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The Emperor’s New Trick

The Emperor’s New Trick

Exodus 7:22-24

But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.

Once again we find these magicians mimicking a divine miracle of creation, this time by transubstantiating water into blood, yet the mirage of their work is even more apparent now. Except to Pharaoh. It’s as if he looks into the cauldron, sees blood red liquid, and runs back through his door feeling more convinced of his divinity than ever. Just like that naked buffoon in Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, who parades around town in the buff thinking himself dressed in ornate raiment, this Pharaoh is too bloated with pride to see the rouse for what it is.

If only he’d stopped to ask himself some important question like, “If my magicians can actually turn water into blood, why can’t they turn the bloody Nile back into drinkable water once again? Why can’t they simply reverse the miracle?” But they can’t—anymore than they can actually turn water into blood. That’s why the people of Egypt will spend the next weeks digging up the entire shoreline to keep from dehydrating. But Pharaoh doesn’t care that the entire irrigation system upon which Egypt depends is now a cesspool; he’s looked into the cauldron, and the water was blood red, and—in his mind—he’s more dressed up in divinity than ever! But to those in their right mind, he’s just more exposed.

I, Lucifer. I, Pharaoh. I, Sennecharib. I, Goliath. I, Rehoboam. I, Jezebel. I, Herod. I, Judas. I, Hitler. I, Nietzsche. There’s a river that runs red with the blood of innocent lives, formed by a little word cast into the atmosphere, mutating all that is holy into all that is evil, and we know it all too well: