 12:37 says literally, “The Israelites traveled from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred ‘elephs of foot-soldiers, besides women and children.” The NIV translation, like most English translations, contains two arguable assumptions on the part of the translators: that ʾeleph should be translated “thousand,” and that raḡlı̂ in the expression raḡlı̂ haggĕbārı̂m should be translated “men.” Both of these assumptions are, in our opinion, incorrect.

    The second, which assumes that raḡlı̂ can mean “men,” is not supportable in any Old Testament context. Some lexicons go so far as to suggest that the term in the singular might mean a “man on foot,” but none could rightly suggest that it means simply “man.” In the grammar of the verse, the addition of the appositional noun haggĕbārı̂m (lit., “[the] young men”) simply clarifies the age of the man/men in question. Since raḡlı̂ always occurs in contexts describing soldiers, including the present context (note the wording “all the LORD’s divisions” in v. 41), and differs from any of the usual terms for “man” or “men,” there really can be little doubt that it should be rendered “foot soldier” or, as some do, “infantryman” wherever it occurs in the Old Testament. The full expression raḡlı̂ haggĕbārı̂m, then, means “young foot soldiers.”

    Stuart’s first argument is that the NIV has mistranslated the text as “men on foot” when it should say “foot soldier” or “infantryman.” This is important because the Hebrew text seems to be counting the size of the Hebrew army, not the total population. But we are still left with how to translate the word ‘eleph.

    Because the question of the meaning of ʾeleph, however, is so much greater an issue for people as it relates to the accuracy of the Scripture and the proper interpretation of various stories involving the Israelite exodus and conquest of Canaan, the discussion of this term requires a far more extensive review. The reader should bear in mind, however, that Moses did not refer to six hundred ʾelephs of “men” who left Egypt but to six hundred ʾelephs of foot soldiers. He was counting God’s army, not all the people of Israel . . . .

    With this in mind, Stuart now takes up the challenge of translating the word ‘eleph. We’ll look at that in part 2.

    Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart Against His Will?

    Posted By on July 7, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    pharaoh%20face Did God Harden Pharaohs Heart Against His Will?In verse 21 of Exodus 4, God tells Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” This raises the question: how can God blame Pharaoh for his stubbornness if God is the one making Pharaoh stubborn?

    The answer lies in the rest of the Book of Exodus. Nine times the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is ascribed to God (4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8). Another nine times the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is blamed on Pharaoh himself (7:13-14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34-35). In addition, Pharaoh alone hardens his heart during the first five plagues, and it is not until the sixth plague that God confirms Pharaoh’s choice to be stubborn.

    The Bible, therefore, teaches that Pharaoh is responsible for hardening his own heart and that God is confirming what Pharaoh wants to do. It is not the case that God is forcing Pharaoh to be stubborn when Pharaoh really wants to be agreeable and compliant with Moses’ demands. There is no evidence for this in the text.

    Commentary on Exodus 5 (Bricks Without Straw)

    Posted By on July 4, 2014

    Post Author: Bill Pratt 

    EdenCareGroup+ +Bricks+Without+Straw Commentary on Exodus 5 (Bricks Without Straw)After successfully convincing their fellow Israelites that the God of their ancestors had sent them, Moses and Aaron boldly approach Pharaoh and request that he let them go to the desert to worship. Pharaoh’s response frames the events that will take place in chapters 7 through 12 of Exodus.

    Pharaoh’s response is, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” The purpose of the 10 plagues that will follow is to demonstrate to Pharaoh, the people of Egypt, and the reader, who the God of Israel is.

    Not only does Pharaoh reject their request, he acts to further punish the Israelites and turn them against Moses and Aaron. In verses 4-11, Pharaoh accuses Moses and Aaron of distracting the Israelites from their work, that of making bricks for Egyptian construction projects (see this link for more detail on brick-making).

    Typically, when bricks were made, the Egyptians would supply the Israelite laborers with straw to mix with clay in order to mold the bricks. Instead, the Israelites would now be expected to gather their own straw to make the bricks, and the number of bricks they would have to make would not decrease, but stay the same.

    In verses 12-14, the Israelites fail to make the required number of bricks, and the Israelite foremen are beaten. Disillusioned with the impossible task they’ve been given, the foremen go before Pharaoh to complain about their plight. Pharaoh, showing no mercy, responds, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”

    The foremen now realize that Pharaoh is punishing them because of Moses and Aaron, so in verses 20-21 they confront the two men and ask that God judge them for inciting Pharaoh. What a turn of events! A short time earlier, the leaders of Israel were receiving Moses and Aaron with joy, and now they are cursing them. The fickleness of Israel toward God’s prophets will be a central theme of the Bible all the way up through the deaths of Jesus and his apostles.

    Moses then questions God, saying, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people?” God, however, in chapter 6, verse 1, reassures Moses. He explains, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”

    The focus, again, is put back on God. Moses and Aaron can do nothing for the Israelites, on their own. Only God, acting on behalf of Israel, can effect their release from bondage. Pharaoh has thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak. He has refused to even allow the Israelites to worship God for a measly three days. He has questioned the very existence of the God of Israel. In the following chapters, God will make himself known to Pharaoh and to all the people of Egypt.

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