29 April 2009

The Lord took off their chariot wheels

God's last mass murder pretty much did the trick. The night that God killed every firstborn Egyptian child and animal, Pharaoh told Moses to go.
He called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. Exodus 12:31-32
So Moses rounded up all three million or so Israelites, their flocks, herds, cattle, unleavened bread, and all the silver, gold, and clothes that they could steal from the Egyptians, and left town.
The people took their dough before it was leavened … and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment … And they spoiled the Egyptians … about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children … and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle. 12.34-38
And everything would have ended happily ever after, too, if God could have resisted the temptation to harden the Pharaoh's heart a few more times.

You see, the Pharaoh's heart was just too damned soft to suit God. So he set about hardening it a bit more. (He had to harden it 8 times in order to pull off his last killing.)
I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD. 14.4
And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh. 14.8
I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 14.17-18
So God hardened Pharaoh's heart some more and got himself a little more honor.

Of course he had to kill some more Egyptians so that they would know that he is the Lord. Sometimes you have to kill people in order to get to know them better.

So that's what God did. And you saw the movie so you know the rest of the story. God parted the sea so the Israelites could cross and then drowned the Egyptian army.
The LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians … and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. … And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. 14.26-28
But part I like best they didn't show in the movie. God got right out there with his wrenches and whatnot and removed the wheels from the Egyptian chariots. How cool is that?
The LORD … took off their chariot wheels. 14.24-25
That would have been fun to watch.

OK. So how many Egyptians drowned to get God some more honor?
Well, we know there were at least 600, since that's how many chariots the Pharaoh sent after the Israelites.
And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. 14.7
But along with the chariots there were “horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh” that chased after the three million or so escaping slaves.

So although I probably greatly underestimated the imaginary number, I guessed 5000.

God's next killing: Amalekites


U.T. Raptor said...

I'm kind of wondering where he got the horses to pull the chariots, since the horses died in at least one of the previous plagues...

Steve Wells said...

Good point, UT. I forgot to mention that.

Baconsbud said...

have wonder for a while, why do christians say it was the Pharaoh that wouldn't let them go. If someone forces you to do something, it is mainly their fault. This is just another example of christians making up excuses for the faults of their god.

Ian said...

Well, we should all be happy to know that this story, like most of the stories in the Bible, is complete nonsense. There is no archaeological evidence for the Israelites ever having been in Egypt.

My best guess is that the massive eruption of the volcano on the Aegean island of Santorini around 1600 BC was the inspiration for this story, since it likely led to a tsunami in the Mediterranean that probably devastated the Egyptian coastline as well as the coastline of ancient Israel.

barriejohn said...

You forget Steve - God can do anything. Taking off chariot wheels is a doddle!!

FrodoSaves said...

Wouldn't a chariot without wheels be something like a boat? Is it possible that instead of trying to drown the Egyptians, he was just trying to level the playing field by giving them a mini armada?

I Am said...

That is a good point, UT! I never thought of that one. Who knows, maybe God created more horses just so he could drown them. He likes dead animals almost as much as he likes dead humans.

Another thing I never thought of: Steve's post mentions God taking the wheels off the chariots. It is a funny picture, and picturing it got me to thinking. Why would God choose to do specifically this method to stop the Egyptians?

This got me to wondering: when were wheels invented, in the Biblical view of history? As far as I know, the Bible doesn't say.

Searching BibleGateway, it appears Exodus 25 is the first time wheels are mentioned in the Bible. Interesting...This made me wonder: Did the Israelites even have wheels?

The Bible mentions "carts" towards the end of Genesis, which would presumably have wheels, but even these verses seems to indicate Egyptian origin. Genesis 45:19: "Take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come" (NIV).

Genesis 46:5: "Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel's sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him." (NIV). The carts they use seem to be Egyptian. No mention of wheels, carts, chariots, etc. for the building of Noah's Ark (which may be a good thing, given Noah's lack of sobriety!).

Hmm...It's possible that the Egyptians had the wheel, while the Israelites did not. What do you guys think?

That would be a huge advantage the Egyptians had over the Israelites. If the Egyptians and their gods were smarter and more advanced than the Israelites and their god Yahweh, what better way for (a jealous?) Yahweh to get back at them than to take away their high-tech wheels and drown them before they could escape?

