God Is an Accelerationist

At shul today, my eight-year-old daughter Carol asked about the parsha we were reading, from Exodus 10-11, which details the last of the three plagues before Pharaoh lets the Jews go. Up until that final┬ámoment, God is “hardening Pharaoh’s heart,” stiffening his tyrannical resolve so that he won’t let the Jews go. Which prompted this exchange:

Carol: Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Why doesn’t He soften it?

Me: I have no idea. Why do you think?

Carol: Maybe if He did, the Jews would get too comfortable and wouldn’t want to go.

Me: That’s what people call “heightening the contradictions.”


  1. John Maher February 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm | #

    The meaning is that the real plague in Exodus is axial civilization which has resulted in environmental ruin. Pharaoh’s tyrannical resolve was an anthropocentric adherence to failed policies. He should have massacred everyone of all faiths in equal numbers and rejoiced.

  2. Larry Houghteling February 4, 2017 at 11:12 pm | #

    I remember the first time I read this. My Jewish sister in law and for-all-practical-purposes-Jewish brother asked me to tell the story at their Passover seder. I protested that I didn’t really know the exodus story. Well, read it, they suggested. So I did.

    There are ten plagues, we all recall. What most people don’t recall — and you’ve pointed it out — is that for the last several plagues, Pharaoh is ready to yield, but each time — you say three times, I remember four — God hardens (or “stiffens”) Pharaoh’s heart, and he changes his mind just as he’s about to free the Hebrews, thereby giving Himself an excuse to ratchet up the violence.

    The cynic’s answer to your daughter’s question, why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart (rather than soften it), would be, because God — or at least the character “God” who plays such a big part in the Book of Exodus — is a vengeful homicidal maniac who thinks nothing of inflicting more and more pain on His enemies and whatever innocents happen to be standing around, culminating in the murder of all the Egyptian first-born, “man and beast.”

    Sadly, the cynic’s answer is also the correct answer. “God” wants to make a point — He is Numero Uno, by God, and all those other fake Gods, including the Egyptian gods, are unworthy contenders, highly overrated, and He can blow them away. “God” is a lot like Trump, in fact. Basically a for-the-most-part-no-good Being about whom about the best one can say is, “But He’s complicated. You oughta see Him when He’s being nice — He’s REALLY nice!”

    Luckily, it’s just a story, and whatever God may actually be, He/She/It is certainly nothing like the dangerous nutcase Yahweh who is so effectively portrayed in the Book of Exodus.

    By the way, my brother and sister-in-law never invited me to tell the story at Passover again. I wonder why.

    • b. February 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm | #

      It took me about a decade to realize that I was not an atheist but – science! – a provisional agnostic. It took me a few more decades to conclude that this really is to say I am an anti-theist in waiting. If any of the powers ascribed to our assorted gods – especially omniscience and omnipotence – hold true… hostis humani generis.

      The rap sheet is written in the fossil record, back to an age of innocence brutally ended by oxygen pollution of the promised land, over two billion years ago, and the thus inevitable cardinal sin of life “intelligently designed” for killing life. Nothing with claim to have freely chosen the laws of physics in this universe is deserving of worship.

      If the cards are stacked against us in such a manner, defiance might well be the only stance that our own flawed nature leaves us. Consider our hearts stiffened, by design.

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