PHARAOH: Burning Bridges OR Burning Bushes?
Genesis 50: 4-11; Exodus 5:1-21
1. The Bible constantly counsels mankind to beware of the dangers
of pride. Why is there this constant caution? Because, pride deposes God
as the Sovereign of our lives. When pride controls us, we cease to recognize
God as the Master (cf. Dt 8:11-20; Ps 12:3,4; 52:7; 101:5; Pr 6:16; 8:13;
etc). One of the strongest lessons learned from a study of the Old Testament
Kings is the ruin of pride. A study of two Pharaohs illustrates this tragedy.
2. PHARAOH # 1 – The “Pharaoh” in Genesis 50:4-11.
As the text is studied about this King the following character
traits are discovered about him. Have the class read and list the traits.
Among those listed will be:
a. Respectful to others.
This Pharaoh listened to Joseph’s request and allowed Israel’s
body to be taken back to Canaan for burial (v. 6).
b. Acknowledged God’s sovereignty.
When his dreams had been interpreted, Joseph had informed him
about the true God (cf 41:25-32). Consequently Pharaoh believed and trusted
c. His respect for God impacted others for good.
Because Pharaoh believed Joseph’s words about Jehovah God, the
world was saved from starvation. There was good that resulted.
This is the one trait that allowed Pharaoh to escape starvation;
that allowed Egypt to become a mighty world power. Pharaoh was willing
to submit to God’s Word and do exactly as God advised (cf 41:37). A willingness
to humble one’s self to the Almighty’s directions brought peace and security
to the nation and made Pharaoh a mighty leader (41:57; 42:2).
3. PHARAOH # 2 – The “Pharaoh” in Exodus 5:1-21.
This King offers a complete contrast to the earlier King. Exodus
5 reveals his true character. He is presented as a self-centered, ruthless
tyrant (10:3b). Look through the verses in this chapter and list the character
traits discovered about this King.
a. Full of contempt.
Even though this was initially directed toward God it led him
to act contemptuously toward all others (cf Lk 18:2).
Pharaoh refused to follow God’s directions. He understood what
was being requested but he refused. His words present a determined resolution
to follow Self rather than God. “I will NOT let Israel go!” God’s Word
had been spoken and understood but Pharaoh would continue as he had. “It
was a resolution which had strong and active support in all the baser feelings
of his own breast. It is just in the firmness and haughtiness of such a
resolution, revealing as it does the spirit of the man, that we get the
reason for such an accumulation of calamities as came upon his land ...
Pharaoh here is but the visible and unconscious exponent of that dark Power
which is behind all evil men and cruel and selfish policies. That Power,
holding men in all sorts of bitter disappointments and degrading miseries,
virtually says, ‘I will not let them go.’” (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol
c. Controlled by anger.
Pharaoh’s rage was sinful. He viciously attacked and caused
as much suffering as possible. His anger so controlled him that it was
impossible for him to comprehend any danger.
“The rage of the wicked is often the best commendation of God’s
servants. It is a testimony to their faithfulness” (The Pulpit Commentary,
Vol 1, 122).
d. Motivated by self-interest (5:4,5).
Pharaoh listened to Moses and Aaron, and what did he hear –
a challenge to his monarchy! He did not hear a word about God. All he thoughts
were consumed with self-interest!
e. Lack of respect.
He had no respect for others; ordered their destruction without
Thought himself greater than Jehovah God.
He is an amazing illustration of a headstrong person! He would
not listen to any idea that was not his. He refused to examine the God
Jehovah that Moses and Aaron said commanded their actions.
g. Was offended at God’s Word.
Refused to acknowledge that he should do what God’s Word commanded
him to do.
h. Was a profane person.
Pharaoh thought that one god was just as good as others. The
Egyptian religion persuaded Pharaoh to believe that he was also divine.
This lead to a loose philosophy that advocated, “One is just as good as
another.” This led him to be insolent and oppose God’s authority in his
life. A good paraphrase of Pharaoh’s attitude would be, “Let Jehovah be
whoever He might be, but He has no impact upon my life.” He thus demonstrated
a haughty sin (cf Ps 73:9;2 Ths 2:4).
