Moses’ experience with toxicity was different from David’s. He was raised in an atmosphere that encouraged the development of an entitlement mentality. If he didn’t experience it directly growing up, he was certainly exposed to the attitudes that laid the foundation for the toxicity of Pharaoh. In such an upbringing, it is normal that there are “special people” who are above, if not law and justice, fairness and reason. Additionally, the Egyptian belief that Pharaoh was a god-type reconfirmed this. It was understood that those who were not special would be expected to adjust to those who were. Backed by power, tradition, religious beliefs, and success, their philosophy appeared very solid. It was just the way it was.
Despite this indoctrination and the bonus lure of wealth and importance, Moses’ real mother managed to help awaken his conscience. Moses began to see the injustice behind the pomp. Righteous indignation roused him to do something about it– which was quite a feat in itself. He would be defying his adoptive family, the ingrained mentality of those around him (if not his own), and a major world power. Defiance not only looked pretty futile but all the internal obstacles he must have had to overcome to commit to it were no less impressive. If he thought he could rally the support of the oppressed Israelites, he quickly learned otherwise. So his own attempt at heroism ended in fleeing for his life. The tremendous internal struggle did end in complete futility. Good did not triumph over evil.
Defeated and disenchanted, Moses settled into a new life– eventually becoming contented with his own relief and convinced that he was helpless to do more. His attitude is a common one for those who have been raised in toxicity: “It’s no use fighting it, just endure what you must and keep your distance.” So when Moses is recruited by God to free the Israelites, he resists. He knows all too well that no amount of eloquence, reason, or appeal will break Pharoah’s will…and he is right.
But going back to Egypt strictly in obedience, Moses approaches the problem with more strategy and support the second time. Somewhere between the burning bush and his reunion with Pharaoh, Moses’s confidence in God and himself is completely transformed. (Time away from the attitude that “cruelty is normal”, committed support, and reconfirmations of God’s will likely all contributed to his heightened boldness– which is a good lesson for us.) This turned out to be vital because opposition was about to awaken with violent tenacity. And by first appearances, God had sent him on a fool’s errand. Pharaoh didn’t listen, and then there was his wrath to pay: same quota of bricks without straw. The unbearable became impossible. Things were not going well, just as Moses had foreseen.
Boldness, appeal to God’s authority, and a toned-down request would not break Pharaoh’s will. He was determined to have his way. Going back after such defeat, with further demands and ultimatums, must have been a remarkable act of faith for Moses. Even the powerful signs God sent to prove His power seemed weak indeed: The rod into a serpent was matched, the water into blood was too. Pharaoh still would not listen, not to the words and not to the signs. Moses wasn’t really gaining any ground at this point.
But gradually after that, God’s power came through. The plagues began to take their toll. Real damage was being done, directly because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness and clearly by God’s doing. Though it broke the will of nearly every other Egyptian, Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. Tremendous suffering would not break his will. As long as Pharaoh got back to his point of control, it did not matter what means he had used to get there. Moses had not been mistaken in the least by the nature of the man.
Pharaoh would continue to openly defy God’s greatest, predicted, and repeated demonstrations of His sovereignty. Yet with reality playing out so obviously, the truth was clear (at least to everyone else). Moses’ fear turned to frustration. He came back to his original conclusion: this man was best avoided entirely.
Even with the death of his son, Pharaoh’s submission was but short-lived. God had done tremendous miracles to open a brief gap of time to free His people… after all that struggle, they still had to flee in hasty trepidation. And Moses, a great man of God, was left with tremendous responsibility, no significant honor, and plenty of undeserved blame. I’m sure there were times when he wished that he had never encountered that burning bush… but at least they were free from the toxicity.