Sunday, April 27, 2014
Exodus: Chapter 11
Intimacy of conflict
friend and face
now you will cry
[For full chapter, click here
An interlude. A strange, abrupt chapter, in which nothing actually happens. Rather it serves as a bookend, closing Moses' protracted interaction with Pharaoh, in preparation for the final blow (to be be delivered by God Himself). There is a chiastic closing to the story of Moses' mission. If God appointed Moses in response to Israel's "scream," now, at this final plague, Egypt will "scream." In this final warning, we return to Moses initial declaration to Pharaoh: "My firstborn son, Israel. I say to you, send forth My son that he may serve Me, and if you refuse to let him go, I will kill your firstborn son."
What stands out here, in this final confrontation before the "complete" (11:1) severance, is a strange intimacy between Israel and Egypt, the oppressors and the oppressed. Moses and Pharaoh fight each other in an exchange that--in contrast to their earlier, formal, conversations--is personal, with Moses storming out. God says: "he will send you out complete (kalla)" which can also mean "bride"--a connotation that is reenforced by the language garesh ye-garesh: "he will divorce you." Moses, we now learn, "is great in the land of Egypt, in the eyes of Pharaoh's servants and in the eyes of the people." Israel finds "favor" in the eyes of Egypt, in an echo of the earlier intimacy between Joseph and Pharaoh. Suddenly, the children of Israel can ask of their Egyptian "friends" for silver and gold. Friendship and favor enter a relationship that seemed to consist only of blood, murder and slavery.
At this final parting of ways, the full divorce that will "separate the children of Israel", there is a bittersweet awareness of how intertwined the two nations are]