Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Hardening Pharaoh's Heart


Jan 29  Bo- Hardening Pharaoh's Heart

For recording of the discusion:


This weeks Torah portion is one for the cardiologists, because it focuses on the question of arteriosclerosis.

Harden heart lhakhbid lev  להכביד לב seems to be used primarily in Exodus, only with regard to Pharaoh. Not elsewhere, with one exception which itself is a reference to the Exodus. Ezekiel uses a term” heart of stone” frequently, but that is the closest we find.

 One of the signs of the Torah reflecting actual events is the heavy use of terms and concepts unique to Egypt.

The exodus and wilderness narratives (i.e., Exodus–Numbers) contain 27 different Egyptian loanwords, primarily comprising terminology for realia and material culture (see table 1). 10 Altogether there are 381 total occurrences of Egyptian loanwords in the exodus and wilderness traditions…. Significantly, the book of Exodus alone contains 26 Egyptian loanwords that occur a total of 333 times (Egyptian Loanwords as Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions ,Benjamin J. Noonan ,Columbia International University)

Other related Semitic languages of the same time period show very little use of Egyptian loan words, even though they at many times were under Egyptian control.! The author concludes that these terms themselves reflect the language of the period of the Exodus, and had they been a later invention, the authors would have been unable to recreate them from sources they no longer had!

The entire story of the Exodus is then to be seen as the revolution, not just against enslavement, but against all that is Egyptian, from the top, Pharaoh, on down. And that is what is at the core of Egypt- the Pharaoh, as the physical embodiment of the gods, and all the way down. That is why Egypt is called “beit Avadim”-the House of slavery”. Not because the Egyptians were oppressed, but because they had given themselves over to a civilization based upon the centrality of the Pharaoh-King-Emperor-Tsar.


Early Christian and Jewish texts referred to the forces of evil, the powers of Satan, under the term “Cosmocrator”-Ruler of the Cosmos, the universe.

A human being acting as god.


AFTERWARDS, MOSES AND AARON CAME <AND SAID UNTO PHARAOH >…. R. Hiyya b. R. Abba said: It was ambassador day for Pharaoh, and all the kings were coming to crown him because he was the cosmocrator of the world {i.e., powerful one}

Tanhuma (Buber) Vaera 2


Thus, a word intended as a divine adversary of God is applied to Pharaoh.

It has long been known that the Egyptian pharaoh was regarded as divine in Egyptian culture. He was the son of Re and the mediator between the gods and humankind. During the royal coronation, he was transformed into a manifestation of the god Horus. He could be referred to as a ntr (‘divine being’, ‘god’), and was regularly described in inscriptions as ‘the good god’ or ‘perfect god’ (ntr nfr). By the New Kingdom period, the king's divinity was believed to be imbued by his possession of a divine manifestation of the god Amun-Re called the ‘living royal ka’, which came upon him at his coronation, and which was also renewed during the yearly opet festival held in the Luxor temple in Thebes THE DIVINITY OF THE PHARAOH IN GREEK SOURCES https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/classical-quarterly/article/abs/divinity-of-the-pharaoh-in-greek-sources/10B843BD8305A47AFB789F70AF0E7D11Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2014

Interestingly, shortly after this period, and after the period of Akhnaton, who placed himself as the sole mediator with the only god, Aten, the Egyptians no longer saw Pharaoh as the embodiment of the gods!

It was, however, reborn, under the Hellenistic and Roman rulers, who now created a cult around the ruler. That is one of the factors behind the rebellions under the Macabees and under year 70 and Bar Cochba uprisings.

Getting back to Pharaoh, what is it about his heart that only an Egyptian or a people having lived in Egypt would know.

The weighing of the heart in the from the Book of the Dead of Ani (ca. 1300 B.C.E.). The heart is on the left scale; the feather of maʾat on the right. The god Anubis sets up the scales, while Ani’s soul (ba) looks on in the form of a bird. On the right, the god Thoth records his judgment while the monster Amenti watches for the heart to drop below the feather so he can consume it. British Library, 2001

 Saying that Pharaoh’s heart was heavy was akin to saying that he was not “worthy” of an afterlife, a terrible curse for an Egyptian.[9] .( From The Torah.com)

So who is making Pharaoh’s heart turn into a brick?

First, there is  the use” strengthening”.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָה֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֒ בְּלֶכְתְּךָ֙ לָשׁ֣וּב מִצְרַ֔יְמָה רְאֵ֗ה כָּל־הַמֹּֽפְתִים֙ אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֣מְתִּי בְיָדֶ֔ךָ וַעֲשִׂיתָ֖ם לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה וַאֲנִי֙ אֲחַזֵּ֣ק אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א יְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃ 4:21

And יהוה said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the marvels that I have put within your power. I, however, will stiffen his heart so that he will not let the people go.

