10.2. The Plagues Build Momentum: Pharaoh’s Role on the World Stage

No person in history has undergone a program of persuasion so protracted and so intensive as Pharaoh did. But why was this necessary at all? Obviously, God could have brought the Jews out of Egypt completely against Pharaoh’s wishes and without obtaining his consent. Why was Pharaoh opinion so important?

Pharaoh ruled Egypt in both the political and cultural senses: he was the leader of Egypt. In that era Egypt was the center of world civilization, and the crown of human development. Thus, the direction chosen by Egypt would determine the future path of world history, and since Pharaoh led Egypt, the future of mankind depended on him. The responsibility that Pharaoh shouldered was enormous, as was his potential for influencing the future history of mankind.

The pressure on Pharaoh builds up slowly and gradually during the process of the Exodus, so that Pharaoh will become convinced step by step of the fallacies of his position. God’s objective is not to make Pharaoh obey, but to change Pharaoh’s perception, and this in turn will affect the entire surrounding world.

The Exodus is not about Pharaoh’s consent to emancipate the Jews; rather, it is – above all – a contest of whose history and culture will become the foundation for the further development of human civilization. Pharaoh believes that that foundation is Egypt, and Israel is secondary, but Moses takes the opposite stance.

In the upcoming, eighth plague, this dispute between Pharaoh and Moses reaches an entirely new level. Weekly portion Va’era ends after recounting the first seven plagues, and a new weekly portion begins: Bo, which recounts the three final plagues.


Bible Dynamics, VOL. 2. EXODUS Copyright © by Orot Yerushalaim / P. Polonsky / English translation of the Torah by the Jewish Publication Society, New JPS Translation, 1985. With sincere gratitude for the permission to use. All Rights Reserved.

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