April 10 – April 17, 2015

Easter Friday, April 10

The Resurrection VI: Against many heresies—Gnosticism and Manichaeism early and chief among them—Holy Church has been obliged to advocate the inherent goodness of the material world. Her position on this point has always been based, not only on the biblical doctrine of Creation—“God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good”—but also on the conviction that the goodness of created matter was vindicated in a definitive way by the Resurrection of Christ. Every tendency to doubt that goodness has been shouted down, as it were, by the same objection: “Handle me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

As a matter of fact, the Resurrection is a fact of matter: the Lord’s risen body is a real body, made up of chemical components. Although endowed with new spiritual qualities, such as the ability to pass through locked doors, His risen body loses nothing of its material nature. It is not so “spiritual” as to be intangible: “Reach your finger here, and inspect my hands; and stretch out your hand and put it into my side.”

Holy Church has remained ever sensitive on this point, regarding with stern disfavor any hint of a discontinuity between the body created and the body raised. They are the identical body: “It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” What is buried and what is raised are numerically identical, and in any suggestion to the contrary the Church recognizes a false cosmology.

In fact, false cosmologies, and dualistic cosmologies in particular, seem ever to threaten the foundations of the Christian faith. The Alexandrian catechist, Origen, who imagined the body to be the material prison of the preexistent soul, taught an example of this error. To sustain his thesis, Origen was obliged to treat the Resurrection as an allegory of spiritual restoration.

The sainted bishop Methodius of Olympus, martyred in 311, recognized heresy here. Against Origen he wrote: “I will not endure certain chatterers (phlenaphonton tinon) that do violence to Scripture, in order to find support for their opinion that the resurrection is without flesh—they allegorize ‘mental bones’ (osta noeta) and flesh” (On the Resurrection 39).

Origen’s error, according to Methodius, was cosmological: Origen believed that the union of the body with the preexistent soul was unnatural, because the soul possessed an integrity of its own. Consequently, the separation of the soul from the body—by death—was a restoration of the soul’s integrity. Death represented the return to a state more “natural” to man!

Methodius perceived that such teaching spelled out the very end of the Christian faith. It removed all soteriological value from the Resurrection, by identifying salvation with the soul’s liberation from the body. For Methodius—speaking in this respect for the orthodox faith of the Christian Church—the human “difference” wrought by Christ was the definitive abolition, not of matter, but of mortality. An orthodox Christian cosmology, therefore, requires that salvation be attained, not by death’s putting asunder of soul and body, but by the conferral of integrity, immortality, and incorruptibility on the whole man, body and soul.

Why, then, the prior dissolution of death? To answer this question, Methodius likened God to a sculptor, who sees His beloved handiwork spoiled and disfigured by an enemy:

Seeing man, His fairest work, corrupted by envious treachery, He could not endure, with His love for man, to leave him in such a condition, lest he should be for ever defective, and bear the blame for eternity; but He dissolved him again into his original components, so that, by remodeling, all the blemishes in him might waste away and disappear. For the melting down of the statue in the former case corresponds to the death and dissolution of the body in the latter, and the remolding of the material in the former, to the resurrection after death in the latter (op. cit. 43).

Christ died, that is, in order to be raised again. He suffered the dissolution of death for the sake of man’s attaining immortality.

Such was Paul’s answer, in First Corinthians 15, to those who denied the Resurrection: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” The bodily Resurrection of Christ is the cause, model, and medium of our integrity, immortality, and incorruption. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit, who abides in our flesh as promise and pledge. St. Gregory Palamas, a thousand years after Methodius, wrote, “the body will be indwelt and moved by the supernatural power of the divine Spirit in the age to come” (Sermon on John the Baptist 5).

Easter Saturday, April 11

The Resurrection VII: The Lord’s victory over death is the demonstration, not only of his power, but also of his compassion. Given the full human trauma of death, both remedies are required.