Achazek- I will “strengthen”, fortify. Not “Stiffen”.



ואני אחזק את לבו, for if he could not endure the plagues he would let the Israelites go, not because he was finally humbling himself before the Lord and do His will, but only in order to get relief from the plagues. This was not a good enough reason to grant him relief; therefore G’d reinforced his natural obstinacy.

. כי בהיותו בלתי יכול לסבול המכות היה משלח את העם בלי ספק, לא מפני שיכנע לאל יתברך לעשות רצונו, ולזה חזק את לבו שיתאמץ לסבול המכות ולבלתי שלחם: Sforno


So to say, to Pharaoh” Chazak v’Ematz” -be strong to take it all with a stiff upper lip!



Midrash Lekach Tov, Exodus 4:21:3

ואני אחזק. ואם תאמר היאך הקב״ה מחזק לב האדם להכשל בו, תשובה הואיל והרשע

מחויב בדין אין הקב״ה גובה ממנו אלא במלאת ספקו.

If you would say,” How can the Holy One strengthen an man’s heart in order to make him fall, the answer is that since the evil doer has already made himself legally liable, the holy One doesn’t exact justice until במלאת ספקו-till his appetite ( to do wrong) is filled to the top.

In other words, I am giving him enough rope to hang himself on ( or hoist himself on his own petard!)


Now, how “kaved”-heavy- used. It is not the word, as often translated in English, hard.


וַיַּ֣רְא פַּרְעֹ֗ה כִּ֤י הָֽיְתָה֙ הָֽרְוָחָ֔ה וְהַכְבֵּד֙ אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהוָֽה׃ (ס)

But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he became stubborn and would not heed them, as יהוה had spoken. 8:11.

והכבד את לבו HE ALLOWED HIS HEART TO BE HARDENED —expresses doing something ,the Hebrew infinitive but having a past meaning -P-A-O-L construct( haloch the going, from holech, go).

והכבד את לבו, He reinforced his natural courage not to be frightened of a re-emergence of the crocodiles that had remained alive. He was also willing to put up with the stench of the decaying beasts. All of this rather than to admit his impotence vis-à-vis the G’d of the Israelites.Sforno( Italian )


In other word, God has done nothing to him. He is doing it to himself.

Again, a few verses later:

וַיַּכְבֵּ֤ד פַּרְעֹה֙ אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ גַּ֖ם בַּפַּ֣עַם הַזֹּ֑את וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃ {פ}


But Pharaoh became stubborn this time also, and would not let the people go.


Better-Pharaoh made his heart even heavier( piel-the intensive form of the verb).8:28. Again 9:7, 9:24.


It is not till the opening of our Torah portion, where God finally announces his final plans to the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, with the phrase:


אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כִּֽי־אֲנִ֞י הִכְבַּ֤דְתִּי אֶת־לִבּוֹ֙ וְאֶת־לֵ֣ב עֲבָדָ֔יו לְמַ֗עַן שִׁתִ֛י אֹתֹתַ֥י אֵ֖לֶּה בְּקִרְבּֽוֹ׃

Then ה" said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them,( admittedly, we have the term “ I will make his heart hard”-aksheh -also)


For what purpose is it to harden or make the Pharaoh’s heart all the heavier?


כי אני הכבדתי את לבו הודיע הקב''ה למשה שהוא הכביד את לבם עתה אחרי שפחדו ממנו בברד והתודו על עונם. ואמר לו הטעם כי עשיתי כן, למען שאשית בקרבם אלה האותות אשר אני חפץ לעשות בהם שידעו מצרים את גבורתי, לא שאעניש אותם יותר מפני הכובד הזה. ועוד כדי שתספר אתה וכל ישראל לדורות הבאים כח מעשי, ותדעו כי אני ה', וכל אשר אחפוץ אעשה בשמים ובארץ:Ramban


I will thereby place upon them my signs so that Egypt will understand my might, not in order to punish them more for this heaviness.



