I’ve been studying through Exodus. I can’t tell you how many times I have read the account of the plagues.
But there is a recurring theme that is so common that we miss it. I know that this might sound strange, but I think you know what I mean. Something that is repeated so often that we miss how utterly astounding it is, like a shaft of sunlight bursting through the overhanging branches.
The message that Moses gave to Pharaoh was this:
Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go.”
After the 8th plague,when Egypt was almost completely destroyed, Pharaoh said,
Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.”
When you pause for a moment, you realize something astounding. The Hebrews were God’s people. But Pharaoh had a deep-seated belief that they were HIS people. He believed that he was entitled to force them to work, dispose of them how he willed, and do with them what he pleased. He was Pharaoh. They were slaves.
It was a mindset that was so deeply engrained in him that it was unquestioned – a presupposition, to use Van Til’s phrase. “Presupposed entitlement”, if you will.
Presupposed entitlement is the assumption, partly inborn, partly acquired through culture, that one is entitled to exert power over another, simply by virtue of their ontology.
Pharaoh was Pharaoh. Of course he was entitled to do whatever he wanted to with the Hebrews. They were Hebrews.
This thinking is common with all fallen men and women. And it is so deeply engrained that we think it before we can even think. For this reason, it is very simple to gather a following, instill them with a sense of superiority over a group of people, and foster that presupposed entitlement. Whole cultures are consumed by it.
Just this past week, two white men were arrested. Three months ago, they got their guns, and got into their truck and followed a black man down the street. The black man was jogging. They demanded that he tell them what he is doing in their neighborhood. He, being afraid, lashed out and ended up getting shot.
There were no prosecutions until the video went viral. The men claimed that they thought he was responsible for a string of burglaries. It was assumed by EVERYONE in law and order that these two men had the right to do what they did. I do not wish to try the case, but I do want to look at some of the rhetoric surrounding the release of the video.
“He was told clearly to stop. He didn’t listen to instructions. He should has stopped and done what he was told to do.”
“It was self-defense”
The two white men were not police officers. They were not authorized in any way to command anyone to do anything. And right there is a perfect example of presupposed entitlement.
We are white. He is black. Of course we have the right to stop and question him.
This morning, a white man stopped a black delivery driver and demanded that he explain what he is doing in the neighborhood.
I have often marveled at the similarities between the arguments of patriarchalists and the arguments of slavery apologists . The similarity is right here: “We, as men, have the God-given right, by our creation, to order women around – oops, I mean “lead”. We have God-given ontological superiority (woops, I mean “role of authority) and women have the God –given ontological role to submit.”
Substitute “white” for male, and “black” for female and you have the exact argument of the slavery apologists of the nineteenth century.
Perhaps this is why patriarchalist like Doug Wilson also defend chattel slavery as good for the black man…the heart of the issue is the same: White men have ontological entitlement to own and sell black slaves by virtue of their ontological superiority. Males have ontological entitlement over women for the same reason.
I have gotten pushback in certain circles for criticizing the “Bible belt culture” – accused of attacking the church.
I was not attacking the church. But I was indeed criticizing the “Bible Belt Culture”. The sort of entitlement that fills one’s head – where they believe that they have the unquestioned right to command a black man, or command a woman as they see fit – does not come overnight. It is engrained by the culture that one is in.
It is true that this entitlement is inborn, because we are all born of Adam. But what I am really talking about is this: only in an entitled culture could two white men use these excuses to escape prosecution for months.
“They thought he was a burglar. They told him to stop. He didn’t stop as he was commanded to.”
Presuppositional entitlement. “I will allow them to go, but they must leave their little ones at home.”
I have the right to command people as I see fit.
This has nothing to do with Christianity.
25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called`benefactors.’
26 “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
27 “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (Luke 22:25-27 NKJ)
7 responses to “Entitlement and Pharaoh”
Thank you Sam. Privilege and entitlement are buzz words today. They are euphemisms for sin, the sin of pride in particular. It’s a classic example of man comparing himself to other men. “I’m better than others because…” Fill in the blanks. Every culture in the world is under the dominion of Satan. The world is beside itself because 300,000 people have succumbed to Covid-19 year to date, yet it turns a blind eye to the fact it has murdered year to date almost 16,000,000 babies in their mothers’ wombs, because they’re inconvenient or unwanted. How can God not judge the world?
It’s why we all need to repent and to believe the Gospel.
Both of those stories filled me with rage against entitled “superiors” who think just because they are who they are, they have the right to command someone else who is different from them. In the second story, the deliveryman was afraid to even move his truck, for fear the police would think he was fleeing the scene. I can’t imagine living that way. Having said that, I imposed those sorts of rules on myself. I was to be submissive, in order to be a godly wife. I was to forgive, to die to self, to realize that the “worst sinner I knew was in the mirror”. All of that was straight from the pit of hell. You, dear Sam, and Carmon, and so many others have helped me be free.