Death, after all, entails not only the collapse of the personal human structure (the separation of soul and body, the physical decay of the latter, and the eternal loss of the former), but also the radical dissolution of society, the decomposition of human relationships, the severing of those ties of love that bind us mortal beings together. If the power of Christ can be said to remedy the problem of personal corruption, perhaps we can say that the compassion of Christ is directed against our dilemma of social dissolution. Having considered the power of the risen Christ with respect to the one, therefore, it is time to reflect on His compassion with respect to the other.

When God’s holy Word portrays the compassion of Jesus in the presence of death, our attention is directed chiefly at the obvious social consequence of death, the separation that it creates among loved ones. This perspective is clear, for instance, in the story of the widow of Nain, who had lost her only son. “When the Lord saw her,” we are told, “he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise’” (Luke 7:13-14, emphasis added).

In this text we observe that nothing is said about the Lord’s concern for the dead man; it speaks only of his compassion for the mother. It is to her grieving heart that Jesus directs His attention. Indeed, our Lord exercises here His power over death in order to express His compassion over sorrow, and this priority is conveyed by Luke’s remark that Jesus “presented him to his mother” (7:15).

The same perspective is also clear, I think, in the story of the raising of Lazarus. As our Lord approaches the tomb of His deceased friend, He first encounters the two sorrowing sisters, both of whom say, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21,32). This near-reproach by the sisters gives voice not only to a fact but also to a feeling. Consequently, John goes on to portray the compassion of Jesus as He comes to the tomb. Prior to manifesting His power with respect to the dead man (“Lazarus, come forth!), Jesus first displays His compassion for the grieving sisters (“And Jesus wept.”) That is to say, Jesus first addresses the feeling before He deals with the fact. Indeed, it is the prior depth of His mercy that prompts the ensuing display of His might.

In both these cases the Lord’s first attention is directed, then, not to the persons that have died, but to those that are left behind, the dear ones that death has touched and deeply wounded. For death is not only decay; it is also bereavement at the loss of loved ones. Just as the power of Christ prevails in the first, so His compassion prevails in the second, because victory over death means both things. Consequently, when “there shall be no more death,” we are assured, there shall also be “no sorrow nor crying” (Revelation 21:4).

Significantly, our extant literature’s first reference to the resurrection of the dead was addressed to Christians suffering bereavement at the loss of loved ones. In A. D. 50 Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13, emphasis added). The apostle then went on to expound the doctrine of the resurrection as the foundation of Christian comfort, and he finished by exhorting the bereaved, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (4:18). That is to say, Paul wrote those expressions of hope in order to address, not the problem of despair, but the pangs of sadness.

What the resurrection promises to Christians, then, is not only their personal integrity recovered and transfigured in glory but also the final and transformed restoration of their community, all those loving tendrils that tie them together and comprise a “we.” Thus, Paul uses entirely corporate language to describe this foundation of the Christian hope: “we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17). And again, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19). For this reason, the hope of believers is necessarily a shared expectation of comfort, when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).

Saint Thomas Sunday, April 12

John 20:24-31: Thomas may also have been something of a loner, which would explain why, when the risen Lord paid his first visit to the assembled Apostles, Thomas “was not with them when Jesus came” (20:24). One speculates that he may have gone off to get a better grip on himself. It had been a very tough week, after all. Just as Thomas had suspected it would, Jesus’ life ended in tragedy. This, the Apostle was sure, was the biggest tragedy he had ever seen.

Yet he was coping with it, somehow. Years of an inner docility to inevitable fate had schooled him in the discipline of endurance. Yes, he would get through this too. He was a man who could deal with misfortune and sorrow. Just don’t disturb Thomas with hope.

He returned to the other Apostles in the “upper room” that evening, having wrestled his soul into a quiet acquiescence. It was the first day of a new week. Thomas had faced down the disaster, and his control over his nerves was starting to return.

What Thomas had not anticipated, however, was that the other Apostles, during his absence, would completely lose their minds. “Well, Thomas,” one of them announced, “fine time to be gone. We have seen the Lord, and you just missed him!”

A whole week the risen Lord would make him wait, sharing that room with the ten other men to whom he had hurled his challenge:

Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

As each day passed, the case for skepticism was strengthened.

