(Ditto Lynn) - Satan, like Pharoah, tries to get us to make compromises with God.
Ten plagues of Egypt reveal a conflict between the divine and the diabolical. If we take a quick survey of these plagues, we'll see a few aspects worth noting.
- Many numbers are symbolic and have a significance to them. The 10 plagues may represent the completion of God's visitation upon a God-opposed world power.
- God tells us in Numbers 33:4 that God executed judgement upon all the gods of Egypt. As we'll see shortly, each plague would have been viewed by the Egyptians as a personal attack on a particular Egyptian god or on several of their gods. They would wonder why their god "So & So" would allow this to happen or why he didn't override this plague. So we'll see a full flood of God's wrath and judgement upon Egyptian idolatry. So, not only were they meant to reduce Pharaoh's resistance and thereby free the Israelites, they were also designed to destroy idolatry. After realizing this, it seems even more amazing that the Israelites are tempted to revert back to idolatry in the wilderness and in Canaan.
- Another feature is the way they harmonize with nature. That's not so surprising since the God of judgement is also the God of nature. Egyptians were nature worshippers. They had over 80 gods to choose from - a god for everything. Whatever went right or whatever went wrong, some "god" was responsible for that. God uses their interest in their own nature to announce His presence and His will for His people. Insects, sores, death and "natural plagues" were not unknown to these people. They had "gods" that were supposed to protect them from these things. Hail would be rare to them, but not unknown. In other words, it would not have shaken Pharaoh and his court up much at all if Moses had come in and threatened a plague of tornados or polar bears. These were not natural to Egypt and would not have been a put down to their Egyptian gods.
What makes these particular plagues unique is their suddenness - seemingly all at Moses' bidding - their intensity, and the complete devastation they caused. They were SO intense and devastating and controlled that NO one doubted that they were caused by the Divine Power.
Now let's look a little closer at these plagues. If you didn't find the answer to the last question in our lesson today, here it is. If you did find some answers, but they are different from what I found, don't worry. There were so many gods to choose from that sometimes their domains overlapped, and the Egyptian people would have turned to several different gods expecting their help during this time of crisis. Also, some were known by different names in different regions (names change), or perhaps the spelling varies some; that's OK.
THE PLAGUES AND THE DESTROYED EGYPTIAN GODS
1. BLOODY WATER HAPI or NILUS - sacred river god
2. FROGS HEKA, HEKT - goddess of reproduction
OSIRIS - frogs held sacred as his emblem
3. LICE (gnats, fleas) SEB - the earth god
4. FLIES BEELZEBUB - god of flies
BEETLES KHEPHERA - the sacred scarabacus
IRIS - queen of heaven
5. MURRAIN OF BEASTS APIS - the sacred bull
HATHOR - the sacred cow
6. BOILS AND BLAINS NEIT - mother queen of highest heaven
SUTECH or TYPHON - the evil-eye god
7. HAIL SHU - god of the atmosphere
IRIS and OSIRIS
8. LOCUSTS SERAPIS - protector of land from locusts
9. DARKNESS RA, AMEN-RA - supreme sun god
10. DEATH OF FIRSTBORN PHARAOH - a god in the flesh
PIAH - the god of life
The Egyptians had lost linen for clothing people, grain for bread, shade, fish. They didn't eat the animals we eat. They stored grain or depended on imports for survival. It would be several months before they could grow some vegetables to eat and begin to recover.
- Last week's lesson - Water into Blood. The Nile River was their pride and joy. It made their land more precious than the deserts around them. It made their soil rich after its yearly flooding. HAPI was the name of this Nile god. They were extremely proud of their Nile River. Moses and his God came along and humbled the proud and made it repulsive. Hapi wasn't very happy. They had at least three species of sacred fish in the Nile, now they were dead, done in by the God of slaves.
- If you were a terrorist and wanted to threaten anyone, would you threaten them with lions, deadly serpents, man-eating tigers? Would you think to use frogs? That doesn't sound like a significant threat, but it is despicable to us. We don't feel in mortal danger around frogs - just grossed out. The Frog was the symbol of the goddess of fertility in Egypt called HEKT. That such a respected element of Egyptian paganism should suddenly malfunction and become a curse instead of a blessing perhaps could have been incorporated into the basic design of this miracle. After the abundance of frogs and then the stench of the dead frogs, the goddess Hekt's popularity was probably at an all-time low.
- Lice, fleas, ticks, whatever parasite. This is the plague that humbled the magicians. The Egyptians were such a clean race. Cleanliness was an integral part of the Egyptian religious life. The priests who bathed twice daily and shaved completely at least every three days were now infested with vermin. Everyone was infested. No person was allowed under any circumstance to enter any god's temple with vermin upon them. Lice-covered bodies must have been a terrible blow to the religion of the people. Pagan religious practice certainly came to a screeching halt for a period of time. Where was their earth god SEB, or OSIRIS during all of this? Now if you wanted a plague that would really "bug" your enemy, this one would be a good one to use. If you want to bring the proud down, this plague will do it.
Such are the plagues of nuisance. Now things are gonna start hurting.
- Flies or Beetles. Do you remember Scarab bracelets? The Scarab beetle was emblematic of "The Sacred Scarabacus" as SHU, son of RA. It was the symbol of resurrection and fertility. Or as flies, BEELZEBUB was god of flies. He was to send flies places or to keep flies away from sacrifices. He failed and the land was ruined by reason of the flies or beetles.
Do you see how God punishes men by means of the very things they improperly regard? I'm not saying that God set out specifically to discredit this or that "god," but the Egyptians would have viewed it that way. As I said earlier, they had over 80 gods to protect them and they all fail them.
- Don't you know they were wondering why the god APIS--a sacred bull himself--would allow an unknown God of slaves to cause such destruction to the animal kingdom? They would wonder why these Israelites would want to go and sacrifice the very things they worship - animals. As Christians we MUST sacrifice that which the world worships.
- In today's lesson we see the severity of the plagues increasing, a decreasing ability of the court's men to stand before Moses, as in the 6th plague of boils and sores. And we see a gradual erosion of the adamant position of Pharaoh. Pharaoh wants to bargain with God, just as we are tempted to do with our stubborn will that we don't want to turn over completely to God. We know God wants ALL of us, but we're tempted to say "some" of us. Maybe we ARE wise enough to say, "God, you can have more." But ALL? "God, do you really need ALL of me? Can't I save some part of me for the world?" And just as God is telling Pharaoh, "No, I must have ALL my people and their possessions," that's what He is telling us, too.
- From the 7th plague a time frame is a little easier to see. Flax is normally planted during our January and would have budded in February during the time of this plague. By our calendar the Exodus would have begun in April. So we know at least 3 or 4 months were involved in these last plagues. As Lynn said last week, many feel that the plagues were stretched out over several months. Sort of making it a "Plague of the Month Club" for the Israelites to subscribe to.
SHU, the god of the atmosphere should not have allowed this 7th plague of Hail and fire. The delta region near the Mediterranean Sea gets a fair amount of rain. Most of Egypt only receives 2 - 3 inches of annual rain fall. Hail and thunderstorms were rare, but not unknown. Keep in mind that the flax that the hail destroyed was used to make Linen - the principle fabric for the garments worn by the priests and the wealthy class. There would be no new frocks in Egypt that year.
This plague is unique from the previous ones in that it seriously attacked human life. The hail and lightning were deadly. But in this plague we also see an illustration of SALVATION BY FAITH. If they were beginning to believe Moses and credit the Israelite God for all the previous plagues, they could save their lives, their servants lives and what was left of their cattle by a simple act of taking shelter. God threatened their lives, but is still holding out His hand in mercy.
- Serapis was supposed to protect Egypt from Locusts. He couldn't. Protection from Locusts was the only purpose I found for this god. The religious belief of the people must have been shattered as they saw how helpless their deity was against God's invading host.
- The 9th plague robbed the Egyptians of their supreme god, RA, AMEN-RA, the sun god. If there were any doubt in any of the Egyptian's minds that "coach Pharaoh" was holding back a "secret quarterback weapon" to use during the 4th quarter, their hopes were surely shattered with this plague. Ra was among the principle objects of heathen worship. Cities were dedicated to him. In this land of little rain, in one of the sunniest lands in the world, can we conceive of a judgement more appalling than this one of darkness? It was more than just a dust storm.
There was NO visibility in the Egyptian land or houses. The only thing to do would be to stay still. Yet, miraculously the Israelite dwelling place had light. I wish I could experience for a few seconds what this darkness was like - a darkness you could FEEL. Not sand you could feel whisking by, but darkness you could feel.
This word for darkness is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:2 before the creation when there was nothing but darkness upon the face of the deep - a void.
Plague after plague after plague and still Pharaoh is stubbornly withstanding against the Israelite God. Are we surprised? A writer from the past century applies this story to us today this way. He wrote, "If we look inward, and see how WE have withstood the commands of God, and how little effect either His judgements or His mercies have produced on us, we should find little occasion to exult over Pharaoh."
We have trouble letting ourselves go and turning ourselves over to God, don't we? Pharaoh had been taught from childhood that he was a "god" with slaves to worship him and do his bidding and to serve his every need. He had trouble letting that idea go. Sometimes we have to let go something we've been taught from childhood. It's not easy to let ideas go.
"Let my people go" was God's message through Moses to Pharaoh. He thunders it again and again throughout these chapters. The entire episode of the Plagues demonstrated to Pharaoh that the Israelites were NOT HIS PEOPLE, despite the fact of his abusing and enslaving them. They belonged to a greater KING, and they were required to serve that KING in the way that King said He was to be served. And God asks no more and no less of us, to serve our King in the way He wants to be served.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, Fall 1989
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