Another explanation:

For I have hardened his heart - Rabbi Yochanan said: Does this not provide heretics with an opportunity to open their mouths to say that he had no means of repenting, as it say "For I have hardened his heart". Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said to him: Let the mouths of the heretics be stopped up. Rather, (Mishlei 3:34) If it concerns the scorners, he scorns them. When the Holy One Blessed be He warns a man once, twice, thrice and he doesn't repent, and G-d will close his heart against repentance so that He should not exact vengeance from him for his sins. So to with the wicked Pharaoh, since Hashem sent five times to him and he took no notice, G-d then said: "You have stiffened your neck and hardened your heart; well, I will add impurity to your impurity". Hence, "For I have hardened his heart". What does "I have hardened" imply? That G-d made his heart like a liver (כבד) into which even if boiled a second time no juice enters; so also was the heart of Pharaoh made like a liver, and he did not receive the words of G-d. Hence, "For I have hardened his heart". Shemot Rabbah 13:3


In this sense, God is the ultimate enabler to Pharaoh’s addiction to power, just feeding the addict more of what he wanted in the first place.




So, we go back to the Egyptian Book of the Dead- Pharaoh’s heart has become so heavy, that he will not be allowed into the afterlife-even in the Egyptian version of an afterlife!


It takes us to one more point-why such a fuss about letting Pharaoh and his regime collapse. It is clear that the Exodus itself is not the end game, rather it is the entire concept of Pharaoh and the Gods of Egypt-the entirety of Egyptian civilization:


Here, in the announcement of the final plague, the plague of the first born- up to the first born of Pharaoh


וְעָבַרְתִּ֣י בְאֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֘יִם֮ בַּלַּ֣יְלָה הַזֶּה֒ וְהִכֵּיתִ֤י כׇל־בְּכוֹר֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵאָדָ֖ם וְעַד־בְּהֵמָ֑ה וּבְכׇל־אֱלֹהֵ֥י מִצְרַ֛יִם אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֥ה שְׁפָטִ֖ים אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃

For that night I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down every [male] first-born in the land of Egypt, both human and beast; and I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt,  I ‘ה. 12:12

And again:

מֵֽרַעְמְסֵס֙ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽרִאשׁ֔וֹן בַּחֲמִשָּׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר י֖וֹם לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁ֑וֹן מִֽמׇּחֳרַ֣ת הַפֶּ֗סַח יָצְא֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּיָ֣ד רָמָ֔ה לְעֵינֵ֖י כׇּל־מִצְרָֽיִם׃

They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. It was on the morrow of the passover offering that the Israelites started out defiantly, in plain view of all the Egyptians. Numbers 33:4


וּמִצְרַ֣יִם מְקַבְּרִ֗ים אֵת֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִכָּ֧ה יְהֹוָ֛ה בָּהֶ֖ם כׇּל־בְּכ֑וֹר וּבֵאלֹ֣הֵיהֶ֔ם עָשָׂ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה שְׁפָטִֽים׃

The Egyptians meanwhile were burying those among them whom יהוה had struck down, every [male] first-born—whereby יהוה executed judgment on their gods.


On this, Ramban comments:


In my opinion, Scripture alludes here to the lords on high, the gods of Egypt, something like the verse, The Eternal will punish the host of the high heavens on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.(Isaiah 24) Thus He subdued the power of the Egyptians and that of the lords over them. But Scripture hints and deals briefly with hidden matters.

( Ramban)


The plagues begin with the destruction of the Crocodile by Moses staff-the Tanin( crocodile, not snake)

Sobek was among the oldest deities named in the Pyramid Texts, the texts inscribed on the walls of tombs. He was the lord of the crocodiles and was depicted with a crocodile head.


It continues with making the Nile bleed-

Hapi (Ancient Egyptianḥʿpy) was the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. Also, the father of the gods.


The frogs


In ancient Egyptian religion and mythology, Heqet (also spelled Heqtit or Hekt) was a frog-headed goddess who personified generation, birth, and fertility


Ninth-Blotting out the Sun

The ninth-the Sun- RA, as in the name of the greatest Pharaoh of the time, Ramses( namesake of the city) or Aten, the sun-disk, as in Akhnaten.


What is placed on the doorposts of the Israelites-the blood of the lamb.

Rams, seen as a symbol of fertility, were identified with various gods, notably Khnum, a creator god, and Amun, the great god of the city of Thebes. Ram-headed sphinxes flank the entrance to the temple of Amun at Thebes.


 Finally, Pharaoh- in the death of the first born of Pharaoh.

Pharaoh is spared only to see his army of chariots, the pride of Egypt’s military might, wiped out at the shores of the Yam Suf.

Ramses II in his chariot


Pharaoh’s heart is destined to be devoured by the demons, Pharaoh as the incarnation of God on earth is dethroned, as, in the future,the Caesars, the Emperors, the dictators, all “mamshelet zadon”, all the kingdom of wickedness will disappear.










No comments:

Post a Comment