The Battle Begins: An Allegory

After YHWH convinced Moses to go to Egypt, we proceed to a narrative of various encounters (Ex. 4:27-6:13). The narrative works on two levels, the story as in unfolds on the surface, and the timeless spiritual dynamic underneath the narrative. As we have established earlier, Moses represents the spirit in humanity, and Aaron the will. It is God who brings them together, and their kiss of greeting suggests the union of spirit and will to carry out the divine purpose, which is freedom. Moses, through Aaron the “will,” convinces the people, who represent the body with its senses, to get on board through the signs and the delivery of God’s words (4:29-30). Enthused and encouraged with the idea of freedom, the whole of Israel, the spirit, the soul represented here by the will, and the body, are unified (4:31). So far so good, for the spirit must rule the will, and the will the flesh. Adam and Eve reversed this, where the flesh ruled the soul with its reason and will which in turn dominated the spirit. We were made to live from the inside out, not the outside in, for the spirit deep within our interiors is most like God.

However, we have Pharaoh to reckon with. Pharaoh represents the seed of the dragon planted in humanity’s heart at the moment Adam and Eve fell under its spell. This seed grows as we grow; it is self destructive and irrationally longs to make contact with the dragon who desires to devour. Pharaoh therefore is complex, representing this “thing” inside us which St. Paul much later refers to as the “old man” as well as its parent, the serpent. Pharaoh never gives in without a fight, assailing the flesh sorely with the purpose of controlling the soul and spirit. Pharaoh’s “creature” within always is aligned with the flesh and the senses against the spirit. Adding to the fight are the Egyptian taskmasters, the demons which torment. The people are forced to work even harder now that they have rebelled (5:6-9). Pharaoh mocks by accusing his Hebrew slaves of being idle under his “benevolence,” dreaming of worshipping YHWH (5:17). We would not be too far off if we associate the Hebrew foremen as the senses themselves, cowed and beaten by Pharaoh’s taskmasters (5:14-19). They come to Moses and Aaron; the spirit and will are disheartened at the dismal situation (5:20-21).

Moses turns to YHWH with the complaint, “Why have you sent me” (5:23)? YHWH responds with a speech with much the same information that He revealed earlier (cf. 6:2-8 with 3:6-22) but with one important addition. His purpose is that He will take Israel for His own people, and they will take him as their God (6:7). This is the great “covenant formula” that encapsulates the relationship covenant creates. It is so simple and sublime, stating in two reciprocal phrases the divine longing for “togetherness.” It cannot be improved; the Bible essentially ends with it by the divine declaration from the throne when the old heavens and earth give way to the new (Rev. 21:3).

But the people are too broken to receive it (6:9). This teaches us that without divine help, the spirit and will cannot defeat the Pharaoh without and within. Nevertheless, YHWH commands Moses to sally forth again to Pharaoh with the command to release His people. Moses counters with the logical argument that if his own people will not listen to him, then Pharaoh certainly won’t, emphatically concluding with a short little jab highlighting his lingering sense of inadequacy, “I of uncircumcised lips” (6:12). How strange and grotesque a metaphor for a speech impediment! Behind this we feel the spirit’s anger and frustration with God as well with itself, but it and the will is driven by a divine charge to carry out God’s plan (6:13). Salvation is something that God must bring about in spite of ourselves.

This allegory is true because it is true to the human experience. It does no violence to the historical sense of the text, yet lifts the story to a level where it transcends the historical moment. There our hearts affirm that this is not only a story about Israel in Egypt, but it is our story as well. Indeed, even if we do not consciously see this allegory in our reading, we feel it subliminally in our souls.

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