Lucifer’s Punishments: The Mythology Behind Episode 2.03: “Sin Eater”

This week’s Lucifer focuses on the idea of punishment and manages to encompass all the main characters in the theme while also bringing in a startling mythological revelation about a part of the Bible that never mentions Lucifer.

The big reveal is passed off as a joke—one of many, such as “great balls of fire,” “hot pants,” “weekend at Burnie’s,” and “his burning bush”—but the last is where we take notice, as Lucifer reveals: “That was actually me, by the way, so don’t tell anyone.”

The First Plague: Water Is Changed into Blood, James Tissot
While small, this is of huge significance. According to Exodus Ch. 3, God is the one speaking through the burning bush, not Lucifer. But, in a way, this could actually make sense. The bulk of the Exodus is famous for the plagues against Egypt. There is no greater series of punishments found within the Bible. Pharaoh and the Egyptians are constantly beset by the ever-increasing plagues, ranging from the blood in the Nile all the way up to the death of the first-born.

Consistently throughout these punishments, various verses mention “[God] will harden Pharaoh’s heart” (Exo 7:3, 9:12, 14:4), which never made complete sense. Why would God seek to do so when the objective is to free the Israelites? The show, by replacing God in this particular story with Lucifer, changes the fundamental meaning of the story to one of punishment. Egypt had oppressed the Israelites for around 400 years and had to pay for that sin.

The plagues themselves are more than just literal punishments that the Egyptians suffer through, they're also metaphorical of the Egyptians believing in their gods as opposed to the God of Abraham. The Egyptians were enthusiastically polytheistic, having well over 1000 names for gods. While some of them are alternate names and others are borrowed from other cultures, the Egyptian pantheon is one of the largest in all mythology. The belief in one god briefly moved into Egypt, but it didn’t last, as they were skeptical of the power of one god when amassed against the collective power of their giant pantheon.

The plagues, though, hit the Egyptian gods where they live. As there are so many, the Egyptians have a god for nearly everything. The ten most important gods were the target of the Egyptian plagues. While I won’t go through the complete list, some of the highlights are: Hapi, the god of the Nile; Hathor, the cow goddess; Isis, goddess of medicine and magic; Ra, the sun god; and Anubis, the god of death.

These gods are not always the most powerful (though Ra, Isis, and Anubis are certainly at the upper rankings), but they are essential to Egyptian life. They hit the Egyptians in their everyday lives, making them question what they believe in when the God of Moses can so easily visit punishment on them.

With that one little joke early in the episode, Lucifer now takes over as the ultimate punisher of the Old Testament, thoroughly demonstrating his résumé as a qualified administrator of hell. But while he’s certainly qualified, Mum still manages to get under his skin by questioning, “Why do you still punish people?” She drives the knife in further with, “That’s who your father wanted you to be,” which sends Lucifer into a tailspin seeking an answer.

Mum is very deft at twisting knives this episode—and next on her list is Amenadiel. She hits him with her litany of “would a good son” rhetorical questions designed only to hurt him. Amenadiel, still going through the crisis of molting feathers like mad and drinking himself silly, is particularly vulnerable, concluding by the end of the episode “that Father has a tendency to overreact,” which even surprises Lucifer.

Lucifer and Mum aren’t the only ones who punish, as the episode’s main antagonist does a very good job of customizing punishments to crimes. Chloe and Dan get on it with their burgeoning domestic problems, with Chloe at first punishing Dan, but then he—symbolically—punishes her by facing the reality of a divorce.

Maze is also in on it, but she tempers her desire to take her implements to Mum again, thanks to Linda’s advice. Instead, she makes a chess move, trying to maneuver Amenadiel into position to take Mum straight back to Hell. She knows “Lucifer doesn’t see” that Mum “is toxic,” yet she assumes Amenadiel will be able to see this.

However, she’s unaware of Amenadiel’s crisis. It’s interesting that Maze doesn’t even attempt to process the scene at Amenadiel’s office in any way except through her own lens, concluding that he would want rebound sex. She never suspects the angel is close to Falling. If she had, she wouldn’t have been so eager to send him against his toxic mother.

By the end of the episode, Lucifer has found the answer to his question by interrogating the real murderer, knowing that the words he’s saying to Ray also apply to himself: “I punish because I’m good at it. I like giving people they’re due. It makes me happy.” He even takes great pleasure in sentencing Mum “to remain, right here, on earth, among the creatures you so despise, as one of them.” It’s a truly poetic punishment … assuming Lucifer understands her true agenda.

The episode ends with a tease of Mum hulking out and tossing a mugger, who smashes against a wall, presumably dead. She seems surprised—and eminently pleased—by this strength, and it suggests that her divine nature might be changing the ordinary human body she inhabits into something more. Changes might be a two-way street since she enjoys the “tingling sensation” from her table dancing.

See also: Mum’s Manipulations: The Mythology behind Lucifer, Episode 2.02: “Liar, Liar, Slutty Dress on Fire”

 


Andy Adams is an adjunct professor of English at various colleges in the Phoenix area. He has an affectation for fedoras as they complement his villainous goatee. He’s been known to poke his head onto Twitter @A3Writer, but he’s never been big into birds. He blogs at A3writer.comabout writing, teaching, and the conquest of fictional worlds—they’re more fun than the real world.

Read all posts by Andy Adams for Criminal Element.

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