How can we be profane today as this Pharaoh? Tit 1:16
“So there are people in these days who have very loose conceptions
about the deity, they are comparatively ignorant of Him, they treat His
claims with contempt, they regard His servants with scorn, they imagine
that they are free from His dominion, and with this profanity Christian
workers are frequently called to contend” (The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary,
Vol 2, 96).
i. Depreciated God’s Holy Word (5:9).
Pharaoh’s contempt for God is clearly seen in 5:9 – “false”
or “vain” words are what he perceived God’s Word to be. Such contempt for
God’s Word is often voiced by those opposed to God (cf. 2 Ki 18:20; Ac
Many today look at the Scriptures with this same attitude. They
scoff at the fact we call for all to follow the Scriptures. They try to
do everything they can to encourage others to ignore the Bible’s clear
teachings. Their objections will one day be silenced as the Word of God
is shown to be “words of truth and soberness.” Too late will the Truth
be accepted that God’s Words are a terrible force against them; they have
despised and rejected the Word of God.
j. Persisted in wrong-doing and even escalated his sin.
He is introduced to us as being totally ignorant of Jehovah
God. He seemed to know nothing about God, or if he did, he held Jehovah
in a very inferior esteem. His ignorance could have been corrected. He
could have asked Moses to tell him about Jehovah God, but he chose to remain
We may give Pharaoh the benefit of the doubt thinking that he
did not realize just how severe his edits concerning Israel were. He might
not have known the degree of misery. He might not have realized the tasks
were impossible. But if so, he should have relented when the Israeli foreman
asked him to lighten the demands. He would not relent – pride would not
allow him to change his orders. As he began so would he continue.
A tragic lesson is here illustrated – those who follow Selfish
pride will imitate Pharaoh. They will go onward in their proud refusal.
From bad to worse; severity deepens into cruelty; unkindness evolves into
injustice, religious laxity becomes impiety. How can it be corrected? Often
it cannot. The only certain “cure” is for the process to be stopped before
it begins! But sadly Selfish Pride cannot stop at the beginning – it continues
Pride blinded Pharaoh to reality. He thought he was invincible
and able to easily escape God’s authority. He thought himself as never
wrong. He speaks in 5:2 as though he was the supreme monarch of the universe
and there is no one to rival his claim or defeat his power. Even though
his pride blinded him, it did not lessen his accountability. He stands
in an unwarranted defiance of Jehovah and was exposed to imminent peril.
This ancient king is “a type of many today, whose pride, the
outcome of ignorance, brings them into open hostility to the will of God,
and renders them antagonistic to His servants” (PHC, Vol 2, 96).
l. Sinful speech.
He did not control his speech. His words were bitter and spiteful.
m. His lack of respect for God impacted others for bad (5:21).
Look at the narrative and observe how Pharaoh’s attitude brought
sad results to all around him. He was CRAFTY in dealing with Moses and
Aaron. Instead of admitting they had a legitimate point, he accused them
of encouraging slothfulness and encouraging rebellion (cf Ezra 4:13). He
did everything he could to create division between Israel and Moses. He
was ENERGETIC in taking immediate steps to carry out plans for punishing
Israel. “The same day” (5:6). He was MERCILESS in refusing to consider
any proposal Moses made; in demanding more bricks and labor; and, in using
punishment on the innocent. He refused to see the real misery Israel suffered
Pharaoh was “reckless” in regard to the great misery he created
for everyone around him. He had no respect for God. He followed only Self’s
interests. He did not care about anyone except himself! This is evident
in the way he treated others.
4. What are some specific lessons we learn from the two Pharaohs?
Which have you chosen?
Everyone has a choice to make about submitting to God’s authority. There
are only two choices. The question posed by Pharaoh # 2 must be answered
by everyone today – Just WHO is Jehovah in your life?
Our attitudes will face divine justice. “It was Pharaoh’s sad
prerogative to shut his own heart, to shut it persistently, to shut it
for ever, against the authority and benedictions of Jehovah. But no one,
though he be as mighty and arrogant as a thousand Pharaoh’s, can fasten
us up from God, if so be we are willing to go to him, from whom alone we
can gain a pure and eternal life” (The Pulpit Commentary, Vol 1, 124).
Pride leads to great suffering; humility leads to great reverence.
Good men are often harshly criticized by those like Pharaoh # 2 but honored
by those like Pharaoh # 1!
One’s attitudes in life leads either to the “burning bush” of dedication
to God or the burning bridge of a profane life.
Copyright 1999 by John
L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no
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