At this period in theological chronology, human attributes for the first time were eliminated from the character of a god. Moses depicted the first purely divine deity. Omnipotence was ascribed to the gods, but Pantheism being full of paradoxes, the gods were not omnipotent. Loud as were the panegyrics of the devout, the devout recognized the limitations of their divinities. None had ever dreamed of a deity that was actually omnipotent, actually infinite. Meneptah measured the God of Israel by his own gods. Furthermore, the miracles did not amaze him as they appalled Egypt. He was exceedingly superstitious; in his eye the most ordinary natural phenomenon was a demonstration of the occult. No matter that the advanced science of his time explained rainfall, unusual heat or cold, over-fruitful or unproductive years, pestilence and sudden death, eclipses, comets and meteors,—he believed them to be the direct results of sorcery. Calamitous as the effects may have been upon other people, he had ever escaped harm from these sources. It was not strange that in time he ceased to fear miracles, and the demonstrations of Moses were not so terrifying, inasmuch as they did not greatly affect him.
His horses died, but Arabia was near to replenish his stables; the pests annoyed him, but his servants fended them from him; the blains troubled him, but his court physicians were able and gave him relief; the thunders frightened him, but his fright passed with the storm. Whenever the sendings became unendurable he had but to yield to gain a respite, and then he forgot the experience in a day. Meanwhile he ate, slept and walked in the same luxury he had known in happier years.
Therefore, Meneptah neither realized his peril nor was personally much aggrieved by the troublous times.
It did not occur to him that all the people of his realm were not sheltered against the plagues by wealth and many servants. He could not understand why Egypt should be restive under the same afflictions that he had borne with fortitude. Summoning all evidence from his point of view, he was able to present to himself a case of personal persecution and ill-use. The Hebrews belonged to him, and because he held them their God afflicted Egypt. Egypt complained and would have him sacrifice his private property, his slaves, for its sake. To the peevish king the demand was unreasonable. Yet he was not extraordinary in his behavior. Unselfishness was not an attribute of ancient kings.
Meneptah was a man that wished to be swayed. He craved approbation and was helpless without an abettor. His puny ideas had to be championed by another before they became fixed convictions. After the plague of locusts, the Hebrew question reached serious proportions. Har-hat had estranged most of the ministers, and in his strait Meneptah felt vaguely and for the first time that he needed the acquiescence of others in addition to the fan-bearer’s ready concord.