Do you sometimes sit around at night reading commentaries for fun and enjoyment? Yeah, me too. Lately I’ve been making my way through ‘Genesis Volume 1‘ in the EP Study Commentary series published by EP Books. In the introductory part of the book, Dr. Currid shares some examples of polemical theology.
At face value and seen through Western eyes, the episode with the serpents in Exodus 7:8-13 is fascinating, but chances are we’re missing the broader context of what’s going on. I found the following section on the “serpent confrontation” very helpful.
“Another example of polemical theology appears in Exodus 7:8-13. In that episode, Pharaoh requests a miracle from Moses and Aaron in order to test the power and magical abilities of Yahweh. It is part of the contest. In the ancient Near East, the deity with the most magic was regarded as the supreme god. In this opening skirmish, Yahweh has his messengers turn a staff into a shake, and Pharaoh replies in kind. Yahweh’s power is superior, however, because Aaron’s staff swallows those of the Egyptians. It should be noted that the serpent is an emblem of all Pharaoh’s power during New Kingdom Egypt. On every pharaonic crown is a serpent of gold reflecting the king’s royalty and sovereignty (especially over the two lands of Upper and Lower Egypt). The point is that Yahweh is challenging Pharaoh at the very symbol of his power. It is an attempt to demonstrate the lack of might in Pharaoh, to humiliate him and to show that Yahweh is the only true sovereign.”
*Excerpted from ‘Genesis Volume 1 (EP Study Commentary)’ by John D. Currid (EP Books, 2003)
If you’re interested in learning more about polemical theology, be sure to listen to an interview I conducted last December with Dr. Currid discussing his book ‘Against the Gods’ (Crossway, 2013). You can stream or download the interview below: