Reunion des Musees Nationaux/Art Resource, NY

Pharaoh who? Seated on his throne, the nameless pharaoh of the Exodus watches as Moses’ brother Aaron (second from the right) transforms his rod into a serpent (Exodus 7:10). Hoping to replicate Aaron’s amazing feat, Pharaoh’s magicians (center) study the serpent for clues. The Egyptians fail to recognize the real source of Aaron’s power, however, even though Moses and Aaron are pointing to it. At right, the brothers raise their hands to God in the heavens in this oil painting from the Louvre by the French artist Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665).

The pharaoh who refuses to acknowledge the Israelite deity is never named in the Bible, though countless readers have attempted to identify him with historical personages. Author Hendel suggests that pharaoh’s name might be missing not because it was forgotten, but because he represents every Egyptian leader who oppressed and enslaved the Israelites over the centuries.