But then it happened. The room was suddenly filled with a great light. New evidence had arrived and stood now undeniable on the scene. Thomas sensed that his long-established pessimism was about to be shaken. He rose and faced the entering light. He saw the familiar face and recognized the familiar voice: “Peace to you!”

We do not know if Thomas felt, at that moment, some urge to hide behind the other Apostles. He was not given the chance. Turning to Thomas, the risen Jesus fully appreciated the irony of the hour. Nor would we be wrong, I think, to imagine a smile coming over the glorious face of the one who said to his beloved pessimist: “Reach your finger here, and inspect my hands; and reach your hand here, and place it into my side.”

Monday, April 13

Exodus 1: The political situation has changed a great deal since the end of Genesis. Israel had gone down into Egypt during the 15th Dynasty (1663-1555), but now the biblical account has apparently reached the 19th Dynasty, the first Pharaoh of which was Ramses I (1293-1291). As Exodus begins, we seem to be in the reign of the next Pharaoh, Seti I (1291-1278). If so, the Exodus itself occurred during the reign of Ramses II (1279-1212). If, as seems to be the case, the Pharaoh here was Set I, there was indeed a great deal of construction in process. Archeological evidence from this period testifies to a new hall for the temple of Amun at Karnak, two new temples at Abydos, a large tomb in the Valley of the Kings and yet another temple at Thebes.

The “shrewdness” of Pharaoh here ties this story to two others: First, to the account of the serpent, “more cunning than any beast of the field,” in Genesis 3:1. Each of these two books, Genesis and Exodus, commences with a wily enemy who endeavors to deceive God’s people. Second, this theme is related to the later stories of Pharaoh’s attempts to outwit Moses. This early verse of Exodus, then, introduces a major motif of our book: the “matching of wits,” in which the sinful wisdom of the world encounters the baffling wisdom of God. As this first chapter progresses, Pharaoh’s shrewdness is quickly outwitted by the Hebrew midwives, who are thus to be contrasted with the gullible Eve at the beginning of Genesis. Ultimately, of course, Pharaoh will be defeated by his own shrewdness, a process the Bible calls hardness of heart.

For the first time in this book, the Israelites “pull a fast one” on Pharaoh, thus demonstrating a superior wisdom that ties this story back to the Joseph narrative at the end of Genesis. The midwives “feared the Lord,” and this was the source of their wisdom; cf. Psalm 110:10. Whereas the enemy outsmarted Eve at the beginning of Genesis, the women here in Exodus outwit the enemy.

The endeavor to kill the male children places this text in a parallel with Matthew 2:16. Beginning with the dreams of two Josephs in Genesis 37 and Matthew 1, there are many striking correspondences between the opening chapters of Matthew and the long account of the Chosen People in Egypt. This verse also introduces two major symbols of the Exodus story: water in general and the Nile River in particular.

Tuesday, April 14

Exodus 2: The Hebrew word tevah is found in only two passages of the Old Testament. It appears, first, in Genesis 6–9, where the term is usually translated as “ark.” It refers to the boat-like structure that Noah and his sons construct for the saving of a new humanity.

In Exodus 2, the only other place in the Old Testament where we find the same word, it is more normally translated as “basket,” referring to the receptacle that floated on the Nile River and held the baby Moses. In each case, likewise, the tevah, made watertight by the application of bitumen, is the means of salvation in the midst of the waters.

The Bible’s use of the word in these two instances suggests an intentional literary, as well as theological, relationship between the two stories. This account of Moses, therefore, serves to parallel the Exodus story with the narrative of the Flood, and Moses with Noah. Moses becomes the deliverer of the Hebrews, much as Noah was the deliverer of the human race.

Both the Flood and the Exodus, of course, are symbols of Baptism; cf. Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:18-22. Moses’ very name, “drawn from the water,” is a foreshadowing of the salvific event at the Red Sea. The people of God is the community “drawn from the water,” most particularly, of course, the water of Baptism.