This is pure speculation, but since we're speculating on how many Egyptians this killed, I thought it might be interesting to speculate about why God chose this way to kill them. The Egyptians may have had their fancy state-of-the-art wheels, but Yahweh of Flood fame could still drown them old school!

I Am said...

I meant to say Exodus 14:25 is the first time wheels are mentioned in the Bible (not Exodus 25).

Matthew Blanchette said...

Wow; never knew God could get so ridiculously down and dirty, but, since this is coming from a guy who, until a few months ago, used to attend church, well... ;)

Anonymous said...

If the Egyptians only had iron chariots they would have been spared

barriejohn said...

They`re just stories I Am, as I`m sure you`re aware, so these things happen, in the main, to add dramatic effect! As with the fables of Robin Hood and King Arthur, as well as other more verifiable historical figures, some of the stories surrounding them are mere myths, others really happened, and some are based on real events which occurred elsewhere and to entirely different people. It is now impossible to know the truth, as it is lost in the mists of time.

Geds said...

You're actually talking about a minimum of 1800 Egyptians killed.

Standard Egyptian chariot tactics at the time of Ramses required a three-man team: one driver, one archer, and a runner who went alongside and defended the chariot from opposing infantry. Of course, ancient armies were combined-arms forces and rarely deployed with only one type of troop on the ground.

At the Battle of Kadesh, one of the largest battles of the ancient Middle East and the largest chariot battle ever Ramses II (who, IIRC, is also supposed to be the Pharaoh of Moses' time) had an army that consisted of approximately 2000 chariots and 16,000 infantry. So if we take similar ratios and assume Pharaoh sent infantry along with his chariots (which I would, what with their being millions of Jews out there and all...), we can assume there were just under 5000 infantry troops committed. So now we're talking about a death toll of nearly 7000.

Of course even with that the Jews probably outnumbered the Pharaoh's army nearly 5000:1. The adult males by themselves outnumbered their pursuers nearly 10:1. Even if we assume that the Egyptians were a well-trained force and the chariots operated as a large force multiplier, there's simply no way that the Egyptians could have stopped the Jews in their egress.

Meanwhile, I've seen estimates of the population of the New Kingdom period of Egypt at between 3 and 5 million. The idea of Egypt keeping a slave population of approximately the same size as its regular population -- especially when his muster for an important campaign against the Hittites came to just about 20,000 troops and the Hittites outnumbered him nearly two-to-one at Kadesh -- is patently absurd.

Now, assuming I haven't taken up too much space already, I can offer a hypothesis. During the reign of Ramses II the Egyptians were attacked by the mysterious "Sea People." Ramses fought them off and they ended up settling in Canaan. Chances are they intermingled with the Semite population that already lived there. It's entirely possible that the Exodus story came from that episode.

Steve Wells said...

Thanks, Geds. That was very interesting.

So I'm off by an order of magnitude or so? Maybe I should change it to 10,000.

Any other thoughts on this?

barriejohn said...

Yes, very interesting Geds, but surely the Biblical numbers are purely mythical anyway, as are the events recorded (as you say)? Perhaps you can answer this question for me though: would it be correct to say that there is absolutely NO evidence for any significant Hebrew slave force in Ancient Egypt at the supposed time of The Exodus? I haven`t come across any, but things do change!

I Am said...

barriejohn, yes I realize that the story is mostly or entirely made-up, it was just a thought I had about why they might have made up that specific story.

Maybe it was just for dramatic effect, as you said. But a lot of times there is another story hidden behind the main action of a story that says something about the times the story was written in, whether put there intentionally (as is often the case in sci-fi) or not.

My thought about wheels may have absolutely nothing to do with the actual creation of the story, I just thought I'd throw it out there.

barriejohn said...

To the best of my knowledge there is only ONE hieroglyph in Egypt which refers to "Hebrews", and then not as residents in the land, but this information may well be out of date now! (Evangelicals used to latch onto it as "proof" that the Book of Exodus is historically accurate, whereas in actual fact it really demonstrates the opposite!!) "Mosis" is an Egyptian name, so it is certainly possible that a minor Egyptian royal did lead some of the Hebrews in battle against other Canaanite tribes, and some candidates have been put forward, but of course this just shoots great holes in the Biblical story!!!

Unknown said...

Pharaoh hardened his own heart much like most of you are doing today!