Map for Operation Ten Plagues in 1948.
Friday, February 1, 2008

Operation Yoav

Operation Ten Plagues was an Israeli military operation during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. As I recall B. H. Liddell Hart in his Strategy cites this as an instance of the indirect approach.

We’re talking about the original ten plagues though that force pharaoh to let his people go.

We left off at the end of Chapter 4. In Chapter 5 Moses has an encounter with pharaoh. Here is where the instructions to make bricks without straw comes in. Apparently the Hebrews had foremen from their own people over them. The TO (table of organization) is unclear. Apparently the slave drivers are Egyptian, and the foremen are Hebrew. The foremen apparently act like shop stewards because they go to pharaoh to complain about the requirement. Then, after leaving pharaoh, they meet Moses and Aaron and kvetch to them. Moses complains to God, and then God tells him “I am Yahweh. To Abraham and Isaac and Jacob I appeared as El Shaddai: I did not make myself known to them by my name Yahweh” (6:2-3). What is with this?

According to Wikipedia El Shaddai means “God almighty who is all sufficient,” while YHWH probably refers to the verb for being. So God has revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in one of his aspects, but presumably by revealing Himself to Moses in his ontological role has gone beyond the revelation of Himself as the almighty one.

God then repeats His commission to Moses. At 6:20 the genealogy of Moses and Aaron is given, and they are said to be brothers by blood. So much for my earlier comment about being in-laws. Though I’m still puzzled about how they knew each other, and how Moses knew that he had a brother. (Jochebed might have told Aaron that he had a brother in the palace, but would she, or pharaoh’s daughter, have told him that he was Jewish?)

In Chapter 7 Moses has an encounter with pharaoh and his magicians. This is where his staff turns into a serpent. The movie Ten Commandments depicts the scene pretty accurately. What it gets wrong is that in the next two plagues, water turned to blood and frogs, the magicians also turn water to blood (7:22) and cause more frogs (8:7). In both cases pharaoh hardens his heart. What’s going on here?

You would think that the magicians would try to stop the water to blood and the frogs, instead they just make matters worse. They use magic as a means of assuming power, not of help. (Now there’s a whole possible flame war here, but I don’t want to start anything about magic. Lets just say that whether or not magic can be used for good, it’s not used that way here.) So this has the effect of making pharaoh harden his heart. It’s only when the third plague, gadflies, appears that the magicians fail.

Six remaining plagues (4-9) take up the narrative until Chapter 12, which is the Passover (Pesach) prescriptions. At 12:35 the Egyptians are plundered. As I commented on a previous page, this will eventually serve as a justification for plundering the intellectual wealth of paganism.

At 13 we get the plague of the first-born, but first we break for more instructions about Passover. At 13:17 they leave Egypt.

We’l resume again with chapters 14 and following.