Just as Pharaoh was outwitted by the midwives in the first chapter, so his policy is thwarted by the sister and mother of Moses in this chapter. There is the added comical dimension that Moses’ mother becomes probably the only woman in history to be paid for nursing her own child!

Moses is now introduced as the rescuer of the Hebrews; cf. Acts 7:20-29. Already we have a foretaste of his activity against the Egyptians; before Moses is finished, many more Egyptians will die.

One observes especially that he chooses solidarity rather with the Hebrews than with the Egyptians; cf. Hebrews 11:24-26. On the other hand, the zest and spontaneity with which Moses throws himself into this action is to be contrasted with his great reluctance to respond, later on, when God gives him the difficult task of actually delivering His people. As was observed by Clement of Rome near the end of the first century (Epistle to the Corinthians 4), the animosity shown toward Moses in this passage is paralleled by the animosity shown toward Joseph by his brethren in Genesis.

In verses 16-21 Moses is presented, for the second time, as a deliverer, again foreshadowing his future role. We see here also a parallel between Moses and the flight of Jacob in Genesis 29. Both men run away to distant relatives. (Remember that the Midianites here, descendents of Abraham and his later wife Keturah in Genesis 25:2, are blood relatives of the Hebrews.). Both meet their future wives by a well; both make sure that the water is drawn, both are taken to meet their future fathers-in-law; both settle down with their in-laws for a long time; and both, finally, return to their original families and take their new families with them. These parallels were already noticed by the Jewish commentator Rashi back in the 11th century.

There is also the irony that Moses, having abandoned his heritage as an Egyptian, is called “an Egyptian” in verse 22; surely he is a “stranger in a strange land.” He was essentially a pilgrim on the earth; cf. Hebrews 11:26f; 13:14; Acts 7:29.

Wednesday, April 15

Psalms 12 (Greek/Latin 11): A sinful infection of language is well formulated in the declaration of the proud and rebellious in Psalm 12: “With our tongue we will prevail. Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”

How different is the Bible’s correct moral view of language: Speech is not regarded, first and foremost, as a form of communication among human beings. In fact, Adam was already talking before ever Eve appeared. Human speech, that is to say, appears in Holy Scripture earlier than the creation of the second human being, for we find Adam already naming the animals prior to the arrival of the marvelous creature that God later formed from his rib.

At the beginning, before the Fall, Man was possessed of an accurate perception into reality. He was able to name the animals because he could perceive precisely what they were. His words expressed true insight, a ravishing gaze at glory, a contemplation of real forms, so that the very structure and composition of his mind took on the seal and assumed the formal stamp of truth. Human language then was a reflection of that divine light with which heaven and earth are full. The speech of unfallen man was but the voice of vision.

This primeval human language, the pure progeny of lustrous discernment, flowed forth already from the lips of Adam prior to the creation of Eve, who heard it for the first time when her husband, awaking from his mystic sleep, identified her and told her exactly who she was: “You are bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Human speech was already rooted in the vision of truth before it became the expression of human communication.

Moreover, the Fall itself, when it came, derived from that demonic disassociation of speech from truth that we call the Lie: “You will not surely die.” Eve’s acquiescence in that first lie was mankind’s original act of metaphysical rebellion. It had more to do with the garbling of Babel than with the garden of Eden. It was human language’s first declaration of independence: “Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”

Just as truthful speech streams forth from vision, springing from the font of a pure heart, so lying is conceived in the duplicitous heart before it issues from the mouth. Says Psalm 12: “Each one has spoken follies to his neighbor, deceitful lips have spoken with divided heart.” The situation described here is so bad that one despairs of finding any truths left in human discourse: “Save me, O God, for the godly man has disappeared, because truths are diminished among the sons of men. . . . The wicked prowl on every side.”

In contrast to these varied, seemingly universal lies of men stand the reliable words of God: “The words of the Lord are pure words, smelted silver purged of dross, purified seven times.”

