Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On the question "why did God harden the Pharaoh's heart?"

It's a phrase that has been dropped in Nick Spencer's wonderful T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents series twice now, both times when SPIDER revealed that they were effectively in control of the situation to a degree that T.H.U.N.D.E.R.hadn't even considered. Much like the climax of Se7en, where the package is opened and Somerset says "John Doe has the upper hand!"

It's a reference to a long-debated religious question about the story of Moses and the Exodus. A snippet of the relevant text follows:
Exodus 9:12 - "12 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses"
That's read to mean that God actively MADE the Pharaoh more evil and vindictive against the Israelites, thus requiring Himself to send more plagues upon Egypt to effect the Jewish slaves' release.

Now if you read more of the passage, it can also be read that it's just that the plagues simply had the opposite effect desired, and made Pharaoh more angry toward the Israelites, as opposed to more amenable to setting them free. But yet the first argument is still asked. And for those who choose to read it that way, there are several versions of the argument that all pretty much boil down to the same thing:

God did it to make Himself look good.

Some temper the statement more to the idea that God, being omniscient, knew that Pharaoh would not react well to these acts and threats, and chose to take advantage of the path He knew things would go.

In short, God hacked the system, took advantage of advance knowledge to create a scenario in which He would be lauded and praised, and got His people out of the situation, just as He wanted.

Now take that scenario and turn it towards T.H.U.N.D.E.R..

How did T.H.U.N.D.E.R. defeat the Warlord, only to start fighting a new threat, SPIDER, almost immediately afterwards?

Why was T.H.U.N.D.E.R. so surprised that SPIDER had the upper hand on them?

Is T.H.U.N.D.E.R. doing things deliberately to make themselves look good?

And are those things getting out of their control?

Mind = BLOWN...

I've no idea how close to the truth I am (and judging by the way Spencer has been able to confound my expectations with each issue, I'm likely not even close), but it's an interesting topic of discussion.

There's also the fact that a terrorist organization is using the Bible in its statements, and not a text more closely connected (rightly or no) with more violent actions.

This is a stellar book.  Very much not a simple superhero title.  Seek it out.  The latest issue features a five-page section by George Perez that will remind you once again why he is not only head and shoulders above the rest of the artist in comics today, but chest, hips knees and shins as well.

For a more in-depth look at the debate of the Pharaoh's Heart, check here, and any other number of religions sites on the net.

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