Back in 16′, there was a film released called Gods of Egypt. Never seen it, but based on the previews it probably had something to do with two rival gods battling for power in Egypt.
If you read narratives from ancient times, their gods sound really human-like full of pride or hubris, vengeance, trickery, and arrogance in order to rule over lesser gods. Whether it was the gods of Greek mythology or the cultures of the ancient Near East, people wanted their god to be victorious. Literally, a battle of the gods is what many ancients assumed was taking place when nations or groups would fight against each other.
The idea of being victorious was a huge prize. So much, in fact, nations would conceal defeat if they lost a battle. In the past, I’ve read this is a large reason why there’s no archaeological evidence for a Hebrew presence in Egypt. Too many defeats would make the Egyptians seem vulnerable. Not a good image to portray as a superpower.
A lot of times when we read the Bible, it’s easy to forget the greater context in which the books were produced. That’s an important part of pulling out the literal meaning from the text.
As I’ve been reading through Exodus, it’s good to see God concerned about justice. Just as neighboring countries had their “war god,” the Old Testament perfectly displays God as the supreme victor over idols and lesser gods of the surrounding nations and above all gods period!
A reoccurring theme in the Pentateuch, five books of Moses, is the Divine Warrior motif. For example, when God displays His power against pharaoh by raining down plagues and demonstrating miracles that verify His power (Ex. 7-12), He’s showcasing his power over pagan rule and gods the Egyptians worship. Moses points directly to this warrior theme when he states, “The Lord will fight for you and you have only to be silent (Ex. 14:14). ” Moreover, Moses reiterates that God will one by one purge the nations until they are obliterated (Deut. 7:22-23). I think the Divine Warrior theme culminates in the conquest of Joshua (6:1-12:24) which fully demonstrates how God is truly the Lord of Hosts, a title that reflects His sovereign rule over the universe (1 Sam. 1:3).
But being the true warrior was conditional.
Again and again, God told Israel abundant blessings would follow if they remained faithful. “Be not like an adulterous wife who whores herself to the nations” was God’s primary desire for Israel. Moreover, as their warrior, God wanted the Israelites to completely destroy any remaining items of the pagan nations because their hearts could be enticed to evil. If they remained faithful, they would flourish, but if they departed, hardships would follow. The same God who used an outstretched arm against Pharaoh in Egypt simply wanted fidelity.
If the exodus truly prefigures salvation, then rightfully Jesus is our divine warrior. Jesus Christ conquered the bonds of slavery by his atonement. Every day he is setting people free from sin and making us more like saints. He has defeated the prince of this world and the evil forces’ sting, but we’re still receiving the occasional tempting and poking of the devil’s jealousy. Jesus doesn’t want a halfhearted communion. Sin and righteousness can’t co-exist because we’ll love one more than the other. As a result, it’s imperative we continually practice obedient love to and remain in the true vine.
Image: Moses and Ramses face off (20th Century Fox)
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