Sorry I missed this one! Thank you for your comment!
Thank you for sharing. I think you illustrated Pastor’s point with your personal story quite perfectly.
At first, I felt the fear factor in the two stories Pastor shared about the black men, and in yours as well. Fear for your life—should you make a “wrong” move.
Then I felt the strain and pain of of choosing the “perfect” reaction to whatever you are confronted with. If you don’t react just right, just so, just in time—the consequences can be and usually are dire.
Pastor listed a few of the lame “excuses” why the evil actions of those two white men weren’t arrested. The message was: if he had reacted perfectly, he would be alive today. He must not have realized that.
You’ll hear abusers and their enables use this sort of narrative. Had she reacted “perfectly,” things would not have escalated. The abuse would not have been AS bad, or existed at all. She must not have realized that.
The ONE thing no one wants to admit is this: no matter HOW an abused spouse, those black men reacted—-it would not have made any real difference.
Why is the burden of reacting “properly” put on the one who is NOT the aggressor, but the one who is put in a defensive, threatening position?
The ones “pushing” his desire to dominate are not asked to explain why they initiated their chosen behaviors. The one who is faced with the agonizing, time sensitive decision to react (or not react) that will explain WHY the aggressors obviously had “no choice” but to inflict harm.
This is something that still blows my mind. The so-called superior gender or race, inflicting harm on the so-called inferior gender or race,
Who DESERVE to be treated as inferior because they supposedly ARE inferior,
They are the ones expected to be perfect. Submit and serve perfectly, and the so-called superior ones, who are by no means expected to submit or serve perfectly, or at all—–will let you live.
It’s not much of a life, but at least you’re “allowed” to live at all.
Such good thoughts and more clearly put than I’ve been able. Thank you for this reminder and call to love and humility from God’s people.
Wonderful article. Thank you, but still very triggering (in a good way). I recently read a comment that someone had left on another blog, referring to Abraham Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty, to defend his view of the difference between the sexes. I was so upset, I couldn’t think of a reply. That has been tried before, at another time in another place and the fallout is still under discussion. http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S2304-85572015000100006 “The problem is that both these perspectives reduce the complexity of reality to race. According to Kuyper sphere sovereignty meant that no aspect of reality could be an absolute point of departure to structure the whole and each aspect is sovereign in its own domain. Thus, race or any other aspect cannot be the norm to structure reality. The unity and the structure of creation are located in God as creator of all reality.” Whether the original commenter that I mentioned above had a healthier perspective on Kuyper than this evil blot in history did, I don’t know.
Pastor Powell, you’ve seen, highlighted and sounded the drum on the connection here so well. Thank you. So refreshing. So needed. So appreciated. So welcome.
Thank you Pastor. Pharaoh fascinates me—if you study him from all angles I can see some of myself in him, and in others as well.
Exodus 5:2: “I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”
The pride in that statement is undeniable. I had to read that portion many times before I realized (bear with me): he had a point. He didn’t know the Lord.
To him, the Hebrew God was likely just another pagan idol-like deity, not worth his time or trouble to know. He seemed suspicious of this “Lord” who not only he did not know, but was daring to give HIM orders!
The problem is not JUST that he did not know Him, he had no INTEREST in knowing Him. If he had, his sense of entitlement—one that enabled him to oppress an entire population—would have been challenged. And crumbled. The Lord is not your equal, but Pharaoh likely never thought otherwise.
Those two white men peppered that young black man with questions. Seems like the excuses offered tried to validate this: They simply wanted to know what he was doing there. They didn’t know him so they found him suspicious.
I believe they had no interest in knowing who this man was. If they had known, BEFORE confronting him, that this is a human being who is exercising his right to jog in any dang neighborhood he pleases, and that everyday citizens have no right to accost other citizens based on unfounded fear and suspicion —
They never would have confronted him at all. No need to ask him anything. They already knew the answers.
You don’t just ask them WHY they did killed him. You ask them WHY they think they felt entitled to confront him at all. That’s not your right.
You don’t just ask Pharaoh WHY he wouldn’t let his people go. You ask him WHY he felt entitled to call them “his” people at all. That’s not your right.
You don’t just as an abuser WHY he abused his victim or victims. You ask him WHY he felt entitled to bind and oppress the innocent at all. That’s not your right.
Those who do such things ALWAYS think they are right, and in the right, and have the right. Some or most of them, unlike Pharaoh, might claim that they know Him. For me, I’d prefer Pharaoh’s up front arrogance. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s honest: I don’t know Him, and I don’t want to know Him. I have no interest in “competing” with this Deity, who would dare to order me to humanize “my” people.
Humanize black people? I don’t think so. Humanize the female gender? No way. You wrote excellently in how we still have a long ways to go from Pharaoh’s time.