Exodus 3: From the revelation to Moses, believers know that God is the eternal, personal, and necessary Being (He who, if He does exist, must exist). The God “whose being is to be” never entered the mind of classical philosophy. Neither Plato nor Aristotle identified God in these terms. Christians derived this concept from this chapter of Exodus 3—ego eimi ho On—”I Am He Who Is.” The simplest Christian, the believer least given to philosophical speculation, knew this. No elite education was required. This concept formed the basis of a whole new culture that utterly transformed the history of all who received the Christian Gospel.

This revelation to Moses obviously stands behind the dramatic story in today’s reading from John 8.

Thursday, April 16

Exodus 4: All through this chapter Moses anticipates getting resistance from the chosen people, as had been the case back in 2:14. Popular resistance to the prophetic word was to remain a common biblical theme; cf. Amos 7:10-13; Hosea 9:7; Acts 26:24, etc. In the case of Moses this disposition to disbelieve him was to continue to the very end of his career. Indeed, in the New Testament there is the sustained complaint that the Israelites were still not taking Moses seriously; cf. John 5:45-47; 7:19; Acts 7:30-39.

These “signs” serve more than one function. Moses says that nobody will believe him, but it appears that the first unbelief to be overcome is that of Moses himself. Secondly, the Israelites must be convinced. Thirdly, the Egyptians must be convinced.

Moses objects that he has never had “a way with words.” Truly so; although at this point in the story he is 80 years old, the Bible records only one sentence from him prior to this time, and that one sentence had been totally ineffective (Exodus 2:13). God reminds him that he won’t be speaking for himself; cf. Mark 13:11. Jeremiah will also use an alleged speech deficiency in attempting to escape the prophetic call; cf. Jeremiah 1:4-8.

Time has run out for Moses, but in response to his pleading, God makes the concession that the new prophet is to receive some help, and for the first time we learn that Moses has an older brother. Aaron will do the talking, but Moses is not relieved of his own responsibility. Aaron will be his spokesman, but Moses himself will continue to be God’s spokesman. This extended dialogue between Moses and God reveals the prophet’s ability at haggling, which is a normal part of business transactions in that part of the world. In fact, one is reminded of Abraham as someone who “drove a hard bargain” with God; cf. Genesis 18:24-32. Later on in the Exodus account, much will be said about Moses’ ability as an intercessor with God; on one occasion the people will be saved from swift destruction solely by reason of Moses’ ability to “haggle” with the Almighty.

The last plague is predicted first (verses 21-23). Several points should be made with respect to God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart:

First, it is improper to interpret this expression in any fashion that frees Pharaoh from the moral responsibility of hardening his own heart (cf. 8:11[15]). It is clear from the entire context God is not responsible for Pharaoh’s sin.

Second, in the several times that the text ascribes this hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to God Himself (cf. 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8), the hardening of the heart is incorporated into the dramatic tension of the story. It is a way of saying that the entire development, the growing suspense of the conflict, is being directed by God. As the Lord provides less and less excuse for Pharaoh’s hardness of heart, through the course of the plagues, He is pictured as making Pharaoh’s heart ever harder by giving him occasions for repentance. In order to resist God, Pharaoh’s heart must become progressively hardened.

Third, it is unfortunate that the context of this drama of deliverance was forgotten by many later commentators on Romans 9, who treated that passage as though it dealt with individual salvation. There are further observations on this point in the note on Exodus 9:16.

Verses 24-26 are one of the most obscure passages in all of Holy Scripture, and it is possible that even the inspired author was not entirely certain what it meant. Indeed, we can say that the story was recorded here quite simply because it happened, and various interpretations of it can be traced back to pre-Christian times. What is clear about the passage, however, is this: that Moses’ son had to be circumcised before his prophetic commission could be undertaken. This detail places Moses once again in the tradition of the patriarchs. The insertion of this story, which has to do with a specific ritual act, at the beginning of the Exodus drama tends to place the whole narrative of the Exodus in a liturgical and initiatory context, indicating an important relationship between circumcision and the Exodus. Circumcision became the way in which the male Israelite became part of the Exodus community at all times. Even Jesus submitted to the rite (cf. Luke 2:21), and the liturgical tradition of the Church has always felt it appropriate to celebrate that event as a special feast day.

In verse 27 we learn that God had revealed Himself simultaneously to both Moses and Aaron (cf. 4:14). More than once in Holy Scripture God speaks to two people simultaneously in order to bring them together. Such are Samuel and Saul (1 Samuel 9:15-20), David and Gad (2 Samuel 24:10-12), Paul and Ananias (Acts 9:4-16), and Paul and Cornelius (Acts 10:9-15,30-33); see also Tobit 3:1-16.

Friday, April 17

John 3:1-21: Much of Johannine theology is elaborated in conversations between Jesus and certain individuals. Most of the time, these individuals can easily be understood as the historical “source” of the conversation in question. Thus far, it appears that John has relied on the personal memories of Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, and the Mother of Jesus. The material in the first part of the present chapter surely came to him through the memory of Nicodemus. Other conversations will follow, such as those with the Samaritan woman at the well, the lame man at Bethesda, Mary and Martha of Bethany, and so forth.

In this conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus, it is nearly impossible to determine exactly which words pertained to that original conversation and which words represent the Evangelist’s extended meditation on that conversation. That is to say, John himself appears to be meditating on the words of Jesus. At a certain point in this dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, the dialogue becomes a monologue of the Evangelist himself. We will meet the identical phenomenon when we come to the words of Jesus’ prayer in John 17.

The Pharisee Nicodemus, “a ruler of the Jews” and “a teacher of Israel,” appears only three times in the New Testament. Each time Nicodemus is found only in the Fourth Gospel, it is always in the context of the Lord’s redemptive death.

In the present text, Jesus makes his earliest explicit reference to His coming crucifixion: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, thus must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John next speaks of Nicodemus as the sole member of the Sanhedrin to raise his voice against the plot to take Jesus’ life (7:45–52). We do not hear of Nicodemus again until immediately after the death of Jesus, who was, at last, “lifted up” on Golgotha. In this third instance, Nicodemus appears as the companion of Joseph of Arimathea, assisting him in the Lord’s burial: “And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury” (19:39–40). In short, whenever Nicodemus appears in this gospel, the context pertains to the Lord’s suffering and death.

This first conversation, however, does not begin on that theme. It begins with Nicodemus coming to Jesus by night, apparently with a view to knowing Jesus better. He begins by complimenting Him: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

This question implies that Jesus has been working a notable number of “signs,” though John has so far mentioned only the miracle at the wedding in Cana. That is to say, this reference is not dictated by John’s narrative, but by the actual historical situation in which Nicodemus speaks to Jesus.

Exodus 5: “Thus says the Lord” (cf. also Exodus 32:27) places Moses squarely in the prophetic tradition. This is, in fact, the Bible’s first great encounter of a prophet with a king, an encounter that will be repeated with the likes of Nathan and David, Elijah and Ahab, Isaiah and Ahaz, Amos and Jeroboam II, Jeremiah and Zedekiah, Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, John the Baptist and Antipas, Paul and Agrippa. It is instructive to remember that, on the sole occasion when Abraham was called a prophet, it was in connection with a local ruler in the Negev; cf. Genesis 20:7.

The source of Pharaoh’s problem is that he does not “know the Lord” (verse 2). Before much longer, nonetheless, he will have ample opportunity to make the Lord’s acquaintance; cf. Exodus 8:22; 9:29. Moses’ encounter with such a man may be compared to David’s confrontation with Goliath, who also did not “know the Lord”; cf. 1 Samuel 17:45-47.

Pharaoh reacts “that same day,” taking the initiative away from Moses and Aaron, thereby making them look inept in the eyes of the Israelites (verses 4-9). “Thus says the Lord” now becomes “thus says Pharaoh” (verses 10-14). Here there is a series of complaints: the overseers to the foremen, the foremen to Pharaoh, Pharaoh to the foremen, the foremen to Moses, Moses to God. Pharaoh’s tactic is to divide the people that he wants to oppress. He does not discredit Moses directly; he acts, rather, in such a way that the people themselves will turn on Moses.